How to Make the Most of One Day in Amsterdam

Sometimes, you only have 24 hours to explore a city, especially if you plan an overnight layover or are driving through during your honeymoon. If you’re intimated by a short itinerary, ours for one day in Amsterdam is the perfect place to start.

How to Make the Most of One Day in Amsterdam

This guest post is by Kristin Secor, the full-time blogger behind World on Wheels. During her visit to Amsterdam, she fell in love with the city and wants to help others explore it as well. This post also has affiliate links.

Is one day in Amsterdam enough?

Are you short on time but still want to experience the magic of Amsterdam? Don’t worry, it’s absolutely possible to see some of the city’s popular sights with limited time. While there are many ways to spend one day in Amsterdam, this post will share the best itinerary to allow you to experience the highlights of the city.

How to Get to Amsterdam

1. Book a cruise ship excursion that ports in the Netherlands.

Amsterdam is a popular stop for many cruise ships on a Northern European itinerary. While some ships dock directly in Amsterdam, others may choose to have Rotterdam as their port of call. If the latter is the case, the ships almost always offer excursions to Amsterdam. Additionally, these tours are either guided or allow you to have free time on your own in the city.

However, the downside to arriving by cruise ship is that you will most likely not have a full day to spend in Amsterdam. Some ships have limited time in port. As a result, you will miss out on the iconic nightlife that Amsterdam has to offer.

However, if cruising to the city is the most convenient for you, Amsterdam is worth visiting even with these constraints. Therefore, you will still get to see some of the highlights during your brief time.

2. Arrive at the Amsterdam Train Station.

Amsterdam is fairly centrally located to other popular cities in Europe and has an excellent train system. Therefore, this makes visiting the city by train ideal either as a day trip or en route to your next stop.

The train station is within easy walking distance to the best Amsterdam tourist attractions. Alternatively, it is also easy to catch a tram from there (with the major lines having stops just outside the station).

If you and your partner are traveling with luggage, there are also storage lockers available in the East Wing. The cost is about 7 euros for 24 hours.

Amsterdam Train Station

When planning what to see in Amsterdam in one day, arriving early by train is a helpful start.

3. Take a flight to the Netherlands.

Lastly, you can also arrive in the city by flying. There is a train from the airport that will take you directly into Amsterdam for a convenient layover or quick one-day trip. 

If you are on a long layover, just make sure to leave plenty of time to go back through security when you arrive back at the airport.  A good tip is to set an alarm on your phone to ensure you don’t lose track of time (which will be easy to do).

Travel Tip:  Visiting a destination on a long layover is a great way to see more places while saving money on your flights.  It’s one tool you can use to book cheap flights anywhere.

Discover Unique Items

4 Must Dos if You Have One Day in Amsterdam

Let’s make the most of your time in the city with this Amsterdam one-day itinerary. Along with these highlights, there are some options listed so you and your significant other can also personalize this experience to fit your interests best.

1. Visit Dam Square.

This bustling square serves as the heart of the city, adorned with iconic landmarks and surrounded by a rich tapestry of history. For example, visitors can marvel at the grandeur of the Royal Palace, which showcases opulent interiors and Dutch Golden Age artistry. Nearby, the Nieuwe Kerk (New Church) stands as a testament to Dutch history, hosting exhibitions and cultural events.

Additionally, Dam Square offers a dynamic atmosphere with street performers, bustling markets, and a constant buzz of activity. The National Monument, a tribute to World War II, stands tall at the center of the square, symbolizing remembrance and resilience.

How to Get to Dam Square

Dam Square is a short and easy walk from the train station. It’s approximately 750 meters away, which would be around 10 to 15 minutes on foot, depending on your pace.

Optional One Day in Amsterdam Itinerary Consideration

If you would like to go inside the palace, it is advised to allow around 1 to 1.5 hours to explore the main rooms, galleries, and exhibitions. This allows enough time to admire the opulent interiors, intricate architecture, and historical significance of the palace.

