Headed to The Netherlands and planning to spend just one day in Amsterdam? Follow this Amsterdam itinerary for all the top sights and best eats!
Amsterdam is a buzzing city that’s just so cool – it’s eccentric, wildly historic, and ridiculously liberal. There’s picturesque canals to explore, beautifully preserved 17th-century Golden Age architecture, quaint cobblestone streets, world-class art galleries to see, and SO much cheese to taste.
And it hardly feels pretentious at all – just locals living their life and tourists trying not to get run over by bicycles (wait, just me?). The capital city of the Netherlands should be on everyone’s European bucket list!
And yes, you really can see so much with just one day in Amsterdam – I promise! The city’s the perfect size to explore for those with a short amount of time. And I can see it being quite a fun city to explore solo as well!
I first visited Amsterdam as a bright-eyed 20-something on a group tour a number of years ago. And because I had too much fun the night before (whoops!), I hardly saw anything in the city. All I remember from that trip was the fact that I stuffed my face with cheese samples and took some silly videos sitting in a wooden clog (yes, true story).
So when my husband and I found nonstop flights from the States to Amsterdam, we thought it’d be the perfect excuse to stop for a few nights on our way to Italy and France (where we spent the next 3 weeks). And what a glorious one day in Amsterdam it was!
I planned way better than that first failed trip, and am sharing everything you need to know for a perfect time in Amsterdam! Because sometimes you’ve only got time for one day in Amsterdam, but don’t worry — you can still eat plenty of stroopwafels and admire the canals!
Read Next: The Best Amsterdam Instagram Spots (all my favorite spots to take photos!)
One Day in Amsterdam At-A-Glance
- Morning: Pancakes, Flower Market, Jordaan Neighborhood
- Afternoon: Museum (of your choice) and Canal Cruise
- Night: Traditional Dutch dinner, Red Light District, cocktails
One Day in Amsterdam Itinerary Logistics
When to Spend 1 Day in Amsterdam (Weather and Crowds)
Regardless of when you go, just remember this: the weather in Amsterdam is notoriously finicky. Meaning there’s no guarantee the weather report will be correct. But you’ll still have the best time ever, promise!
Spring and Fall (Shoulder Seasons): In my opinion, the absolute best time to visit Amsterdam is between April – May and September – November. These months are either right before or directly after the high tourist season of summer.
Visiting in either spring or fall will see fewer crowds, and still pretty pleasant weather (although expect a bit more rain in the fall than spring). Looking to see those stunning tulips in bloom? Visit the last two weeks of April through the first two weeks of May. I’m dying to go then!
Summer (High Season): It never gets ridiculously hot in Amsterdam, and summer months are typically around 70°F or so. Such a respite from other parts of Europe that easily see temps in the 90s… I’m looking at you France, Italy, and Greece! Summer days are long and sunny, so it’s no surprise that everyone loves to visit Amsterdam now!
For reference, we visited Amsterdam in mid-July and had beautiful weather our entire trip. It was a bit cool in the morning with some cloudy skies, but that quickly burned off into a gorgeous sunny sky!
Winter (Low Season): Amsterdam get’s chilly y’all, with temps hovering between 30 to 40°F in winter. You’ll definitely need your winter coat. Expect short, dark, and nearly freezing days.
Although it’s way less crowded (except for Christmas), and you’ll find plenty of deals – soooo, quite possibly for you if you’re a fan of winter trips. It only snows occasionally, but when it does, be sure to take full advantage!
How to Get to Amsterdam
Can’t wait for your one day in Amsterdam?! Thankfully, the city is super easy to get to! Being a world-class international travel hub with an international airport and both train and bus stations, it’s probably one of the easiest cities to reach in all of Europe.
Since this post is about a 1 day Amsterdam itinerary, I’m assuming you’re coming from a nearby country. Thankfully, Amsterdam is extremely well connected to the rest of Europe, and there are TONS of nonstop flights from tons of airports and so many trains. Meaning, you won’t have a hard time getting here!
