This compact city is packed full of things to do. From Leidseplein and the Vondelpark to the Red Light district, you’ll find plenty to do with 48 hours in Amsterdam.
Amsterdam has been dubbed as one of the most liberal cities in Europe, becoming well-known for its elaborate canal systems throughout, historical landmarks and world-class museums. With inter-railing becoming a much more common practice (and the Netherlands being labelled a top choice among destinations), it’s no shock that many choose to do a 48 hour stop in this iconic city.
Where to stay
There are lots of affordable hotels scattered across the centre of Amsterdam, with many around Leidseplein and Vondelpark, and plenty of choice around Jordaan and the Red Light district. For a 3 star hotel expect to pay upwards of £60, and if you’re prepared to stay further out of town and commute in on the metro then the price and value for money ratio gets better.
If you’re looking for more of a budget stay within walking distance of the sites (as I did), there are many hostels also near the centre of the action, with rooms averaging £20-65 ($26-84), depending on whether you’d be willing to stay in a dorm, or want a private room.
Check out cheap hotels in Amsterdam on our handy widget below.
Should You Get a City Pass for your stay?
I’d actually stumbled across city passes when I was investigating for my Amsterdam trip and considering the best way to save money abroad. After a few minutes of researching, the ‘I Amsterdam Card’ seemed an obvious choice. These cards can provide some heavy discounts if used often, being most useful for the site-seeking traveller. It also includes unlimited public transport and a free canal cruise.
Passes for 24 hours are €60 and 48 hours €80 (prices correct as of May 2019). If you’re planning on cramming in as many of the popular museums and attractions as possible, such as the Van Gough museum or the Heineken brewery then you will get your moneys worth.
For example, The Van Gogh Museum and Anne Frank House (two of the most popular tourist stops) cost £40 ($52) on their own, without considering travel to and from. Typically, if you would visit five of the offered places on the pass, they’d show value for the money.
Van Gogh Museum
The Van Gogh Museum is one of Amsterdam’s most iconic tourist spots, for both art enthusiasts and general public. If you’re not buying a city pass, the admission fee is €19 (£16.40/$21.20), but this should definitely be booked in advance to ensure you can visit at the time you wish. The museum occasionally holds special events and optional workshops, so keep an eye on the ‘What’s On’ page to see what’d be the best day for a trip. The busiest periods are between 11am-3pm, so bare this in mind, too.
Anne Frank House
The Anne Frank House is a memorable historic location for millions, with the secret annex that she’d hidden in for more than 2 years now being available to public eye. This, alongside the diary room of her famous book, provides an amazing insight into the lives of these people throughout WW2. For those who prefer a more educational side to their trips, this would be an unmissable location.
The national museum of the Netherlands is an impressive building a short walk from Leidseplein, and is close to the Van Gough museum too. You’ll find works of art by Rembrandt and Johannes Vermeer among many of the old Dutch masters. Entry is €19 for adults, although children under 18 go free. This is one of Amsterdam’s most iconic mueums and a must for art fans.
If you prefer your museums a bit racier, this might be more your cup of tea. Located on Damrak street, a short walk from Dam Square and Centraal Station, expect lots of phalluses, naughty pictures and videos and some genuinely quite interesting exhibits. If you’re prusish then you should probably skip this one. Under 16s won’t be permitted to enter. Entry is €5 as of 2019.
Amsterdam’s Licensed Coffee Shops
Although definitely not for everyone, it is undeniable that a large amount of the city’s tourism is due to its renowned edibles (or ‘Space Cakes’). Nowadays, these cafes offer THC laced products in the forms of brownies, milkshakes and hot chocolates, with artwork and rock music to add to the general ambience. Original Dampkring is the cameo coffee shop from George Clooney and Brad Pitt’s Ocean’s Twelve, where the crew originally discussed their heist for the movie. And yes, you can still smoke indoors.
The Red Light District
Although there are lots of little red light districts, the main one is next to the Oude Kerk (old church) a short walk from Dam Square and Centraal Station. Notoriously, the old cobbled streets are lined with women sat behind windows, lit by red lights, hence the name.
As prostitution is decriminalised in the Netherlands, Amsterdam does have a reputation for the sex tourism. If you’re in town for 48 hours you’ll likely find yourself stumbling into a red light district, just by walking around.
The main red light district is an interesting place to walk around, although you can start to feel a bit uncomfortable peering at these women behind their windows. The area is also home to lots of coffee shops and other attractions too, and it’s sort of a must see when in Amsterdam.
OK more museums, but if you like your culture to include a crisp and refreshing drink then this is for you. Both Heineken and Ij have museums that you can visit in central Amsterdam. Which is best? That’s for you to find out.
What to eat in Amsterdam
Dutch food is quite carb and meat heavy, although there is a growing selection of veggie and vegan places. You’ll see Surinamese and Indonesian restaurants everywhere, as they are former Dutch colonies. These are generally good places to eat as they are tasty and inexpensive.
Sampurna (Singel 498) near to the Rijksmuseum is a good place to get some quality Indonesian food, although its one of the more expensive options.
Haejse Claes is a traditional Dutch restaurant on Spuistraat, a ten minute walk from Ann Frank House. Apparently it’s been there since 1520, so its very traditional… Hotchpotch is a mixture of meat and vegetables and is very Dutch. Also make sure you try some pickled herring or anything with asparagus in it.
Needless to say, Amsterdam is home to some very eclectic nightlife. Whatever your tastes, you’ll find something to entice you.
There are several comedy clubs (don’t worry, they are in English), including the Badaboom Comedy Club and Boom Chicago. The latter are an American comedy troupe who have been performing in Amsterdam for 25 years! Tickets start from €12.50 and it’s well worth checking out.
Most of the bars and coffee shops in Amsterdam are open until around 3am. The Bulldog chain and the Grasshopper are two of the most popular and well known coffee shops in Amsterdam. And don’t worry, you don’t have to get high to enjoy them.
Escape and Melkweg are two of the best known nightclubs in Amsterdam, for those looking for a big night out. Melkweg especially has become a bit of an institution and there is always something going on. It’s a cool building too, set inside an old dairy factory close to Leidseplein.
The I Amsterdam Card also has an option for a nightlife pass. Prices start from €10 for 2 day unlimited entry to many of the best clubs in Amsterdam.
Planning your trip
If you’re visiting Amsterdam for 48 hours then you’ll want to be in the heart of the action. Check available hotels in Amsterdam here.
You can also find great city break deals to Amsterdam over at LastMinute.com. See whats on offer, including 48 hour Amsterdam breaks with Eurostar from London, or flights from the UK.
Amsterdam’s Schipol Airport is a major international hub and has links to destinations across the UK, Europe, Americas and Asia. The train into Centraal Station is fast and frequent and costs around €5.50. The journey time is 20 minutes.
Find your flights to Amsterdam on our handy widget below.