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2 1/2 Days in Amsterdam

So, it looks as if our long-awaited, previously cancelled trip to Italy is a go. We leave in 11 days!!!!

A couple of months ago, we changed our transit location from London to Amsterdam, because of the increased restrictions in Italy at the time on travellers coming via the UK. The bonus is that the last direct flight of the season to Amsterdam on the airline with which we had credit departs 3 days earlier than we were originally scheduled to travel. We've never been to Amsterdam, so this will give us a little taste of that city.

We have 2 1/2 days--the day we arrive, plus two full days. We've done something similar before, spending that amount of time in Mainz prior to travelling to Namibia, and we managed to see and do quite a lot and have a great time. Jet lag is not usually a big issue for us going to Europe. (It's a different story coming home.) That said, we don't want to spend all our time rushing from museum to museum, since we will be seeing a number of museums in Italy, too. We want to spend some time just strolling around and soaking up the ambience. We probably won't go to a lot of cafes and restaurants, since that would require daily testing, and I'm not that comfortable with being unmasked in crowded places, but we MIGHT do so on our last day, because we need to get tested before going to Italy anyhow.

We aren't booking anything for our first day, because flights could be delayed, and we will probably need a little nap after checking into our place. Then, we usually like to walk around and get the lay of the land. We have booked the Anne Frank house for our first full morning, and the Van Gogh museum for that afternoon. That's probably enough scheduled stuff for that day.

I'm wondering what we should do on our last day? We do have some limitations, in that we will have to go for our antigen test, and we will also be changing accommodation. (To make a long story short, we are staying in bridge houses, and the one I really, really wanted to stay in was booked for our last night, so we are switching to another house. The hotel will facilitate this by allowing us to check directly out of one and into another. This will likely be early afternoon.)

Will we really regret missing the Rijksmuseum if we don't go there? Suggestions for other things to see, preferably outdoors (if not raining)?

Thanks. Getting sooooo excited!

Posted by
686 posts

The best outdoors activity other then just strolling around is to go see windmills someplace like Zaanse Schans but not sure you have enough time for that.

For a low key museum that isn't crowded you could try the Maritime Museum (Het Scheepvaart). Admission includes an audio guide and use of a storage locker (very high tech). They have ships outdoors to tour and an excellent restaurant.

Posted by
442 posts

Thanks.

You're right that we probably won't have time for the windmills. However, a major reason why I wanted the bridge house we're staying in for the first 2 nights is that is has a view of a 16th century windmill. :)

We'll look into the Maritime Museum. Thanks!

Posted by
6749 posts

Von Gogh is one of my favorite artists but his “ biggies” are in museums all over the world not in the Van Gogh Museum. The Rijksmueum is one of my favorite museums anywhere and they renovated it completely in recent years. I think your time would be better spent
going there.
Make sure to take canal cruise as it will give you different views of the city. It is easy to find one.
Please report back on your bridge houses experiences.Sounds interesting!
We stay at Hotel l’Ambassade, several combined gabled merchant houses, in the Canal Ring area. Charming with a superb location.
I love Amsterdam and have used it as a base to explore many other lovely towns and cities by train.

Posted by
442 posts

Thanks, Suki. We will reconsider the Rijksmuseum. We do want to go to the Van Gogh museum, though. We have seen his works elsewhere, but want to see this museum, also.

Most recently, we saw Starry Night at the MOMA in New York. I cried.

Posted by
2875 posts

We are huge fans of Van Gogh and have visited many of his works over the years. We were staying in the Museumplein area in 2019 so both the Van Gogh & Rijks were in walking distance. Another vote for the Rijksmuseum. Wonderful! We walked all over Amsterdam. I bet Vondelpark would be lovely this time of the year. One of our focuses was the Jewish history- Anne Frank House, the Resistance Museum- excellent, Holocaust Memorial, etc. We also wanted to see Amsterdam from the water & enjoyed a sightseeing cruise tour from Stromma.com. We were there in the month of September and the weather was moderate & comfortable. Have a wonderful journey!
Edited to add: https://community.ricksteves.com/travel-forum/netherlands/best-time-for-autumn-leaves-in-amsterdam

Posted by
3525 posts

I have to admit that I often am not a big fan of art museums. The Rijksmuseum was an exception for me. I found it extremely interesting. This was partly because they had made the effort to teach people about what they were seeing with some very interesting cards that could be found in the galleries in several languages. I learned quite a bit and was able to appreciate the art more than usual.

I went in summer, but I found a canal boat tour enjoyable. We visited the Anne Frank House museum as well as the Corrie Ten Boom Home in Haarlem.

