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How to Spend One Day in Amsterdam

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View of terraced townhouses across a river in Amsterdam Netherlands around sunset in spring with a canal boat on the watyer in front. One day in Amsterdam.

Only have one day in Amsterdam? Here are some of my top tips to help you make the most of the city.

On my first trip to Amsterdam (many years ago now) I only had 24 hours to explore the city.

I was worried that that wouldn’t be enough time – and in some ways I was right. There was still so much more to do – and I’ve been back several times since then to complete all the things I felt I missed.

However, my one day and night in the city was enough time to see all the main sights, visit one or two museums, take a canal cruise, browse three markets, and wander the infamous Red District after dark. And, of course, eat a LOT of amazing food!

So if you only have a day to explore the Dutch capital, rest assured that you can still see and do a lot. Below, you’ll find my top tips to help you make the most of your time – along with a quick guide to all the top, “can’t miss” sights for your first trip to the city.

One thing I will say – you’re bound to leave Amsterdam wanting to come back for more!

Top Experiences in Amsterdam
Canal cruise tour of the city centre sights (1 hour)
Red Light District & Coffee Shop Tour (2 hours)
Heineken Experience (1.5 hours)

Is One Day Enough for Amsterdam?

On my first trip to Amsterdam, I was there for a work conference (way back when I still had a “real” job) and had exactly 24 hours of free time to explore the city! And I can confirm – you absolutely can see Amsterdam in one day.

View along a canal from a bridge at night with boats moored along either side of the canal and a lit up tower at the end of the canal

The centre is quite small, so you can cover a lot of ground on foot (or by bike), and there’s an excellent public transport network if you want to get a little further.

Start with a walking or biking tour – or a canal cruise – to cover a few of the main sights in a couple of hours. Then visit one or two of the city’s many fantastic museums (the Rijksmuseum, Van Gogh Museum, and Anne Frank House are among the most popular).

Finally, spend your afternoon freely wandering along the canals and down the picturesque streets of the Old Town and the city centre.

RELATED POST: If you have longer, check out this great 3 days in Amsterdam itinerary!

Tips for your One Day in Amsterdam

view of a square stone builing with a modern glass extension next to a canal with both buildings reflected in the water - the anne frank house and museum in amsterdam
Anne Frank House and Holocaust Museum

1. Pre-book tickets for museums in advance. Don’t spend your only day in Amsterdam queuing to enter a museum. Most museums offer pre-bookable tickets with a timed entry slot, which is a great idea if you’re on a short schedule. Some museums are very popular – so try to book as far in advance as you can.

2. Amsterdam’s centre is compact and very walkable, so you can cover a lot of ground on foot. If you want to go a little further, you can rent a bike for around £7 an hour (click here to check prices and availability).

3. Book a one-day GVB Public Transport Ticket (from £7.84pp) for unlimited travel on all trams, buses, ferries and the metro (day and night). This will allow you to get to further areas of the city as quickly and effortlessly as possible.

4. Use the 1-Day Go City All-Inclusive Pass (from £51.42pp) for unlimited access to Amsterdam’s main attractions, saving money against buying individual tickets. You can also use the Go City app to plan your itinerary and make reservations when necessary.

One Day in Amsterdam: Best Tours to Make the Most of Your Time

When you’re short on time in a city, a tour is a great way to see and learn a lot quickly. These tours will allow you to soak up the main sights of Amsterdam in a couple of hours – the perfect way to start your one-day itinerary:

Top Sights in Amsterdam

Exterior of a grand old palace built from red brick with beige trim on a sunny day in amsterdam with blue sky above
The Rijksmuseum is a must-see

This is a very quick list of all the must-see sights you’ll want to include on your one day in Amsterdam:

1. Rijksmuseum. The country’s largest collection of art and artefacts, housed within a stunning neo-Gothic building. Time needed: allow at least one hour.

Tip: Even if you don’t have time to visit the Rijksmuseum, it’s worth heading to Museumplein (Museum Square) for a look at the striking, palatial building.

2. Anne Frank House. Explore the rooms where teenager Anne Frank and her family lived in hiding, and learn more about the Holocaust. It’s a powerful and very moving experience. Time needed: one to two hours.

Anne Frank Statue

Tip: Don’t miss nearby Westerkerk, a 17th-century protestant church frequently mentioned in Anne Frank’s diary, outside of which you can see a small bronze statue of Anne.

3. Van Gogh Museum: Modern, specially-built museum housing the world’s largest collection of Vincent Van Gogh’s work. Time needed: allow around 1.5 hours.

4. Oude Kerk. The “Old Church”, which has stood in Amsterdam’s city centre since 1306. The medieval wooden vault, dating from 1390, is the largest in Europe. Time needed: Less than 30 minutes, unless you climb the bell tower for a view of the city.

large white stone monument with a tall stone cilindar rising up towards a clear blue sky in a cobbled stone public square with a large stone palace out of focus behind
National Monument and the Royal Palace in Dam Square

5. Dam Square and the Royal Palace. Dam Square is Amsterdam’s pretty main square – and a tourist hotspot. Usually heaving with tourists, locals, and street performers, the square is home to several notable buildings, including the Royal Palace (Koninklijk Palace), the Grand Hotel Krasnapolsky, and the National Memorial statue, built in the memory of Dutch soldiers who died in WWII.

Tip: If you have time, you can also explore inside the Royal Palace. Click here to pre-book your Entry Ticket and Audio Guide (from £10.89pp).

