5 days in Amsterdam: an itinerary for first-time visitors

5 days in Amsterdam: a guide for first-time visitors
Night city view of Amsterdam

As the capital of the Netherlands, Amsterdam is packed with plenty of history and beautiful scenery. Known as the “Venice of the North”, Amsterdam is a truly historic city that has given the world people like Vincent van Gogh and stunning tulip gardens. This article will help you organize your 5 days in Amsterdam so you can experience as much as you possibly can in this city on your short trip.

How to spend 5 days in Amsterdam, a comprehensive itinerary

5 days in Amsterdam

Where to stay in Amsterdam

Mövenpick Hotel Amsterdam City Centre

executive room at the Mövenpick Hotel Amsterdam

A 4-star luxury hotel offering river views, just 10 minutes on foot from the city centre. It offers spacious rooms with free wi-fi, a minibar, satellite TV and tea and coffee making facilities. Other hotel amenities include a wellness centre with a gym, a restaurant serving international cuisine and a bar. Great location next to the cruise terminal if you start or finish a cruise in Amsterdam.

Read about my experience at the Mövenpick Hotel Amsterdam City Centre.

Find here more information and book the Mövenpick Hotel Amsterdam City Centre.

Pillows Anna van den Vondel Hotel Amsterdam

Located next to the Vondelpark, the hotel has 31 rooms some with a private terrace or French balcony. Other room amenities include a TV, a minibar, tea and coffee making facilities and free Wi-Fi. The hotels is conveniently located close to the Van Gogh Museum and Rijksmuseum.

Read about my experience at the Pillows Anna van den Vondel Hotel Amsterdam.

Find here more information and book Pillows Anna van den Vondel Hotel Amsterdam.

Hotel The Exchange

The bed in the Braille room
The bed in the Braille room

Situated next to Dam square this fashion hotel offers from 1 star to 5-star rooms each one uniquely decorated by students of the fashion school and Dutch designers. Breakfast is served all day at the on-site Stock cafe and Wi-Fi is free of charge.

Read about my experience at the Hotel The Exchange.

Find here more information and book Hotel The Exchange.

Art’otel Amsterdam

Located in the heart of the city close to the Central station, this boutique hotel offers modern rooms that feuture art work by Atelier Van Lieshout and free Wi-Fi. Other hotel facilities include an indoor swimming pool and fitness center, and an all-day cafe.

Find here more information and book the Art’otel Amsterdam.

5 days in Amsterdam

How to get from and to Amsterdam Airport

There are three options for getting from Amsterdam Schiphol Airport to the city center and it depends on your budget, group size and personal preference as to which one you choose. It’s also worth asking if your hotel offers any transfers from the airport as that will save you the hassle of taking any public transport!

Train

Taking the train is the quickest way to get from Amsterdam Schiphol Airport (AMS) to the city center as you are not dependent on traffic like you are with buses and taxis. The train departs for the city center from Platforms 1 and 2 of the airport station, which is located under the main arrivals’ hall, and it arrives into Amsterdam Central Station.

If you are arriving between the hours or 6am and 1am there are trains every 15 minutes, but between the hours of 1am and 6am they run once every hour, on the hour.

Time: 20 minutes

Cost: 5.40 EUR

Bus

The bus from the airport to downtown is the cheapest option (although only just) and it takes around 35 minutes, dependent on traffic. The bus depot is easy to find as it is located right outside the main arrivals and departure halls.

You’ll need to buy a transport card from the ticket machine and you could even top this up with plenty of credit so you can use it to explore the city!

Time: 35 minutes

Cost: 5 EUR.

Taxis

If there are a group of you travelling together, a taxi from the airport to the city center can be a great idea. If you take an official taxi from the airport (look out for roof lights and blue number plates) it should cost 39 EUR one way.

Private Airport Transfer with Welcome Pick-Ups

You can pre-book a car online with Welcome Pick-Ups before you arrive so you don’t have to worry about finding a licensed taxi within the airport. Your driver will be waiting for you in the arrivals’ hall with a welcome name sign and a bag with a bottle of water and map of the city so you’re ready to explore!

There is a flat rate of 39 EUR from Amsterdam Schiphol Airport to the city center and it takes between 15-20 minutes. Always the same rate as a taxi. Please note there may be additional charges for luggage, late-night pick-ups and public holidays.

Click here for more information and to book your airport transfer.

