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I’m kind of ashamed that it took me so long to get to Amsterdam…
At a grand total of 40 minutes on a plane and with so many budget flights available from the UK, I really only have my pure laziness to blame for this! But luckily I finally managed to visit Amsterdam in the winter before I left for Australia and I was so glad I did! This crazy but beautiful city safely falls into one of my favorite places I’ve been to – I freakin’ love it! Having a winter break around Christmas made me feel so festive.
As I was saving hard for my big trip, my mini break to Amsterdam was done on some what of a budget. I did what I wanted to do but didn’t bother trying to fit absolutely everything in. If you’re planning your first trip to Amsterdam in winter, I hope this guide, coming from a fellow first timer, helps you out. My guide not only gives you what to do for your 3 days in Amsterdam, but I’ve also let you know how much 3 days in Amsterdam cost me, so you can get an idea of how much to budget and just how awesome Amsterdam is, even when you don’t have tonnes of cash to splash around.
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How cold does it get in Amsterdam in winter?
Winter in Amsterdam runs from December through to March and things can get pretty chilly there. The average temperature for this time of year hovers around the 5 degrees Celsius mark but doesn’t usually get much snow if any at all. Just thing of the frosty temperature as an excuse to get right into the festive spirit and warm up in lots of cute cafes.
What to pack for Amsterdam in winter
As Amsterdam does get cold during winter, the key to packing and keeping warm is to go for layers. Layering rather than having bulky clothes is also an easier way to pack if you’re travelling by hand luggage only which is a great way to keep the cost of flights down, too. Luckily, Amsterdam is also pretty casual when it comes to the evening so there’s no need to pack alternative outfits just for night time. Here is what I recommend packing for Amsterdam.
- Boots: Amsterdam is a really walkable city so you’re going to want something both warm, waterproof and comfortable on your feet. I like to go for a cosy pair of black boots like these or these.
- Warm socks: My little feet really feel the cold so I would recommend getting some wool or thermal socks as you’re going to be outside quite a lot.
- Jeans: Be sure to pack your comfiest jeans as you’re going to be eating quite a lot!
- Thick tights: Not only are you going to need these if you’re wearing a dress but I also like to layer them under my jeans if I’m really feeling the chill. I go for a high denier like 80 like these ones, or even these ones with are fleece lined.
- Leggings: If you prefer leggings over tights then make sure you pack a couple of warm pairs. These ones are fleece lined and perfect for walking around in all day.
- T shirts/singlets – These are just to wear as the base layer under the rest of your clothes to keep warm. Just bring a few that are going to be comfy to wear under other items.
- Jumpers: A nice wooly jumper is perfect for winter in Europe. I prefer a more fitted jumper like this one and this one as I just find them easier to layer.
- Jumper dress: I love jumper dresses and find they’re the perfect day or night time outfit, especially in casual cities like Amsterdam. Pair a jumper dress like this one or this one with your thick tights and boots and you’re good to go.
- Coat: If you’re going to be travelling a lot, I highly recommend getting a coat like this one which is windproof, waterproof and fleece lined so will be a good all rounder. If you’re heading to Amsterdam for a long weekend then something nice and warm like a parka coat is a great idea.
- Hat and scarf: The best way to keep warm is to stick a hat on your head, so don’t come to Amsterdam without one! I really like this matching hat and scarf set which has loads of colour options, and this set with a cute pom pom.
- Touch screen gloves: Amsterdam is beautiful and you’re going to want to get photos. Save your hands by getting touch screen gloves and that way you have the best of both worlds and frost bite free hands.
- Day bag: You don’t need to carry a lot around with you for Amsterdam but as you’re going to be walking a lot, it’s a great idea to opt for a backpack. I like a faux leather backpack like this one as it’s more waterproof than a faux suede one and still looks cute.
- Umbrella: Yes, it might rain, so don’t get caught out and make sure you have a compact brolly with you.
- Camera: Amsterdam is a photogenic city and one I could spend hours taking snaps of. If you’re looking for a great camera to take with you then I would highly recommend the Sony a6000. I love this camera as the photo quality is awesome and it’s small enough to fit in a day bag. I took this trip before I bought my camera but if take a look at any of my more recent posts, you’ll see examples of what it can do.
