one day in amsterdam with pink flowers

Short on time but want to spend one day in Amsterdam? Here are the best things to do to maximize your time in this charming city. I’ve been to Amsterdam several times and personally recommend every item on this list.

I think 2 days in Amsterdam is the perfect amount of time for sightseeing, but if you’re up for a full day exploring, 24 hours in Amsterdam is enough to see the most popular attractions.

From Amstel to Amsterdam

amsterdam canal view

Did you know that Amsterdam used to be a small fishing village named Amstel? It was built along a major river, and eventually, a dam was constructed to protect the city from flooding.

The city was renamed Amsterdam (Amstel + Dam), and the Golden Age brought rapid growth and prosperity in the 17th century. Not only is Amsterdam known for its canals, but it’s a liberal city that values sustainability, wellness, and equality.

There’s also nowhere else in the world where you will see endless cyclists, clog shoe souvenirs, and towering beautiful blonde people. I love walking around the city on a sunny day, occasionally stopping for a coffee or a small treat.

Tourists know Amsterdam for its Red Light District and coffee shops, but I promise there is so much more to it than the nightlife. This unique city has several must-see museums, neighborhoods, and eateries.

Is Amsterdam Walkable?

amsterdam canal with bike

One reason I love Amsterdam is that it is incredibly walkable. The city center is fairly small, so you can easily walk everywhere once you map out your itinerary.

The train system is also fast and reliable, but I always love getting in extra steps whenever possible, and it’s cheaper. You also get to see the famous canals by walking.

Intrigued by Amsterdam and ready to explore? Read along to plan your one-day in Amsterdam itinerary.

Arriving in Amsterdam- Schiphol Airport

one day in Amsterdam I Amsterdam sign

If you are flying into the Amsterdam Schiphol airport, make sure to take a picture with the I Amsterdam sign.  It is iconic, and I think of it as a right of passage for new tourists. 

Wait a few seconds to frame your shot and then make your way over to the train station. If you are only in Amsterdam for a few hours, make use of the airport lockers, so you don’t drag your bags around town.

You can also grab a taxi or Uber to the city, but why waste all of that time and money with affordable public transportation?! I promise it’s not too hard to figure out.

Schiphol Airport Train Station

Once you walk to the train station, buy your ticket from a yellow kiosk. Make sure you have Euro coins or a card with a pin number because you need a pin number to purchase a ticket.

Every time I visit Amsterdam, I forget about this requirement and stand around confused until I find enough coins to purchase my ticket. Luckily chip cards are pretty common nowadays.

The train runs 24 hours, so plan to take it downtown no matter your arrival time.  A one-way ticket costs $7 (in USD), and the ride takes about 15-20 minutes. If you are staying in town, you will most likely need to take the train to the Centraal Station.

Centraal Station

The Centraal Station is a big station in the city center that connects to other rail lines, ferries, and buses.  If your hotel is not close to the Centraal Station, study the metro station map for connecting stops.

If you’re taking a train or bus into the city instead of flying, you will most likely end up here. Amsterdam is easily accessible to other European cities like Brussels, Rotterdam, Dusseldorf, and Paris.

What to Expect

amsterdam view

The weather in Amsterdam is unpredictable, so don’t be surprised if it’s cloudy. It gets fairly hot in peak summer months, otherwise, it’s usually pretty cool out.

When you’re out and about, be prepared to see cyclists EVERYWHERE! My friends and I quote a saying every time we are in town- look left, look right, and still get hit by a bicycle 😉

Just kidding, the locals are very nice and know how to dodge tourists standing in the bike lane. With that said, pay attention and make sure you are walking in the pedestrian lane and not the bicycle lane.

One Day in Amsterdam Itinerary

damrak buildings in amsterdam

After checking into your hotel, it is time to start your day. Once you check in and drop off your bags, it’s time for the first stop. After a long travel day, you deserve a Dutch delicatessen- pancakes.

The Pancake Bakery

Located near the Centraal Station, The Pancake Bakery is an Amsterdam breakfast staple requiring advance reservations.  It is a cozy spot and is located in a 17th-century canal house.

Dutch pancakes, aka “pannenkoeken,” are a delicious and quintessential breakfast dish in Amsterdam. They are thin and usually much larger than American pancakes.

Dutch pancakes can be sweet or savory, and they are enjoyed all throughout the day. You can even eat them for dessert.

Anne Frank Huis

anne frank house

Once you finish breakfast, walk over to the Anne Frank House. It is a four-minute walk from the bakery and is located straight down Prinsengracht Street.

Anne Frank and her family hid from the Nazis in this house during WWII, and the place was eventually turned into a museum. Go for a tour to learn about her family’s fate and see the attic where she hid for years.

It is a somber tour, but I think it is too important to skip. You must make reservations in advance from the Anne Frank House website. There will still be a line, but it moves quickly with a pre-purchased ticket.

Jordaan Neighborhood

bikes on amsterdam canal

This neighborhood in Amsterdam is filled with picturesque canals and is a hub for trendy boutiques, pubs, and restaurants. It’s residential and quiet, creating the perfect break from a busy travel day.

If you have the time, check out the Amsterdam Tulip Museum and the Amsterdam Cheese Museum. They’re as interesting as they sound, and the Cheese Museum includes free tastings.

Wander around and walk through the canals to get a true sense of this city. It is filled with iconic Dutch houses and has some of the best views around!

The Nine Streets (De 9 Straatjes)

colorful flowers on dutch bike

Located near the Jordaan neighborhood, add this historical part of town to your itinerary. This is the famous canal district of Amsterdam and is home to 4 famous canals. They are known as Herengracht (a UNESCO world heritage site), Keizersgracht, Singel, and Prinsengracht.

