How to Spend One Day in Amsterdam: An Itinerary For First-Time Visitors

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Have One Day in Amsterdam? Here’s What to See, Do, and Eat!

Heading for Amsterdam and only have a day to explore? Maybe you have an Amsterdam layover? Whatever the reason, there is plenty to do and see in Amsterdam in a day – in fact, there’s too much to do!

We enjoy Amsterdam whenever we visit. Considering we lived in the Netherlands for a couple years, it’s a city we have gotten to know quite a bit! We can agree that 24 hours in Amsterdam could be a busy venture – so that’s why we planned one out for you.

Whether you want to tour the city on a walking tour, visit top attractions like the Anne Frank House yourself, or enjoy a classic canal cruise, we’ve covered many of the popular activities and even provided places we loved to eat, drink, and grab an afternoon treat!

Amsterdam Tours

If you don’t want to navigate Amsterdam yourself, another excellent way to see Amsterdam if you are short on time is with a guided tour. Amsterdam has many different tours to choose from to get different perspectives of the city.

Breakfast at Greenwoods

Navigation Address: Keizersgracht 465, 1017 DK Amsterdam, Netherlands

red awning over breakfast place entrance with sidewalk in front.
Can’t miss Greenwoods with the red awning by the Canal!

It’s early in Amsterdam and that means one thing: breakfast at the Canals! For this, we’d suggest heading to the Greenwoods location right on the bank of the Keizersgracht (Emperor’s Canal).

Once you figure out which door to choose (pick the one on the right heading downstairs), you’ll find a cozy little brunch place that serves an amazing breakfast!

Greenwoods has a neat backstory and is known for offering up a real English-style breakfast (and they even do an English High Tea). Eric had ‘The Breakfast Stack’ Pancakes while Lisa opted for the Eggs Florentine – both were just fantastic.

breakfast food on plates on table with coffees behind.
The breakfast was very tasty!

Honestly, it was such a good breakfast. The coffee wasn’t bad either. The staff were also super nice and given the busyness of the place they do a great job. It’s safe to say that we left the place stuffed and wanting to basically be rolled to our next activity.

If that sounds like something for you, then you can check out the menu at Greenwoods here. (They also have a second, original location, on Singel).

You can make a reservation but not on weekends so we’d advise going early in this case because the place isn’t huge and it was full when we left.

Getting Around Amsterdam
Amsterdam is very flat so it’s easy to walk everywhere. However, the city is very spread out making public transit your best friend. You can also bike around if you feel confident.

The Amsterdam transit system is made up of buses, trams, and the metro. You can get your GBV Transit Ticket for a single day in Amsterdam. The I Amsterdam City Card combines attractions and transit use.

Morning Activity: Explore the City Centre

For the morning (whether or not you had breakfast at Greenwoods), you should stick to the core of the city centre to explore the top sights. We usually like to spend the morning learning about the city and/or country we are travelling in and Amsterdam is no different.

Here are a few ideas of places to check out all within a short walk from one another. Keep in mind that you could easily spend your whole morning at only one or two of these so be sure to think about your interests and timeline!

Dam Square (Royal Palace + Monument)

Navigation Address: Nieuwezijds Voorburgwal 147, 1012 RJ Amsterdam

old palace building with clock tower in amsterdam city centre.
You can’t miss the Royal Palace at Dam Square!

Right in the heart of the city centre (south of Amsterdam Centraal Station), you will find Dam Square. This hub of activity usually has something going on – like a Christmas tree in December and even a small carnival with rides.

The large building at the one end of the Square is the Royal Palace of Amsterdam. Completed back in the mid-1600s, the building was originally the Town Hall built to face the water (ships once sailed in front of it – now it’s a road).

Today, you can visit the inside and learn about the history of the building, Dutch royalty, and see art from the famous period known as The Golden Age.

Visit the Palace and learn about Dutch history with an audio guide.

Across the street from the Palace, you will see the National Monument which was built in 1956 to remember those Dutch citizens who died in war – originally World War II but also in more recent conflicts.

The Old Church

Navigation Address: Oudekerksplein 23, 1012 GX Amsterdam

old church with clock tower and glass windows.
De Oude Kerk is a beautiful building to check out.

Known as De Oude Kerk in Dutch, this church is actually the oldest building in Amsterdam! It’s located right in the Red Light District only a short walk from the main street (Damrak) and from Centraal Station.

The church was founded back in the early 1200s and was consecrated in the early 1300s – which means it has a rich history about it.

