One day in Amsterdam: the itinerary you need!

How to see in Amsterdam in one day: perfect itinerary and tips. What to see in one day in Amsterdam and how to plan your day.

Visiting Amsterdam in one day is a wonderful experience and a frustrating one. 

The city is one of the most dynamic and culturally rich in Europe and every corner seems to pull you in and demand your attention.

Cultural sites, shops, cafes: one day in Amsterdam will never be enough to satisfy your curiosity and will only make you wish to stay longer in this tantalizing city.

This is probably why, over the course of the years, we have found ourselves going back to Amsterdam over and over again.

We were in Amsterdam with family, as students, as professionals and during our last weekend in Amsterdam we managed to have an even more in-depth glimpse of the city thanks to a friend who now lives here. 

On the basis of ours and her experience, we share our favorite itinerary to see the best of Amsterdam in a day and try to answer the question: what can I see in Amsterdam in one day?

Our favourite areas of Amsterdam are all included into this itinerary to discover the very best of Amsterdam in one day
A great itinerary for the first time visitor to Amsterdam, with stops in Amsterdam must-see sites and suggestions about where to go and where to eat with one day in Amsterdam city center

Can you see in Amsterdam in one day?  

Compared with other European cities, Amsterdam is not very big and this means you can see a surprising amount of attractions even in the short span of a day.

However, there are so many things to see in Amsterdam, that you will need to make some decisions when it comes to your itinerary, so you can prioritize the attractions that are most important to you.

If this is your first time in Amsterdam, you may want to see as much as you can, see its famous canals, you can enjoy its leaning houses and have a nice meal before getting on to some shopping.

This type of Amsterdam experience can easily be achieved in 24 hours: you can actually follow the Amsterdam itinerary in this article and make sure you truly make the most of your time!

Alternatively, you can see one of Amsterdam’s world-class museums.

Depending on which one you choose, you may need to devote a whole morning to it: in this case, I highly recommend you book your tickets in advance and with ‘skip the line’, so that you don’t spend your day in Amsterdam waiting in line.

You will see my recommended ticket sellers for Amsterdam attractions below in this article.

With this Amsterdam city itinerary, we hope we can help you decide what to see and we give you a good sample itinerary to follow for a perfect day in Amsterdam.

Feel free to use it as a self-guided walking itinerary or just pick suggestions to make it your own! 

What to see in Amsterdam in a day

To first time visitors, I recommend spending your day touring Amsterdam and see the following:

  • The Canal Ring, UNESCO world heritage site, and unique to the city
  • The Amsterdam Begijnhof
  • The Museum Plein (with or without a museum visit)
  • The area of the Nine Streets

These are my favorite things to do for first-timers: scroll this article for info on each and additional ideas and alternatives.

What’s the best way to get around Amsterdam?

There are four main ways to explore Amsterdam city center: on foot, by bike, by canal cruise or by tram.

We followed this itinerary mostly on foot but we are very active walkers: I recommend you keep some cash on you for the occasional tram ride, especially for the evening stretch to de Pijp!

The local public transport network is efficient and several types of tickets are available. 

Depending on where your accommodation is, you may just need a single ride or it may be worth investing in a ‘1 day Amsterdam travel ticket’ which includes unlimited travel between Schiphol airport and any Amsterdam station on NS trains; Amsterdam airport express bus 197; night-liner N97; unlimited travel on trams, buses, metro and ferries operated by GVB.

The cost at present is 16 Euro and can be worth it if you have a layover in Amsterdam since it allows easy transport to and from the airport.

It is also worth checking the I Amsterdam card which includes public transport and entrance to several attractions.

