Breakfast at your hotel
This isn’t a hard and fast rule since there are tons of delicious breakfast options in Amsterdam (like Danish pancakes), but for me, my travel rule is, if the hotel offers breakfast, it’s worth it to just easily start my day without having to search for a place to give me coffee and sustenance. If you’re like me, and get hangry and cranky sans food and coffee in the morning, this is the best way to start your days right while traveling, especially when you have a short trip where you need to pack a lot into just a couple days.
Anne Frank House
You’ll need to get up and going early to get this while itinerary done. But it’s worth it to see the city at its quietest. When we walked to the Anne Frank House around 9 am the city was almost desolate. You’d think we were walking at 5 am.
If you’re reading this and planning a trip to Amsterdam, I suggest ensuring you can get tickets to the museums on the desired dates BEFORE you purchase your train/plane tickets because they get that booked up. Even before COVID you had to pAmsterdam
rebook for the immensely popular museum so ensure you book your tickets and specific time slot well in advance of your trip.
Pro Tip: Ensure you complete the entire booking and get tickets in your email. Failing to finish all the steps will result in your inability to visit the museum.
The house where Anne and her family hid was actually the factory for her father’s business.
We aren’t fussy when it comes to lunches, especially when we have limited days in a place. We find there are plenty of places to grab a sandwich, snack or street food in any city. We also enjoy trying out McDonalds in other countries to see how the menu differs. Whatever you decide, grab a bite to eat to replenish you for the rest of your afternoon. I’d suggest meandering towards Vondelpark for your lunch as that’s your next item on the itinerary.
Walk in Vondelpark
Weather permitting, this is a great way to spend the afternoon. The park isn’t the most beautiful park I’ve ever seen in a city, but it’s still got loads of charm. There are water features, art exhibits, performers and plenty of people to watch. If you’re still hungry after lunch you can grab an ice cream cone from one of the carts as you stroll through the park. They have also spray painted circles on the grass so if you’d like to sit down you can do so at a safe distance from others. Genius!
On your way back into the heart of the city, take some time to buy some souvenirs. If you like antiques then walk down Spegelgracht towards the center. Several unique stores line this street. If you want souvenir stores and modern high street stores, head down Leidsestraat. These two streets run parallel each other and end up around the same place.
Next up is an evening or late afternoon of wine tasting with Jose (Make sure pre-book). Located in a cellar under the New Church just off Dam Square, you’ll find the door to your experience at Melly’s Cookie Bar, a sign will tell wine patrons to ring the bell.
Leave plenty of time to wine taste (1.5-2 hours) because Jose is extremely knowledgeable, funny and talkative. He’s got great stories and served us some incredible wine. Since we’re limited on the amount of alcohol we can bring back on the train (and none on a plane), we ordered six bottles from him and had them shipped. They arrived early the next week. Such wonderful service! I will definitely return to try more Argentinian wine!
After you’ve had your fill of wine, make your way to Cafe Sonneveld for dinner. Located a short 15 minute walk from Dam Square and your wine tasting experience, this will give you a good amount of time to see the city in the fading sunlight. As the sun sets, it bounces off the canals and gives you more than enough opportunities for beautiful photos.
When you make it to Cafe Sonneveld, you’ll find they have a ton of options for dinner, but I’ll only suggest one, the stamppot. Since it’s traditional, I feel like it’s a must taste while you’re in the Netherlands. A stamppot consists of mashed vegetables topped with some type of meat. While we were there they had two versions, a carrot and onion and an endive. You could have either a meatball or sausage on top. I had the carrot and onion with a meatball and Tim had the endive with the sausage. I definitely preferred mine but everyone loved their stamppot and I’d definitely return to have another round.
Breakfast at your hotel
Up and out early again. Enjoy a quick bite at your hotel and then make your way to the Van Gogh Museum to see some amazing art.
Van Gogh Museum
I was never a huge fan of Van Gogh. While I appreciated his talent, his work was never anything I longed to see in person. But then I did. And my mind is completely changed. Standing mere feet from his works in the Van Gogh Museum is absolutely awe-inspiring. I fell in love with his art and his passion. His work from the asylum just before his death especially touched me. He painted for all of us who supper from mental illnesses and that’s something I never realized before.
