At the beginning of November 2018, I went back to one of my very favourite cities for week – Amsterdam! I first fell in love with this city in the summer of 2015, while at the tail end of a backpacking trip across Europe. I spent three days in the city, and left feeling like I could live there. So when the opportunity presented itself to spend 4 days in Amsterdam, I jumped at the chance.
While I’ve spent a lot more time here over the past few years, I’ve condensed all my favourite things to do in Amsterdam into a 4-day guide that highlights all my favourite things to do in Amsterdam [and eat!]. The goal of this guide is to provide you with less touristy, more off-the-beaten-path Amsterdam suggestions so you can fall for the city from a more local perspective.
Here’s a complete guide to spending 4 days in Amsterdam!
WHERE TO STAY IN AMSTERDAM
I have stayed in three different places in Amsterdam, catering to three different budgets.
Budget: Flying Pig Uptown Hostel
I feel like every young budget backpacker has stayed at one of the Flying Pig Hostel locations in Amsterdam. I stayed here in 2015 and had a great experience. The staff provides a great atmosphere for individuals looking to meet other travellers, and there are a variety of sleeping arrangements available.
Affordable: AirBnb in Amsterdam-Oost
If you’re a fan of AirBnb’s, you’ll love Ilana’s place. Located in Amsterdam-Oost, this location a little bit outside the city centre, but I fell in love with the neighbourhood. It had an amazing food culture and opened my eyes to an entirely new area of Amsterdam that I had yet to explore. The AirBnb is around the corner from the train station for a quick 10 minute train ride to the city centre. Or, if you’re like me and prefer to travel like a local, you can easily rent a bike and ride to almost anywhere you want to go.
Mid-Range: SWEETS hotel
Have you ever dreamed of having your own private bridge house all to yourself? Well, you’re in luck! SWEETS hotel is converting bridge houses all over Amsterdam into private hotel rooms and it is beyond cool. We stay at the Beltbrug location, which was conveniently located around the corner from the trendy Jordaan neighbourhood. If you happen to be travelling to Amsterdam, this is a unique, once-in-a-lifetime experience that I would not pass up. We can’t wait to go back and stay in another location!
GETTING AROUND AMSTERDAM
The best way to see the city is the way the locals do – by bike! On both my trips to Amsterdam, I have rented bikes from various Black Bike locations and would highly recommend this rental company for great service and affordable prices. If the thought of biking is intimidating to you, I assure you there is nothing to be afraid of. After all, Amsterdam is the most bikeable city in the world!
Still feeling a bit too scared to go on a two-wheeled adventure? Amsterdam offers an awesome tram and train system, with daily and weekly passes available for purchase.
Finally – you can walk! The city is accessible enough that you can walk around and see many of the most famed sights. Just put on a pair of comfy shoes and fall in love with the canals by foot.
Now, that you know how to get around we’re answering the most important question: What to do in Amsterdam in 4 days.
DAY 1 IN AMSTERDAM: THE MUSEUM CIRCUIT
Amsterdam is packed with some of the world’s most famous museums. I would pick a couple that interest you and spend your first day immersing yourself in the museum culture. My top personal favourite museums also happen to be the most popular in the city – I guess they are touristy for a reason:
- Anne Frank Museum. You cannot visit Amsterdam and not go here. Make sure to book your tickets well ahead of time, as it is always sold out.
- Rijksmuseum. Housing some of the world’s most famous paintings, this world-renowned museum should not be missed.
- Van Gogh Museum. Everyone loves Van Gogh. What could be better than seeing all his most famous pieces of work in one location?
FUN TIP: If you happen to be in Amsterdam during the beginning of November, Museumnacht is an annual event that gives you after hours access to some of Amsterdam’s most famous musuems. During this event, we saw the Hortus Botanicus lit up at night, visited an Alice in Wonderland-themed party at the Museum of Bags & Purses, and danced the night away at a silent disco at the Rijksmuseum. This is one of the most popular events of the year in Amsterdam, so if you plan on visiting, make sure you buy tickets ahead of time.
DAY 2: SHOPPING & MARKETS
Anyone who knows me knows that I am always on the hunt for the best shopping districts in a new city, and there is no shortage of shopping in Amsterdam. So, on day 2 of your 4 days in Amsterdam, make sure you make some time for shopping. Here’s some of my favourite places to wander during your shopping day in Amsterdam:
- De 9 Straatjes: In my opinion, the best area to shop in Amsterdam. Features unique vintage finds and trendy boutiques along some of the most picturesque streets in the canal belt.
- Floating Flower Market: This market features tons of booths selling the most recognizable flower in the Netherlands: tulips.
- Sunday Market Westergasfabriek: Located in the west part of the city, Westerpark is home to an outdoor market on the first Sunday of each month. This is the perfect place to find locally-made and vintage finds. If you don’t happen to be visiting during the first Sunday of the month, I would still recommend checking out the Westerpark neighbourhood.
- Pieter Cornelisz (P.C.) Hooftstraat: Whether you’re interested in doing some window shopping, or splurging on the designer handbag of your dreams, this street is often referred to as Amsterdam’s Fifth Avenue, and is your spot for high-end finds.
- Jordaan: One of my favourite neighbourhoods in Amsterdam, Jordaan features some of the most beautiful canals in Amsterdam, as well as many bohemian-inspired shops and studios/galleries. I could easily get lost for hours roaming around these streets.
