Amsterdam is an incredible city that is always buzzing with people, events and, well, cannabis. While Amsterdam generally seems best known for its liberal views on prostitution and cannabis, there is so much more to the city than the Red Light District and the coffee shops!
I recently made my fifth visit to Amsterdam, this time travelling with Eurostar from London and taking my dad with me! He hasn’t been to Amsterdam in around 20+ years so we decided to do some of the more ‘touristy’ options and combine that with some of my favourite spots from past visits.
So here is my Amsterdam itinerary with the top tourist spots that are actually worth visiting! This itinerary is designed for having one day in Amsterdam but can definitely be expanded if you are spending longer there. The main bulk of the article will take you through the main attractions and places you ought to visit and, at the end, I have created some sample itineraries with tips on getting from location to location.
Getting around Amsterdam
Amsterdam is fairly walkable in the very centre of the city (e.g. near Dam Square and the main four canals) but it can also be worth getting a public transport pass if you don’t want to walk too much. On this trip, we were staying at the Motel One near Amsterdam Zuid/RAI so we needed to travel to the centre by metro so for us it was worth having the 24h or 48h public transport pass. We also used the pass when going to Zaandam one morning as we could get to Sloterdijk with the pass and then pay slightly less for the train onwards to Zaandam/Zaanse Schans.
Another popular option is, of course, hiring a bike and cycling Amsterdam. This is an excellent way to get around but remember that you’ll now have the fun of avoiding tourists who don’t check for cyclists when crossing roads or bike lanes. I definitely recommend hiring a bike at least for a few hours – I’ll mention more of this later in my Amsterdam itinerary.
Things to Do – One Day in Amsterdam
Explore the canals by foot
One of the best ways to explore Amsterdam’s canals (and, in my opinion, get the best photos) is to simply wander them. Head from Damrak down towards the Dancing Houses (the best spot for photos of the famous Dancing Houses is from the opposite bank of the canal, either ‘s Gravelandseveer or Staalkade) and make your way along to the main canals making up the ‘canal ring’, which dates back to the 17th century.
The four canals that make up the canal ring are Singel, Prinzengracht (‘Prince’s Canal’), Herengracht (‘Lord’s Canal’), and Keizersgracht (‘Emperor’s Canal’). They were listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Area in 2010 and there is so much to discover along the banks of these famous canals!
From the Dancing Houses, walk to the end of Singel canal and stop by the Bloemenmarkt before heading up to De Negen Straatjes (The Three Little Streets). From there, walk up into the beautiful Jordaan area and explore the canals there.
Amsterdam is home to the only floating flower market in the world so it definitely ought to be on your Amsterdam itinerary! It’s a great spot for buying bulbs to take back home, as well as small souvenirs. Even if you don’t plan on buying anything, it’s definitely a colourful place to walk past on your exploration of Amsterdam’s canals.
Visiting Amsterdam in the spring? Make sure to visit some of the stunning tulip fields near Amsterdam while you’re there!
De Negen Straatjes
The ‘9 Little Streets’ is a small neighbourhood in Amsterdam that consists of nine side streets off the four main canals. The neighbourhood has been promoting itself with this name since the 1990s and it is home to lots of independent shops, cafes and more.
You will find the Museum of Photography here, as well as vintage and designer shops. Buy local cheese from De Kaaskamer or chocolates from Chocolaterie Pompadour. If you don’t want to shop, then simply explore the streets and enjoy the relaxed vibe of this part of the city.
Originally a working-class neighbourhood, Jordaan has developed into one of the most upscale and expensive areas of Amsterdam. The entire area is particularly photogenic and is a lovely part of the city to just wander and see what you find.
Some places to add to your Amsterdam itinerary include:
- the Anne Frank House museum (€10.50 for adults, €5.50 for 10-17-year-olds, €0.50 for <10-year-olds. Booking online is essential!)
- Noordermarkt Farmer’s Market (Saturdays 9am-3pm, Mondays 9am-1pm)
- the Homomonument, which commemorates all gay men and women who have been subject to persecution due to their sexuality
- Cafe Chris, which is the oldest bar in Jordaan and dates back to 1624
One of my favourite spots for canal photos (in Jordaan and all of Amsterdam) is from Rosa Overbeekbrug as you get a view straight down the canal to a church at the end.
PS: See more of my favourite photo spots in Amsterdam in my article all about the best photo locations in the city!
The most visited museum in the Netherlands was the Rijksmuseum until the Van Gogh Museum overtook it in 2015. However, they are pretty close with more than 2 million annual visitors each! It’s also the 25th most visited art museum in the entire world, which is pretty impressive for a country the size of the Netherlands.
