Small enough to explore on foot but large enough to lose yourself, Amsterdam is one of Europe's most attractive and intoxicating cities. In two days you may only skim its surface, but follow this itinerary and you'll experience the city at its very best.
9am Every visit to Amsterdam should start with a traditional Dutch breakfast of toast, eggs and cheese — as well as a walk through the city's famous canal belt. Head to Letting to check off both boxes, and they'll add roast beef to your meal to make it taste even better. Walk off the calories by heading to Amsterdam's public library, OBA, and take in the panoramic views of the city from its rooftop terrace. Then make your way to the Van Gogh Museum, which is home to hundreds of paintings and sketches by the troubled genius. Book tickets online to avoid lines.
1pm For lunch, make your way to the excellent Little Collins, a short walk from the Van Gogh Museum, for Dutch classics with a twist and excellent coffee. Alternatively, if you plan well ahead of time and can secure a seat at one of the four tables, Upstairs Pannenkoekenhuis serves some of the city's finest pancakes.
2pm If you're visiting the city between March and May, make sure to set aside an afternoon to visit the world famous Keukenhof. It's a short bus, train or cab ride out of the city center but worth the effort. Here you'll find 32 hectares filled with 800 varieties of the tulips Amsterdam has become famous for.
6pm Once back in the heart of the city, you deserve a drink. No visit to Amsterdam would be complete without stopping off in a brown café, which is named for the dark but cozy wooden interiors. Café Chris in Jordaan is one of the best and oldest, dating back to 1624. When it's time to eat, Librije's Zusje offers high-end fine dining. Alternatively, Balthazar's Keuken is more affordable and, in many people's eyes, no less impressive.
11pm Extend your night with a nightcap at De Twee Zwaantjes, beside the canal in Jordaan. This is an Amsterdam institution, so don't be surprised if you end up in a sing song with the locals.
9am Start your day at Bakers & Roasters in De Pijp, one of a wide number of hip breakfast joints across the city — this one mixes Dutch, New Zealand and Brazilian influences. From there, follow along the canals into the Museum Quarter and to the Rijksmuseum, home to a number of Old Master paintings. For a modern art alternative, the Stedelijk Museum is close by.
12pm If the sun is shining, there's no finer place to lunch than in Vondelpark, known as Amsterdam's “green lung." Grab provisions en route and look out for raw herring from one of the city's food stalls — it's a Dutch delicacy that's at its very best between May and July. Or, drop in on one of Vondelpark's many restaurants and cafés, set amongst the roses in a park that has been awarded national heritage status.
2pm Visit the Anne Frank House and museum and see where the Frank family went into hiding to escape the Nazis during World War II.. After, take a short walk to the Central Station. Here you can board the 100 Highlights Cruise, an hour-long journey down some of the 165 canals that circle the city. You won't need to book in advance but you will need to make space on your camera for all the photos you'll want to snap.
6pm Before dinner, raise a glass to the city at one of Amsterdam's growing number of “secret" speakeasy cocktail bars. The Butcher, Door 74 and Hiding In Plain Sight are three world-class options, if you can find them and get in. Tales & Spirits is less secretive but no less impressive. For dinner, Guts & Glory, Wolf Atelier and Envy are just three options fitting for your final night.
11pm End the evening and your stay with a nightcap. One of the most unique options is Hannekes Boom, a quirky shack-like bar on an island that feels like a world of its own. It's a fine end to two excellent days.
When to go Amsterdam comes alive in the spring, when the city wakes from winter and is filled with color, from the trees along the canals and the tulips in bloom to the green parks perfect for people watching.
What to know While all the places in this itinerary can be reached on foot, it pays to act like a local and hire a bike. Safe and easy, thanks to the flat terrain and multiple bike paths, cycling is an essential Amsterdam experience. MacBike should be your first stop for all the essential details.
If you go
United Airlines flies to Amerstdam. From the airport, a 15-minute train ride takes you to Amsterdam Central Station. Once you're in the city center, it's an easy walk to many hotels and all of the city's main attractions. For flight details, visit united.com or use the United app to start planning your getaway to Amsterdam.