How to Tackle Amsterdam in 48 Hours

A few years ago, a friend of mine told me that he and his sister started a tradition of bringing one another to an undisclosed location on their birthday. What started off as long weekend trips to new states evolved into week-long vacations in Greece and Dubai. The idea inspired me, especially since my brother and I both love to travel. Being the awesome big sister that I am, I decided to surprise my brother for his 23rd birthday with a trip to Europe. The majority of our trip was spent in England but we decided to pit stop in Amsterdam while we were across the pond. In total, we only spent two days in Amsterdam, but we managed to knock several top attractions off our bucket lists. If you ever find yourself in need of a two-day itinerary for Amsterdam, consider doing what we did.


Anne Frank House. One of the must-see sites of Amsterdam is the house where Anne Frank and her family lived in hiding for two years during WWII. After having read the Diary of Anne Frank, walking through the annex was a truly humbling experience. The museum holds several personal items that belonged to Anne Frank and her family as well as her original bedroom set with childhood posters still hanging on the walls above her bed. Overall, the tour is very educational and the audio guide system does a great job of transporting visitors back in time. This is a very popular tourist attraction so I would highly suggest booking tickets online in advance so you don’t have to wait in line. 

Heineken Experience. I will be the first to admit that beer is not my preferred choice of alcohol. However, the Heineken Experience is so much more than just a traditional brewery. The tour begins with the foundations of the company and how it started back in the 19th century as a small business run by the Heineken family. As you continue through the tour, visitors are shown how Heineken has grown into an international brand celebrated through sporting events, concerts, television, etc. Visitors are given samples of Heineken and there are several areas designated for photo opportunities. We learned to “Proost,” which means “cheers” in Dutch and at the very end of the tour, we ended up in a room that resembled a night club where we were given two free drink tickets. If you like Heineken, or just love beer, the Heineken Experience is the experience for you.


Coffeeshops. Amsterdam is famous for its coffeeshops, but these are not to be confused with cafes. If you’re looking for a caffeine fix, this is not the place to order a cappuccino. Coffeeshops – note that it’s one word – are establishments that sell marijuana. There are about 200 coffeeshops dispersed throughout the city and by their potent smell, they are not hard to identify. Some coffeeshops have a true hipster vibe, while others are more like pubs or nightclubs. A typical coffeeshop menu consists of several kinds of weed, hash, edibles and pre-rolled joints. If you’re looking for this type of “refreshment,” a visit to a coffeeshop can be a very unique experience.


Red Light District. No trip to Amsterdam is complete without a stroll through its infamous Red Light District. To say this part of the city is fascinating is a complete understatement. The streets are lined with red-lit windows where prostitutes pose in an array of scantily clad costumes as they try to lure passerby into their rooms. Today, more than 290 prostitutes are legally employed in the Red Light District. In addition to these “window brothels,” the district boasts a collection of sex shops, museums and even live sex shows, which, are exactly what they sound like. (Note: my brother and I did not see a live sex show because, gross). One bit of advice, be respectful while you are there. Taking photographs or videos of the prostitutes is highly frowned upon.


Rijksmuseum | I AMsterdam. If you’re looking to get cultured, I would highly suggest visiting the Dutch National Museum, or Rijksmuesem. Rijksmuesem is a large museum that leads visitors on a chronological journey through the art and history of the Netherlands. My brother and I were on a time crunch so we powered through the entire museum in 2 hours, but there are about 8000 pieces of artwork on display at any given time, so you could easily spend 3-4 hours touring around. Right outside Rijksmuseum is the “I Amsterdam” sign which is a very popular photography spot. Pro tip: if you’re planning to take a decent photo by the I Amsterdam sign (without 100 other tourists in your shot), make sure to get there first thing in the morning before a crowd starts to form.


Canal Tour. Amsterdam is known for its intricate network of canals. The city has 165 canals which span over 31 miles. So what better way to explore Amsterdam than on the canals themselves? The Amsterdam canal tours are one of the most popular tourist attractions in the Netherlands, with almost 3 million passengers a year and 200 different tour boats. These canal tours run for roughly one to two hours and are full of Amsterdam’s history and architecture. The tour boat we took offered headphones with guided commentary in over 19 different languages. The ceiling of the boat was also covered with glass which helped when it started to temporarily rain. One of the most interesting things I learned from the boat cruise was that the canals not only help to manage flooding throughout the city, but many locals actually live on boats in the canals.


Amsterdam “FunFair.” Whether you’re one for racing around in the dodgems, stuffing your face with cotton candy or simply sightseeing from the top of a ferris wheel, the Amsterdam funfairs (also known as ‘kermis’ in Dutch) are guaranteed to have an attraction suited for you. Depending on what time of the year you visit, the traveling funfairs are held twice a year in Dam Square, which is located in the heart of Amsterdam. The outdoor funfair has a mix of attractions, from thrill rides to ferris wheels to food stalls filled with traditional Dutch desserts. If you find yourself visiting a kermis, consider splurging on a Dutch oliebollen (round doughnut-like pastries) or poffertjes (baby pancakes) – they’re absolutely divine!



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