While I’m not much of a museum person myself (and especially art museums), I really did enjoy visiting the Rijksmuseum. I would recommend visiting the museum near opening time if you want to be there without too many other people – it starts to get very busy around 11am, with peak visiting times being between 11am-3pm.
We actually started our day with breakfast at the Rijksmuseum Cafe before heading into the museum and exploring the exhibits. It was a great way to make sure we got there pretty early and the food was excellent and not particularly expensive, considering the location.
What can you enjoy for breakfast there? It’s €13 for a deluxe breakfast which includes a croissant, bread, local cheeses, an egg, yoghurt/curd with fruit compote, fruit juice, and also unlimited tea or coffee (including lattes and so on, not just filter coffee). You can also have a smaller breakfast or, if you’re vegan or lactose intolerant like me, a delicious and filling vegan brownie (€4.50).
The museum is incredibly impressive, both in terms of the work that is exhibited and the actual space itself. Designed by Pierre Cuypers, the current building dates back to 1885 and went through a 10-year restoration from 2003 to 2013. Some of the most beautiful parts of the building are the Gallery of Honour (which houses Rembrandt’s The Night Watch), the Great Hall and the stunning Cuypers Library, which is the largest art history research library in the Netherlands.
The museum has a collection of more than 1 million items, of which 8,000 are on display at one time. The museum houses masterpieces from Dutch Golden Age painters such as Rembrandt van Rijn, Johannes Vermeer, Frans Hals and Jacob van Ruisdael.
Admission to the Rijksmuseum costs €19 for adults (€20 when bought at the ticket counter) and is free for under 18s. Instead of buying an audio tour, download the free Rijksmuseum app and bring headphones to listen to the guides.
Museumkwartier and Vondelpark
The area of the ‘Museumkwartier’ (literally: Museum Quarter) is a great area to explore when you have one day in Amsterdam. If you’re interested in art then make sure to visit the Van Gogh Museum and if your passion is music then take a guided tour of the Concertgebouw.
Van Gogh Museum: €19 for adults and free for <18-year-olds. Recommended visit time is 1.5-2 hours.
Concertgebouw: the 75-minute guided tour in English costs €11 and takes place on Mondays (summer only), Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays. For tour times and to buy a ticket, head to the Royal Concertgebouw website.
If you want to get out and take a leisurely bike ride then don’t miss cycling through Vondelpark, a 120-acre urban park that stretches from the Schinkel Canal in the south-west to Museumplein.
One of my favourite spots in this area is Roemer Visscherstraat, where you can find the Zevenlandenhuizen or ‘Seven Country Houses’. Located on the edge of Vondelpark, you can visit the seven beautiful houses built in the architectural design from seven different countries. Designed by architect Tjeerd Kuipers, the seven houses represent England, the Netherlands, Russia, Italy, Spain, France and Germany. From number 20 to number 30A, the styles are as follows:
- Germany (“Duitsland“) built in the Romantic style
- France (“Frankrijk“) built in a style influenced by the castles of the Loire region
- Spain (“Spanje“) built in a Moorish style and based on the architecture of villas in Granada
- Italy (“Italië“) built in the style of an Italian palazzo (palace)
- Russia (“Rusland“) in the style of Orthodox cathedrals with onion-shaped domes
- Netherlands (“Nederland“) built in the style of a house in the Renaissance style
- England (“Engeland“) built to represent a typical English cottage
On your way to or from the Zevenlandenhuizen, don’t miss grabbing a coffee at Brandmeester’s on Van Baerlestraat. They do an excellent iced coffee, perfect for cooling down on a hot day.
One of my favourite neighbourhoods has to be eclectic De Pijp, home to a huge variety of restaurants, excellent nightlife, the well known Albert Cuypmarkt and, of course, the Heineken Experience. Nicknamed ‘Quartier Latin’ since it was home to many students, this area flourished with a mix of the working-class as well as poor students, artists and prostitutes who moved there due to the cheap rooms. It remains incredibly lively and is definitely worth a visit!
Albert Cuypmarkt dates back to 1904 and has more than 300 stalls selling everything from Vietnamese spring rolls to freshly baked stroopwafels (syrup waffles) and bargain clothing to Dutch specialities like raw herring. Open every day 9am – 5pm except Sundays, you can’t come to Amsterdam and not take a wander through the market!
One of the best photo spots in this area has to be the ‘Wake Me Up When I’m Famous‘ bench, located at Frans Halsstraat 64. Take a photo napping on this bench (or awake, as you wish) and enjoy exploring the area that’s busy with a huge variety of bars, restaurants and cafes.