And flights are so short (just one reason I’d love to live in Europe). You’ll wanna fly into Amsterdam Schiphol Airport (airport code AMS). For reference, here’s a list of popular European cities and how far they are from Amsterdam by nonstop flight:
- London: 1 hour, 15 minutes
- Paris: 1 hour, 20 minutes
- Prague: 1 ½ hours
- Rome: 2 ½ hours
- Lisbon: 3 hours
- Athens: 3 ½ hours
If you’d rather come by train, you’re in luck! Amsterdam’s got plenty of direct international connections from its main rail hub – Centraal Station (often called CS)!
A few cities where you’ll find non-stop train service to and from Amsterdam: Brussels, Paris, Antwerp, Brussels, Rotterdam, Cologne, Frankfurt, Hanover, Berlin, Basel, Dusseldorf, Munich, Innsbruck, Linz, and Vienna. Plus plenty more. See, lots!
How to Get from the Airport to the City Center
You’ve essentially got four different ways to get from Schiphol Amsterdam Airport to the city center of Amsterdam. I highly recommend taking the train since it’s the fastest and well, with just one day in Amsterdam, time is not on your side! More info on the options below:
1.Train: Taking the train is by far the fastest and cheapest option (at €5.60), and only takes about 15 minutes! Trains are operated by NS (Netherlands Railways) and run directly from Schiphol Airport to Amsterdam Centraal Station (Amsterdam CS).
Psst – buy your ticket before heading down to the platform. They run 24 hours a day, with trains departing every 10-15 minutes and once an hour between 1am-5am.
- Taxi: Cost significantly more than the train (flat fare of €39) and takes longer (30+ minutes depending on traffic).
- Ride Shares: Uber is a bit less expensive than a taxi, but still takes longer than the train (and the pick up point can sometimes be confusing to find).
- Amsterdam Airport Express (Bus 397): Headed to the Rijksmuseum or the Van Gogh Museum? Take the bus – there’s bus stops super close to both museums! You’ll find the airport bus right outside of Schiphol Plaza and the cost is the same as the train (€5.60).
How to Get Around During Your 24 Hours in Amsterdam
Walk: The city is packed into just three square miles, so if you wanna get in some steps, you can easily walk from attraction to attraction. And considering most of your walks will be next to picturesque canals and historic buildings, walking is all part of the fun! Plan to wear comfy shoes.
Note that you won’t be able to walk to the Museumplein – at a little over a mile from the city center it’s a bit too far if you’re pressed for time.
Bike: Care to take part in Amsterdam’s bike culture? I mean, riding a bike is kinda an essential Amsterdam experience, even if you only pedal around for a few hours.
There’s bike rentals all around the city, with RentaBike.nl being the oldest and most popular. They’ve even got all the gear you’ll need (helmets, maps, bike bags, locks, etc). If you do choose to rent a bike, please be cognizant of biking etiquette in the city.
But please oh please, do NOT rent a bike if you’re not super confident riding one. I recommend taking a guided bike tour to really get the most out of your ride, especially if you’ve only got one day in Amsterdam.
Public Transit: If you’re staying in the city center and nearby neighborhoods, you won’t need to use public transit all that much (if at all). Looking to explore further afield? There’s trams, subways, ferries, and buses that connect the city.
Do the work ahead of time and pre-purchase a 24-hour GVB public transit pass (for only €7.50) – good on all trams, buses, ferries and the metro in the city.
Driving in Amsterdam: I don’t recommend driving in Amsterdam as the streets are narrow and parking is expensive. If you do have a car with you for some reason, plan to park your car on the outskirts of town and use public transit to get into the city.
Is One Day in Amsterdam Enough?
Yes… but not really, haha. It’s enough to give you a small sampling of what this thriving area’s got to offer, but you’ll 100% wanna stay longer and/or come back. The city center isn’t all that big and many of my favorite things to do in Amsterdam are easily walkable, so you can actually do a whole lot in a day! Especially in the summer when the sun doesn’t set until after 10pm!