More Amsterdam Experiences You Shouldn’t Miss

canal in amsterdam on a winters day with some bare trees lining the canal and a row of tall terraced townhouses with gabled roofs
Exploring the canals in Amsterdam on my first trip (many years ago!)

6. Visit The Heineken Experience. Amsterdam is the home of the iconic Dutch beer. The Heineken Experience is an interactive tour of their former brewery, ending at the tasting room. Click here to pre-book your ticket (from £20.04pp).

7. Cruise the Canals. Amsterdam is famous for its canals, and the best way to experience them is by taking a cruise. There are plenty to choose from, but these are some of the top-rated:

8. Explore The Red Light District. Famous for its brothels, strip clubs, peep shows, and erotic shops, Amsterdam’s iconic Red Light District isn’t quite as seedy as it sounds. Exploring, even at night, is generally quite safe and there’s a surprisingly friendly atmosphere! A trip to this area at the heart of the medieval town centre is pretty eye-opening.

Tip: Book a guided tour to find out more about the history of sex work and coffee shops in Amsterdam’s most infamous neighbourhood.

9. Eat your way around the Foodhallen. A vast, trendy food hall housed within a former tram depot, with stalls offering a variety of world foods.

10. Visit a Coffeeshop. Amsterdam’s coffeeshops are legendary – because they sell a whole lot more than just coffee! Cannabis is legal in the Netherlands and it’s sold in coffeeshops – which are marked out by a green and white sticker in the window (and often large green neon signs as well!).

Tip: Take a more in-depth look and get some insider info with this Guided Coffee Shop Tour (from £30.50pp).

Visit at Least One of these Brilliant Markets…

If you want to pick up some souvenirs while you’re in Amsterdam, you’re in luck. The city is FULL of great markets to explore. Here are some to add to your itinerary:

three bikes against a metal fence next to a canal with a row of market stalls on the far side decorated with photos of greenhouse interiors

Bloemenmarkt. The “floating flower market” which lines the Singel Canal. On daily.

Waterlooplein flea market. From the Singel, walk along the Amstel canal to Waterlooplein Square – crossing the love lock bridge on the way. This is a bustling market filled with antiques, second-hand shoes, homemade clothes, and endless trestle tables laden with bric-a-brac. Monday-Saturday 9:30am-6pm.

Albert Cuyp Market. This is a lovely – and very popular – local market selling almost everything, from food and textiles to bikes and antiques. Monday-Saturday 9:30am-5pm.

Tip: Don’t miss the British and American food shop on nearby Leedesgrat for a taste of home!

Prebook Your Museum Tickets

What did you do on your one day in Amsterdam? Scroll down to share your tips in the comments!


16 thoughts on “How to Spend One Day in Amsterdam”

  1. Unfortunately, all I’ve seen of Amsterdam is the airport and whatever was along a train route. In the days before smart phones and wifi, a big storm caused us to miss a Singapore Air flight on the way to a wedding with a large group of friends. Singapore Air doesn’t do the New York to Frankfurt flight everyday, so we just had to catch the first flight across the pond, which was to Amsterdam. For the next three days, we drug our luggage to more kinds of transportation than you can shake a stick at. Meanwhile, the friends frolicked at a five star hotel. We missed all the community singing and the evergreens over the door way, but we showed up just as they were clearing the dishes from the rehearsal dinner.

    When I think of Amsterdam, I think of a kiosk of phones we tried to use in the airport. Since we were supposed to be traveling with the bride and groom, the only thing we had that told us where we were supposed to be was the wedding invitation – and no one in Amsterdam had any clue where the city named on the invitation was. The only other thing we had was the groom’s father’s telephone number, so we tried to call it. We stuck everything we had into every slot on the phones and we weren’t having any luck at all. No operators, no dial tone, nothing! Finally, we did something we’d done before a dozen times and it worked. Thank goodness!

    At least we made it in time for the wedding. Then we spent the next week in Bavaria with our friends. The trip was almost twenty years ago and it is still one of the highlights of our lives – but Amsterdam? I just start laughing.

  2. We were much luckier with the weather when we visited the city over the May Bank holiday

  3. Great stuff – I feel exhausted after reading that! It’s the ideal big city for wandering around aimlessly – you can just about see it all in a day, and as you say it’s great for little cages and bars.

    1. Thank you! It was an exhausting day – my feet were killing me by the time I got on the plane! But it’s a great city to look around, and if you plan ahead you can definitely pack a lot into one day!

      Thanks for the inspiration!!

  4. Sounds like a great itinerary, its so easy to just tell yourself that 1 day isn’t enough to see a city, but getting out there, I always realize how much you can do in a short time!

    1. Thanks for commenting! A day doesn’t seem that long when you just go to work and go home to bed (like I unfortunately do most days) but you can actually get a lot done in one day! Definitely helps being alone as well – I can match around very efficiently when I set my mind to it!

      1. It really puts things into perspective to see just how much can happen in one day. It always feels weird to go back to the same work/home/bed routine (I unfortunately fall into as well) afterwards!

    2. Hi there,
      A few minor corrections..;)

      Grtz, Milan

      Prisengracht – Prinsengracht
      Radhuisstraat – Raadhuisstraat
      Liedesplein – Leidseplein

    3. You packed so much into your day! We had much better weather on our trip which meant we tended to relax more at cafes on the canals and took all more slowly. Lovely, lovely city and a great post here :)

      1. Thank you :)

        I think the thing that helped me get around so quickly was the fact that I was by myself! If I’d been with my boyfriend or friends I’d probably have spent a lot more time chilling out and a lot less time marching around!

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