Amsterdam - three day itinerary

The choice of Amsterdam as a part of our 15 day Euro-trip itinerary in spring was simple for two reasons-
a. Tulip Festival
b. Holland - my husband's favorite football team
This was the first destination of our Europe tour and quite honestly, no other city we went to could match up to the excitement associated with this. We were pleasantly surprised at almost everything we saw from the moment we landed at the city - the sunny weather, the Iamsterdam welcome kit we received, the amazingly clean roads and railways, the super-fast double decker trains, meeting a fellow Bengali en-route to hotel - the list just goes on.. The original plan (which is perfect and the most that you can do in Amsterdam) is in the image below. Do pin it for your next trip 😊
We however did shuffle a few and skipped some based on our ticket bookings and plans to catch up with some friends.

Amsterdam trip three day itinerary
Our original plan

Where we stayed

IBIS budget Amsterdam City South 
We planned for the trip well in advance hence got this hotel at the same price as that of any standard hostel dorm. Due to the Tulip season, I remember Amsterdam being the costliest location to stay in our Europe itinerary, but we did well with our choice :)
It is located in the traquil Amstelveen, away from the city crowd yet within 50 meters from the metro+tram station Kronenburg. Never regretted not staying in the city center itself because it took us hardly 20 minutes to reach Amsterdam Centraal by metro.

Moving around

Amsterdam transport
Trams of Amsterdam
Public transport of the city is as close to perfect as I could imagine - the 72-hour Iamsterdam card which we booked online at 87 Euros made it faster and cheaper for us with unlimited use of public transport within the city and free access to most of the museums within and around Amsterdam. The physical card needs to be collected at the airport or any Iamsterdam center and it  comes with a welcome kit that includes a travel magazine, Amsterdam neighborhood guide booklet and a handy pocket map with the entire list of museums and experiences covered by the card.
Few important exclusions under the Iamsterdam card that should be noted-
  • Van Gogh Museum is included but needs prior slot booking
  • Transport to and from airport not included
  • Transport to and from nearby day-trip destinations like Kuekenhof, Harlem, Zaanse Sachs etc. are excluded. Although access to a lot of museums/monuments in these regions are included
  • Anne Frank Museum entrance is not included. However, when in Amsterdam, a trip to this unique place just cannot be missed
  • Kuekenhof garden tickets not included

Highlights of our trip

- A mini family reunion
My Jethu(uncle) and Bomma (aunt) , the eldest couple of our family exudes the kind of energy that could put twenty-year olds to shame. They came all the way from England on an overnight cruise just to spend a few hours with us and those were indeed among best few hours of our trip. The bonus of-course, were the sweet delicacies and homemade kebabs which we had for dinner for all three days of our trip. We met them at the Amsterdam Centraal station, from where we took the Canal cruise round the city, had lunch near the Dam square, checked out local markets and even strolled in the famous red light district.
Dam's Square
At Dam's Square-With the coolest globe-trotter couple I know

-The Canals and Bridges
With 165 canals and 1281 bridges, Amsterdam is touted as the "Venice of North" in Europe (fun fact: Amsterdam has more bridges than Venice). We read about so many things to do in Amsterdam, but just walking on the bridges and along the canals is an activity enough to keep you engaged throughout your stay here. During our hour-long canal cruise we listened to the history of Amsterdam starting from 12th century. The canals that stretch over 50km today, were built in the 16th and 17th century before which these were swamp-lands.The canal-system connected different parts of the city serving as means of transport, trade, irrigation, water management as well as defence. This engineering masterpiece is a symbol of the Dutch Golden age during 16th and 17th centuries. We were told that the houses along the canals, which today cost a bomb, were intentionally built leaning towards the canals a bit. the houses had hook at the top of the triangular facade to help lift goods from the boats without touching the windows. The audio documentary did not shy away from mentioning the role of Amsterdam in moving slaves across other European and Arab countries, though the Dutch did not keep slaves. It is a practice that has been abolished and is a part of a shameful past, but hiding or denying the truth wouldn't change it, rather accepting that it happened and that it was wrong, is what prevents a country from repeating mistakes. As a tourist, I was filled with respect for the country for being vocal about the wrongs of the past. We also heard about the conquest of Netherlands by Hitler's forces and the heart-wrenching story of Anne Frank who, along with fellow Jews had taken refuge in a house behind the Cathedral.
Canals of Amsterdam, Canal cruise
Canals of Amsterdam!
#Fun Fact! Do you know half of Netherlands was below the sea level? And that was before global warming!
Bridges and Canals of Amsterdam
One of the thousand bridges as seen from our cruise