In one day, you can wander a few neighborhoods, see the city on a canal cruise, eat a bunch of food, and see a museum (or two). You’ll probably wanna skip spending all day in coffeeshops, the Heineken Experience (unless you really, really LOVE beer), and a food tour (unless food is your love language and you need to try all the things).
I also recommend skipping the Museumplein as it’s a bit further from the city center and will potentially take up half your day.
If you’re not short on time, I recommend 2-3 days in the city, and another for a day trip or two from Amsterdam. But really though, if all you’ve got time for is a quick 24 hours in Amsterdam, opt for the day. It’s better than no time at all!
Where to Stay in Amsterdam
Amsterdam City Center (Old Centrum): Only visiting Amsterdam for one day?! I’d choose a hotel in the city center – you’ll be walking distance to most attractions in the city. Plus, it’s only a 15 minute train ride to the airport.
Old Centrum is the oldest area of Amsterdam, and where most tourists stay. It’s broken up into a bunch of smaller neighborhoods: Jordaan, Dam, De Wallen, Nieuwmarkt, IJ Waterfront, Leidseplein, Rembrandtplein, The Canal Belt, Old Jewish Quarter & Plantage, and Spui. I recommend staying in either Jordaan or Dam.
Airport Hotels: Should you stay at an airport hotel? Hmm…. since we were arriving (very) late on our first night in Amsterdam, and our flight back to the states was early morning, we thought it’d be a smart idea to spend 2 nights at an airport hotel.
“Let’s save a bit of money” we thought (since airport hotels are typically significantly cheaper than staying downtown). Well, my friends, the Uber to/from the city was way more than we thought it’d be (whoops), and in the end, I don’t think we saved much.
Layover in Amsterdam
Can you visit the city on a layover in Amsterdam? That’s the million dollar question. Since Amsterdam is a major hub for many European airlines (I mean… Amsterdam Schiphol Airport is one of the largest airports in the world), tons of flights have connections over here.
If that’s you, you’re probably wondering if it makes sense to leave the airport or not! For starters, even though the city is only a 15 minute train ride from the airport, I wouldn’t head into Amsterdam unless you’ve got at least a 5 hour layover. This’ll give you about 2 hours to explore.
Have a 7-8 hour layover? You’ll be able to explore at a much more relaxed pace! Regardless of how much time you have, I’d stick to the city center and do some sightseeing around there.
Psst: The Schipol Airport is downright HUGE, and it could very well take an hour just to get to your new gate. Think upwards of 20 minutes to walk to your connecting flight gate alone, plus extra time to get through passport control and security checks (if you’re traveling internationally that is).
NEVER CHANCE IT. If you’re worried you’ll miss your connection, don’t leave the airport. You’ll be stressed beyond belief anyways, and you won’t even enjoy your few hours in the city. Just plan to visit Amsterdam another time!
24 Hours in Amsterdam FAQs
Like in other European countries, the currency of the Netherlands (including Amsterdam) is the euro. Don’t expect to use dollars or pounds (or any other currency) here.
While Dutch is actually the official language of Amsterdam and spoken by locals, almost everyone speaks English here as well. We were able to communicate 100% in English.
However, I always love learning a few important words in the local language (plus, it’s the respectful thing to do as well):
- Hello: Hallo
- Good morning: Goedemorgen
- See you later: Tot straks
- Yes/No: Ja/Nee
- Please: Alstublieft
- Thank you: Bedankt
Get Your Anne Frank Haus tickets way in advance
When I first visited years ago, you could wait in line (on site!) for a ticket for the Anne Frank House.
Nowadays, you need to purchase a ticket in advance before your trip. Tickets sell out super fast, so be ready the minute they go on sale. Ticket sales open the first Tuesday of the month for the following month (kinda confusing, I know). Let’s say you wanna visit sometime in July – you can look for tickets the first Tuesday in June (and they’ll probably sell out that day or shortly after). There are last minute tickets online at 9am the day of, but these sell out super fast.
