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Don’t fear the cold, Amsterdam in winter is stunning! There are many cool things to do in Amsterdam in winter time, the city is less crowded and the hotels are cheaper. Plan your winter itinerary for 3 days in Amsterdam, visit the top attractions and get a taste of this vibrant city.
Amsterdam is one of our favorite cities in Europe! It’s open minded, packed with art, culture, good food and incredible architecture. On our last two visits, we stayed 3 days in Amsterdam and managed to explore the city’s best attractions and some local spots. This 3 days Amsterdam itinerary is a mix of tourist spots, personal recommendations and travel trips. But before we start listing the attractions and places to visit in Amsterdam, there a few things you need to know about weather, transportation and accommodation in Amsterdam during winter time.
Amsterdam in winter, how cold it gets?
In winter the temperatures in Amsterdam are between 0º to 5º C but the real feel can be as cold as -10ºC. When snows, Amsterdam looks magical, like a fairytale city. You will need a good winter coat, thermals, wool socks and good gloves. But don’t be scared, if we [two Brazilians that were living in Thailand] survived to Amsterdam winter, you can do it too. There are plenty of things to do in Amsterdam in winter, the secret is to plan an itinerary mixing outdoors and indoors activities, some strategic stops to warm up, coffees and beers.
Best hotels in Amsterdam for winter
If you travel to Amsterdam in winter you need to choose your hotel location wisely. In cold days you don’t want to spend time walking back to your hotel after a long day visiting Amsterdam tourist spots. Also, you don’t want to spend a lot of time taking taxis or public transportation, especially if you only have 3 days in Amsterdam.
The best bet is to choose a hotel at Amsterdam Centrum. We travel on an affordable luxury style and we love boutique hotels that don’t cost a fortune, so we choose to stay at Albus Hotel, and love it.
Located in the heart of Amsterdam, Albus Hotel is close to many museums, a walk distance to the train station and Red Light district. What I really liked is the sexy and intimate décor, so Amsterdam! The service is great and you can have your own Heineken Torp machine in the room. Seriously, it can’t get better than this: comfy room, coffee machine, beer tap and delicious breakfast. We stayed at the Spacious City Suit and had a great time, the 2PM check out was a bonus too.
If you are traveling to Amsterdam on a budget, hostels are the best option. On our first trip to Amsterdam we stayed at Van Gogh Hostel and liked a lot. Clean, spacious, safe and close to 3 of the most visited museums in town. That time we were traveling with friends, so we got a 6-bed mixed dorm and had the room only for us.
Want to splurge on your winter trip to Amsterdam? Waldorf Astoria Amsterdam is the perfect combination of 5-star service, beautiful decor and premium location. All this comes with some extra zeros on the bill, but if you want to pamper yourself during your 3 days in Amsterdam, go for it. If on your last day to you want to stay close to the airport to catch an early flight, there are a few hotels near Schiphol Airport that you can book. For more hotels in Amsterdam check out Hotels.com, Agoda and Booking.com.
How to get around Amsterdam during winter time
Amsterdam is world-famous for the bicycles and they are everywhere. Locals ride their bikes throughout the winter, facing the cold and snow, on the other hand, tourists tend to avoid them during the freezing months. If you get a bit of sunshine during your 3 days in Amsterdam go for a bike ride, it’s a must. But don’t rely on it as a transportation mode, during the Amsterdam winter the public transportation is the best option.
Trams, buses, metro, trains and ferries connect the whole city and Amsterdam attractions. Before boarding in a tram or bus you need to buy the ticket at the machines. To avoid the hassle and to travel freely across the city the best option is to purchase the I Amsterdam Card, it saves time and money.
For our 3 days in Amsterdam we got the I Amsterdam Card 72 hours, enjoyed the free public transportation, free entrance to many of Amsterdam’s attractions and discount in others. At first sight, it looks a bit expensive, but them when you put together the transport cost, the museums and boat tours ticket, it became a saving money option.
Many of the things to do in Amsterdam that we suggest for your 3 days winter itinerary are covered by the I Amsterdam Card. It’s easy to get the card, you order it at the official I Amsterdam website, choose which one you want [24hs, 48h, 72hs or 96 hours] and pay via credit card. The card can be sent to your home address in 6 business days [delivery fee may apply] or you can pick up your card at 3 I Amsterdam Visitor Center/Information, one at the Schiphol Airport – Arrival Hall 2, and two at the Amsterdam Central Station.
