Find out what to see in Amsterdam in one day with our practical guide for visitors. Insider tips on what to see and do in Amsterdam for a day and full itinerary to make the most of 24 hours in Amsterdam.
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?
What can I see with one day in Amsterdam?
Maybe surprisingly, for a city as culturally rich as Amsterdam, yes, you can see Amsterdam in one day.
Or rather: you can visit a good part of the city center and its famous canals, you can enjoy its leaning houses and have a nice meal before getting on to some shopping.
Alternatively, you can see one of Amsterdam’s world class museums
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!
How much can you see of Amsterdam in one day?
Compared with other European cities, Amsterdam is not very big.
However, one day is not enough to visit the city in its entirety and even if you just want to see the historical center, you will need to prioritize.
How much you will actually be able to see will depend largely on how interested you are in visiting Amsterdam museums.
If you want to visit the Rijksmuseum or the museum of Van Gogh, I recommend you devote half of the day just to that and explore the city during the remaining time.
In that case, a canal cruise can be a lovely way to cover a lot of grounds!
If you don’t want to enter the museums, then you can follow this walking itinerary and you will get a good idea of central Amsterdam and its famous canal ring.
If you are in Amsterdam for a layover and only have a few hours in the city, then I recommend you either pick a museum or one of the areas in this post only.
The best things to see in Amsterdam in a day
To the first time visitor, we recommend to limit the visit to the area with the Amsterdam Canal ring (UNESCO World Heritage site) and explore the area called de Pijp in the evening.
These are the areas where you will find the most popular Amsterdam tourist attractions and the city’s famous canals.
In our itinerary, we went from the area called Jordaan to the ‘nine streets’, to the museum area, to then spend the evening just outside the city center.
If you are looking for a well-located hotel, check our guide to the best area to stay in Amsterdam here
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
Amsterdam itinerary first stop: 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.
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: 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!
Third stop: Amsterdam begjinhof and Dam square
Just across the canal from the nine streets, take the time to visit the Amsterdam Begijnhof.
Amsterdam begjinhof 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.
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.
Other things to see in Amsterdam in one day
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:
- Rijks Museum: world-famous museums with Dutch masters
- Van Gogh museum, entirely devoted to the famous Dutch painter
- Tropen Museum, wonderful ethnographic museum
- Nemo Science museum, for kids and adults who love the wonders of science
- Want to visit more than one? Consider the Amsterdam Card
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
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!
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This post was originally published in 2017 and has now been fully updated.