The first Heineken brewery opened in 1863 in De Pijp and the Heineken Experience is located where the brewery stood before its closure in 1988, since most production had since moved to Zoeterwoude. If you’re a fan of beer then take a 1.5-hour self-guided tour, which costs €18 when booked online or €21 in person at the brewery.
Dam Square and the Royal Palace
In the historical centre of Amsterdam, you will find Dam Square (or simply “Dam” in Dutch). It’s the main square in the city and is the location of many important events, as well as being the home to the Koninklijk Paleis or Royal Palace.
The square originated as a market square, predominantly for the selling of fish. Ships would load and unload goods here (this area was filled in with land in the 19th-century – prior to this ships could sail on the Amstel river to the dam that was where the square originated) and it became a hub of the area and, gradually, a city grew around it.
Notable events that have happened at Dam Square include the shooting in 1945, when the German military shot into a crowd that had assembled in the square to celebrate the end of the war, as well as the 1980 Coronation Riots, when protesters rioted on the day of Queen Beatrix’s coronation to protest the lack of affordable housing and the eviction of squatters in the city.
The square is still a location for events as well as demonstrations and each Christmas and King’s Day a funfair is held on Dam Square. The main ceremony of the Dutch Remembrance Day (Dodenherdenking) is held at Dam Square on May 4th each year to commemorate the civilians and members of the armed forces of the Kingdom of the Netherlands who have died in wars or peacekeeping missions since the beginning of the Second World War.
While most people only visit Dam Square and see the outside of the Royal Palace, I highly recommend visiting inside! Also known as ‘Paleis op de Dam‘ (Palace on the Dam), this is one of three current royal residences in the Netherlands (in addition to Noordeinde Palace and Huis ten Bosch, both in The Hague). It isn’t usually used as a royal residence, although the King does occasionally receive important guests here so do check that the palace is open when you want to visit!
The palace wasn’t built to be a royal residence (or a residence at all, in fact) and began as a city hall during the Dutch Golden Age in the 17th-century. In 1806, the city hall was converted into a royal palace by Louis Bonaparte, younger brother of Napoleon Bonaparte, who became King Louis I when Napoleon established the Kingdom of Holland to replace the Batavian Republic. However, Louis I became popular with his people and Napoleon wasn’t the biggest fan of all this independence so he decided to annex Holland into the French Empire in 2010. Louis fled into exile in Austria and spent most of the rest of his life there.
After Napoleon fell from power, Prince William VI of Orange returned in 1813 and the palace became a town hall again. He then became William I, the Netherlands’ first king, when he established the Kingdom of the Netherlands in 1815. He made Amsterdam the official capital and, upon realising the importance of a palace in the capital city, made the town hall the palace once again.
The palace is absolutely incredible, and the central hall is a huge 120 feet long, 60 feet wide and 90 feet high. The marble floor has two maps of the world with the celestial hemisphere and shows the area of the colonial influence by the Netherlands.
Open seven days a week from 10am-5pm, the palace offers a free audioguide within the entrance price and I would definitely recommend using it! It explains all about the different rooms and their history and usage and is available in many languages. Entry costs €10 for adults, €9 for students and is free for under 18s. You can buy tickets online or at the ticket counter.
Red Light District
Known as ‘De Wallen’, the Red Light District of Amsterdam is known around the world thanks to the very public nature of the area. While prostitution happens in many cities and countries around the world, Amsterdam and the Netherlands are unique in regards to the fact that prostitution is legal (but not on the streets, hence why the women are ‘on display’ behind a window). Prostitutes pay taxes on their income, just like all other workers in the country.
The Red Light District is home not only to sex workers but also to coffee shops, strip clubs, sex theatres, peep shows, sex shops and the traditional Dutch brown cafes (note: brown cafes aren’t as weird as they might sound – a ‘bruin café’ is simply a traditional Dutch pub).
De Wallen gets most busy between around 11pm and 2-3am, where you’ll see a lot of windows lit up red (hence the name, the ‘Red Light’ District) and the area is filled with crowds, from curious tourists to window shoppers *ahem* and others looking for a fun night out.
If you’re feeling adventurous (or simply curious), then a sex show is an incredibly interesting experience to have. Not for the faint of heart (or the easily embarrassed), these sex shows tend to include stripteases and live sex acts. One of the most famous in De Wallen is Casa Rosso with show prices starting at around €45.
Red Light District Tours
The Prostitution Information Centre (PIC) is a not-for-profit organisation that provides information and education to and about sex workers. They do tours of the Red Light District (led by current or former sex workers) every Wednesday, Friday and Saturday at 5pm, starting from their main office at Enge Kerksteeg 3.