The IAmsterdam Sign is no more.
Well, it’s not completely forgotten, but you won’t find it at the Museumplein (where it used to be) anymore. Why?
It created absolute chaos and caused a big stir around selfie culture and mass tourism (hey, I get it). Instead, you can find smaller I Amsterdam signs at Schiphol Airport and Sloterplas Lake in Amsterdam West.
“Coffee shops” sell more than just coffee.
Here in Amsterdam, cannabis culture is huge, and coffee shops are where you can legally purchase cannabis. Never buy drugs off someone on the street – it’s both dangerous and illegal (head to a coffee shop instead)! If you’re looking for a typical spot for coffee/tea, look for a cafe instead.
Be aware of your surroundings and always watch for bikes.
With thousands of bikes in the city (with literally more bikes than people in Amsterdam), navigating the streets and sidewalks can be intense! Be aware of the red-brick lanes – paths in the street and on the sidewalk dedicated solely for cyclists!
Prostitution and sex workers are legal in the Red Light District.
Yup, prostitution is legal in the Netherlands but not on the streets, hence why the women stand up behind a window (with flashing neon red lights) and have their own room. Consent is obviously needed and forced prostitution and underage prostitution are illegal.
Do not take pictures of the ladies in the windows.
When you’re exploring the Red Light District at night, you’ll see what I mean. The girls (and their guards) will literally shoo you away. And rightfully so – this is their job; police officers, security guards, and other methods are in place to protect them.
So let’s get started with our one day in Amsterdam itinerary — full of all the iconic spots in the city. The perfect Amsterdam in 1 day itinerary, coming right up!
Suggested One Day in Amsterdam Itinerary
Morning/Early Afternoon: Pancakes and Pretty Neighborhoods
Stop 1: Dutch Pancake Breakfast
Start your day off bright and early with a coffee and some Dutch pancakes! Remember, this is a busy 1 day in Amsterdam, so you’ll wanna make sure you’re fueled up for all the fun.
You’ll find two different types of pancakes in Amsterdam:
- Pannenkoeken: large, full-plate-sized pancakes that are much thinner than a traditional American pancake (but not as thin as a French crepe)
- Poffertjes: small, bite-sized pancakes typically served in a pile loaded up with toppings
You can’t go wrong with either!
Here’s a few options for a quick pancake breakfast:
- The Pancake Bakery: Looking for massive sweet & savory pancakes? The Pancake Bakery’s got it! Bring your stretchy pants or plan to share! There’s also canal views!
- Pancakes Amsterdam: A massive variety of Dutch pancakes and oh so filling. There’s a few locations in the city, but I recommend heading to the one in Westermarkt as it’s closest to Jordaan Neighborhood (the next stop on this one day Amsterdam itinerary).
- The Happy Pig Pancake Shop: This is where we went, and despite not being your traditional Dutch pancakes, they were still bomb! You’ll find rolled pancakes here – with a ton of toppings and fillings to choose from. Of course I chose one with nutella inside – my absolute favorite no matter where I am. My husband devoured his plate of apple-cinnamon caramel pancakes, so highly recommend those as well!
- Pancakehouse Upstairs: Traditional pancakes with teapots hanging from the ceiling in this quirky little place! Make sure to reserve a table in advance – there’s only 4 tables!
Regardless of where you go, you’ll find a huge menu filled with both sweet and savory toppings and fillings. Hardest part of the morning will be deciding what to get!
If you’re looking for more of a brunch spot, check out The Breakfast Club and Dignita. Both have multiple locations but all are a bit further from the city center. I only recommend these places if you’ve got extra time.
Stop 2: The Nine Streets and Jordaan Neighborhoods
Once you’re nice and full, it’s time to wander along the canals on foot! You don’t need a specific agenda here; just stroll for as long as you like. However, I highly recommend checking out The Nine Streets as well as the Jordaan Neighborhood. These are my favorite two areas in Amsterdam for pretty photos of the canals (psst — find all my favorite photo spots in Amsterdam here)!