Today, you can visit the church which is now also used for various art exhibitions that rotate through. We can agree that it’s gorgeous and should be explored! You can learn more at the website here.

Red Light Secrets Museum

Navigation Address: Oudezijds Achterburgwal 60h, 1012 DP Amsterdam

small entrance to red light museum from street level.
Red Light Secrets is a top thing to explore, too!

If you have made your way over to Amsterdam’s Red Light district during the day, one of the things to check out is the Red Light Secrets Museum.

If you didn’t already know, Amsterdam is home to a very famous Red Light District – a liberal area that you can walk through during the day or explore at night.

This museum is super popular because it walks visitors through the profession of prostitution and its connection to Amsterdam’s Red Light District. You get to hear audio stories from actual sex workers. Not something one does every day!

If you want to visit, you can check here for tickets to the museum. Keep in mind that the area can get busy (especially in the summer season) so if you know you want to visit perhaps book in advance.

Rembrandt House Museum

Navigation Address: Jodenbreestraat 4, 1011 NK Amsterdam

Leaving the Red Light District and walking further east from the centre (but still very much in the city centre), you’ll find the Rembrandt House Museum. Another thing the Netherlands is known for is its famous artists – and of course, Rembrandt comes to mind!

So, you can wander through his actual restored house (which is cool enough) where he lived for two decades in the mid-1600s.

The museum is also full of his original etchings (which are permanent for you to see) as well as a number of rotating exhibits to explore. You can check here for tickets – if you are an art lover, this is for you!


Navigation Location: Along Singel in the City Centre

colourful flower market stalls beside one another with sidewalk in front.
The famous flower market is a cool place to check out!

You might know that the Netherlands is known for its flowers, so checking out a flower market might be something you’re interested in.

Also known as the Amsterdam Flower Market, this long partially-floating market is a place to buy all things flower-related: plants, bulbs, seeds, souvenirs, and more!

The market was actually started back in the 1860s so you can see how important the flower industry is to the city and country! Nowadays it is admittedly a very touristy place and does not represent the original authentic flower market – so keep that in mind when you stop by.

The market is located at the very bottom of what we consider the heart of the city centre BUT it’s still not that far of a walk from the other attractions listed above.

Along the way, there are numerous cheese shops where you can pop in for samples. We actually sampled cheeses at Kaaskelder Henri Willig and then bought a bunch to take home the last time we were in the city!

To explore more of the city’s history, the Amsterdam Museum is not far from the Flower Market (should that interest you)!

Lunch at Foodhallen or Manneken Pis Fries

Now that it’s lunchtime, you are going to need to fuel up for the afternoon and evening. For this, we have two great lunch options that we tried during one of our visits: Foodhallen or Fries at Manneken Pis!

two plates of food on wooden table at food hall in amsterdam.
We went for Middle Eastern and Vietnamese and both were really good!

First up is heading to Foodhallen – a large food truck-style food court located inside De Hallen Cultural Complex.

They have a massive selection of different food vendors and you can even grab a beer or drink to enjoy with lunch. We ended up getting a Middle Eastern taster plate and Lisa got a spicy tofu Banh Mi sandwich from a Vietnamese place. Both were awesome.

Foodhallen is located a bit away from the city centre (in Amsterdam Oud-West) and would be close if you end your morning at the Flower Market.

Even if you don’t you could always take the tram there since it stops right outside the Complex. You can learn more about the Foodhallen here.

Navigation Address: Bellamyplein 51, 1053 AT Amsterdam, Netherlands

two helpings of fries held by man at night.
Terrible quality photo – amazing quality fries and sauces!

The other option – that is more centrally-located and not healthy – is getting fries.

However, these aren’t your average fries – these are supposed to be the best fries in the Netherlands from Manneken Pis! Named after the famous baby statue in Belgium, they are actually really, really good fries.

The place is located right on the main central street south of the station – and you’ll see the line-up for the fry stall before you even get close.

Don’t worry, it moves quickly! Once you get up to the cash, you’ll see fresh fries being made in the back and over 20 dipping sauces to choose from!

Eric ended up getting ketchup/mayo with extra onions (because why not?) and Lisa got a sauce with specks in it (can’t remember exactly which one) but both were awesome.

There are people eating fries at all times of the day and you’ll be full. So if you want fries for lunch, go for it! You can learn more about Manneken Pis here.