5 days in Amsterdam: Day 1

Canal Boat Tour

Canals of Amsterdam -Five days in Amsterdam: a guide for first-time visitors
Canals of Amsterdam

Perhaps the most marked characteristic of Amsterdam is its 165 canals. Recognized as a UNESCO World HeritageSite in 2010, it was originally intended to encourage trade and transport and today provides a way for travelers to take in the city’s sights and attractions in an unforgettable way. You can take a canal cruise from one of the many tours that operate on the canal, and they usually take one hour. As well as the opportunity to learn more about the facts and history of the canals, you also have the chance to pick which type of tour will suit you best; they range from candle-lit cruises to hop-on-hop-off services. Don’t forget that platforms like Airbnb offer a range of boathouses to rent so that you can actually live on the canal, too!

Some great Canal Cruises:

Dam Square (National Monument)

5 days in Amsterdam - Dam Square (National Monument)

Situated in the middle of Dam Square is the National Monument, Netherland’s most important World War II memorial. It stands at 22-meters high and every year on the 4th of May, a national Remembrance of the Dead is held at this monument where people gather to pay respects to fallen soldiers. There is a Latin inscription on the pillar which translates in English to: “Here, where the heart of the fatherland is, may this monument, which citizens carry in their heart, gaze at God’s stars.” It was designed by Dutch architect J.J.P. Oud and became an official national heritage monument in 2009.

Royal Palace of Amsterdam

Royal Palace of Amsterdam -5 days in Amsterdam

One of three palaces in the Netherlands, the Royal Palace was originally built as a city hall and became the palace of King Louis Napoleon, and later on of the Dutch Royal House. The State placed the Royal Palace at the disposal of the King and today it is now used for royal events such as prize-givings, the King’s New Year reception and the welcoming of foreign heads of state. It is situated on Dam Square, in the very heart of Amsterdam. You can take a guided tour throughout the palace’s rooms or take a free audio tour.

Staying in Amsterdam less than 5 days? You might want to check this 3-day Amsterdam itinerary.

5 days in Amsterdam: Day 2

Van Gogh Museum

Van Gogh Museum -5 days in Amsterdam

Amsterdam is home to one of the most iconic painters in history, Vincent van Gogh, and this museum is dedicated to telling his life’s story as well as showcasing his stunning paintings. The Van Gogh Museum features paintings like Sunflowers (1889) and Self-Portrait with Straw Hat (1887) you can view. There are also interesting exhibits like The Dutch in Paris which showcases Dutch artists and works they completed in Paris and Zeng Fanzhi, an exhibit done by this famous Chinese artist who creates works inspired by Van Gogh. When you’re done exploring this museum you can stop by its quaint gift shop and buy some unique Van Gogh souvenirs.

Keep in mind that photography is not allowed inside the museum.

I recommend buying your tickets in advance to skip the long lines.

Rijksmuseum

Rijksmuseum Amsterdam -5 days in Amsterdam: a guide for first-time visitors
Rijksmuseum Amsterdam

The Rijksmuseum is the national museum of the Netherlands and showcases the history of this country as well as some famous Dutch paintings and art pieces. Inside you’ll find paintings from Vermeer and Rembrandt and creative exhibits you can wander through. For instance, there’s the Birds in Art exhibit which highlights art pieces throughout history that depict birds in them. There’s also Glorious Food which shows historic still life paintings of food. You can even browse through a Roaring Twenties exhibit which features photographs and other items from the 1920s in it.

To get the most out of your visit, you have the option to buy your tickets online to skip the queue and book a guided tour. The museum is huge so a guided tour is a must.

Vondelpark

Vondelpark -5 days in Amsterdam

Existing now for almost 150 years, Vondelpark is the largest park in Amsterdam and the most famous park in the Netherlands. It welcomes 10 million visitors each year and is constantly filled with locals and tourists alike exercising, enjoying the sun or dog-walking. As well as hosting open-air concerts, people also have the chance to visit the three-meter statue of Dutch poet Vondel, the rose garden and the music dome. Vondelpark is also home to a selection of restaurants and cafes like Café Vertigo and Groot Melkhuis. You can stroll by leisurely after a visit to the museums as it is close by, or explore it the Dutch way – through a bike tour.

Restaurant Tip: A great place to grab lunch in the area is the Uptown Meat Club. It has a nice menu, great beers, and good service. It is close to the museuns and Vondelpark. Van Baerlestraat 7, Museumkwartier.