The Nine Streets (De Negen Straatjes)
The Nine Streets (aptly named for its nine narrow, charming streets) are one of the most quaint and picturesque parts of Amsterdam. The neighborhood is on the edge of the canal ring, and is filled with great shopping! Expect to find tons of independent boutiques, galleries, vintage shopping (check out King Louie, Bij ons vintage, and Who’s that Girl?), and a bunch of fun specialty stores.
And here you’ll find some of the prettiest canals in all of Amsterdam – including Herengracht (one of the main canals and actually a UNESCO World Heritage Site), Prinsengracht, Keizersgracht, and Singel (all part of The Nine Streets). We enjoyed walking around the cobblestoned streets, stopping for a quick drink to cool off at REE7 (and my drink ended up being pink, which of course I loved, haha).
Right next to The Nine Streets you’ll find the Jordaan Neighborhood. This area is so super charming, and full of residential houses with cozy courtyard gardens, flower-lined leafy canals, and quaint shops and boutiques. While it’s far from the crowds and tourist attractions, don’t miss Jordaan – it’s easily one of my favorite places to wander in the city, even with only one day in Amsterdam.
Take note of the large, roof-mounted hooks at the top of the buildings, as they’re used to get materials and items up (the staircases are way too skinny for bulky items).
There’s also some unique museums over here – including the Amsterdam Tulip Museum (learn about the origin and harvesting of tulips in Holland) and the Amsterdam Cheese Museum (need I say more?!). Both are super tiny and only take a few minutes to explore. Plus, cheese samples (I could never have enough)!
Stop 3: Bloemenmarkt Flower Market
Visiting in summer? The Floating Flower Market is the place to go for flowers (there’s a reason it’s stayed open for over 100 years – dating back to 1862 exactly)! Yeah, I get you’re probably not buying any bouquets to lug around with you during your one day in Amsterdam (heading back to the hotel to drop them off wouldn’t make much sense), but I still recommend checking it out!
Psst – there won’t be any gorgeous arrangements of flowers in the other months. And I was actually surprised there weren’t more in summer.
Instead, there’s flower bulbs (in every color imaginable), tons of traditional Dutch souvenirs (think wooden tulips and wooden clogs), thousands of seed packets, or simply just walking around for a bit is fun.
20 minutes will suffice if you’re not planning to buy much (although I kept getting distracted by the flowers and couldn’t put my camera away). If you’re visiting the flower market in the summer, you’ll find fresh tulips and other local plants/flowers – and boy were they just oh so gorgeous. I wish I could’ve packed them straight in my suitcase!
Stop 4: Stroopwafels and Snacks!
Cookies at Van Stapele Koekmakerij
Anyone with a sweet tooth needs to visit this cookie shop. There’s always a line (and they do sell out), so be sure to grab a few of their signature chocolate cookies earlier in the day. I think we waited for about 15 minutes or so.
The shop only sells one kind of cookie – a crunchy Valrhona dark chocolate base with a soft white chocolate center. Crumbly, warm, and still fresh from the oven – they really are the best cookies in all of Amsterdam. I could’ve eaten 5, but I needed to save some room for the next stop!
van Wonderen Stroopwafels
What’s a stroopwafel you ask? A thin, crisp waffle filled with melted cinnamon caramel – a super popular (and downright famous) Dutch treat! I fell in love with the branding at van Wonderen, and the shop makes for a perfect IG photo. They have some of the prettiest stroopwafels in all of Amsterdam in my opinion.
To be honest, while it was absolutely delicious, they were kinda hard to eat – too big, too messy, and too many toppings (I recommend sharing one). Regardless, I left a very happy (and full) customer!
Late Afternoon and Early Evening: A Museum and A Canal Cruise
Stop 5: Visit a Museum
Amsterdam is full of museums – 102 to be exact. With just one day in Amsterdam, you obviously won’t have time to visit them all, so I recommend picking one of the most famous.
Remember – you could easily be in certain museums for HOURS. Keep this in mind if there’s additional things you wanna tick off your Amsterdam itinerary.