The tours cost €17.50 and last 1.5 hours. Find out more on their website.
Another part of the RLD that deserves a visit has to be the coffeeshops or cannabis shops. You will find a variety in Amsterdam and many in the Red Light District. Amsterdam’s coffeeshops are different from anything called a ‘koffiehuis’ (coffee house) or ‘café’, which are literally establishments that sell coffee and baked goods (the non-spacecake kind).
I went to a coffeeshop my first time in Amsterdam and also tried a ‘hash brownie’ (brownie baked with cannabis inside), but I’ve found that I don’t particularly enjoy either so I can’t say I’m any form of expert on the coffeeshops of the city. This guide from TripSavvy has everything you need to know about visiting a coffeeshop while in Amsterdam!
Museum of Prostitution
For those interested in learning more about the history of prostitution and the RLD in Amsterdam, there are some excellent museums located in the area that are well worth a visit. On my first visit to Amsterdam, we went to the Museum of Prostitution to learn more about the history of the trade and how it had become legal in the Netherlands, as well as learning what the issues are that surround the legalisation.
Also known as ‘Red Light Secrets‘, this converted brothel is the world’s first museum of prostitution. Entry is for those ages 18+ only and tickets cost €10 for visiting 10am-1pm and €12.50 for visits from 1pm until midnight. Learn about what happens when the curtains close and find out how much a sex worker earns. Who becomes a prostitute? What sort of people are their clients? All your questions are answered at this unique museum and you can even sit in a red window yourself and see how it feels to be on display like the sex workers do. I would definitely go back to this museum again as it’s seriously interesting and eye-opening!
Take a canal cruise
Finally, one of the things you can’t miss in Amsterdam is a canal cruise. Exploring Amsterdam’s canals by boat is an amazing experience and really worth the price! Many of the canal cruises start at around €12 per person for a basic canal trip (around 1 to 1.5 hours) and increase depending on the time of day (evening cruises are usually slightly more experience) as well as what is included.
We did our cruise with Lovers Canal Cruises and did it in the evening after dinner, managing to get a cruise time perfect for seeing the sunset over the canals!
Some of the best options are the following cruises:
- Canal Cruise & Rijksmuseum Combined Ticket: adult ticket £29.68, child ticket £8.25 (includes a 75-minute canal cruise with an audio tour available in 21 languages and entry to the Rijksmuseum. Tour provider: Amsterdam Canal Cruises. Departures either from Stadhouderskade 501, opposite the Hard Rock Cafe, or Stadhouderskade 551, opposite Heineken Experience.)
- Small Open Canal Boat Cruise: adult ticket £14.66, child ticket £9.16 (includes a 1-hour canal cruise in a small boat with a retractable roof. The tour guide explains the history of the canals and what you see on your journey. Drinks available for purchase onboard. Tour provider: KINboat. Departure from Prinsengracht 265.)
- Semi-open Canal Boat Cruise: adult ticket £11.91, child ticket £9.16 (includes a 1-hour canal cruise with an audio tour available in 19 languages. Tour provider: Lovers Canal Cruises. Departure from Stationsplein 8.)
If you’re looking for a longer cruise with food and drink options included, there are a whole host of excellent tours! I would love to come back and do one of the candlelit canal cruises – I loved seeing the canals during the sunset but I’d also like to see them when they are all lit up once it’s dark.
- Dutch Cheese & Wine Cruise: £38.94 per person (1.5-hour canal cruise which includes an audio guide in 6 languages as well as snacks and beverages, including cheeses, bread, olives, nuts, wine and more. Tour provider: Stromma. Departure from Damrak 5.)
- Burger Cruise with Unlimited Drinks: adult ticket £35.73, child ticket £22.90 (1.5-hour canal cruise with live commentary in English or Spanish. Ticket includes a burger, chips and a homemade brownie. Vegetarian burger option is available. Unlimited beer, wine and soft drinks are also included. Tour provider: LOVERS. Departure from Prins Hendrikkade 25.)
- Candlelit Cruise with Unlimited Drinks: adult ticket £38.94, child ticket £22.90 (2-hour canal cruise with live commentary in English or Spanish. Selection of Dutch cheeses and charcuterie included as well as unlimited beer, wine and soft drinks. Tour provider: LOVERS. Departure from Prins Hendrikkade 25.)