It’s also a good idea to consider any guided tours or audio guides available, as they can offer valuable insights and potentially influence the duration of the visit.  Finally, save time by getting skip-the-line tickets in advance.

Dam Square Amsterdam at Night

What to do in one day in Amsterdam? Visit Dam Square for a taste of the city.

2. Take a canal cruise.

A canal cruise offers a quintessential and picturesque way to explore the city’s enchanting waterways. It also provides a unique vantage point, allowing travelers to admire Amsterdam’s UNESCO-listed canal ring, an architectural marvel that showcases the city’s rich history and stunning scenery.

This leisurely boat ride offers a serene and immersive experience. It’s romantic to float by famous landmarks, charming bridges, historic merchant houses, and picturesque streets lined with unique houseboats.

Additionally, a cruise offers fascinating insights into the city’s heritage, providing commentary on Amsterdam’s evolution, its cultural significance, and the engineering marvels behind the canal system.

Furthermore, a canal cruise is a fantastic way to get your bearings of the city. It will allow you to see a lot in a short amount of time (typically 1-2 hours long). So, you get a quick overview of the city. As a result, this will help you to identify places you may want to go back to and explore more later on when you’re there for longer than an Amsterdam one-day trip.

How to Get to a Canal Cruise

There are numerous docks and departure options for tours.  However, if you have limited mobility or a wheelchair user, you will need to head to the dock at Stadhouderskade 501. This dock is opposite the Hard Rock Cafe and a short walking distance from the Rijksmuseum.  

Make sure to book your tickets in advance to get your desired date and time. Additionally, look at your confirmation voucher to see where the meeting place or scheduled departure location is.

Canal Cruise in Amsterdam City

If you’re wondering how to spend one day in Amsterdam, boarding a canal cruise is a quick way to hit the highlights.

3. Stop by the Anne Frank House.

A visit to the Anne Frank House is crucial for its profound historical significance and educational value. It offers an impactful experience, allowing visitors to delve into the poignant story of Anne Frank and her family’s life in hiding during World War II.

This museum preserves the secret annex where Anne Frank wrote her famous diary. Plus, it offers sobering insight into the harsh realities of the Holocaust and the bravery of those who sought refuge there. Beyond its historical significance, the Anne Frank House serves as a testament to human resilience. Additionally, it exemplifies the enduring relevance of Anne Frank’s message of hope, tolerance, and the fight against discrimination.

Visitors should expect to spend around 1.5 to 2 hours exploring the museum. This timeframe allows enough time to tour the museum, view the exhibits, and learn about Anne Frank’s life. A sobering topic includes the Holocaust as you absorb the emotional impact of this poignant historical site.

The museum’s layout and the narrative provided through exhibits and audio-visual materials contribute to a comprehensive understanding of the Frank family’s story and the broader historical context. Therefore, allocating sufficient time for a thoughtful and reflective visit to the Anne Frank House is essential. That way, you can fully grasp its significance and honor the memory of Anne Frank and the millions affected by the Holocaust.

Important Visitor Information

Tickets can only be purchased in advance online, and they go on sale two months prior to the date of your visit.  For example, if you plan to go to the museum on May 10th, then tickets for that date will go on sale on March 10th.

This is an extremely popular place to visit in Amsterdam, and tickets will sell out quickly. So, make sure to mark your calendar and be prepared to have flexible entry times.

Additionally, for those with mobility problems, please note that the museum is partially accessible. While it may not be possible to visit the annex where Anne and her family hid, the museum where her original diary is held is accessible. Furthermore, the museum offers a virtual reality tour for individuals who are unable to climb the steep annex staircase.

Anne Frank House Exterior

What to do one day in Amsterdam? Be sure to see the Anne Frank House when you visit.

4. Visit a world-renowned art museum.

Amsterdam boasts world-class art museums housing a vast array of masterpieces, providing an opportunity to admire renowned artworks by well-known artists while immersing oneself in diverse art movements. Additionally, an art museum visit allows travelers to appreciate the cultural significance and aesthetic beauty of Dutch and international art, fostering a deeper understanding of artistic evolution and historical contexts.