Amsterdam in one day: suggested itinerary

  • Start your day with breakfast in one of Amsterdam hip cafes. Croissants, avocado on toast or pancakes: go for filling meals that will keep your energy up for the long day of walking
  • Take a stroll in the beautiful Jordaan area and its leafy streets
  • Head towards the 9 streets and fill your eyes with the area’s independent shops and boutiques. Stop in one of the many restaurants in the area (see suggestions below) for lunch
  • Take a break in the green and quiet Amsterdam begijnhof where you can still see, among others, one of Amsterdam’s most ancient houses
  • Take a leisurely walk towards the Amsterdam floating flower market and tip your toes into the history of the Dutch obsessions with tulips
  • Hop on one of the canal cruises and enjoy a well-deserved rest as the boat show you around the many Amsterdam canals you didn’t get to cover in one day. Opt for a closed top one in the winter, especially if after dark
  • End your evening in hip De Pijp and one of its many restaurants and bar for the perfect end to the perfect day in Amsterdam

One day in Amsterdam itinerary and must-sees

Our guide to the best of Amsterdam in one day. A tried and tested itinerary with the must see Amsterdam attractions you can see with one day in the city. What to see in Amsterdam, where to eat, how to get around.
Amsterdam canals, houseboats and historical houses

Amsterdam itinerary first stop: morning in the Jordaan area

I recommend starting your day in Amsterdam in the Jordaan area.

This neighborhood is located immediately to the West of the city center and visitors usually know it because the House of Anne Frank is located here. 

Jordaan is beautiful and wealthy and house prices here are said to be among the highest in the country.

Indeed, even from the outside, the houses look stunning and the many cafes and restaurants give the area a dynamic and energizing vibe.

Jordan is also where you will have your first encounter with the famous Amsterdam canals.

Bikes parked on a bridge in Amsterdam city centre
Bikes and boats, one of the two most convenient means of transport in Amsterdam

The Amsterdam canal ring is a series of canals dug up in the XVII century and now UNESCO World Heritage Site

The 3 main ones are Herengracht, Prinsengracht, and Keizersgracht and they develop in a semicircle that embraces Amsterdam city center.

They are beautiful and the location where all the travel-envy-inducing photos of Amsterdam are taken.

If you do nothing else with your day in Amsterdam, take a stroll along the canals: you won’t be disappointed!

Visiting Anne Frank’s house, need to know. The line outside Anne Frank’s house is always exceptionally long so plan in advance! Currently, the building is under refurbishments and tickets are not available at reception but must be bought in advance from the house official website.

Other famous sites to visit in Jordaan are:

Second stop, lunch: Negen Straatjes, the Nine streets and Amsterdam flower market

A short stroll along the canals will lead you to the so-called ‘Nine streets’ a group of, you guessed it, nine streets famous for its hip shops and cafes.

The area is a delight to visit.

The streets are narrow and packed with cute and trendy shops and cafe terraces: the smell of freshly made pancakes fills the air and restaurants, concept stores and independent shops attract locals and tourists alike.

For the visitor, this is one of the most tempting areas to visit.

The only downside is that it does get crowded. 

If you wish to escape the crowds, you are better off walking a little farther down the canals to more residential areas of the city: the views are as charming.

In the 9 streets area we had lovely meals in the hip Hoxton Amsterdam (also a wonderful hotel and one of our favorite brunch places in the city) and Pluk, very different in ambiance but both serving great quality food in welcoming atmospheres.

Near the Nine Streets you also have Amsterdam’s flower market.

The market is a lovely place to get plants and bulbs and a good place to tap into the Dutch love for tulips: ave a look at what the flower parade looks like to get a sense of the scale of flower production in the Netherlands!

Example of house boats, canals and traditional architecture you will encounter following our itienerary to see Amsterdam in one day
Amsterdam is said to be a hugely ‘instagrammable’ city but I prefer the word ‘beautiful’. Isn’t it just stunning?

Third stop, afternoon: Amsterdam begijnhof and Dam square

Just across the canal from the nine streets, take the time to visit the Amsterdam Begijnhof.

Amsterdam begijnhof dates back to the 14th century and is an enclosed yard with beautiful houses overlooking a leafy area. 

