Our practical guide to visiting in Amsterdam in one day. Find out insider tips on what to see in Amsterdam, how to get around and where to eat 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 tantalising 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 here with family, as students, as professionals and during our last visit we managed to have an even more in depth glimpse of the city thanks to friend who now lives here. On the basis of ours and her experience, this is our favourite itinerary to see the best of Amsterdam in one day.
How much can you see of Amsterdam in one day?
Compared with other European cites, 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 centre, you will need to prioritise.
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.
What are the best Amsterdam neighborhoods to visit?
To the first time visitor, we recommend to limit the visit to the area with the Amsterdam Canal ring 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 centre.
A good way to visualise this area and where it lies compared with the rest of the city is to look at this Amsterdam neighbourhood map . 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 centre: on foot, by bike, by canal cruise and by tram.
We followed this itinerary mostly of 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 pubic 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.
Important note abut this itinerary: with only one day in Amsterdam you will not be able to visit the several museums mentioned here. If you wish to visit the Reijkmuseum or the van Gogh one, I recommend you follow this Amsterdam itinerary backwards. Start your day in the museumplein, to make sure you have time for your visit.
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 neighbourhood is located immediately to the West of the city centre and visitors usually know it because the House of Anne frank is located here. The neighbourhood 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 energising vibe.
Jordann 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 centre.
They are beautiful and the location where all the travel-envy-inducing photos of Amsterdam are taken. If yo 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:
- Woonbootmuseum, said to be the only houseboat museum in the world
- Lindengracht market (Saturdays)
- Westenstraat market
Second stop: Negen Straatjes, the Nine streets
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 temping 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.
Third stop: Amsterdam begjinhof
Just across the canal from the nine streets, take the time to visit the Amsterdam Begijnhof.
Amsterdam begjinhof dates back too the 14th century and is an enclosed yard with beautiful dwelling overlooking a leafy area. It is home of the oldest house in Amsterdam and it is 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 wes 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.
Fourth stop: the bloemenmarkt, Amsterdam’s floating flower market
The Netherlands if famous for its flower production and you can get a taste of its size and variety in Amsterdam’s bloemenmarkt (the flower market).
This market dates back to 1862 and is the only flower market in the world.
It operates all year round and is located on the Singel canal. Photos are forbidden but the place is worth seeing: here you can buy flowers, plants and bulbs and Christmas trees (December only). Have a look at what the flower parade looks like to get a sense of the scale of flower production in the Netherlands!
Fifth stop: Museumplein
If you are in Amsterdam for one day only, a visit to one of these museum will take up a large chuck of your time so I suggest you start here to avoid visiting in a rush.
Amsterdam museumplein is also where you find the overly photographed Iamsterdam sign. The sign is fun but I’ll be honest: it is so crowded you can hardly see it!
People of all ages love to climb its massive letters and while I can see the fun, I can hardly say it is a site worth making time for. If you want the iconic shot with the massive letters, make sure you get there (very) early in the morning.
Tips for visiting the Rijskmuseum with kids
If you are visiting the Rijksmuseum as a family, start from the museum shop and invest in their family guide.
This is a (full price) booklet in several languages aimed at kids 8 or older. It has stories and fact that will help them learn and engage with the masterpieces in the museum.
Younger kids are more likely to enjoy the games area in the museum shop (downstairs) and will love the fun waterworks outside!
Evening stop: De Pijp
The Pijp is the area located just to the south of Amsterdam city centre 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.
One of the places to explore here is Albert Cuyptmarkt but the choice of restaurants in 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
Amsterdam Canal cruise
You may have noticed one significant omission in my list of what to do with one day in Amsterdam and that is a canal cruise.
The reason for this is that on my day in Amsterdam the weather was so lovely and the restaurants so tempting I decided I preferred to walk rather than sitting. However, I did take a canal cruise in other occasions and it is great fun.
You can choose among several providers, 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!
We recommend booking your cruise with get your guide here. They offers a huge array of cruise option and has last minute booking options at your fingertips thanks to their handy mobile interface.
Discover Amsterdam by bike
Bikes are everywhere in Amsterdam and when I say everywhere, I really mean it. Local use bikes extensively and the city facilitates cyclists giving bikes precedence. It is important to know this as cyclist do make the most of this rule and zoom around at impressive speed!
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 a 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.
The red light district
In this itinerary, I haven’t included the famous red light district.
I visited before and I’ll be honest, I just didn’t find it interesting enough to go back. During the day, the only time when I went, I found it crowded, touristy and overall overrated. However, I did find it safe,so if you are curious, I would say there is no harm in going and making up your own mind.
I cannot however speak for the night which is, I believe, the best time to experience the district in full swing. Tours are available if you are curious but do not feel like venturing there alone.
I hope you enjoyed my recommendations on what to see in Amsterdam in one day!
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