- 4-Course Dinner Cruise: adult ticket £75.58, child ticket £38.94 (2-hour canal cruise with multilingual commentary. A four-course dinner is included in the ticket with meat, fish and vegetarian options. A selection of wines and soft drinks are also included. Tour provider: LOVERS. Departure from Prins Hendrikkade 25.)
I highly recommend doing a canal cruise in Amsterdam, even if you’ve been to the city before! It’s a unique way to explore the city and to see the classic sights from a different point of view. There are so many options for canal cruises and since I’ve only done one, I can’t tell you whether it’s better or worse than any others. However, we had an excellent time and I would love to do another, longer cruise in the future!
Other areas mentioned in the itineraries
I will mention a few places in the itineraries below that I haven’t gone into in-depth above. They are well worth a visit when you’re in the area where they’re located! I have also included some of my favourite places for food and drink.
Beurspassage: Beurspassage is an arched passageway that connects Damrak and Nieuwendijk. Only a few years ago, two artists completely transformed this passageway with mosaic artwork, beautiful ornaments and chandeliers. The artwork is called ‘Oersoep’ (primordial soup) and represents Amsterdam – see the artwork of an anchor on the floor, an umbrella ornament and a bike in the mosaic on the ceiling (apparently umbrellas and bikes are items often found in the canals). It’s definitely worth checking out!
Beurspassage, Damrak 80, Amsterdam
Hortus Botanicus: One of the oldest botanical gardens in the world is located in Amsterdam. Hortus Botanicus was established in 1638 as ‘Hortus Medicus’, a herb garden with medicinal plants for use by doctors and pharmacists in the city. It was established during the time that Leiden and Utrecht were experiencing plague epidemics. The botanical garden today is home to more than 6,000 different plants, including some that are 200 years old or more. Entry is €9.75 for adults and €5.50 for children, students with valid ID, and senior citizens.
Hortus Botanicus, Plantage Middenlaan 2a, Amsterdam
Museum Ons’ Lieve Heer op Solder: This unique museum translates to ‘Our Dear Lord in the Attic’ and is a 17th-century canal house with a church on the top floors. It is an example of a ‘schuilkerk‘ (clandestine church) from the Reformation when non-Protestants were not allowed to worship openly in the Netherlands. The top three floors of the canal house were converted into a house church between 1661-1663. It opened as a museum in 1888. Entry is €12.50 for adults, €10 for students and €6 for under 18s.
Ons’ Lieve Heer op Solder, Oudezijds Voorburgwal 38, Amsterdam
De Koffieschenkerij: This cafe is located inside the Oude Kerk, Amsterdam’s oldest building and oldest parish church. Located in De Wallen (the red light district), this is an area of contrasts. You’ll find the church, sex workers in windows, a cafe and even a nursery school. I definitely recommend a visit to the cafe as they do excellent coffee and lots of cake too. The name translates as ‘The Coffee Giver’ (schenkerij literally would translate to ‘donator’ or ‘donor’). You can also visit the inside of the Oude Kerk and even climb the tower as well (€10 for adults, €5 for students and <21s, free for under 13s).
De Koffieschenkerij, Oudekerksplein 27, Amsterdam
Cafe het Paleis: Located near to the Koninklijk Paleis is the Cafe het Paleis, or ‘Cafe The Palace’. They do excellent breakfast, brunch and dinner and offer everything from sandwiches to cake to soups and hot dishes. They serve breakfast until 1pm and it’s relatively affordable – a croissant is €3.10, scrambled eggs with bacon on toast are €7.50, omelettes from €7.50 and a ‘Paleis breakfast’ (eggs, bacon, toast, croissant, orange juice and coffee or tea) is €8.50.
Cafe het Paleis, Paleisstraat 16, Amsterdam
Het Papeneiland: This traditional bruin café is located on the edge of the Jordaan area at the corner of Browersgracht (Brewer’s Canal) and the Prinsengracht. The cafe dates back to 1642 and is still run by the same family! This cosy cafe is often busy but is well worth a visit – the name means ‘Papist’s Island’ due to during the Reformation when there was a Catholic church which could be reached by a secret tunnel at the top of the stairs (similar to the Lord in Our Attic house church). Don’t miss trying their apple pie – it’s delicious! Bill Clinton liked it so much when he visited that he ordered an entire pie to take away with him.