It is home to the oldest house in Amsterdam and it is a delight to visit.

To me, it embodies the aesthetics and cultural references so typical of this part of Europe and is one of the places you must visit to get an understanding of the many layers of Amsterdam’s history.

Like the ones in other locations in the Netherlands and Belgium, the Amsterdam begijnhof was built as living quarters of single women.

It is a lovely spot, tranquil and good for photos and is also one of the free attractions in Amsterdam.

The begijnhof is also close to Dam square that, while touristy and crowded, is a must-see for many first-time visitors to Amsterdam.

Museum Plein

You cannot spend a day in Amsterdam without at least passing by Museum Plain, the vast square overlooked by some of Amsterdam world-class museums.

The square is beautiful and worth a visit even just as an outside space.

Make sure you see the small garden outside of the Rijks Museum, a lovely place for a rest, and take a peek at the Iamsterdam sign.

Love it or hate it, it is a city classic spot!

Evening stop: De Pijp

The Pijp is the area located just to the south of Amsterdam city center and people describe it as ‘trendy’, ‘cool’ and ‘hipster’.

I must say all these adjectives piqued my interest, especially considering how cool, trendy and hipster Amsterdam is pretty much anywhere you go!

I spent here several evenings and indeed it is a lovely location for dinner and drinks out.

During the day, the place to explore here is Albert Cuyptmarkt but the choice of restaurants is endless.

It goes from noisy but budget-friendly North African joints (Bazar restaurant) to quiet Indonesian restaurants (Desa) to burger joints and speakeasy option (the Butcher).

Other things to see in Amsterdam in one day

Many bikes parked along one of Amsterdam canals

Hop on a canal cruise

A great way to see a lot of Amsterdam in one day is to take one of the many canal cruises available. 

You can choose among several providers (here a good one), duration and type of boat (open roof, semi-open, family-friendly etc).

They are a great option if you don’t feel like walking or are really short on time, for instance, if in town for a layover in Amsterdam only.

It is also one of the best things to do in Amsterdam in winter: just make sure you choose the right type of boat for comfort. Amsterdam gets very cold!

Discover Amsterdam by bike

Bikes are everywhere in Amsterdam and when I say everywhere, I really mean it. 

Locals use bikes extensively and the city facilitates cyclists giving bikes precedence.

If you are walking, make sure you look, look and then look again before crossing the road, especially if you have children with you.

Also, don’t presume being on the pavement is sufficient to keep you safe. You may well think you are on the pavement while you are, effectively, on a bike lane!

The best way to stay safe is to pay attention or to join the cycling crowd.

You can rent bikes in several locations in the city including in the nine street area where our Amsterdam itinerary started.

Go to a museum: the best Amsterdam museums

Amsterdam has outstanding museums, ranging from art museums to spaces dedicated to cats and even purses!

Going to a museum is a wonderful way to spend a day in Amsterdam and probably the best thing to do if you happen to be in the city on a rainy day. 

If you opt for a museum, I recommend getting skip the line tickets and heading there at the start of your day to avoid being in a rush. 

Buy tickets for Amsterdam museums following the links below:

Visit Amsterdam Noord

If you want to see a different side of Amsterdam, one that brings you away from the canal ring and lets you dive deep into Amsterdam’s hipster heart, you should spend your day exploring Amsterdam Noord.

Located just in front of Centraal Station and easily connected to it by a free ferry service,

Amsterdam Noord has grown in recent years and has developed into a vibrant area with hip cultural spaces, lots of restaurants and cafes and a fabulous, laid back atmosphere.

Lovely in spring and summer especially, when its many beer gardens and cafes come to life.

A cycle here is a lovely way to spend an afternoon in Amsterdam in the good season.

Experience the red light district

In this itinerary, I haven’t included the famous red-light district.

If you are curious, however, you may be happy to hear that the district is remarkably safe during the day (I haven’t been at night) and easy to reach from the central station.

