Amsterdam is Hollands enchanting capital city. It’s one of the few European cities I have actually visited. I can’t believe how much of Europe I haven’t seen after living in England for the first 23 years of my life! Amsterdam will always remain etched into my memory not because it’s one of the first cities I visited in mainland Europe and because it was a trip with my bestie. No, I will always remember Amsterdam’s beauty and authenticity. It may now attract millions of visitors a year but the city of Amsterdam remains so very charming. After only being able to spend one day in Amsterdam a few years ago I wanted to share a post on how to make the most of this city. Whether you’re visiting Amsterdam for 24 hours or 1 full week there’s a lot to be explored.
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Is One Day in Amsterdam Enough?
This almost feels like a trick question but one that I want to answer before getting into how to fill your day in Amsterdam. After spending a full day from 8 am – 7 pm exploring the city I can safely say we saw all the things we set out to see. We had a little set back with the weather, some heavy rain, but enjoyed the main attractions that Amsterdam has to offer.
We strolled the teeny tiny shopping lanes, walked around the Red Light District, visited the cheese museum, strolled around the cutest canals and so much more that you’ll read about below. That said the one day we spent in Amsterdam was full-on. Photographs were snapped left right and centre and once we’d enjoyed one place it was onto the next! If I were to return to Amsterdam, 2020 is the year, I would like around 3 days to really make the most of the city!
But when one day is all you’ve got a one-day city guide to Amsterdam is what I’m going to give you!
Before You Go: Buy a good pair of shoes! Or bring a decent pair of shoes. I will go into some details about public transport at the end of this post but honestly walking is the best way to get around. So pack your best pair of sneakers or hiking shoes so you can comfortably roam the cobbled streets of Amsterdam.
How to Spend One Day in Amsterdam – 13 Things To Do
When I’m only visiting a city for a short period of time I want to know what are the musts! So below I’m giving you what I think are the best things to do in Amsterdam in one day.
- Explore the Amsterdam Canals on Foot
Amsterdam is made up of scenic canals flowing from street to street. Amsterdam could be every photographer’s heaven because the canals and streets are so picturesque. My Favourite area to stroll around during our day in Amsterdam was The Jordaan. The Jordaan is located at the top of the Brouwersgracht not far from central station. The streets are lined with cute boutiques and walkways that follow along the canal side. You’ll find the northern area pretty touristy but by no means less beautiful. Follow the beautiful little streets in and out. Anne Frank Huis is also found in The Jordan but I’ll mention that again a little further down.
- Take an Amsterdam River Cruise
The canals are a popular and beautiful part of this city and worth exploring. If you don’t want to stroll the canals by foot then why not take a river cruise. There are various companies that run river cruises in Amsterdam all year round. Did you know that the canals in Amsterdam are a UNESCO world heritage site? I didn’t until our visit! So whether it’s on foot or by river cruise you simply cannot visit Amsterdam without spending some time on or near the water. Cruises start from 25 euros and some come paired with tickets for other attractions too. Best way to decide on which river to cruise to take is to take a look at the Trip Advisor reviews. We didn’t take a river cruise due to budget but on my next visit, it’s at the top of the list!
- Visit the Rijksmuseum
The Rijksmuseum is one of the most popular in the city. If you’re not a museum kind of person then it’s still worth visiting because the architecture of the building itself is unremarkable. A little like most of the buildings in Amsterdam actually. The Rijksmuseum is a museum dedicated to arts and the history of Amsterdam. It’s been every tourist’s main selfie spot for years and years as it used to be the home of the ‘i am Amsterdam’ letters. Unfortunately, the letters have now been removed from this location as the council thought they were having a negative impact causing overcrowding in the area. But don’t worry the letters haven’t gone completely – take a look at the next tip to try and find them!
- Find the famous ‘I am Amsterdam’ Letters
As I mentioned above these letters were the first port of call for so many travellers. For the last few days if tourists were spending just one day in Amsterdam it was not complete without a stop here! Now because of overcrowding, the letters are on the move. They have been placed all over the city at different times of the year by the council. Take a look at this article and the Amsterdam Tourism website to find out where they might be on your visit.