Regardless of which museum you choose, you need to purchase tickets in advance. Amsterdam is a busy place, and the three museums below are some of the most popular in the entire city.
Here’s my top choices:
Anne Frank House: Overwhelming and emotional, yet beautiful and educational/informative all at the same time. After (finally) reading The Diary of Anne Frank in its entirety last year, I knew I absolutely needed to make visiting the Anne Frank House my #1 priority when visiting Amsterdam (I even included it on my 101 in 1001 goal list).
And it was just as moving (and sobering) as I expected it to be, especially stepping foot in the actual secret annex where the family hid out for all those months/years during World War II. We read notes from Anne’s original red-checked diary ourselves, learned all about Otto Frank (Anne’s father) and helpers Miep Gies and Bep Voskuijl, and enjoyed all the mixed media (videos/photos/etc).
One of the most impactful experiences of my life. I would easily visit again and again.
Tickets are exceptionally hard to come by, so you’ll need to get tickets as soon as you know when you’re visiting the city. Ticket sales open the first Tuesday of the month for the following month, and they usually sell out within a few hours (sometimes minutes). Buy tickets here and mark your calendars for that Tuesday!
Visits usually last about an hour or so. The museum’s in the Jordaan Neighborhood, so go explore around there before/after your visit. Note that you are not allowed to take photos in the museum.
Rijksmuseum: Art lovers, this is where you NEED to go. There’s 800 years of Dutch history here, with tons of pieces by Rembrandt, Vermeer, and Van Gogh. It’s one of the largest and most important museums in the city, and it’s downright huge, housing over one million pieces of art. Trust me – a proper visit could take up to 5 hours! There’s just oh so many masterpieces to see.
With only a day in Amsterdam, I recommend capping your visit at 2-3 hours, and focusing on the highlights of the museum’s collection. The Gallery of Honor and the 17th and 19th century collections are good starting points! Check it out and buy tickets here.
Van Gogh Museum: Anyone with even the slightest interest in Van Gogh will be impressed by this museum – it provides an intimate look into the life and mind of the artistic genius. You can see a great deal of the museum in just 1-2 hours, making this the perfect museum to include on your one day Amsterdam itinerary.
Sorry, you won’t see “Starry Night” here in Amsterdam – that piece is at the MoMa in New York City! Don’t worry, there’s other popular pieces here like “Almond Blossom”, “The Potato Eaters” – one of his earliest works, “The Bedroom”, and “Self-Portrait with Felt Hat”, among tons and tons of others. This is the world’s largest collection of Van Gogh art after all! Check it out and buy tickets here.
Important Note: Many of Amsterdam’s most popular museums are located in the Museumplein, a large square filled with you guessed it – museums! This includes both the Rijksmuseum and Van Gogh Museum, as well as the Stedelijk Museum and the Concertgebouw concert hall.
I’m telling you this because the Museumplein is located a bit further from the other attractions on this list. It’s not far per say, but you’ll definitely wanna use public transit to get there.
If you’re following my one day in Amsterdam itinerary and coming from Bloemenmarkt or van Wonderen Stroopwafels, hop on Tram number 2 from Nieuw Sloten. The ride is less than 10 minutes and only 4 stops! You can also walk about 20 minutes but if your legs are tired (understandably), the tram is too easy not to take advantage of.
Stop 6: Damrak
Once you’re done with your museum of choice, make your way over to the Damrak. We loved this area, especially the Damrak Waterfront. An iconic sight of Amsterdam, it’s a super photogenic stretch of old houses alongside the Damrak canal. The narrow townhouses seem to be floating in the water – just look at those photos; absolutely wild!
Besides hanging by the waterfront, there’s a few other things to check out:
Manneken Pis Damrak
Belgium FRIES!!! You need to try the frites from Manneken Pis… there’ll always be a (long) line, but I promise you it moves fast and the fries are 100% worth the wait. I mean, the name alone is super intriguing.