Do not go to the Diamond Museum. It was not well done and didn't even have the science correct. This is more merchandising than anything.

Posted by
33 posts

We also spent 2 1/2 days in Amsterdam before a scheduled trip and it was wonderful. We went to the Anne Frank house (I reread her diary before we went and it made it all the more special. It is a short book and it made the rooms stand out more visually as to what she wrote and you could envision her family in them.

Definitely DON'T skip the Riksmuseum, It is fantastic! We also did the Van Gough and enjoyed it as well, but the Riksmuseum wins...and I love Van Gough.

The night life is also fun to see. We reserved dinner on an old 100 year old canal boat that had amazing character and ambiance; it went up and down the canals and served a full course dinner with wine on our first night, allowing us to relax after a long flight and begin our vacation on a high!.....If you wind up doing that, reserve it beforehand, there are many canal boats, but most are just packed sight seeing boats. There was probably no more than a dozen people on our very old, polished wood, glamorous boat!

I can't remember the name, but we stayed at the hotel where John Lennon and Yoko Ono had their "love In" . It was fun to see the writing that they left on the windows looking out into the parking lot, still there after all these years!

Posted by
274 posts

Renting a bike and cruising around Amsterdam is a fun way to see the city and you can see a lot that way. Its a great cycling city. Flat and many protected bike lanes.

Also recommend a boat on the canals.

Posted by
54 posts

I vote to definitely see the Van Gogh museum. This was a highlight for me, and it was amazing to see his works arranged in chronological order. You can truly see the progression of his style and how his work changed as he moved throughout the Netherlands and France. We followed up with sites in Paris, Arles, Auvers-sur-Oise which rounded out the works there.

There's a bus that goes from Central station out to Zaanse Schans. Mom and I took it there/back after our morning visit to Van Gogh museum, but that was in summer with longer daylight hours. It didn't take too long to get there, and was fun to wander around the different areas in the fresh air. Maybe the morning would be best in your case, if you decide to go. Enjoy! Bon Voyage!

Posted by
442 posts

Lots of good ideas here. Thanks everyone.

I did think about a canal cruise of some sort. We did one in Copenhagen and really enjoyed it.

I considered bike rental, too, but I'm 63 and haven't ridden a bike in at least 15 years, so I'm not sure how my legs would hold out with the unfamiliar movement. It would be fun, though, and would be a great way to see more of the city.

We do like museums and art galleries, and we've been to many, such as the Louvre, the Orsay, the Reina Sofia, the Met, the Moma, the National Gallery of Canada, the Chagall and the Matisse museums in Nice, and many of the big museums and galleries in Germany, Austria, Hungary, and Peru, among others.

I understand how it can been fascinating to see how an artist has progressed and gone through different phases. The Picasso museum in Barcelona gave me a whole new appreciation for that artist for that reason, and that's why I want to go to the Van Gogh museum, too.

So, I'm certainly not averse to going to the Rijksmuseum. If we do go, are there any specific areas that are not to be missed if we go for a couple of hours? I know we couldn't possibly see everything in that time.

Posted by
47 posts

I highly recommend taking the train from Central station to Zaanse Schans to see the windmills & walk around the village. Go to you tube & watch some videos on it. We loved it. You don’t need an entire day to see it. If you do a canal tour (which is lots of fun & a great way to learn about Amsterdam), check out “Those Dam Boat Guys”. They were so fun!

If you like Asian food...don’t miss FuLu Mandarin. Amazing. Need to make a reservation. You know it’s great food when we’re the only non-Asians there! Enjoy!

Posted by
442 posts

Hmm. Hmm. Lots to think about. The windmill park idea is appealing, I admit.

Posted by
3525 posts

I would not try to ride a bike around Amsterdam under any conditions. If you don't know what you are doing (and you mention it has been a long time), I feel this could even be dangerous. The bikes lanes are the equivalent of bike highways and the riders can feel very aggressive if you are not used to such an active bike culture. You will want to also be cognizant of where you are walking or standing. You don't want to be in the bike lanes.

If you wanted to try bike riding outside of the urban area, that might be doable.

Posted by
2875 posts

I can attest to Carol’s take on “bike lane highway” in Amsterdam. I recall taking the Red Bus from the airport to our B&B. Our bus driver warned us to look both ways before getting off the bus. Good advice! We were very cautious crossing streets & staying off the bike lane. We enjoyed watching the cyclists but chose not to rent bikes. My husband is a former marathon cyclist and decided against riding in the city!

Posted by
442 posts

Wow! Good to know.
I remember all the people riding bikes in Copenhagen. My daughter says the bike lanes are even busier in Amsterdam.