Navigation Address: Damrak 41, 1012 LK Amsterdam

Afternoon Activity: Anne Frank House or Museumkwartier

After lunch, you’ll want to choose between two main areas/activities: visit the Anne Frank House or explore the Museum Quarter. We say “choose” because they are located at opposite ends of the city from one another.

Also, the afternoon is meant to take you away from the heart of the city centre (where you have already explored). Both options are great so have a read and determine which one suits your timeline and interests better!

Anne Frank House

Navigation Address: Westermarkt 20, 1016 GV Amsterdam, Netherlands

glass and steel building on corner with people in line.
Can’t miss the Anne Frank House!

If you want to experience one of Amsterdam’s top attractions and learn about the city during World War II, a visit to the Anne Frank House is definitely a must-do.

Eric visited the Anne Frank House a few years ago and it was definitely worth it. It can be a very sombre experience but ultimately one worth doing and then sharing.

For those needing a super quick history lesson: Anne Frank was a Jewish German girl who – during the course of World War II – was hidden away with her family in an office/house in Amsterdam when the Nazis were rounding up all the Jews in Europe.

We won’t tell the whole story but she kept a diary – “The Diary of Anne Frank” – which retells her experience to this very day.

The exhibit in Amsterdam allows you a walk-through of where they stayed and is loaded with videos, photos, and other pieces of information to get a sense of what the experience of her, her family, and the others hiding was like. It’s pretty moving, to be honest.

Tickets are only sold online up to two months in advance of the date. They also sell a limited number of tickets for that same day (also online only).

So if you don’t get tickets for the day you want, more become available on the morning of that date. Get your Anne Frank tickets here. When you finish up at the Anne Frank House, the area has a number of other things to check out.

You can always wander through the nearby neighbourhood of Jordaan, explore the canals along the Canal Belt (and wander through “The Nine Streets” within), or check out the Cheese Museum across the canal from the House.

If you can’t get tickets to the Anne Frank House, you might consider an Anne Frank Walking Tour as a really great alternative!


Navigation Address for the Middle of Museum Square: Museumplein 6, 1071 DJ Amsterdam, Netherlands

The other area to check out during your afternoon in Amsterdam is the Museumskwartier – or Museum Quarter in English.

This is actually the name of a larger district in the city which has another area around Museumplein (a green park surrounded by museums). If you didn’t already notice, this is a great area to explore Amsterdam’s museums, art, and more.

large red brick museum with wide lane in front in amsterdam.
The Rijksmuseum is easily a top attraction to explore…

One of the top museums in this area is undeniably the Rijksmuseum which is the perfect place to learn about Dutch art and history and also has many other European and Asian works.

Get your Rijksmuseum Entry Ticket here

It’s a huge museum in a beautiful 19th-century building so it’s definitely a place to spend a few hours in. You can buy tickets in advance since it gets busy basically all year round!

green grass in front of glass museum building entrance.
You can’t miss the Van Gogh Museum in the open Museum Square!

There are a number of other museums in the area but some of the top ones you could visit are the Van Gogh Museum, the Stedelijk Museum, the Moco Museum, and many more. There is even a large Concert Hall at the other end of the park.

If you choose to head this way in the afternoon, you could also theoretically take a wander through nearby Vondelpark.

This is a massive urban park in the city that is very popular to bike or stroll through. There are a number of features like bridges over water, monuments, and a cafe. It’s lovely in the summer season and great for a relaxing moment during your busy day!

Our Tip: You might notice that the Heineken Experience (Brewery Tour) is close to the Museumkwarter. You could also swap this in for your afternoon activity in Amsterdam. We have done it and it was enjoyable, too.

Afternoon Break at De Laatste Kruimel

Navigation Address: Langebrugsteeg 4, 1012 GB Amsterdam, Netherlands

Once you’re done visiting wherever you just were, you should aim to head back to the centre near the Rokin Metro stop. This is because your next activity will be close by – and your afternoon break is here, too: De Laatste Kruimel!

Located right on Langebrugsteeg (watch for bikes!), this tiny bakery and cafe is a popular place to go. You’ll first notice the delicious-looking baked goods in the window. This is what caught our attention!

Inside, you’ll find a small bakeshop that is loaded with freshly made sweets and savoury treats from sandwiches to sweet loaves, muffins, cakes, croissants, quiche, and more!

They also have cold drinks and coffee should you want a hot drink.

The place is very cozy and small inside so you can grab a seat or just take your treat to go since there are benches nearby at the water’s edge.

Lisa got a vegan raspberry muffin when we visited and it was really tasty!