Getting to Amsterdam form the Airport
Buses from Schiphol airport run to Central Station every hour, cost just $5 one-way and the journey take less than 20 minutes. Tickets for this journey can be bought online in advance, or from the main ticket office or the ticket machines inside the airport itself. Heading to the main office might be easier as the machines only accept coins or bank cards but not notes. These buses run every 8 min
The best way to get around Amsterdam
Once you’re in Amsterdam is incredibly easy to walk around and there’s a fantastic and inexpensive bus and tram system. The trams have a number of tickets available that are active for a different time length. You can buy a one hour ticket for €2.90 on the tram but If you are going to travel round entirely on public transport I would recommend getting a disposable OV chip card that is valid for 24 hours up to 7 days as this is the best way to see loads of Amsterdam in 3 days. A 24 hour card is €7.50 and is literally valid for 24 hours from when you bought it. Don’t forget to touch in and out on the trams or buses using the pads by the doors. If you want to get all 3 of your day passes paid for before you arrive, you can buy them online here.
Alternatively, if you’re looking for a way to blend in with the locals, hire a bike and explore the city using the cycle paths. You can book a bike hire in advance online here.
Where to stay in Amsterdam on a budget
If you’re looking for a fun hotel in Amsterdam then you should definitely check out the quirky Hotel Not Hotel. I stayed here during my trip and it’s excellent location, friendly atmosphere and affordability make it a fantastic base for visiting Amsterdam on a budget. You can read my review here and check availability below.
Your 3 day winter Amsterdam Itinerary
Breakfast: Grab a yummy croissant from a bakery for a quick breakfast and walk with it. This city is just too good to miss! €2
Morning: Book yourself onto a free walking tour with Sandemans. I do these wherever I go and they’re a brilliant way to see the sights and talk to a local for tips. The tours really are free, they just ask for tips of a value you deem suitable. It starts in Dam Square and you get shown loads of highlights in the area. I would suggest €10 per person to be a good tip.
Afternoon: Grab lunch in one of the many cafes or coffee shops. The Bulldog cafe is right in the heart of the red light district and is a tribute to the founders of the area. Remember that weed is kinda legalised here so expect to see quite a lot of that going around! A comforting toasted Panini with chips and a drink will cost you around €10.
Talking of the red light district, the girls here are working day and night. I would recommend seeing the area in the daytime and at night just to see the difference. There are girls from all sorts of backgrounds working for all sorts of reasons. Sex workers are completely legal in Amsterdam and the girls all work for themselves. Just make sure you respect them and don’t take photos! If you want to know a bit more about the Red Light District then check out this site.
Dinner: head out for a traditional Dutch meal at one of the many restaurants. One thing that Amsterdam has is an abundance of places to eat and drink! A typical traditional meal is called Stamppot, which is basically sausage and mash but it’s delicious! I would highly recommend Cafe Sonneveld for a delicious and budget-friendly dinner. It has a friendly and cosy atmosphere and a load of beers to choose from and is a short walk away from Anne Frank House. €15 for the meal and a beer
Night: Head into Centrum to explore the crazy nightlife as well as a different perspective on the Red Light District. There are tonnes of bars and cafes to head to and just make sure you look above and below your eyesight as there are places hidden everywhere. Also, the locals are dressed pretty casually for nights out so don’t worry about what you’re wearing. The cost of drinks varies from anything from €3 for a beer to €13 for a cocktail or a mixer. Oh BTW if you like Gin then you’ll be pleased to hear they serve it in glasses the size of your head. No crappy tiny servings here!
Amsterdam day 1 cost
€52 for the food and walking tour. The evening is up to you!
Morning: Visit The Anne Frank House. This house wasn’t at all how I imagined it would be but I cannot recommend this enough. The story of how Anne, her family and friends hid here for so long is just mind-blowing and incredibly sad, but it is not something that can be ignored! Tickets are ONLY available on the official website and I would recommend trying to book in advance. You will need to choose a time and be there for that slot. If you don’t want to get a ticket, entrance is only available after 3.30pm and you’ll probably be queuing for miles. BUT I was told on the free walking tour that there are often tickets held back that become available each morning for that day so check that out (I told you these walking tours were handy!) Cost of tickets are €9 per adult.
Afternoon: Take a walk around the beautiful Vondelpark and stop for a chill out at Het Blauwe Theehuis (Blue Tea House) with its large veranda overlooking the park. There are also loads of dog walkers here so if you’re a big dog fan (like me) then this is great! A lovely creamy Cappuccino here is just €2.50
Museumplein is just a little bit further on from Vondelpark which is where you will find the famous IAmsterdam sign. It’s busy but you should be able to get some fun pictures of this. There are always people climbing on top of the letters so do what you fancy! In the winter there is also a skating rink if you fancy.
Museumplein isn’t called this for the sake of it. It is home to the newly refurbished Rijks Museum (Museum of Amsterdam) and the Van Gough Museum. Tickets are €20 for adults for the Rijks and €19 for adults for Van Gough and both are free for under 18s.
