Amsterdam is an incredible city and there is enough to keep you entertained for days, if not weeks. I mean, heck, we live here and haven’t done it all. But if you only have one day in Amsterdam, then let’s make it the best day ever in Amsterdam!
To make it as easy as possible to explore, I’ve included a Google Map at the bottom with all of these spots for your reference.
We are fully aware that people take a day-long stopover here. They may not think there’s much to do or it’s where they are catching a cruise. Whatever reason it is that you only get 24 hours in Amsterdam, this itinerary will give you a taste of history, the museums, and the food. Basically, it’s a teaser of Amsterdam specifically for those who are visiting for the first time.
For this post, I’m working with Marco Polo and their Amsterdam guide. We have lived here for a while, but going through the guidebook I discovered things we didn’t even know about! I’m a firm believer in using all the tools at your disposal. So, here we are. Combining a super-helpful guidebook (I really like their layout) and my local knowledge to help you have an awesome day in Amsterdam.
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Much of this day is walking, but I highly recommend getting a GVB transit pass for the day in case you need it, to go to lunch, and for any evening activities that might be a little farther than you’d like to walk. You can order here and pick up the pass at any of the service points listed on the website. Or, if you have a credit or debit card you can purchase them on the trams or machines at some of the stops. The buses and trams no longer take cash.
One day in Amsterdam: Start with Breakfast
For the sake of doing a full day, we’ll start with breakfast. Get up as early as you can drag yourself out of bed and head to Omelegg for breakfast. There are two spots: one in De Pijp and one near Central Station. For this itinerary, we recommend getting there at 8 am or earlier and visit the de Pijp location. Depending on how early you get up, take the time to stroll around and take photos before breakfast.
Want to take a guidebook with you? Purchase your Marco Polo guide book here.
Take a walk and enjoy the city by foot
Take a 20-30 minute stroll from Omelegg in de Pijp to Leidseplein and walk through Museumplein to see the grandeur of the square with the Rijksmuseum and its stunning architecture, the Stedelijk museum that looks like a bathtub, and the Van Gogh museum that just looks like a modern, but stunning structure. Opposite the large grassy area, you’ll notice the concert hall that stands there almost forcefully imposing itself into the club of museums.
From there you’ll walk under the Rijksmuseum which is a treat in itself, and then walk along the canal (on the opposite side of the street from the Rijksmuseum) to get to a canal cruise stand.
Hop on a canal cruise
Time to get the lay of the land…or…umm…canals. As the Marco Polo guide suggests and just happens to be my number suggestion for visitors, hop on a canal cruise to see the center part of Amsterdam. While I tend to recommend getting outside the center and discovering other charming neighborhoods like the east and the north, a canal cruise is a must-do. They are usually about 75 minutes and have commentary along the way.
Visit the Anne Frank House
Once you’re back on solid ground, walk down Leidsestraat until you get to Prinsengracht, cross the bridge and hang a left along this beautiful canal until you see the Westerkerk (a church on Prinsengracht – you can’t miss it!), and right next to it is the Anne Frank house. You’ll want to have ordered your tickets about 2 months in advance, so plan your day accordingly!
Have lunch at De Foodhallen
After your visit, head back to the main road and catch tram 17 (End destination: Osdorp Dijkgraafplein) to the food halls in Amsterdam west. It’s a quick 7-minute ride, and then hop off at the stop Ten Katestraat. De Foodhallen is an old tram depot with a ton of food stall with lots of options. Our favorites are a burger from The Butcher, Chicken Fling from Viet View, or any of the hot dogs from Bulls & Dogs.
Once you are sufficiently full, head back to tram 17 and go back the direction you came from and get off at the Dam square stop. It’s an easy walk from there to our next stop.
Of course, you can choose a different lunch venue depending on your taste! Read through the Marco Polo Amsterdam guide for a bunch of other scrumptious options. You won’t be disappointed!