- Exploring the night life
Amsterdam is known for a throbbing nightlife and summer season is the best time to explore it owing to the warmer weather. April is usually cold at night, but thankfully we got to spend one of the warmest days of the month on the day we landed Amsterdam. We walked along the bridges looking at the night cruises, floating flower markets and hippie houseboats in the canals. Then we went to the famous Red-light District once again to see what the fuss was all about. The red neon lights on the cobbled streets and even in the outdoor eateries elevate the ambiance. There are hoardings at places stating "Sex Work is Real Work" . Well, that's one hell of a bold statement to be made- but coming from the country that was one of the first to legalise prostitution and marijuana this is not entirely surprising. It's amazing how safe the  city is despite (or perhaps "because of"?) being so open about the "taboo topics" of other parts of the world.
Amsterdam nightlife
Nightlife at Amsterdam 

-Kuekenhof Tulip Gardens at Lisse

 Tulips are an integral part of Holland's culture and every year people from all corners of the world throng into the city for this ultimate sensory delight of being surrounded by million of tulips, daffodils and hyacinths. The entire city of Amsterdam is adorned with tulips at this time of the year - you find colorful blossoms in front of almost every shop, restaurant and balcony. The Kuekenhof garden in Lisse hosts the world's most famous flower show in Spring every year. Remember to book the tickets online to avoid the queue - the place is unbelievably crowded for an European destination even on a weekday! When in the garden you can also see a tiny shelter for rabbits, turkey and other domestic animals where children can run around and play with them. At the far end of the 32 acre garden lies the vast Tulip fields which can be accessed by a boat ride in the river. The garden itself has a large number of flower shows each with an unique combination of colors and designs, the most iconic one being the river of blue muscari flowers (also called grape hyacinths) with colorful tulips on both side. Other striking sights to mention are the windmill near the riverside and the yellow blossoms on the hood of an old Volksvagen
Kuekenhof, River of flowers
The River of Flowers

Zaanse Schans
A visit to the peaceful countryside of Zaanse Schans must be in your Amsterdam itinerary at any time of the year. Deriving its name for from the Zaan river, Zaanse Schans in Zandam  neighborhood became world leader in production during the 16th and 17th century with its windmill technology. The Windmills near the Zaans river form an important part of its landscape and have been romanticized by artists for centuries. With the advent of more advanced production technology around the world, the golden era of the city was gone, and it slowly retreated into a modern countryside. Some of the old windmills are preserved and even operated regularly here thus making it a nostalgic place for the Dutch. We had free pass to the Zaans museum with our Iamsterdam card and enjoyed an hour long audio guided tour into the history of Zaanse Schans which is an anchor point of the European Route of Industrial Heritage The state-of-art museum has models demonstrating the process of production, the history of famous business families like Heineken and a large collection of paintings and artifacts from the aristocratic families of the past. This is the most fun-filled museum experience I have had, with interactive history lessons and games attracting kids and adults alike. Outside the museum you can also enter one of the three windmills that are open for tourist visits - see the machines being operated inside, climb up the steep ladders and rise to the top to get a panoramic view of the countryside. You can spend rest of the time exploring the place on foot or on rented bikes, or just ride a horse around the fields.
Windmills of Zaanse Schans

- Anne Frank House
A must-visit place in the city is the Anne Frank House museum- the secret annexe where the Frank family, along with few other Jewish families hid for over two years during the second world war. Owing to the high demand, and the design of the old building, the entry is highly regulated during the peak season. When we visited, the booking could only be done online, and entry was permitted only during the booked time-slot. The museum is open till 9 pm and the entry passes include free audio-guided tour  that give you a peek into the lives of innocent families clamped into a secret annexe hidden behind a cupboard, living in silence and constant fear of being discovered. An eerie feeling engulfs you as you hear the lines from Anne Frank's diary while walking into the nooks and corners of the building.
Note: Photography is prohibited in the museum. You can however buy postcards with original photos of the hiding place and the building.

- Museumplein
Museumplein is the one-stop place for the best art and historical museums of Amsterdam -  Rijk's museum, Van Gogh's Museum and Diamond museum to name a few. Last entry to the Rijk's museum was at 4:30pm (which we missed by whiskers) but we could still enjoy the musical atmosphere in the corridors and the lovely garden outside. We took a guided tour of Van Gogh's museum, a monument dedicated to the famous Dutch artist known for his heartfelt depiction of peasant life. Along with a collection of Van Gogh's paintings, the museum also has a collection Van Gogh's handwritten letters -from those expressing the joy of sharing his work of art to those revealing his painful struggle with mental illness.

We did miss a lot of other attractions within the city on our trip, which is normal given the loaded wealth of the city. Read here for some first-hand review of those not-to-miss landmarks- Trip to Amsterdam