Evening: During the winter, Amsterdam hosts a fab Light Festival from the beginning of December through to January. There are 2 routes- a walking one and a canal one. Now no trip to Amsterdam would be complete without a canal trip, so why not take a night canal boat ride to see the displays! I bought tickets for €22 and got free hot chocolate and mulled wine. You can also take your own alcohol on there as well! The tour starts from just in front of Centrum Station which is a proper gem to see. If you want to get more of a taster for the Light Festival, take a look at my post here and book your Early Bird tickets for the Amsterdam Light Festival here!
Alternatively, if your trip doesn’t align with the Light Festival, I definitely recommend you still jump on another tour. Amsterdam is all about the waterways and the only way to experience them is by the water. There are some really budget-friendly short cruises like this one you can take, or if you want to go a step further, you can go on a dinner cruise like this one with a pizza dinner and unlimited drinks or even a cheese and wine cruise **give.me.all.the.cheese.**
Dinner: Head over to China Town which is right next to Nieuwmarkt and the Red Light District for some delicious food. Amsterdam is a very diverse and multicultural city so you’ll find a variety of Asian restaurants here (not just Chinese). I had a massive meal and drink here for just €14
Night: The Jordaan neighbourhood is where all the locals are at. It was originally where the working class lived but it has since evolved to be full of artsy and boutique shops, bars and restaurants, but without being obnoxious about it. The great thing about Amsterdam is that everyone is welcome everywhere, no matter where you’re from.
Amsterdam day 2 cost
€82 (if you were to visit both museums) per adult plus whatever you drink in the evenings
••Sooo I didn’t actually visit the Rijks or the Van Gough Museum, simply because I think they are quite expensive. I think the outside of the Rijks Museum is beautiful enough anyway. By missing these I saved myself €39.00 so the day could be done a lot cheaper! If you’re looking for some more culture and history, why not try this self-guided historical walking tour?••
Morning: Catch the free ferry from behind Amsterdam Central over to Amsterdam-Noord. Here you will find another, far less busy IAmsterdam sign, the Eye Film Institute and Pekmarkt, along with a number of other fantastic places to visit. It has a very different feel to the rest of the city as it looks like it’s still being built. The things to do are quite spread out, so you can always hire a bike to get around easier and join in with the locals. I look forward to seeing how this neighbourhood changes over the next few years! If you want to really see more of this area, why not jump on a tour run by a local, like this one.
Afternoon: Hit the shops in The Nine Streets right in the heart of the Canal District. There are loads of boutiques, bars and cafes to enjoy. It’s a great place to pick up a souvenir that’s unique and not from a standard souvenir shop.
No trip to the Netherlands would be complete without some tulips so a visit to the Flower Market, or Bloemenmarkt, is a must. Somehow I didn’t know this, but this flower market was floating, and it is actually the world’s only floating flower market. Even in the winter, the stalls are beautifully colourful and lively.
Dinner/Evening: So you may be wondering why this has all been lumped together, but let me tell you, spending a whole evening at Foodhallen is easily done! This was honestly my favourite place to eat and drink during my time in Amsterdam. It is Amsterdam’s first indoor food market and it just works SO well. There are loads of different foods from around the world and a bunch of bars to get drinks from. If you haven’t already had one by now, you need to try some Bitterballen from De Ballen Bar, some Dim Sum from Viet View and a huge sharing bread from Maza. Basically, I ate myself into a food coma and washed it down with masses of Gin and Beer. But this is what Foodhallen is all about! it’s busy and lively and loads of fun. P.s. There is also a photo booth inside which I got a bit obsessed with!
Amsterdam day 3 cost
This is a bit more difficult as it completely depends on what you buy when shopping and how much you eat and drink. When I went over to Noord, I didn’t spend anything, I just enjoyed the neighbourhood and its architecture. in Foodhallen, Beers start from as little as €2.75 for Heineken and Gins are from €11. I grazed on a number of food stalls and probably spent €7 per stall for a snack-sized portion just to try things.
So how much does 3 days in Amsterdam cost?
As I was taking this trip to Amsterdam on a budget, I opted to leave out some of the attractions but I really didn’t feel like I had missed out. It all depends on what you’re most interested in of course! Here is a breakdown of how much I spent so you can get an idea of how much 3 days in Amsterdam costs.
Accommodation – €235 for 4 nights
Transport – €32.50
Food & Drink – around €80.00
Attractions – €46.00 (not including the Rijks or the Van Gough Museum)