Every traveler has their own ambitions when visiting Amsterdam. For some people, a trip to Amsterdam is about exploring the picturesque streets, canals and historical brick architecture. Some people want to see Rembrant and Van Gogh. Some people associate it with plants – some buy tulips, others cannabis. Finally, there are always those who’ll first go to the Red Light District. And while spending only one day in Amsterdam is not enough to fully explore all of the above, it’s enough to take a glimpse of what this vibrant Dutch city has to offer. One thing is certain – it won’t be boring, not even for one tiny minute of it.
What’s the best time to visit Amsterdam?
While the city is famous either as a summer or a winter destination, you should know that winters can be really rough, with a strong north wind and temperatures going below zero. Late spring and summer offer more enjoyable weather and much more outdoor activities. Early fall is definitely the most romantic part of the year, perfect for couple getaways.
One Day in Amsterdam Itinerary
Follow this guide and make the most of your trip even if you’re short on time. These are the top sights and things to do during your one day in Amsterdam.
Start your day with the canal cruise
This relaxing canal cruise is a perfect way to start your morning in Amsterdam and get a general overview of the city before it gets too crowded. Numerous canals are incredibly beautiful, especially when observed from the boat. Pick the smaller boats if you want to save some money because the bigger ones can get too pricey. The tour shouldn’t last more than an hour.
Rent a bike
Another great way to maximize your super short stay is to rent a bike just after the canal cruise or instead of it. You should know that Amsterdam is all about bikes, so you won’t have any problems finding a rental place or a bike lane once you’re on the road. It’s usually the fastest transport if you’re visiting only the central part of the city.
Check some of the greatest historical buildings in Amsterdam
While on your bike tour, don’t miss to check out some of the greatest Amsterdam attractions. Start with the Amsterdam Centraal, the city’s major train hub with iconic 1889 design. Continue your ride trough Damrak street, and you’ll easily spot Beurs van Berlage, former stock exchange building used as a cultural space nowadays.
Soon you’ll pass by the De Bijenkorf department store and finally you’ll end up at the Dam square, the main public square flanked by the stunning Royal Palace. You can make it a walking tour as well, but it may take a little more than expected.
Have fries for a snack
It won’t take you long to realize you can buy fries all over the city. It’s almost impossible to pass by a fries place and not to buy some. Find those who offer a wide selection of dipping sauces and enjoy your snack while siting next to the canal.
Buy souvenirs at the Flower Market
Bloemenmarkt or the Flower Market is the best place to buy a unique Dutch souvenir. This unique floating market offers a wide range of flowers and plant seeds, cactuses and other stunning flowers. Just across the market, there are a few great cheese shops, so don’t miss those too. Even if you’re not into buying it, at least try some free samples.
Lunch break around Leiden Square
If you’re hungry and you crave some tasty food, you’ll find plenty of options around Leidseplein (Leiden Square) or any of the streets around the square. Even if you’re just into grabbing a cup of coffee, it’s a nice place to sit and people-watch.
Visit a museum of your choice at Musuemplein
The Museumplein is the square surrounded by the several most important Amsterdam museums – Van Gogh Museum, Rijksmuseum and Stedelijk Museum. It’s also the place where famous “I AMsterdam” sculpture is located. Choose the museum regarding your preferences.
If you admire the work of Van Gogh and want to see his “Sunflowers”, check out the largest collection of that post-impressionist painter in the Van Gogh Museums. For a wider selection of the great authors such as Rembrant and its “Night Watch” go to Rijksmusuem. However, if you’re into contemporary and modern art – Stedelijk is one of the greatest in the whole Europe. Don’t miss it for the world.
Relax at the Vondelpark
After a long day of walking or pedaling, Vondelpark is an incredible green oasis for any kind of relaxation. Even if you just want to enjoy a leisurely drink, there is a nice bar Blauwe Theehuis in the middle of the park. If you’re traveling on a budget, it’s a great place to have a picnic brunch bought in the nearby supermarket.
Have dinner at the Foodhallen
Gastronomy of Amsterdam is very diverse, so you can basically try whichever international cuisine you can think of. If you want to have them all in one place at one time – Foodhallen would be your ideal dinner place. It’s more an indoor food market rather than a restaurant, but it offers a wide variety of delicious food.
Stroll around the Red Light District
Red Light District is not something everyone has interest visiting. However, this controversial neighborhood is worth a visit even just for its electric atmosphere, but for a very brief time. Expect a lot of brothel windows, erotic shops and coffee shops in the area.