Early Evening Activity: Classic Canal Cruise

Navigation Address: Oude Turfmarkt TO 125, 1012 GC Amsterdam, Netherlands

flat canal boat on water in city centre.
This is the same canal cruise company we went with!

Once you’re done your snack/rest, it’s time to keep sightseeing – but do it from the comfort of a seat on a classic Amsterdam canal cruise.

You will surely have already seen the canal boats crisscrossing the canals under bridges in all directions? Well time to get one on yourself!

There are many companies that you can choose from when it comes to a canal cruise. Different boats offer different lengths, routes, food, commentary, etc.

We ended up going for a simple cruise with one of the established companies – Rederij P. Kooij.

ticket booth stand for canal cruise by water in city centre amsterdam.
This is the booth where we bought our canal cruise tickets and got on/off!

Our one-hour canal cruise was great. We were on a covered boat because it was the colder winter season and the audio commentary (audio and live) was super informative!

We learned quite a bit about the city which made it fun to walk around after because we had an idea of what certain canals or buildings were!

This particular company runs late tours in the warmer months (until 9:00 pm) and until 5:00 pm in the winter so in any season you should be able to make an evening time slot. You can check the prices and times for Rederij P. Kooij here.

Keep in mind: Depending on how late you want to stay out, you can also opt to do the canal cruise as a beautiful canal evening cruise when you then get to see the city all light up from the water. You can also find this cruise option down in the final section of this post!

Dinner in De Pijp

red brick building with restaurant patios on the ground level in amsterdam.
Plenty of places for food in De Pijp….

Now that you’re done your cruise and you’ve got acquainted with the city from its intended angle, it’s time for dinner. For this, you have SO many options all over Amsterdam.

We’d say that a great bet for food options is to head down to the area called De Pijp. Here you will find lots of restaurants, bars, and eateries across all different cuisines and budgets.

We ended up choosing Cafe De Pijp (temporarily closed) which is right on the main street leading away from the Heineken Experience/Canal area.

You can find loads of other restaurants to choose from in this IAmsterdam De Pijp article.

Evening Activity: Drinks, Red Light District Tour, or Cruise

Finally, it’s the evening now and there are lots of things to do in Amsterdam at night. Whatever your interests (and remaining energy level), we have a number of ideas for great things to do in the evening: drinks, a tour, or a night cruise!

Drinks in Amsterdam

A simple way to spend a night out is to go for drinks. Luckily, Amsterdam is a huge city with loads of different places to go for all different “drink interests”. If you want great cocktails, check out Hiding in Plain Sight located in the city centre.

For beer, you have more than enough options. Head for In De Wildeman if you want hundreds of international beer choices or Proeflokaal Arendsnest which specializes in Dutch craft beer from around the county.

We liked de Biertuin but went to the location in the east end. Luckily, they have another location on the canals more in the city centre!

Our Tip: If Amsterdam craft beer interests you, hop on a craft beer brewery bus tour to explore the local beer scene!

Red Light District Tour

city canal in red light district with setting sun behind.
As the sun sets, the red lights become more apparent…

If it interests you (and/or you didn’t go there during the day), you can visit the Red Light District at night for a wander through, a drink, or whatever else interests you! It’s always interesting and you’ll see families walking about – even in the evening.

If you wanted to learn more about the area itself, you could actually go on a guided Red Light District Tour. This is a great way to immerse yourself in the history and culture of the area with an experienced local to guide you!

Night Cruise with Lights

white metallic bridge with lights spanning over canal water.
The famous Skinny Bridge is beautiful at night!

Of course, one final way to enjoy Amsterdam in the evening is to head out onto the famous canals to take in the city from a new perspective.

You will find that night canal cruises are a great way to see the city because many of the bridges are all lit up and look magical.

Book your Night Canal Cruise Tickets in advance because they are popular!

One of the highlights of a night cruise is to check out the famous Skinny Bridge located on the Amstel River. It’s just covered in lights (as you can above) which makes it great to see even if you are on foot for a night wander.

Related Articles

If you are travelling to Amsterdam (or travelling to Europe, in general), check out some of our other detailed posts:

And there you have it – a complete guide on spending one day in Amsterdam! Of course, this is just one version of a day – but we think it’s a good mix of top attractions and smaller places to eat that are worth your time. Let us know what you get up to in a single Amsterdam day!

As always, Happy Waddlin’,
– L&E

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    Photo collage of houses in Amsterdam and skinny bridge with text overlay one day in Amsterdam.