This district also has boutique shopping and quaint cafes and restaurants. Koffiehuis ‘De Hoek’ is a super charming cafe and is the perfect stop for coffee and/or homemade Dutch apple pie!

Floating Flower Market (Bloemenmarkt)

flowers in amsterdam

The next stop on the list is Bloemenmarkt, the floating flower market. Holland is famous for its flowers, especially the tulips. To see their beauty in real life, stop by the floating flower market. It is the only floating flower market in the world, and it opened in 1862.

The flower market is located near the Van Gogh Museum and the Heineken Factory, so visit it before or after your tours.

Instead of buying traditional Dutch souvenirs like wooden clogs, consider buying tulip seeds. Bring them home with you and grow real Dutch flowers.

Canal Cruises

one day in amsterdam with boats

After the floating market, relax and explore the city by taking an Amsterdam canal cruise. Yes, canal cruises sound like a tourist trap, but I promise it is fun to see a city by boat.

There are 165 canals in Amsterdam, and they are recognized as a UNESCO world heritage site. During this hour-long boat ride, you learn about the history of Amsterdam and get local recommendations for sightseeing and dining.

Walk south from the flower market towards the Rijksmuseum to book a ticket. You will see several different cruise companies along the river advertising a ride.

Check with the company for available tickets and times and then enjoy your cruise. You can also book tours on the Damrak waterfront.

Try a Local Snack- Pomme Frites

dutch fries with mayonnaise

When you’re done with the canal cruise, walk along the canals, and order pommes frites. They are a very popular snack in Amsterdam and are sold in restaurants and street stands everywhere. They are essentially just fries with mayonnaise, but I think they are delicious.

Van Gogh Museum

van gogh museum

If you love art, visit the Van Gogh Museum to see the world’s largest selection of Van Gogh artwork. Van Gogh grew up in the Netherlands but spent his last few years of life in France perfecting his craft.

Shockingly enough, he only sold one painting in his lifetime. His sister-in-law collected his artwork after his death and began donating them for exhibition.

The museum is located close to the Vijzelgracht metro station. This stop is about 5 minutes from Central Station, so it is close by.

If you’re feeling adventurous and up for a walk, stroll through town and slowly make your way over to the museum. I love walking along the canals and occasionally stopping for a coffee or delicious Dutch pastry.

You need tickets in advance to visit the Van Gogh Museum. To purchase a Van Gogh museum ticket, book online on their website.

Unfortunately, Van Gogh’s art is showcased throughout several museums in Europe and the United States, so you won’t see his full collection. The famous art pieces located in Amsterdam are The Yellow House, Bedroom in Arles, and Wheatfield With Crows.

Heineken Experience

Visit the Heineken Factory for its iconic Heineken experience and brewery tour. It is located 5 minutes from the Van Gogh Museum and is popular for its interactive experience. Learn about the history of the Heineken company and the beer fermenting process.

Once the tour is over, you are guided over to the official Heineken bar and receive two complimentary beers. Book your tickets in advance from their website.

Restaurant Watergang

After a long day, relax and enjoy dinner in a charming Dutch townhouse. Restaurant Watergang is a 5-star restaurant and requires an online reservation. It is located over the river from the Rijksmuseum and a 7-minute walk from the Heineken Experience.

This is a more expensive restaurant but it is worth the price. They offer a surprise 5-course meal for $60. The waiters also pair your wine with your meals.

Nightlife-One Night In Amsterdam

Drinks at Wynand Fockink Proeflokaal

wynand bar

After a nonstop day of sightseeing, head into town and order drinks. Make your way back to the town center, and visit my favorite bar called Wynand Fockink Proeflokaal.

‘Proeflokkal’ is Dutch for tasting bar. It is located a little ways behind the Dam central square and National Monument on Damstraat.

I won’t lie, I initially visited the bar for its name, but I stayed because of its vast liquor selection. They serve Old Dutch liqueurs, such as ‘De Boswandeling’ (A Walk in the Woods), ‘Bruidstrannen’ (Bride’s Tears), and ‘Hansje in de Kelder’ (Jack in the Cellar).

Also, if it’s your first time visiting, they make you maintain the tradition of bowing for the first sip. People watching here is quite entertaining.

Red Light District

red light district in amsterdam

It is a personal decision to visit the Red Light District while in Amsterdam; however, I think you should walk around for at least 10 minutes. Check it off of your bucket list and keep it moving!

The only rules here are no pictures or videos. To get to this part of town, take the metro to the Rokin or Nieuwmarkt station. From either station, walk a couple of blocks, and you will see red lights and groups of tourists.

The Bulldog Coffeeshop

Last but not least, if you want to visit a coffee shop, visit the Bulldog. There are several Bulldog coffee shops around town, so you can also find them outside of the Red Light District. Just a reminder, they don’t serve coffee here.

A Non-Stop One Day in Amsterdam Itinerary

gray building in amsterdam

This one-day Amsterdam itinerary requires a full day of sightseeing, but I always think you should try to make the most of any time in a new city. These are the best sights to see in Amsterdam, but I included a few more recommendations. Since Amsterdam is walkable, it’s not hard to hit every stop on this list.

If You Have More Than One Day in Amsterdam

  • Wander along the Damrak waterfront to see the iconic floating Amsterdam houses
  • Visit the Rijksmuseum to learn more about Dutch artwork
  • Stumble into any of the numerous cheese shops in town
  • Try van Wonderen Stroopwafels
  • Tour the Royal Palace Amsterdam

If you have 2 days in Amsterdam, add these recommendations to your trip. I hope you love visiting Amsterdam, and remember to look both ways before you cross the street.

Headed to Lisbon any time soon? Read my detailed guide on how to spend 24 hours in the city.

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