With the card you will receive a map of the city and a guide with all the places to visit and things to do in Amsterdam that are free with the city card. Get you I Amsterdam Card as soon as you arrive in the city and enjoy your 3 days in Amsterdam. A heads up: the card doesn’t cover the train from Schipol Airport to city center, this ticket you need to buy before boarding the train.
What to do in Amsterdam in 3 Days
As I said, there are tons of places to visit and things to do in Amsterdam, especially in winter time. Now that you know how to choose your accommodation in Amsterdam and how to buy your I Amsterdam Card, let’s plan your 3 days itinerary.
We put together a great selection of museums and cultural things to do in Amsterdam, from classic art, passing by historical places and modern art. You don’t need to visit all of them, but keep in mind that most of them are very interesting and unique.
Our favorite museums in Amsterdam
Rijksmuseum is the largest and most famous of all museums in Netherlands. Its collections and exhibitions will definitely surpass your expectations. The museum is crowded even during winter, so buy your ticket online to save time. With I Amsterdam Card you get 2.50 Euros discount on Rijksmuseum ticket. The best times to visit the museum are before 10AM and after 3PM.
Van Gogh Museum
Another place that you need to visit during your 3 days in Amsterdam. The Van Gogh Museum treasures a stunning collection of over 200 paintings, sketches, drawings and notes left by one of Netherland’s favorite painters. Divided into 7 different periods, the collection presents the progress of the artist, as well as his mental collapse.
Rembrandt House Museum is a very interesting place to visit, especially for art lovers and fans of the famous painter. The museum consists of the old Rembrandt’s house where he lived in the 17th century. Free entrance with I Amsterdam Card.
Anne Frank Museum
A visit to Anne Frank Museum is a very special and touching experience. This famous writer described in her personal diary the horrors three Jewish families went through during Holocaust, hiding from Nazis in a house in Amsterdam. A visit to Anne Frank Museum is one of the tops things to do in Amsterdam and the queue to buy the tickets and enter the museum are huge and last for hours. The smartest option is to book the ticket online and don’t be late, if you miss your visit slot you will need to queue to enter. The tickets are sold out one month in advance, so as soon as you buy your flights to Amsterdam go online and make your booking for Anne Frank Museum.
If you like history and different museums, the next ones are really interesting and not so famous among tourists. Even better, they have free entrance with I Amsterdam Card and you can reach them with tram or a few minutes walking through the old town.
Foam is a photography museum in Amsterdam where you can find all kinds of photography and different genres, locals and international artists. The museum is inside a traditional Dutch house facing one of the city’s canal, perfect to get to know a bit more of Amsterdam iconic architecture.
Amsterdam Museum gives you a unique experience of discovering the city through time, getting to know its past, present and future. There are different exhibitions, tours and presentations that help you get to know the city better and learn about its history.
Stadsarchief Museum or the Amsterdam City Archives is a place where you can dig into the history of the city, relevant documents and important historical papers. You can also find temporary exhibitions and different activities.
NEMO Science Museum is an experience that will bring fun and joy to the cold Amsterdam winter. No matter if you are an adult or a kid, there you can take part in the exhibitions and experiments that will make you feel like a child again.
More things to do in Amsterdam in winter
Walk around the city and contemplate the unique architecture
Amsterdam has a distinctive architecture, narrow buildings with big windows and leaning facades. Amsterdam is a perfect example of architecture pornography, with pretty buildings, cute bridges, floating houses and beautiful people everywhere. I know we are talking about traveling to Amsterdam in winter time, but one of the things you must do is to walk around and contemplate the unique beauty of the city.
My suggestion is to stroll around the city and have some strategic stops at the museums we mentioned above. This way you can keep your body warm and experience Amsterdam in a whole. Don’t forget to wander around Jordam and Pijp neighborhoods, that are close to the Amsterdam city center.
St. Nicholas Basilica
Amsterdam Cathedral is the only basilica in the city, massive and impressive. Built in a neo-Renaissance and neo-Baroque style, it’s very different from other edifices built at the time when neo-Gothic was favored as a style for catholic churches. A visit to this place will not leave you indifferent, the cathedral is magnificent from inside and out.
Another great thing to do in Amsterdam winter is to go on a boat tour through the canals. I would suggest doing the boat cruise around 4PM so you can see the sunset from the boat. The boat tour itself is a nice experience, but it becomes even more special when the soft light of the sun makes the big windows of the houses shine like gold. The boat tour is a good break from Amsterdam winter, as the boats are heated and cozy. There are many companies offering the boat cruise in Amsterdam canals and in many of them you get one hour cruise for free with I Amsterdam Card. If you fancy something special, you can do a night cruise with wine, dinner or a cheese boat tour. In Amsterdam the possibilities are endless.