You will only have time to visit one of the fantastic art museum options in Amsterdam. Therefore, top choices include the Rijksmuseum, the Van Gogh Museum, and the Stedelijk Museum.

The Rijksmuseum showcases an impressive collection of Dutch Golden Age paintings. The collection includes works by Rembrandt, Vermeer, and Frans Hals, along with decorative arts, sculptures, and artifacts spanning various eras. Visitors can expect to spend around 2 to 3 hours exploring the Rijksmuseum’s extensive collection.

Alternatively, the Van Gogh Museum houses the largest collection of artworks by Vincent van Gogh. As a result, it features his famous paintings, sketches, and personal correspondence, providing a profound insight into the artist’s life and creative journey. A visit here typically takes around 1.5 to 2 hours to appreciate the depth and breadth of Van Gogh’s work.

Lastly, the Stedelijk Museum focuses on modern and contemporary art. Additionally, it houses works by influential artists like Piet Mondrian, Kazimir Malevich, and Willem de Kooning, among others. Visitors can anticipate spending around 1.5 to 2 hours exploring the Stedelijk Museum’s diverse and thought-provoking collections.

One Day in Amsterdam Itinerary Alternative

If you are not a fan of art, you can opt to do a walking tour of the city instead.  A guided tour of the city will allow you to learn more about its history and see additional significant historical sites.  

Some tours have a World War II or Jewish History theme, while others will help you get a general overview of the city.  There are even food walking tours if you want the ins and outs of the best places to eat and local delicacies.

Amsterdam Museum to See

Have one day in Amsterdam? What to do, should definitely include a museum stop!

4 Add-ons for 24 Hours in Amsterdam.

If you’ve been to Amsterdam before or just want a little bit of a different experience than the above suggestions, here are four more options for spending your time in the city. You can choose one or two from the list below, depending on what suits your time constraints.

1. Learn about the Red Light District.

Yes, it’s controversial. However, adding a visit to the Red Light District introduces visitors to an intriguing and culturally significant aspect of the city. While unconventional, this area provides a unique glimpse into Amsterdam’s liberal and open-minded character, showcasing a part of the city’s history and contemporary culture.

Exploring the Red Light District doesn’t solely revolve around the taboo. But it also encompasses various aspects of Amsterdam’s cultural fabric. Visitors can wander through the narrow alleys, observe the iconic window displays, and learn about the district’s rich history and ongoing debates regarding legalization and social issues.

It is important to be respectful when visiting this area. Even if you do not agree with the laws and practices, please do not harass others.

Red Light District Amsterdam

Be careful when adding the Red Light District to your Amsterdam one-day trip.

2. Explore the Zannse Schans.

A visit to Zaanse Schans is highly recommended for a captivating glimpse into Dutch heritage and culture. This open-air museum, located just a short distance from Amsterdam, offers a condensed yet immersive experience showcasing the iconic Dutch countryside.

It will transport you back in time with its well-preserved windmills, historic houses, and traditional Dutch crafts. In a single-day trip, travelers can witness the age-old craft of wooden clog-making and observe working windmills that once powered sawmills and oil presses. You can also explore museums that provide insights into the region’s industrial history.

Just note that if you plan to visit this beautiful area, it will take most of your short time in Amsterdam.

How to Get to Zaanse Schans

From Amsterdam Central Station, travelers can take a direct train to the nearby station of Koog-Zaandijk. This is the closest train station to Zaanse Schans. Trains from Amsterdam Central to Koog-Zaandijk run frequently, with a journey duration of approximately 15-20 minutes.

Upon arriving at Koog-Zaandijk station, visitors can catch Bus 391, operated by Connexxion, which travels directly to Zaanse Schans. The bus stop is conveniently located outside the train station, and the ride to Zaanse Schans takes 10 minutes. The bus service runs regularly throughout the day, offering a convenient connection between Koog-Zaandijk station and Zaanse Schans.

