Amsterdam is very compact city unlike other big capital cities in Europe. In general, 3 day trip would be enough to experience the main attractions of the city. In this article, as a 6-year citizen of the city, I tried to make a list of what to do day by day.
DAY 1 - GENERAL CITY TOUR
First of all, you are going to walk a lot in the first day. I mean really a lot! because Amsterdam could be the most walk-able city in the world. Almost the whole old city is waiting to be explored by your foot, so prepare your walking sneakers for that.
You can start your walk from where you're staying but if you close to Central Station, I'd suggest mark it as your base point and start from there to walk through Damrak street.
This walking will take a few hours. You may have a nice lunch/dinner around the city but never try those Argentinian / Italian or Mexican restaurants. They are fake just for regular tourists. If you are a budget traveler you'll definitely buy something from super markets. Keep in mind Albert Heijn is the most common and relatively expensive one so you might also try Lidl or Dirk. Or whatever. I'm sure you'll not starve.
Make sure during your walk, you will pass by Museumplein where those famous museums (Rijksmuseum, Van gogh, stedelijk) are located. If you are really keen to visit one just try Rijksmuseum. Personally I'm fan of Van Gogh but the museum doesn't have most of his arts so that is why Rijksmuseum would be better option. (Plus it has that amazing art of Rembrandt "Nachtwacht".) That visit will take approximately 2-3 hours.
On your way back to hostel or home by evening, you could discover red light district area. It is better to walk there during evening although it is often crazy busy.
DAY 2 BOAT TOUR & EXPERIENCE LOCAL VIBE
Second day, I would suggest to take a boat trip yet you don't need take those big touristic ones. You can find a lot of small companies on the web which you can rent a boat with a small group of people or even rent a whole boat just by yourself. It would be nice to make this trip around 2-3 hours and see the streets and buildings most of which you already saw yesterday but this time over the water. Together with swans and ducks yes!
After the boat trip, let's discover some local areas like Jordaan or De Pijp. Jordaan is quieter one but you'll find lots of elegant houses with cosy (gezellig) streets surrounded by local pub, bars and restaurants. De pijp has relatively younger sprit. A lot of young Dutch people hang out there so it is one of the best place to make Dutch friends if you want :)
In one of those or in both you should definitely have some drinks in those well preserved old Dutch bars to feel the local vibe.
DAY 3 FREE DAY (A FEW OPTIONS)
Third day, I guess you already covered most part of Amsterdam. The whole old city has been walked, all the canals, bridges and houses haven been discovered. A boat trip was made, visited a nice museum and Dutch vibe has been experienced in local areas. So, for the last day there are at least three options available for you.
1- Make a picnic or chill out in one of those beautiful parks in Amsterdam,
Options : Vondelpark, Westerpark or Amsterdammse Bos.
2- Rent a bike and just ride around the city. Bike roads are amazing general in Netherlands so you can have a really nice day with cycling.
3- The last option is to just visit another nearby village or city. My suggestions would be Zaanse Schans (windmills village), Marken and Volendam. (Old cheese village). Utrecht, Haarlem are also options. They are normal cities as Amsterdam but smaller. Or you might want to go to beach! Yes we have also beaches in North Sea and it is pretty cool. Zandvoort or Bloemendaal could be options. All those places are max. 30 minutes away from Amsterdam by train or drive.
So, basically that is the end of journey. If you follow above plan I'm sure you are going to be satisfied with your three days in Amsterdam at the fullest.
And here is a little note about what you shouldn't do in Amsterdam?
1-Never buy any drugs from the street dealer!
2-Don't walk on bike roads! :)
Enjoy your stay!
Wait!! how about night life?
Well, almost every night are nice to go out but thursdays, fridays and saturdays are the most enjoyable ones. You will see more places are open and more people outside. I will just write down the name of places, you can check out their websites. (Later I might post another article about nightlife here in detail :p )
Touristical clubs & bars : Escape, Paradiso, Sugar Factory, Coco's, Chicago Social Club.
Local clubs & bars: Pasific park, De School, Bloemenbar, Cafe Thijs.
That is all! On the next post I'll share 11 magical spots to take pictures in Amsterdam!