Het Papeneiland, Prinsengracht 2, Amsterdam
Brouwerij De Prael: The Prael brewery is a microbrewery based in Amsterdam that you can visit and do a brewery tour. While we didn’t do that, I highly recommend a visit to their taphouse which is very close to Amsterdam Centraal! There are lots of beer options, both from Brouwerij de Prael and Brouwerij ‘t IJ, another Amsterdam-based brewery. They offer a beer ‘tasting platter’ with four beers and some peanuts for €10. My absolute favourite thing about De Prael was the vegan bitterballen – bitterballen are a kind of meatball-like bar snack usually made with beef or veal, butter, flour and herbs and then breaded and deep-fried. However, if you’re vegetarian, vegan or lactose-intolerant (like me, wah), the classic bitterbal isn’t for you. So, hurrah for delicious vegan bitterballen! They are definitely a must-try *drools*.
Brouwerij De Prael, Oudezijds Armsteeg 20, Amsterdam
Door 74: My favourite cocktail bar in Amsterdam! Door 74 is a speakeasy-style cocktail bar not far from the Bloemenmarkt. There is no sign outside, the windows are blacked out and, to get in, you have to ring the small doorbell (that looks a little you’re ringing to go into someone’s home). If you are with a larger group or are going on a weekend then I would recommend reserving a table online!
Door 74, Reguliersdwarsstraat 74, Amsterdam
Here is a map with all the locations tagged:
Sample Itineraries for One Day in Amsterdam
As promised above, here are some examples of a sample Amsterdam itinerary! I hope these come in helpful when planning your day in Amsterdam as there really is too much to do (and I haven’t even started on all the amazing day trips from the city either).
Itinerary for Art Lovers
- Van Gogh Museum
- Wake Me Up When I’m Famous Bench
- Koninklijk Paleis
- Dancing Houses
- Museum of Photography
- Dutch Cheese & Wine Canal Cruise
Start your day at the Rijksmuseum on Museumplein (trams 2, 5 and 12 take you to the Rijksmuseum stop and trams 1, 7 and 19 to Spiegelgracht stop). The best time to get there to experience the museum without hordes of other tourists is early – the museum opens at 9am so 9-10am is a perfect time to arrive. PS: Don’t forget to buy your tickets online in advance!
Grab a delicious breakfast or coffee at the Rijksmuseum Cafe as well to fuel up for a few hours of museum exploration. Don’t forget to download the Rijksmuseum app as it provides useful information all about the different artworks, as well as a handy navigational map. Follow one of the pre-made itineraries/routes or take yourself on a self-guided tour. It’s recommended to start your visit to the museum in the Gallery of Honour, as this is where it gets the busiest. Arriving early will mean you get to enjoy The Night Watch and Vermeer’s The Milkmaid without tour groups getting in your way.
There is so much to see in the Rijksmuseum and the entire route is 1.5km! You could easily spend half a day or more here but there’s so much more of the city to see so after around 2 or 2.5 hours exploring here…
Head towards the Van Gogh Museum. It’s a 5-minute walk or less from the Rijksmuseum so you’ll be there in no time. This museum is home to the world’s largest collection of Van Gogh’s artworks, including paintings such as Sunflowers, The Potato Eaters and his Self-Portrait as a Painter. Buy your tickets online in advance to make sure you don’t miss out – visitor numbers are capped so your ticket will be for a certain start time.
After spending an hour or two enjoying Van Gogh’s work, get some fresh air with a walk down to the Zevenlandenhuizen. These beautiful houses in seven different architectural styles are only a 5-minute walk away and you can pick a coffee at Brandmeester’s on the way.
Time for lunch? You’ll find lots of options close to Van Baerlestraat including Bagels & Beans, a Dutch bagel and coffee chain, Brasserie Pompa for pasta and tapas, The Uptown Meat Club for burgers, steaks and more and The Seafood Bar for delicious fish and shellfish.
If you want to see some outdoor artwork, check out the ‘Wake Me Up When I’m Famous’ mural and bench in De Pijp. It’s about a 15-minute walk so a pleasant wander after lunch. You can also skip this or come back later if you don’t want to walk.
Next up is Damrak, an avenue and partially filled in canal. The road isn’t the real interest, but rather some of the canal houses along it. It’s often the first ‘classic Amsterdam’ view that people get as they exit Amsterdam Centraal Station and the houses along the remaining canal make for an iconic Amsterdam photo. Get to Damrak from the mural by taking tram 24 from Marie Heinekenplein to Dam or metro 52 from Vijzelgracht to Centraal Station. If you’re coming straight from the Zevenlandenhuizen then take tram 2 or 12 or bus 284 from Leidseplein to Nieuwezijdskolk or tram 11 from Overtoom to Nieuwezijdskolk.
From Damrak, dodge other tourists spending too much money on Belgian fries or other overpriced food and take a detour off Damrak towards Dam Square by way of the Beurspassage. Look at the floor to admire the anchor, ship’s wheel and sunrise and to the ceiling to spot the bicycle, the fish and more. Even the walls have items decorating them, including mosaics of a clog, an ice cream and a cone of fries. Every time I walk through this passage I spot something new among the mosaics!