- Explore Amsterdams Red Light District
It wouldn’t be a trip to Amsterdam without visiting the unique Red Light District. It’s not something I often promote in my blogs but it’s such an important and intriguing part of the city you just have to go! The Red Light District in Amsterdam leaves nothing to the imagination but it’s probably not going to be like what you’re anticipating. I was surprised my how subtle the district really is. Yes, there’s some bright lights advertising ‘sex shows’ and a very unique condom shop but the rest blends in with the city well. The buildings are the same as the rest you just might see someone dancing in the window when you look up.
- Visit the Heart of the City – Dam Square
Dam Square is the hub of the city in Amsterdam. Most popular streets like Nieuwendijk, Kalverstraat, and Damstraat lead to the square. Though often filled with people I thought it was one of the most beautiful places in the city with some incredible buildings to ogle over. It’s also home to some important landmarks etched in the Dutch city. The National Monument in the square pays tribute to the fallen Dutch soldiers in the second world war. If you’re visiting Amsterdam in May be aware that on the 4th there is an annual ceremony held here, like a memorial service. The Royal Palace also towers above the square and when night falls the windows in the northeast corner of Dam Square are lit up with the ladies of the night.
- Walk amongst the Enchanting 9 Little Streets
The 9 Little Streets of Amsterdam are the cutest pedestrian laneways in the city. Filled with shops, eateries and bars there is so much to explore. Head here for a snack or gift to take home and support some of the independent businesses in the city. The 9 streets you want to explore are found amongst the 4 main canals in the city, Singel, Herengracht, Keizersgracht and Prinsengracht. The streets are super popular and you’ll stumble upon them easily but if not looks for the signs ‘De 9 Straatjes’.
- Marvel in the History of Amsterdam at Anne Frank Huis
History buff or not a visit to the house of Anne Frank is certainly worth it. Located in The Jordaan learn all there was to know about Anne Frank herself, her diary and family. Explore the secret annexe and the history behind it all. The house is open all year round. You do need to obtain a ticket for entry so it does bump the price of the day in Amsterdam up. Tickets for adults start at 10.50 and discounted for children. Find out more about booking tickets to Anne Frank House here.
- Heineken Experience
For the beer lovers out there why not take some time to enjoy the Heineken Experience? Learn the story behind one of the worlds most famous beers! The tours run every day for 90 minutes so if you’re into your beers then it’s easy to fit into your one day in Amsterdam itinerary! Make sure you book online for a $3 discount and so you can choose the time of your preferred tour. At the bottom of this post, I’ve included a self-walking map so you can organise your day and see what time of the day would be best to enjoy this experience!
Top Tip: Make sure you take ID no matter what your age.
- Visit the Smallest Pub in Town
Louis Bar located in within the 9 little streets of Amsterdam is a cute bar such a warm cosy feel. We visited Amsterdam in winter and the air was crisp so warm pubs were very welcoming! It may be dinky but it’s worth a pit shot to rest those achy legs from all the walking.
- Visit the Cheese Museum
No idea about you but cheese is the way to my heart. Located in the heart of The Jordaan is the Amsterdam cheese museum. Entry is free and the smell is beautiful. Explore some of the cities best cheeses and see cheese wheels that have been maturing over many years. There are also some great photo opportunities inside too! If you don’t think you’ll have enough time to visit a cheese factory with just one day in Amsterdam fear not, it’s not that big. The museum is more like a cheese shop with some cheese history and maturing cheese wheels as mentioned above in the basement.
- Visit Amsterdams Floating Flower Shops
Whenever I hear the word ‘floating’ I imagine boats bobbing up and down on the water. But the famous flower shops in Amsterdam aren’t boats but stalls built upon the canal. Find the floating flower shops or Bloemenmarkt on Singal Canal nestled underneath the cutest buildings. It’s a wonderful way to spend 20 minutes or two immersed in the fragrant delights and bright colours. Expect plenty of tulips as Holland is the Queen of all things Tulip!
Vondelpark is one of the most glorious parks in the city. The weather can be rubbish in Amsterdam, to say the least, but if you manage to fall on a good summers day then this park is worth a visit. It’s like something out a fairytale with beautiful lakes and lawns. Make sure you take a look at what’s going on at the park during your visit as concerts and events run all year round but especially in summer. But it’s great even just to stroll through during your one day in Amsterdam.