Heineken Experience is a true national monument in Amsterdam and a part of the European industrial heritage. When the brewery moved from here to Zoeterwoude, the building was completely renovated and turned into Heineken Experience. You can book your ticket in advance via the official Heineken Experience Website, but if you prefer to buy it at the entrance then you get 25% discount with I Amsterdam card. Keep in mind that Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays are the busiest days so you might need to queue for a bit.
Vondelpark is a natural oasis of the city and its largest park. Less crowded in the winter, it’s nice to walk around or sip a cup of warm coffee in some of the nearby cafes. The park becomes a winter wonderland when it’s snowing.
Amsterdam Light Festival
During our 3 days in Amsterdam we experienced the Amsterdam Light Festival that happens from December to January. Big and colorful light installations bright up the canals, the bridges and some buildings. You can follow the illuminated walking route and discover some of the light sculptures by foot or do a boat tour to see the installations.
IJ-Hallen Flea Market
IJ-Hallen Flea Market is a place where you can find countless second-hand items at affordable prices. If you like treasure hunting and love to bargain, this is the place for you. It is one of the biggest flea markets in Europe and it happens once or twice a month. When planning your itinerary for 3 days in Amsterdam, check on their website when it will be the next market and book a ticket. There is a small entrance fee.
Where to eat, drink and have fun during Amsterdam winter
In Amsterdam the options of food, drinks and bar are endless. The city is very democratic and you can find places from high ending restaurants, passing by hipsters bars to industrial techno clubs. Choose your style, your budget and go for it. On our last 3 days in Amsterdam we discovered some nice places and I believe you might like them too.
TED, good food and local vibe
If it’s Sunday you must go to TED for a brunch, if it’s another day of the week you should go there too. Delicious food, reasonable prices and a great local atmosphere. It’s a small cafe, you might need to wait for a table, don’t give up, you will be reward with yummy food, and lovely drinks.
Bazar Amsterdam, casual dine in a former church
Northern Africa and Middle East delights, good wine and a cool atmosphere. The Bazar has colorful tables and vibrant decor. The prices are affordable, especially for an expensive city as Amsterdam, plus the dishes are huge and delicious. The restaurant is in the heart of lively Pijp neighborhood famous for being a multicultural area.
FoodHallen for lunch, happy hour and dinner
The first indoor food market in The Netherlands, the FoodHallen is a hip complex of gourmet street food served in a historical building. Go for lunch, afternoon snacks or happy hour. You will find locals, expats and a few tourists there.
Ice Skating in Amsterdam
During Amsterdam winter some of the canals become an ice skating rink and it’s an incredible experience. Also, there is the ICE* Amsterdam, a place for ice skating located just outside the Rijksmuseum museum, you can go for some skating and take the traditional photo in front of I Amsterdam signal.
Red Light District and Coffee Shops
We can’t plan a trip to Amsterdam without talking about the Red Light district and the Coffeeshops. Amsterdam is a melting pot of cultures, beliefs and behavior. Doesn’t matter if you like it or not, you should look at it with open eyes and no prejudice. The iconic Red Light district has shining windows and ladies offering a warm welcome to the city. During your 3 days in Amsterdam, take one evening and go explore the streets of the district, drink a beer at one of the bars, visit the local design shops and appreciate some of the oldest buildings in town. The Red Light district is not only about sex and prostitution, these are many more interesting things in this area. Be aware of pickpockets, respect the girls and have fun!
Wanna get high in one of the coffeeshops? Go for it! Remember, to buy weed inside the coffeeshops is legal, smoking weed inside and outside the coffeeshops is legal too. Buy truffles at the head shops are legal, but be careful of what you buy and how you use them. Look after yourself, respect your limits and follow the rules. Amsterdam is great fun, but don’t ruin your trip to this sizzling city because you got wasted or broke the law. If you have any doubt about coffeeshops and cannabis in Amsterdam read this easy guide: FAQ Coffeeshops in Amsterdam.
Clubs and Bars
Amsterdam has bars and clubs for all styles of travelers, check Tripadvisor and Resident Advisor for the best night out. If you are looking for techno clubs in Amsterdam De School is a great option. Just be careful to not miss your flight on the next morning.
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The last thing you need to know, international and budgets airlines fly to Amsterdam. To search the best flights use Skyscanner or Kiwi.com. If are already in Europe and like to travel by train give a try to Eurail Pass, we used the pass during our 3 months Eurotrip and it was super easy to travel to Amsterdam by train.