From the Beurspassage it’s a less than 5-minute walk to Dam Square and the Koninklijk Paleis (walk time depending on the number of tourists, at least). After checking out the goings-on in the square, it’s time to go to the Paleis op de Dam and explore one of the royal family’s palaces. Since this palace is only used occasionally for receptions and events, it tends to be open the majority of the year. Double-check that it’s open online before you go, though!
You can buy your ticket at the Royal Palace and there’s usually not much of a queue, but you can always buy it online in advance to get access to the priority lane. Don’t forget to pick up an audio guide before you head up the stairs to the Citizen’s Hall. The palace is seriously impressive and some of my favourite spots were the Citizen’s Hall and the marble galleries – I wonder if they need someone to housesit…?
After wishing you were royalty at the palace, walk for 12 minutes to the famous Dancing Houses or take tram 14 from Dam to Rembrandtplein. The best spot for photos of these ‘dancing’ (aka unequal sinking of the wood pillars on which they stand into the swampy ground below) houses is opposite on Staalkade or ‘s Gravelandseveer, a quick walk across the Halvemaansbrug.
Once you’ve amused yourself at how crooked all the old houses are, it’s time to get your flower fix of the day at the Bloemenmarkt, the world’s only floating flower market. It’s only a quick 5-minute walk from the Dancing Houses and you’re there. The shops are located inside a row of floating barges and whatever the weather, they’re beautifully colourful. The first time I visited, I didn’t even really notice they were floating as from the front they look like pretty normal stalls! There aren’t many places selling fresh flowers as they mostly sell bulbs and seeds, but nowadays most stalls also offer plastic and wooden flowers as well as other souvenirs, like magnets and postcards.
A 5-minute walk from the Bloemenmarkt, you can also find the FOAM museum (Fotografiemuseum Amsterdam) that has four different exhibitions that usually change every quarter, such as street, fashion, glamour, and documentary photography, as well as highlighting young and up-and-coming photographers.
If you have time, head to the beautiful area of De Negen Straatjes and visit the Huis Marseille, Museum for Photography, which was the first photography museum in the Netherlands. There are 13 exhibition spaces and the exhibitions usually feature documentary photography. Before exploring De Negen Straatjes or the photography museum, enjoy a coffee or a snack at Ree 7 or Koffiespot. There is also an art gallery and coffee shop called Cloud Gallery that is well worth a visit.
From the Bloemenmarkt it’s only 7 minutes by foot to get to Huis Marseille and less than 10 minutes to the ‘9 Little Streets’.
Huis Marseille, Museum for Photography: open 11am – 6pm every day except Mondays. Entry is €9 for adults, €4.50 for students and seniors and free for under 18s.
FOAM: open 10am – 6pm Saturday to Wednesday and 10am – 9pm on Thursdays and Fridays. Entry is €12.50 for adults, €9.50 for students and free for under 12s.
By now, you have probably exhausted how much you can physically look at walls so it’s time to explore Amsterdam in a completely different way – by canal boat! If you prefer, first head for dinner at Poke Perfect, PANCAKES Amsterdam or Vegabond.
If you’d prefer to enjoy some food and drinks on a canal cruise, don’t miss the Dutch Cheese & Wine Cruise. Snack on some cheese, bread and olives while enjoying a delicious glass of wine or two as you cruise along Amsterdam’s beautiful canals.
Itinerary for History Lovers
- Ons’ Lieve Heer op Solder
- De Koffieschenkerij/Oude Kerk
- Anne Frank House
- Rosa Overbeekbrug
- Café Chris
- Koninklijk Paleis
- Het Papeneiland
- Canal Cruise
Begin your day at the Rijksmuseum on Museumplein (trams 2, 5 and 12 take you to the Rijksmuseum stop and trams 1, 7 and 19 to Spiegelgracht stop). Arrive early to enjoy the museum without too many other people around – the museum opens at 9am so 9-10am is a perfect time to arrive. Don’t forget to buy your tickets online in advance!
Enjoy breakfast or coffee at the Rijksmuseum Cafe and don’t forget to download the Rijksmuseum app as well. Follow one of the pre-made itineraries/routes or take yourself on a self-guided tour. It’s recommended to start your visit to the museum in the Gallery of Honour, as this is where it gets the busiest. Don’t miss the Asian Pavilion, where you’ll find works of art from all over the Asian content, including the former Dutch colonies like Indonesia.