Zaanse Schans Netherlands

You may be wondering, “How can I spend one day in Amsterdam?” Adding a trip to Zaanse Schans may impact your time in the city.

3. See the beauty of Keukenhof Gardens from late March to early May.

A visit to Keukenhof Gardens remains an exquisite and unforgettable experience. Although it’s a bit further from the city, Keukenhof’s proximity and the sheer beauty it offers make it a worthwhile day trip.

Known as the “Garden of Europe,” Keukenhof boasts an impressive display of vibrant tulips and other breathtaking flowers spread across meticulously landscaped gardens. The sight of millions of blooming flowers, especially the iconic tulips in a myriad of colors, creates a mesmerizing and picturesque scene that epitomizes the Netherlands’ floral splendor.

How to Get There

The most convenient and efficient route typically involves catching a direct bus from Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport to Keukenhof. Travelers can board the Keukenhof Express (Bus 858) from Schiphol Airport.

Typically this route operates during the Keukenhof Gardens’ open season, usually from late March to mid-May. The journey takes approximately 30-40 minutes, offering a comfortable and direct ride to the gardens.

Keukenhof Gardens Netherlands

Seeing Amsterdam in 24 hours should include a stop to see the tulips in bloom.

4. Do a classic Heineken Experience.

This engaging brewery tour offers a captivating journey through the history, heritage, and brewing process of one of the world’s most renowned beer brands, Heineken. Lasting around 1.5 to 2 hours, the Heineken Experience combines interactive exhibits and multimedia presentations. It also includes a behind-the-scenes look at the brewery’s operations.

Participants can learn about the beer-making techniques, ingredients, and the brand’s evolution. Additionally, guests get the chance to taste freshly brewed Heineken beer. The experience is both entertaining and informative. Plus, it offers insights into Dutch brewing traditions and the global success story of Heineken.

Heineken Experience

The Heineken Experience adds an element of fun to an Amsterdam one-day itinerary.

How to Get Around Amsterdam

In general, Amsterdam is a very walkable city making it quite easy to navigate. However, one of the most popular ways to get around is by bicycle. You will see them everywhere (so be careful if you do walk) with dedicated bike lanes. If you’d like to act like a local and cycle your way through the city, rentals are available.

Alternatively, you can also use the trams that are available throughout the city, offering easy use and connections. The newer trams are even wheelchair accessible. Just look for the wheelchair icon to show you the accessible entrance.

Where to Stay in Amsterdam

If you happen to have time to spend the night after your day in Amsterdam, you’ll want a centrally located hotel. As a result, you’ll have easy access to the train station (either to get to the airport or your next destination). Below are two great options for you to consider.

DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Amsterdam Centraal Station

The DoubleTree hotel offers comfortable rooms and is centrally located. In fact, trams and metro stations are less than 2 minutes away, while Amsterdam Schiphol Airport is 20 minutes away by train or car. The famous Dam Square is 5 minutes away.

A restaurant is located on-site if you want to grab a quick breakfast before you leave.

Radisson Blu Hotel, Amsterdam City Center

Located near Dam Square, the Radisson Blu is close to popular sights, bars, and restaurants. There is also an excellent breakfast buffet giving you the chance to refuel before your departure. Rooms are clean and designed for you to be able to rest and relax after a day of exploring Amsterdam.

How to Spend a Day in Amsterdam

How many days should I stay in Amsterdam? Even one day will give you a good taste of the canals and rowhomes.

4. Foods to Try During Your 1 Day in Amsterdam

Trying local dishes is a smart way to immerse yourself in the culture of a place. When in Amsterdam, here are some popular foods for you to try.

1. Split Pea Soup

Indulging in a bowl of split pea soup, known locally as erwtensoep or snert, is an essential culinary experience that offers a tantalizing taste of Dutch tradition. This hearty and flavorful dish contains ingredients like split peas, smoked sausage, pork, and vegetables. However, vegetarian versions are also available.

