What to do and see on a weekend break in Amsterdam

Don't have much time this summer? Even a couple of days in Amsterdam is enough to experience the city to the full!

Amsterdam is an incoherent city - hazy cafès filled with marijuana-smoking young adults and legal prostitution lives alongside abiding citizens and some of the cleanest, friendliest streets you’ve seen in Europe (and some might even say the world).

Regardless of your reasons for visiting Amsterdam, the city is appealing even for the pickiest of travellers. The Venice of the north can seem a bit overwhelming if you are just visiting for a short time, so we have devised a quick guide with the best things to do in Amsterdam, all of which you can fit into a short weekend break! Once you've finished reading the article (and surely been fully convinced that it's worth a visit), use the booking form to find the best hostels in Amsterdam, to start planning your next adventure!.

How to get around Amsterdam - by bike, tram or boat!

First - how to get around? The best way to get around the city like the locals is to do it the Dutch way - by bike! You can find reasonably priced rental bike shops easily, some of the more popular outlets being Bike City and Mac Bike.

Get around by bike!

Canal buses also give you a unique experience by cruising along Amsterdam’s 17th-century canals. The boats run various routes with a number of stops near the main sites of the city. Trams are also an option; the tram network consists of multiple lines, most of which start at Centraal Station spreading out to the East, South, and West.

What to see in Amsterdam in a weekend: Visit the historical sites in the morning

Amsterdam is a major cultural centre with an array of events, festivals, and exhibitions all year round, so you will be spoilt for choice. If you only have the weekend, we suggest doing some research beforehand and choosing a couple of places to visit. Your best bet to save time is to head to The Museumplein Area which is a magnet for museum lovers which contains some of the world’s most famous museums including the Van Gogh Museum; the Rijksmuseum containing the National Art Collection; and the Stedelijk Museum of Art.

Once done, you have to pay a visit to the Anne Frank House where the teenage Jewish girl hid from Nazis and wrote her famous diary. But make sure you book before you come, as now all tickets need to be bought online in advance. If your looking for something a light more light-hearted then the fascinating Hash Marihuana & Hemp Museum; and tongue-and-cheek Sex Museum are well worth a visit instead.

Make sure on the second morning that you hit the 3 key squares of the city- Dam Square which has seen numerous revolts, riots, shootings and demonstrations against the Vietnam War. (You can also tick the Royal Palace where Queen Beatrice entertains her VIP guests off your list from here!). Leidseplein Square and Rembrandtplein Square are also hot spots that boast everything you would expect - cafés, clubs, cinemas, bars, theatres, buskers, musicians, a casino and skating rinks in the winter.

Leidseplein Square

On the other hand, if tourist centres and busy squares are not for you, and if you are feeling like getting off the beaten path of the city, then head towards the Jordaan district, where a maze of 17th-century alleyways and narrow canals will leaving you feeling enchanted (if a little lost). If you can find it, the Wester Tower is one of the best-known churches of Amsterdam. Interesting, this church is not named after a saint, but it's location!

(If you are planning on staying a little more than a weekend then we do suggest you buy the Amsterdam Pass, which gives you free entry into over 30 top attractions and free bus and boat tours so you will save a lot of money)

What to do in Amsterdam: Shop to your heart's content in the afternoon

In the afternoons we suggest getting away from historical sites and head to the Albert Cuyp Market, which is the largest and busiest outdoor market in Europe and situated in the heart of the 19th century De Pijp district. Established in 1905 and with hundreds and hundreds of stalls, you can sure to spend a couple of hours there looking at what's on offer. From fish to coffee to flowers to fabrics and jewellery, the Albert Cuyp market really has it all.

Albert Cuyp Market

The Red Light district and coffee shops: best visited in the evening

Not for the faint of heart, or those easily offended, but a very typical, notorious and oldest part of the city is, of course, the Red-light district. It's a vibrant part of the city, where you can find the oldest profession in the world. Seeing as you've spent your mornings being cultured, and afternoons shopping, we really suggest you visit the district at night to see it come alive, red lights ablaze. Some of Amsterdam’s most beautiful buildings and canals can also be admired here; and it's also a great place for unusual shops and interesting pubs and restaurants.

The Red Light District

Of course, many tourists are drawn to the city for its relaxed outlook on marijuana. Smoking in the city is legal, and we suggest (if you are into that sort of thing) to enjoy this new found freedom in one of the cities many many coffee shops. Have a smoke with a cup of coffee after your long day, and relax.

Cheap Hostels in Amsterdam

Inspired by the history? What to see what the hype is about? Using our booking engine below to search out the best and cheap hostels in Amsterdam, you're sure to find something that is perfect for you!