It’s party time
Amsterdam clubs are not that famous as those in Berlin. Still, the city has a thriving party scene, especially nowadays. If you’re looking for a great club in the very city center, visit Paradiso or Melkweg. Melkweg used to be a milk factory back in the days but was later transformed into a live music and dance club. Those who are into underground dance music shouldn’t miss De School – a club that’s placed in a former school building. If you’re into something more Berlinish – Radion is a great, less commercial underground club. It’s worth to visit even if it’s not central.
Where to stay in Amsterdam?
Room Mate Aitana
IJdock 6, Amsterdam City Center, 1013 MM Amsterdam
Room Mate Aitana is a designer hotel located in the very center of the city, on an island in the IJ River in Amsterdam, surrounded by water. It features stylish rooms with spectacular views of Amsterdam. It’s a perfect choice for travelers that only have little time in Amsterdam since it’s located very close to the Amsterdam Central Train Station and walking distance to the Dam Square.
Monet Garden Hotel Amsterdam
Valkenburgerstraat 76, Amsterdam City Center, 1011 LZ Amsterdam
Located only a short walk from the Dam Square, Monet Garden Hotel Amsterdam offers nicely decorated, modern stay in the heart of the city. The whole interior feels pretty cozy and charming at the same time. Certain rooms offer some nice canal views.
Tempelhofstraat 2, Westpoort, 1043 EC Amsterdam
Hotel2Stay is a modern, bright and super comfortable accommodation that features a sauna, fitness center and a bike rental. It is located just next to the Sloterdijk bus/train/tram/metro stations therefore it can be easily reached from every part of the city, even an airport.
The Student Hotel
Wibautstraat 129, Oost, 1091 GL Amsterdam
The Student Hotel is a one-of-a-kind space that combines the energy of a university campus with the style and service amenities of a boutique hotel. Its communal spaces are designed to fully enjoy your stay – it offers a sun terrace with an amazing city view, bar and the restaurant, fitness center, fully designed lobby where you can relax and a game room where you can play some ping pong or pool.
DAY TRIPS FROM AMSTERDAM
This is a magnificent city, no doubt about that. However, people often want to see the rest of this intriguing country, too. Fortunately, it’s not overwhelmingly big, and you can see a lot even if you decide to go on a day trip from Amsterdam to some of the places nearby. There’s plenty to choose from, so think carefully.
Zaanse Shans is pretty much what Holland is all about. Some of the country’s most famous symbols, windmills and wooden clogs in particular, can be experienced in this small village very close to the city. In fact, it’s so close that don’t even make this a full day trip from Amsterdam if you don’t have the time. See what the country was like two or three centuries ago and maybe try some delicious cheeses.
Because of the country’s specific location, you can easily hop over to other countries for the day, too. Bruges in Belgium is a particularly beautiful destination due to its rich history and culture. The city centre is actually listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site because it clearly shows how the city evolved through time, all the way from the medieval period. Of course, don’t forget to try some Belgian chocolate, and a pint of their great beer surely wouldn’t go amiss.
Tulips are definitely the country’s most famous flowers, and you can see literally millions of them if you visit Keukenhof Gardens. But they are not the only ones in this immense flower garden, so you will be able to enjoy an incredible array of smells and colors. Be advised, though, the place is only open for about two months, usually from March to May, because that’s when you can see the flowers in their full glory.
Prefer sticking to an urban environment? Why not visit Rotterdam then? The city is Amsterdam’s rival and offers a lot of very interesting architecture. Take the famous cube houses, for example, or the modern Markthall, a huge building with a market under it. There are also many excellent and pretty famous museums you can check out, plus you can always climb the Euromast observation tower for a spectacular view of the city.
Extra tips for visiting Amsterdam
– Although the city center is best explored on foot or by bike, public transport is very efficient so don’t hesitate to use one.
– Amsterdam accommodation is quite expensive and gets full quite quickly. The earlier you book it, the cheaper you’ll get it.
– Secure your transportation, tickets and everything else you need for a great trip with the help of Welcome. These friendly and reliable people will organize everything and be your go-to guys in Amsterdam.
– If you’re planning on visiting the museums, always book the tickets online to avoid the long lines.
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Anca is a travel writer and the founder of One Day Itinerary - the biggest collection of travel itineraries for those who are time-limited or just want to maximize their time while traveling. Although she easily becomes homesick for Croatia, she thinks travel is essential to her happiness. She has traveled to more countries than she is years old and doesn’t plan on changing that fact. In her travel guides she aims to inspire people to travel whenever they have a spare day (or two).