Amsterdam off the beaten track
Day 1: Amsterdam Noord and Old Holland
On your first day, head north into one of Amsterdam’s up-and-coming areas which will lead you through green meadows into the area known as Old Holland.
Explore Amsterdam Noord
Start your day by renting a bike from Macbike Central Station (discount with your I amsterdam City Card) and taking a short ferry ride across the IJ River (GVB ferry 901/902, behind Amsterdam Central Station, free) to Noordelijke IJ oever, a hip area full of art galleries, interesting architecture, and great waterside terraces.
Check out the EYE Filmmuseum (free with your I amsterdam City Card), to catch a movie or see an exhibition about cinematic history. The EYE’s waterside terrace also offers an amazing view across the IJ, where you can watch the boats and ships go by.
Right next to the EYE is the iconic A'DAM Tower. Those without a fear of heights should head up the 22 floors to the Lookout which provides spectacular 360-degree views of Amsterdam’s historic centre, the harbour, and even the polders on the outskirts of the city. True thrill-seekers can take a ride on Europe’s highest swing (hold on tight!).
Following the excitement, relax and refuel at one of the many waterside cafés such as Café De Pont, Café-restaurant THT, or the EYE, or head over to NDSM Wharf for some more exploring. This former shipyard is a cultural hotspot that regularly hosts festivals and other events.
The EYE Filmmuseum is one of Amsterdam Noord's most striking landmarks
After exploring the charms of Amsterdam Noord, hop on your bike and head up towards the green countryside and traditional villages of Old Holland. Follow cycling junctions 40 and 41 to the undiscovered Broek in Waterland and enjoy the scenery of this quiet and picturesque village. Stop for a drink on a terrace or walk around the quiet streets. Stop by the tourism office i-point (Kerkplein 13) to pick up a free map that includes cycling routes, activities, and rest points, indicating farms where you can stop for a refreshing drink along the way.
Keep heading north to Monnickendam, a town on the banks of the IJsselmeer lake, known for its fishing traditions. Must-do activities include the 15th-century Sint-Nicolaas church and sampling smoked eel from one of the original smokehouses.
Cycle along to Marken, a historic fishing village that is still rich with cultural history. Enjoy the beautiful scenery and traditional green wooden houses, and stop in to the Marker Museum to learn more about the island’s history and people.
If you’re up for it, take the Volendam-Marken express, which ferries between the two villages (free with your I amsterdam city card) to Volendam, where you can visit the Volendams Museum to learn more about Dutch life in the 17th century (free with your I amsterdam City Card). Stop at one of the harbourside restaurants that offer discounts with the City Card such as Havenrestaurant de Lunch or Restaurant van den Hogen in Volendam, and Café-Restaurant Land en Zeezicht or Taverne de Visscher in Marken.
The historic harbour at Marken
Day 2: Amsterdam West and Haarlem
Experience local life in Amsterdam West and Haarlem: a perfect day for shopping, sightseeing, and relaxed dining.
From Amsterdam Central Station, take tram 13 heading towards Geuzenveld and get off at Mercatorplein in the neighbourhood known as De Baarsjes. This diverse area is great to explore on foot. Walk along Jan Evertsenstraat which has a wide variety of shops and cafés, and don’t miss the local open air market on the Vespuccistraat.
Check out cultural venue Podium Mozaiek, which embraces the cultural diversity of the area with world music, theatre, cabaret, dance and food. Stop for a bite to eat at one of the local hangouts such as Wilde Westen Amsterdam, Café Restaurant Edel, or Bar Baarsch.
An example of the Amsterdamse School architecture of Het Sieraad in De Baarsjes
From Mercatorplein, take bus 15 heading towards Sloterdijk train station, where you can take a 10-minute train journey to Haarlem from platform 7 (trains run every 10 minutes daily). Haarlem, a historic city filled with shops, restaurants and museums, offers plenty to see and do.
Sightseeing: Marvel at the St. Bavo Church, Haarlem’s biggest church and explore De Adriaan windmill which houses a small museum offers great views from the top deck.
Shopping: Haarlem has been voted the Netherlands’ best shopping destination several times - and it’s easy to see why. Wander around the small streets filled with independent boutiques, concept stores and delis, and stroll around the open air market on De Botermarkt (Monday - vintage market, Wednesday- various themes, Friday & Saturday - farmer's market). Check out Haarlem’s top 10 shopping hotspots.
Eating & Drinking: Stop for a homemade and organic lunch at Hofje Zonder Zorgen (discount with your I amsterdam City Card). And make sure to visit the Jopenkerk, a former church transformed into a café with its own brewery, to taste the local beers and the traditional Dutch snacks bitterballen (discount with your I amsterdam City Card).
Haarlem has so much to offer you can never fit it all into one day. If you're interested in more seasonal events, walking routes, or activities, don’t hesitate to stop into the Tourism office (Grote Markt 2) which offers information in several languages.
Haarlem's famous Grote Markt
Have time to spare? The beach town of Zandvoort is only a 10-minute journey away and is worth the trip at any time of year. Take the train from Haarlem heading to Zandvoort aan Zee and get off at the last stop. Take a walk along the boulevard or unwind at one of the beach clubs and watch the sunset as you sip cocktails, (or a hot chocolate in winter). For inspiration, check out our top 5 beach hotspots.
Day 3: Amsterdam South, Amstelland and the Fortress Stretch
The elegant Oud-Zuid neighbourhood situated south of Museumplein has more to offer than just famous museums like the Van Gogh Museum, Stedelijk Museum and the Rijksmuseum. Walk along the wide streets with impressive manor houses and luxury boutiques, or take a stroll through Vondelpark, which also has a selection of cafés, a rose garden, and an open-air theatre in the summer months. Modern art fans can explore the Cobra Museum of Modern Art (free with your I amsterdam city card) by taking tram 5 at Museumplein heading towards Amstelveen, and getting off at Binnenhof.
If you feel like more cycling, rent a bike at Macbike Leidseplein or Vondelpark and follow the famous Amstel River southwards all the way down to Ouderkerk aan de Amstel, a picturesque village established in the 12th century. The river banks are full of lovely restaurants and cafés with terraces on the water. This cycling route will bring you past beautiful green scenery and country houses that were once frequented by famous artists during the Dutch Golden Age.
Get a glimpse into medieval times by visiting the UNESCO world heritage site of the Fortress Strectch. From Binnenhof, take Metro 51 towards Amsterdam Central Station and get off at Amsterdam Amstel Station. From there, catch bus 320 or 327 to the P+R terrain stop in Muiden. Take a walk through the historic centre of this fortified town that dates back to the 10th century, which is known for its peaceful streets and picturesque harbour.
Continue by following the green signposts to Amsterdam Castle Muiderslot, a medieval castle dating back to 1280 (free with your I amsterdam City Card). Take a tour through the knight’s hall, towers, dungeons and armoury and walk around the impressive gardens.
To continue your adventure, follow the canal towards Muiden and you will see the ferry to Pampus Island, a mysterious abandoned fort on an artificial island (discounted with City Card).
Amsterdam Castle Muiderslot
The Amsterdam Area offers an impressive variety of sights and attractions. Find more inspiration for day trips in the Amsterdam Area.