5 days in Amsterdam: Day 3

Jordaan Neighborhood

Jordaan Amsterdam
Jordaan Amsterdam

Arguably the most famous neighbourhood in Amsterdam is Jordaan. Once a poor district for the working class, years of gentrification means it is now home to a host of young artists, students and entrepreneurs as well as galleries, restaurants and boutiques. Its charming narrows streets and little canals make walking through this neighbourhood highly enjoyable; as well as hosting several markets like Noordermarkt which has a flea market on Monday mornings, Jordaan offers hidden courtyards, art studios and small museums. It was also once home to several significant figures in history like famous Dutch writer Joost van den Vondel, painter and photographer Breitner and artist Rembrandt van Rijn.

The best way to experience Jordaan is through a food tour. Not only you will see the neighborhood and learn its history but you will also have the chance to taste some mouthwatering food. Read about my Jordaan food tour.

Anne Frank House

This museum is the historic site of where Anne Frank and her family hid from the Nazis during World War II. This museum honors her and features many exhibits to help visitors learn more about her life. Inside you’ll find exhibits that tell about her family and even one that features the movie star pictures that Anne Frank herself clipped out of magazines and newspapers and hung up on her wall. You’ll also be able to see the bookcase that helped to hide the entrance to her family’s hiding place. Toward the end of your trip you can stop by the Diary Room which contains her famous diary.

Begijnhof

Begijnhof - 5 days in Amsterdam: a guide for first-time visitors
Begijnhof

Dating back to the 14th century, this tranquil and enclosed courtyard was originally intended for the Begijntjes, a nun-like Catholic sisterhood. There are beautiful houses surrounding the courtyard and gardens where you will also find The English Church with its original medieval tower, The Begijnhof Chapel and TheCivic Guards Gallery where there is a selection of 17th-century paintings of important men and women from Amsterdam. The wooden house, HoutenHuys, is the oldest surviving house in the city and dates back to 1420.

Oude Kerk

Five days in Amsterdam: a guide for first-time visitors
Oude Kerk (Old Church)

The Oude Kerk (old church) is both Amsterdam’s oldest building and parish church. It is a 13th century, 800-year-old building towering over the Red Light District, oddly enough.Originally built as a Catholic place of worship, it now is an expression of Dutch Protestantism and frequently hosts exhibitions and concerts. Inside, the architecture is impressive and beautiful and the windows high and flooded through with light. Other points of attraction inside are Madam Saskia van Uylenberg’s grave (number 29), Rembrandt’s beloved wife who was buried there, and a 17th-century grand organ. It is typically open seven days a week and you can take guided tours which leave every 30 minutes.

Nieuwe Kerk

Nieuwe Kerk - 5 days in Amsterdam: a guide for first-time visitors
Nieuwe Kerk

The NieuweKerk (new church) is the most important church in the Netherlands. Built in the 15th century, it lies adjacent to the Royal Palace and is used today as an exhibition space. After fire damage many years ago, it was restored to exhibit its original Renaissance features. Many Dutch monarchs have been inaugurated in NieuweKerk, and it was even a host to the wedding of His Majesty King of the Netherlands Willem-Alexander andPrincessMáxima. Inside is also the tomb of Dutch admiral Michiel de Ruyter and poet and playwright Joost van den Vondel, amongst others. It opens daily apart from on Christmas and New Year’s Day.

5 days in Amsterdam

Kalverstraat

A bustling shopping attraction in Amsterdam, Kalverstraat is a 750-meter road that lures crowds of people to make it the city’s most commercial street.Major brands will have at least one store here, and you will also find boutiques, department stores, shoe shops and souvenir stores as well. Near the end of the street isKalvertoren Building, a historic building turned modern mall occupying three levels. At the very end of Kalverstraat, if you walk through theMunttoren (Mint Tower), you will arrive at Amsterdam’s vibrant Flowermarketwhere you will find all kinds of tulips, bulbs and flowers.