You’ll be here for a while but it’s absolutely worth it. The audio guide is great, even if the numbers on it make no sense. There’s also work from other well known artists of Van Gogh’s time which is amazing to see in comparison to how Vincent painted. The second exhibit go artist’s portraits is interesting but not nearly as much as Van Gogh’s work and I felt myself tired of art and ready to move on so we went through it fairly quickly. There are some great portraits in there but nothing as stunning as I saw in the main exhibit.
Pro Tip: You can’t take photos inside, even though you’ll see several people doing it anyway. Best to follow the rules though in a foreign land.
Walk around the city taking in the sights
After you’ve had your fill of art, walk through the city and just take in the sights. The architecture of the city is absolutely stunning. Admire the canal houses and the ingenuity of the pulley or hook in the gables of the houses. These aren’t merely decoration but the hooks are used to hoist large or bulky items up to the proper floor. Canal house stair cases are often too small to get anything large up, so furniture and the like can be hoisted on a hook and passed through the correct window. I think it’s absolutely genius.
Time for another sustenance break. Prior to our boat ride we ate at the conveniently located Hard Rock Cafe. I know a lot of you American travelers think it’s crazy to eat American food when you’re traveling. But for me, as an expat, it’s a treat. Ranch dressing at a restaurant?! yes please! So yes, we ate at Hard Rock and it was delicious.
Next up is a boat tour. We didn’t prebook this and just happened to work out that they had something open within about thirty minutes of when we bought the tickets. We took a glass topped with the Blue Boat company and it was lovely. While it was a little slow and backed up at times due to traffic on the canals, that doesn’t reflect negatively on the company. Just be aware of this and leave plenty of time between your tour and anything else you might have a time limit for.
Stroll the red light district
After your boat tour you might want to stroll the red light district. It’s probably better at night, but if you attend dinner where I recommend, that will take your entire night, and red light is something you have to see, at least once. We didn’t do much other than walk up and down the one street of the Red Light District. To be honest, it was a little disappointing but at least we can say we were there. When we went there was a ton of construction going on so between watching out for construction debris and trying to see the ladies in the windows, it was a very distracting walk. That being said, its an item checked off the bucket list.
ProTip: You’re also not supposed to take photos in the Red Light District, be respectful of the working ladies.
Now here’s the real treat for you gastro lovers. Dinner at Utrechtsedwarstafel will blow your mind. The tiny restaurant is intricately decorated with wine bottles and boxes and an amazing sign of a pig that says “If man were so find of taste, he wouldn’t need pigs to find his truffles.” Which cracked me up. Due to the tiny nature of the restaurant, we got the most personal feel when we arrived. Our reservation for 7 pm, we were the first to arrive that evening. Three or four other parties arrived within a half hour or so and that was it for the evening. Because let me tell you, your food adventure will last all evening. It was one of the longest, but most amazing dinners I’ve ever had. We didn’t leave until nearly midnight and to be honest, it didn’t feel like we had been there more than a few minutes. The company, food, wine and atmosphere was that awesome.
There is no menu at Utrechtsedwarstafel, it’s an adventure of the tastebuds. They were wonderful though and as I don’t eat sea food, they gladly subtitled meat dishes to the two fish dishes Tim ate. In total there were five courses and six wines (one with your amuse-bouche). Hans, the owner and host of the evening expertly paired delicious wines with each of our courses. He explained the notes of the wines, where they were made and how they complimented the course they were served with. Even as one who’s just starting to learn about wines, I found this understandable, fascinating and delicious.
At the end of my five course meal I felt amazing. Delightfully full of delicious food and wine and having spent an unforgettable evening in the company of Hans and his spectacular waitress (I wish I caught her name because she was so lovely). When I return to Amsterdam I will definitely return to Utrechtsedwarstafel because there’s no way I can be in the city and not have another evening like that.
Summary – Time to Prep
Now that you know what you’re going to be doing for your quick trip to Amsterdam, here’s a recap of all the reservations you need to make and the amount of time you need to allot for each one.
- Anne Frank House: Book Tickets here and plan on spending 3-4 Hours
- Van Gogh Museum: Book Tickets here and plan on spending 3-4 Hours
- Boat Tour: Book Tickets here and plan on spending 1-2 Hours
- Wine Tasting: Book your spot by calling or emailing and plan on spending 1.5-2 Hours
- Cafe Sonneveld: Reserve your table here and plan on 1-2 Hours
- Utrechtsedwarstafel: Reserve your table here and plan on 4-5 Hours