DAY 3: FOOD TOUR
Full Disclosure: I am normally not a fan of organized walking tours. However, the Hungry Birds tour was quick to challenge this opinion.
I knew the food culture in Amsterdam was unique, and as a self-proclaimed foodie I was determined to make sure I visited all the very best spots. So after reading amazing reviews about the Hungry Birds food tour, I decided to take the plunge and join them. After spending nearly six hours walking around the city with a small group of fellow foodies, enjoying eats that included Surinamese cuisine, hot food from a vending machine, dutch beer, fries with peanut sauce & mayo, and Amsterdam’s most famous cookies, I knew I had made the best decision in joining this tour.
I’ll highlight some of my favourite spots from the tour in the ‘Food & Drinks’ section below.
If you love food as much as I do, this is a tour that you need to take in Amsterdam.
DAY 4: EXPLORE DE PIJP
For your last day of your 4 days in Amsterdam, you need to explore my favourite neighbourhood in the city: De Pijp.
Why do I love this neighbourhood so much? Where do I begin!
- Albert Cuyp Market: This is hands down the best market in the city. Open seven days a week, this market has been in operation for over 100 years, with many vendors owning market real estate for several decades. Here, you’ll find the best stroopwafels in Amsterdam, fresh herring, an assortment of Dutch cheeses, produce, clothing, flowers, and so much more.
- Fashion: De Pijp is trendy and offers some of my favourite boutiques to shop in the city. If you love fashion, you’ll love exploring De Pijp.
- Restaurants: There is no shortage of amazing restaurants in De Pijp. Check out the ‘Food & Drinks’ section of this city guide for more details.
- Coworking Spaces: Need to get some work done on the road? De Pijp features one of my favourite cafes/coworking spaces I have ever visited: Coffee & Coconuts
All in all, De Pijp is just plain cool. If I were to move to Amsterdam, I would want to live in De Pijp. Spend a day taking in everything this neighbourhood has to offer and I bet you’ll feel the same way!
WHERE TO EAT IN AMSTERDAM
This is easily my favourite section of this city guide because Amsterdam has an incredible food culture! We didn’t even get to scrape the surface of what this city has to offer, but here are some of the best spots I visited on my most recent trip.
- Coffee: Craving a warm cup of joe before you start exploring? You’ll find the best coffee in Amsterdam at Scandinavian Embassy. The owners have truly perfected the craft of coffee-making and the coffee is worth the lineup [even if it is out the door].
- Famous Cookies: Have you heard of Van Stapele? This bakery is a tourist hotspot and for good reason – the cookies are just so damn good. This small bakery only makes one type of cookie and often has a line out the door. I would recommend going early in the day, because they have been known to close early once they have met a daily ‘cookie quota.’
- Stroopwafels: I have tried a lot of Amsterdam stroopwafels and the best can be found at Original Stroopwafels in Albert Cuyp Market. I loved them so much I recently had my boyfriend bring 12 packages home from his work trip to share with friends and family [that’s 120 stroopwafels!].
- Brunch: Bakers & Roasters offers two locations, and is described as a New Zealand-style cafe. If you’re like me and brunch is you’re thing, this is the place to go.
- Lunch: Do you love avocado? If so, The Avocado Show is a must-visit! Every single item on the menu includes avocado. Not to mention, everything about this place is very insta-worthy.
- Mid-Range Dinner: If you’re looking for a mid-range dinner, with high-quality, fresh food, Wilde Zwijnen is your place!
- Asian Fusion: Vijfnulvijf Asian Kitchen Cafe was so good, we went there twice! It was right around the corner from our AirBnb, offered a large selection of small plates, and had several allergy-friendly options [for my boyfriend who often struggles at Asian restaurants due to his nut/seed allergy].
- Vending Machine Eats: FEBO is a Netherlands staple, and a totally unique experience. If you want to visit the original location, it can be found in De Pijp. Here, you can often still spot the inventor/owner of this fast-food chain deep frying their famous croquettes.
- Fries: For the best fries in Amsterdam, you may need to stand in line at Vlaams Friteshuis Vleminckx. But I promise, it will be so worth the wait. If you’re feeling daring, try this Amsterdam staple: fries topped with mayo, peanut sauce, and onions, as known as ‘War Fries.’ They are surprisingly delicious!
NOVEMBER WEATHER IN AMSTERDAM
Many people warned me that visiting Amsterdam in November was a gamble, with typical temperatures hovering around zero degrees Celsius, and high risk of rain and wind. However, after spending time in the city during the busy and hot summer months, visiting during the much quieter month of November was a welcome change. I arrived with an umbrella and waterproof gear and was ready to face whatever weather came my way.
I ended up getting very lucky. With mild temperatures and sunny days, the perfect fall weather was an absolute dream. However, this is not guaranteed and if you plan to visit Amsterdam in November, the unpredictable weather is something to be wary of.
I hope you enjoyed my guide to one of Europe’s best cities! The vibe of this city is truly special, and I can’t wait to spend 4 days in Amsterdam again (hopefully very, very soon!).
Also, if you’re looking for fall day trips near Amsterdam, local Red As Velvet has some great tips!
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And if you’re travelling around Europe this fall (or any season really), check out my guide to Malmo, Sweden – another super beautiful fall destination!