The shop only uses Dutch potatoes and there’s a variety of sauces to choose from (I had the truffle mayo). Absolute fry heaven. Get the small cone – they’re super filling. If you’re potato crazy like us you can also check out Jacketz – a nearby shop specializing in loaded baked potatoes!
The Oude Church (De Oude Kerk)
Step inside Amsterdam’s oldest building, a 13th-century church that occasionally has art installations inside. There’s beautiful Gothic architecture, more than 700 years of history, and colorful stained glass windows.
You can even head up to the Old Church Tower for great views of the city below (it was a former watchtower afterall). A must see if you love history, art, and/or architecture.
Dam Square and Royal Palace
A stunning building with tons of rich history, plus so much beautiful artwork (paintings, sculptures, and more)! While I didn’t go in (no time, whoops!), I heard the Great Hall is especially gorgeous (photos kinda remind me of the Hall of Mirrors in Versailles… a bit).
Wander around and you’ll find plenty of cheese shops here. We popped into at least five during our one day in Amsterdam, and I swear I ate at least a pound of cheese that day. When in Amsterdam, am I right?!
The Amsterdam Cheese Company and Henri Willig both have multiple shops around the Damrak and the city in general, so I promise you won’t miss the cheese! And there’s so much to sample – smoked jalapeno cheese, fig cheese, herbs and garlic cheese, green pesto cheese, organic truffle cheese, you name it, they got it!
Stop 7: Canal Cruise
While wandering around the canals on foot was one of my favorite things all day, you get such a different perspective on the water! On a canal cruise you’ll see oh so much – the waterfront 17th-century buildings lining the canals, iconic bridges (like the Skinny Bridge), modern cosmopolitan 21st-century buildings, the Music Building in the harbor, and so much more.
Plus, it’s a great way to give your feet a rest (by this point in the day you’ve probably been walking A TON – we clocked in over 20k steps during our 1 day in Amsterdam).
Canal cruises typically take between 60 – 90 minutes and leave from various locations, many around the Central Station area. A perfect activity during your time in the Damrak.
There’s plenty of ways to go about this, but since we hadn’t booked a tour in advance, we simply found an operator, got a ticket, and went on the next available boat. In hindsight, I really wish we planned this better.
While we definitely enjoyed our experience, the boat was hot and sticky and there was NO fresh air (as our boat was completely enclosed and only select windows opened up). Didn’t help that we were visiting during a heatwave and the boat was completely full (meaning not much space).
Because of this, I highly recommend researching and booking a canal cruise in advance. Some even offer snacks like wine and cheese (um, yes please!). The options below all got fantastic reviews and all cost less than 30 bucks.
- Open Boat Canal Cruise: Relax on a fully electric open boat and feel the wind in your hair. And you can even buy a cocktail on board – just the way it should be!
- Classic Canal Cruise with Optional Cheese and Wine: Panoramic views, unlimited delicious Dutch cheese, and beer and wine! Sounds like a perfect afternoon to me.
- Canal Booze Cruise: This canal cruise includes unlimited beer, wine, and soda, plus lots of snacks! Admiring the waterfront houses with a cold beer in hand, now you’re talking.
- Evening Canal Cruise: What’s more romantic than sitting next to your honey, sipping a glass of bubbly, with views of the city bathed in that gorgeous golden hour glow? Not much, am I right?
Night: Dinner, Red Light District, and Drinks
Stop 8: Traditional Dutch Dinner
Before leaving Amsterdam, you’ve gotta have a traditional dinner full of stew and/or stamppot. You’ll be ridiculously full afterwards, but these Dutch classics are too good to pass up.
Option 1 – Moeders
Any moms out there? This place is solely dedicated to you! Expect lots of warm and fuzzy feelings! The restaurant serves traditional Dutch classics, like stamp pot (potatoes mashed with veggies and meat), beef stew, and lamb skewers. We both raved about our stamp pot (so many carbs though)! Easily the best homey authentic food you could get in all of Amsterdam.