 Tours are available if you are curious but do not feel like venturing there alone.

Additional Amsterdam resources

Want to be comfortable and stylish on your trip to Amsterdam? Check our packing lists for fall/winter here and for spring/summer here.

If you have a choice about when to have your day in Amsterdam, you may want to check out our suggestions on the best time for visiting Amsterdam

I hope you enjoyed my recommendations on what to see in Amsterdam in one day!

How to see Amsterdam in one day: summary

  • Get your walking shoes on – runners and sneakers are best!
  • Keep your debit/ credit card handy for the occasional tram hop
  • Decide on your priorities and allocate sufficient time for museum visits if in your plans
  • Buy skip the line tickets for museums, especially the big ones such as Rijks and Van Gogh

Amsterdam one day itinerary: 

Morning Start your morning in Jordaan, see the pretty canals and beautiful houses of this wealthy residential area. The Anne Frank House is here too. 

Have lunch in the pretty Nine Streets This is a pretty area of Amsterdam city center with lovely concept stores, a plethora of cafes and restaurants and gorgeous views of the canals

Spend the early afternoon visiting the Amsterdam Begijnhof Walk towards the Amsterdam begijnhof and explore this ancient corner of Amsterdam. The area is also close to the famous Dam Square and has many shops, to mix culture and shopping!

Visit the Museum Plein Even if not visiting a museum, this large impressive square is an Amsterdam must see. If you do want to visit 

Spend the evening in De Pijp (winter) or Amsterdam Noord (summer) Amsterdam has wonderful dining opportunities. For variety and atmosphere, I love the hip De Pijp and, in summer, the leafy area of Amsterdam Noord

Please note: this post contains affiliate links and if you make a purchase through them, we might make a small commission at no extra cost to you. 

This post was originally published in 2017 and has now been fully updated for 2020. 

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9 thoughts on “One day in Amsterdam: the itinerary you need!

  1. Sol Solntze says:

    This is an interesting personal take on how to make the most of Amsterdam in a short amount of time – wish my teacher had read it before my class spent a day there (to be fair maaaaaaaany years ago now) as all I remember is sitting in a big square and being somewhat unimpressed. I don;t even remember catching a glimpse of the canals!

  2. Medha says:

    It really is hard to do Amsterdam in just one day, but you’ve covered the best places to visit for someone who may not have more time. It’ll be a long day but a great one !

  3. Eric Gamble says:

    I havent been to amsterdam since 1997 and we only spent 24 hours there. Though you can pack a lot in, with all the great stuff you listed I would think you would want more like a long 4 day weekend. I remember 9th street, the Anne Frank house, taking a tour of the windmills and a canal cruise but it is all such a blur. Going to have to go back and perhaps ride one of those bikes around like you recommend!

  4. Saakshi Maheshwari says:

    Amsterdam on my list too! Havn’t got a chance to see that part of world. I am bookmarking this one so as to avoid the pain of planning! And riding a cycle will be my topmost thing in amsterdam.

  5. Punita Malhotra says:

    This sounds absolutely perfect for one day in Amsterdam. We were in Amsterdam for three days, and we had spread out a similar itinerary over that time. We had added Van Gogh and Rikjsmuseum to our agenda.

  6. Kirstie says:

    I want to do that canal cruise! But Amsterdam, in one day?! Haha! This is a good guide but you are right, Amsterdam is so diverse I’d make it a point to stay there for a week someday! At least a week!

  7. Rachel Pearson says:

    The Amsterdam Canal Ring is such a beautiful place to stroll around. I absolutely adores the colourful buildings. Great itinerary for one day!

  8. Lori says:

    This is great info! I haven’t been to Amsterdam yet but will be bookmarking this for when I do. Nice to see the variety of activities from the Red Light district to getting around on bikes that you suggest. Looks like I could spend weeks exploring!

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