- If it Rains All Damn Day
I admit walking around canals in the wild rain isn’t any fun. Bad weather can definitely take away from the beauty of Amsterdam but there are plenty of indoor actives to enjoy too. For arts and history head to Anne Frank House (mentioned above), The Van Gough Museum or Stedelijk, the three most popular museums to visit in Amsterdam. For some fun head to the Xtra Cold Amsterdam Ice Bar or Madame Tussauds in Dam Square.
Walking Map of Amsterdam – Google Maps
The best way to get around Amsterdam is on foot. To follow this one day in Amsterdam guide then take a look at the walking directions below. I’ve pinned every spot I’ve mentioned in this post so you can plan your day easier. Simply avoid the places you don’t wish to visit but it will give you an idea of times and distances. Amsterdam can be a complicated city to navigate so expect lots of crossing back and forth.
Another way to enjoy all that Amsterdam has to offer in one day is by taking a free walking tour. Visit this website to take a look at the free tours available in Amsterdam. Choose from a daytime walking tour of the city, food tour or a red light district tour all for free! I love going at my own pace when visiting a city but sometimes these tours are great to make sure you don’t miss anything out! The guides are usually local and super informative – they often know a few hidden gems too!
Below I’ve given you an example of a walking route in the city centre. As you can the museums, Heineken Experience and park are a little further afield so you can add them to your own walking route as required.
Other Ways to Get Around the City – Cycling and Public Transport
The most dangerous mode of transport in Amsterdam is bicycles! Honestly, there are hardly any cars in the city and every single local owns a bike! There are cycle lanes situated all over the place and cyclists whizzing past whilst tourists trying to cycle and sightsee at the same time! So whatever you do don’t stop to take photos on a cycle lane!
All jokes aside cycling is a brilliant way to see the city. I think it’s a great way to get around Amsterdam quicker especially if you only have one day to see everything! There are bike hires all over the place and you can find some more information about hire locations and pricing here. Cycling is also great for your fitness and the environment I think it’s brilliant that the locals use bicycles so much in this European city!
The other option is to use the public transport system in Amsterdam but I think you’d miss a lot of the gorgeous sights. Amsterdam uses bus, rail and tram services within the city. Over the last few years Amsterdam has been gearing up towards a cashless system on public transport so transport cards are something to look into if you think you’ll be using the transport. Day passes are also available from 7.50 per day. For more information on the public transport systems in Amsterdam then this article is extremely helpful with a list of the best apps to download when travelling to Amsterdam too.
Where to Stay After One Day in Amsterdam
Even on a single day trip to Amsterdam, you’re probably going to need somewhere to stay either for the night before or after your day in the city. There are plenty of options when it comes to accommodation in Amsterdam for all budgets. I recommend staying as close to the centre as possible to make the most out your day. The best neighbourhoods to stay in Amsterdam for the location would be either The Old Centrum or Jordaan. De Wallen is the heart of the Red Light District so to avoid noise and especially families may want to avoid staying in this area. I found this blog post by Anna Everywhere really helpful when researching the best areas to stay in Amsterdam.
Amsterdam Mini-Break Cruise
Another popular way to explore Amsterdam is on a cruise! This how we ended up visiting Amsterdam for just one day. In the UK both P&O Ferries and DFDS Seaways both run 2 night 1 day to Amsterdam from Newcastle, UK. We managed to snag our deal on Group-On making our trip to Amsterdam so cheap! I’ll be doing a full review of our cruise with DFDS seaways so make sure you come back for that! The bonus about a cruise is that you don’t have to find accommodation in as you’ll obviously sleep on the ferry on the journey back home.
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I really hope you enjoyed this city guide on how to spend one day in Amsterdam. Amsterdam is one of my favourite cities and certainly unique. Even though one day in the city may feel like a rush it can definitely be done! I’d recommend two or three days if you can make the time. If you did enjoy this post I would be so grateful if you could share it with your friends! If you’re venturing out of Europe to Oceania you might enjoy my posts on Australia and New Zealand.
Happy and Healthy Travels,