And the place was super unique and quirky too – photos and photos of mamas and tons of antiques lining the shelves and walls. I loved how all the place settings were different as well; everyone had a different set of cutlery, plates, glasses, etc. Felt so homey and I was there for it!
It’s a bit out of the way, so if you don’t feel like walking, hop in an Uber. Make a reservation in advance as there were none available during our time in Amsterdam, so we showed up at opening (5pm!) and enjoyed a ridiculously early dinner.
Option 2 – The Pantry
Expect hearty portions of housemade, traditional cuisine in a homely Dutch atmosphere. There’s a reason this place gets packed beyond belief – make sure to reserve a table in advance!
If you’re not sure what to order, get one of their sets – a little bit of everything and you don’t need to decide. The Dutch goat cheese croquettes, savory beef and onion stew, poffertjes (mini dutch pancakes), and vlaflip (a vanilla custardy dessert) all sound perfect to me. Traditional, cozy, and friendly.
Option 3 – Hollands Hap Hmm Restaurant
The beef stew, enough said. Haha, but no really, this is the place to go if you’re craving a large bowl of beef soup. It ain’t the house special for nothing! Locals also frequent this place (and order the beef stew) so you know it’s legit.
The interior of the restaurant kinda feels like visiting a Dutch grandma – imagine a narrow hallway, and then entering into a living room space full of cute trinkets and decor. And then eating a wholesome home cooked traditional meal made by a Dutch grandma. Kinda like my authentic meal made by a Portuguese grandma in Porto, Portugal!
Stop 9: Red Light District
Once you’re good and full, it’s time to explore the Red Light District.
This is where you’ll find prostitutes offering their “services”, live sex shows, brothels, strip clubs, and sex shops. Not exactly my cup of tea, but worth checking out for at least a little while to see the liberal culture and overall uniqueness of the place.
Expect to see plenty of coffeeshops selling cannabis and window prostitution (yes, both are legal over here), so definitely wander around with an open-mind.
Yes, you can hang around the Red Light District in daylight, but the area really comes alive at night once it starts getting dark. This is not the place to take kids, especially at night (keep that in mind if you’re traveling with any littles).
While you can simply wander for as long or little as you like, I recommend stopping by the following:
- Bulldog Coffee Shop: Care to join in on the cannabis culture? The Bulldog No. 90 was the first coffeeshop in Amsterdam, and it basically defined the whole Amsterdam coffeeshop tradition. Even if you don’t wanna smoke, grab a drink and hang out – such a fun atmosphere!
- Visit a museum: There’s the Red Light Secrets Museum, Museum of Cannabis, and even a Museum of Prostitution. All the museums are quite small (and equally interesting), so you can easily pop in for 20 minutes or so. You can also visit the Amsterdam Condomerie Shop – the first condom shop in the world (easily recognizable with dozens of condoms displayed in the window).
On my first visit to Amsterdam a few years ago, I actually watched a sex show – yes, people having live sex on stage. Something I never thought I’d do and something I’ll never do again. It was, um, an experience…
Psst: Guided tours of the Red Light District that walk past the neon-lit windows are not allowed anymore, and have actually been forbidden by the municipality of Amsterdam since 2019. You’ll still find some, just know they are illegal.
Stop 10: Cocktails at Hiding in Plain Sight
After a truly exhausting one day in Amsterdam, you deserve a night cap! We stumbled upon Hiding in Plain Sight – and it was exactly that. Super unassuming from the outside, yet so intimate and cozy on the inside.
There’s an extensive cocktail menu, with a bunch of classics (with a twist) and some very unique concoctions as well (like a popcorn tequila drink!). We sat on comfy couches sipping our drinks; couldn’t have asked for a better way to end our time in the city! Yes, they were expensive, but well worth the cost (plus our bartender gave us little snacks for free).
And if you’re still not tired yet, take an evening stroll along the canals – such an impressive sight!
Hope this helps you plan out your one day Amsterdam itinerary! Bring me back some pancakes and a stroopwafel! What are you most looking forward to?!