Many restaurants, cafes, and street vendors across Amsterdam offer split pea soup. You can find it easily, making it a convenient dish to try while exploring the city.

2. Stroopwafel

Originating in the Netherlands, particularly in Gouda, Stroopwafels have become an iconic treat synonymous with Dutch culture and hospitality. Their irresistible aroma often wafts through Amsterdam’s streets, drawing in locals and tourists alike.

Whether purchased fresh from street vendors or enjoyed in cafes, the experience of biting into a warm, freshly made Stroopwafel is unparalleled. The combination of the slightly chewy caramel filling and the crispiness of the waffle creates a delightful harmony. As a result, it leaves a lasting impression of sweet indulgence.

If you have a sweet tooth, you must try the Stroopwafel!

Stroopwafel in Amsterday One Day Itinerary

Can you go to Amsterdam for one day? You can if you’re powered by Stroopwafels!

3. Gouda Cheese

Gouda, a world-renowned Dutch cheese, holds a revered place in the country’s gastronomic tradition. Known for its rich and creamy texture, Gouda cheese comes in various ages, ranging from mild to extra-aged, each offering distinct flavors that captivate the taste buds.

Sampling Gouda cheese in Amsterdam provides a direct link to its origins in the town of Gouda, located not far from the city. The cheese’s availability is widespread across Amsterdam. Therefore, there are numerous cheese shops, markets, and specialty stores proudly showcasing an extensive array of Gouda varieties.

4. Dutch Pancakes

Trying Dutch pancakes, known as “pannenkoeken,” is a must. These pancakes differ from the American variety, being larger, thinner, and often served with a variety of sweet or savory toppings.

Whether topped with powdered sugar, fresh fruits, Nutella, cheese, bacon, or other savory ingredients, Dutch pancakes cater to diverse tastes and preferences. Moreover, these pancakes are typically light and airy. This makes them perfect for any time of day, be it breakfast, lunch, or dinner.

Popular locations to try this treat include The Pancake Bakery in the city center, which offers an extensive menu featuring both traditional and innovative pancake options. It is often bustling with locals and tourists alike.

Additionally, places like De Vier Pilaren, Pancakes Amsterdam, and Upstairs Pannenkoekenhuis serve up delicious variations of Dutch pancakes. Visiting these places allows visitors to indulge in this tasty treat while exploring different neighborhoods of Amsterdam.

City Scene Bikes Rowhomes Amsterdam

Amsterdam is stunning at any time of year! Although 24 hours in the city is a short time, you can get a small taste.

Amsterdam FAQs

Is 1 day in Amsterdam enough?

Let’s face it, you’re not going to see everything that Amsterdam has to offer in just one day. To really experience the city, it is recommended to spend about four days in Amsterdam. As a result, this will allow you to enjoy the city as well as fit in a day trip to a nearby area.

Is Amsterdam worth visiting for just 1 day?

While you won’t get to do everything in a day, it will give you a taste of all that Amsterdam has to offer.  Trust me when I say you’ll be planning your next trip to the city, likely before you even leave.  

Furthermore, Amsterdam is such an iconic and wonderful city that it would be a shame to miss it just because you can’t squeeze everything in. For this reason, it is 100% worth visiting, even if you only have one day.

When to Visit Amsterdam?

Amsterdam has something to offer no matter when you choose to visit. However, the most popular times are spring and summer. Spring is for the famous tulip season, and summer is for the nicer weather.

However, fall is likely to bring fewer crowds and allow you to see all the main sights.  Winter can be wonderful if you want to experience the Christmas markets that the city offers.

Essentially, there is no wrong time to visit the city.  It will depend on what type of weather you are looking for and if there are any seasonal events that are important for you to see.

Activities for Your 24 Hours in Amsterdam

Save how to spend one day in Amsterdam!

While one day in Amsterdam won’t be enough to see everything, this post will help you make the most of your time. No matter when you choose to visit, I’m confident that you will fall in love with this iconic town and want to come back again. Have a great trip!

24 Hours in AmsterdamOne Day in Amsterdam

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