Spend around 1.5-2 hours exploring the Rijksmuseum before heading towards Amsterdam Centraal and Damrak. Take metro 52 from Vijzelgracht to Centraal Station or tram 12 from stop Rijksmuseum to Nieuwezijds Kolk. See the iconic canal houses on the remaining part of the canal at the Damrak before walking for a few minutes to reach the Ons’ Lieve Heer op Solder museum.
Learn more about the history of the Dutch Reformation and how non-Protestants weren’t allowed to practice their faith in public. While some Catholics fled into exile, others remained in the Netherlands and practised in secret. They built ‘secret’ churches in attics or accessible through hidden passageways and one of the top museums for seeing an excellent example of a house church is Ons’ Lieve Heer op Solder, or ‘Our Dear Lord in the Attic’.
From the museum, it’s about a one minute walk (long, I know) to get to the Oude Kerk and De Koffieschenkerij. Enjoy a coffee and a piece of cake or apple pie (or maybe some lunch) before exploring Amsterdam’s oldest church. You can usually climb the church tower but, currently, it is closed for renovation. Check here to see if it has reopened!
From the Oude Kerk, you can get to the Anne Frank House museum by tram 17 (Nieuwezijds Kolk to Westermarkt) or walking (13 minutes). Make sure to have bought your ticket in advance as it’s very tricky to get them the same day! Your ticket will be valid for a specific time slot to make sure to be there on time. The museum takes around 1-1.5 hours to visit and can be very emotional.
After the museum, head to one of the prettiest bridges in Amsterdam’s Jordaan district. This little bridge provides beautiful views over the canals to a church at the end and makes for a peaceful canal photo. To get to Rosa Overbeekbrug, it’s less than 5 minutes by foot from the Anne Frank House museum.
Once you have taken some iconic canal photos and explored a bit of Jordaan, head to the nearby Café Chris, the oldest café in Jordaan! This bruin café was established in 1624 so visit for a cold Amstel, some snacks or to play some pool. The café bar doesn’t open until 3pm so it’s a perfect afternoon spot after your day of museums.
It’s only a ten-minute walk from Café Chris to the Koninklijk Paleis (Royal Palace) and I would recommend arriving there around 3:30/4pm so you have enough time to explore the palace before it closes at 5pm. An hour is a good amount of time to explore the palace while listening to the audio guide but you could definitely spend longer if you have the time!
From the palace, you can then either walk for around 12-15 minutes or hop in an Uber (3 minutes, around €7-10) to get to Het Papeneiland. This is another traditional Dutch pub that has an interesting history surrounding the Dutch Reformation. Make sure to enjoy a slice of their delicious apple pie while you are there!
You can then head to the canal cruise departure points from Het Papeneiland for an evening canal cruise – it’s about 10 minutes to the mooring stop so once you’ve enjoyed your apple pie and a hot drink or a beer, head off for an evening cruise of Amsterdam’s beautiful canals!
Itinerary for Outdoors Lovers
- Albert Cuypmarkt
- Wake Me Up When I’m Famous Bench
- Rosa Overbeekbrug
- Dam Square
- Vegan Junk Food Bar
- Dancing Houses
- Hortus Botanicus
- Brouwerij De Prael
- Small Open Boat Canal Cruise
Itinerary for Night Owls
- Koninklijk Paleis
- Cafe het Paleis
- Rosa Overbeekbrug
- De 9 Straatjes
- Rijksmuseum (3pm)
- De Koffieschenkerij
- Red Light District tour with PIC (5pm)
- And/or Red Light Secrets: Museum of Prostitution
- 1.5-hour Canal Cruise OR Burger Cruise
- Brouwerij De Prael
- Door 74
Itinerary for Early Birds
- Rijksmuseum (9am)
- Koninklijk Paleis (10:30am)
- Cafe het Paleis
- De 9 Straatjes
- Albert Cuypmarkt
- Wake Me Up When I’m Famous Bench
- Vegan Junk Food Bar
- 1.5-hour Canal Cruise
‘Alternative’ Amsterdam Itinerary
- Albert Cuypmarkt
- Rosa Overbeekbrug
- Het Papeneiland
- Museum Ons’ Lieve Heer op Solder
- Red Light Secrets
- De Koffieschenkerij
- Red Light District tour with PIC
- Cruise from Amsterdam Noord
- Door 74
I hope you enjoyed this article and the sample itineraries – I do hope they come in handy on a visit to Amsterdam! If you only have one day in Amsterdam then these are definitely a great way of spending the short time you have there.
Let me know in the comments what you would have on your Amsterdam itinerary!
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