Red Light District

Red light district - 5 days in Amsterdam: a guide for first-time visitors
Red light district

Situated in one of the oldest and most beautiful parts of the city, the infamous Red Light District, also known as Rosse Buurt to the locals, is a network of brothels, sex shops, peep shows, coffee houses and museums. Women parade their bodies through window parlours and people from all over the world – couples, hen’s night groups and Japanese tourists – point and stare as they walk down one of Amsterdam’s major tourist attractions. The main Red Light District is in the Walletjes area, and while it may look dodgy on the outside, it is well-protected with police and private bodyguards patrolling it. It may be interesting to know that prostitution is legal in Holland and that it is at the heart of Amsterdam’s nightlife entertainment that they get to enjoy acceptance. Visit this district from 11 pm onwards, either in a group or in a guided tour, to get the full experience of swarming crowds and blaring neon lights reflecting in the canals.

Want to learn more about the Red Light District? Why not check this tour?

Taking photos of the ladies in the windows is not allowed. For other things you shouldn’t do in Ansterdam check my post: Things not to do in Amsterdam.

5 days in Amsterdam: Day 4

Day Trip to Volendam

5 days in Amsterdam - Volendam

Looking to get away from the bustling city and experience a more serene landscape? If so, you can take a day trip to Volendam. This town is located in the northern part of the Netherlands and is well-known for its colorful houses, fresh seafood, and windmills. In fact, you can take a peaceful one hour cruise down the canals here to learn more about these historic windmills and houses. The tour will also stop by a local cheese factory where you can enjoy a snack of freshly made cheese.

After your tour you can also visit some museums this town features like the Volendam Museum, which is known for its art collection, or the Paard van Marken, a lighthouse built back in 1839.

Find here more information and book this day trip to Volendam.

or

Experience the Tulips at Keukenhof

5 days in Amsterdam - Keukenhof

Depending on when you plan your trip, you might instead want to spend your fourth day in Amsterdam enjoying the massive tulip blooms during the spring, which are the official flower of the Netherlands. Keukenhof is one of the world’s largest gardens and is filled with colorful tulips that you can enjoy looking at while strolling down winding paths built in the midst of them.

In addition to tulips, this garden also has plenty of fragrant hyacinths and daffodils which add an extra burst of color to the sea of tulips.

Find here more information and book your skip the line tickets and transfer to Keukenhof.

5 days in Amsterdam: Day 5

Heineken Experience

Heineken Experience -5 days in Amsterdam

This famous beer company started in Amsterdam in 1864 and with the Heineken Experience you’ll be able to learn more about this company’s history as well as the city it was founded in. This interactive tour will take you through the historic building where this company got started and finish with a special beer tasting. You’ll also be able to learn how to draft a Heineken yourself at the end.

Book your Heineken Experience tickets here.

Some Other Sites Worth Seeing Depending on Your Interests

FOAM

FOAM, also known as the Fotografiemuseum, is a place dedicated entirely to the art of photography. Inside you’ll be able to gaze at creative photographs by photographers like André Kertész and view unique exhibits like Anouk Kruithof’s ¡Aguas!which takes into mind problems like climate change and government surveillance. This museum offers free tours and when you’re done you can grab a bite to eat at its chic café.

Book your FOAM admission tickets here.

5 days in Amsterdam

Amsterdam History Museum

The Amsterdam History Museum is the perfect stop to help learn more about this city. Inside you’ll find art, photos, and other objects that help to tell the story of this iconic destination. This museum offers many interesting exhibits you can enjoy like Amsterdam DNA which provides a quick overview of the history of Amsterdam and The Little Orphanage where families can learn more about what life was like in a 17th century orphanage.

Book your entrance tickets to Amsterdam’s History Museum here.

Hermitage Amsterdam

The Hermitage Amsterdam is a museum that offers many interesting exhibits you can enjoy that highlight works by Dutch Masters and modern artists. One unique exhibit this museum has is Panorama Amsterdam which shows the city from the perspective of this museum and tells the unique history of the city. You’ll be able to learn more about how the canals were built and iconic visitors to Amsterdam like Napoleon and the Beatles. This museum also has a special Portrait Gallery of the Golden Age which has 30 massive 17th century paintings you can gaze at.

Amsterdam is filled with plenty of things to do and see. In these 5 days you’ll be able to experience just a small selection of what Amsterdam has to offer. After spending these few days exploring this beautiful city you’ll soon find yourself never wanting to leave.

I traveled around Amsterdam using the GVB day passes that allow you to travel free around the city from 1 to 7 days with prices starting at 7.50 €. The card can be used in trams, buses, and metros.

Book your public transport tickets here.

Wondering what to see after Amsterdam? Check my post: Things to do in Utrecht.

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