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Discover more about the city in the Amsterdam museum
It makes sense to learn how Amsterdam came to be if you only have one day here. That’s why I’m including the Amsterdam Museum on this itinerary. (Click here to buy your ticket) I’m slightly obsessed with this city, but I think, once you learn more about it and the people, you will be, too! This museum covers so much. But, the physical changes in the city is always what interests me the most.
I found out from the Marco Polo guide that it used to be an orphanage. There’s a huge courtyard inside (which you would never guess from the outside!). Having a courtyard in an orphanage makes me a bit happy to know the kids had a safe place to play outside that was their own. It’s worth a visit regardless if you’re a museum person. There’s also a cafe here if you need an after lunch/afternoon pick-me-up.
Find some peace in the Begijnhof
Just down the street from the Amsterdam Museum is the Begijnhof. This quiet oasis from the dinging trams and bikes was built in the Middle Ages and is the oldest garden of its kind in the city. If you can imagine, the houses of Begijnhof used to be completely surrounded by water…that’s what I call a reprieve from the city. Visitors can walk through the outside pathways but the homes are private so there are gates you should not cross. However, if you want to visit inside, there is a hidden church you can go in to see what worshipping might have been like many years ago.
If you’re getting snacky, head to Van Stapele Koekmakerij for the best cookie you will ever taste or to Vlaams Friteshuis Vleminckx for some incredible fries. Or both! My favorite snacks in the city. You’re welcome!
We eat fries with mayo here but don’t worry, you can choose from a bunch of sauces. However, mayo here is different than what you may know from the United States. So give it a try 😉
Read more: DAY TRIPS FROM AMSTERDAM
Find the prettiest spot to see some “Dancing Houses”
Head toward Rembrandtplein to see the famous The Night Watch painting come to life-size as statues in the center of the square and then cut through a small alley that’s only for bike and pedestrians and head towards the water. Try to stay on the sidewalk as best you can or you’ll hear a bunch of “ding”s behind you. Cross the bridge in front of you and make a right. Looking back across the water called the “Amstel River” you’ll see some of the prettiest houses. But keep following that road around until you get to a small white bridge. Again, it’s a stunner!
Keep in mind this bridge is actually used for cars, bikes, and people…sometimes all at the same time. So grab your picture of Zuiderkerk (church) which you can see straight down the canal and admire the love locks that have probably made their way back onto the bridge.
Cross the bridge and make a right, go to the end of the road and grab a see on the bench for once of the most fantastic views of “Dancing Houses”. You can also see them as you were walking to the bridge, but this spot in unobstructed. Seeing this view on this spot makes any day the best day in Amsterdam.
Want to take a guidebook with you? Purchase your Marco Polo guide book here.
Check out the view from the Blauwbrug
Continue to follow that road around to another bridge that will come up on your right and cross it then make a right and follow that road (and the Amstel River) around to the Blauwbrug (bridge). You can’t miss its stature. Walk along it on both sides to see different but equally very Amsterdamm-y views. You can even see the famous Magere Brug and the locks down the river. It’s an absolutely stunning view no matter the day. But on a warm and sunny summer day, it elevates to being magical.
Can you see the locks in this picture? Look through the bridge.
Find the right dinner in Amsterdam
At this bridge, you are right by the Waterlooplein metro station and tram stop, and a very short walk to the Rembrandtplein tram stop. So, depending on where you want to go, you can easily get there by foot or public transit.
It may come as a surprise but Amsterdam has a head-spinning amount of restaurants. We have everything from Michelin-starred restaurant to hole-in-the-walls. You can be certain that there’s a healthy variety of cuisines in this city as well. Unless you travel just for food, and specifically, fancy food, I figure you’ll want to know about the tried and true spots that also have a local feel.
To give you some options, we’ve decided to recommend a few different spots. The Marco Polo Amsterdam guide gives great suggestions categorized by budget, moderate, and expensive. You should definitely read the guide for some other great spots, but I’d feel bad if I didn’t share one of our favorite spots as well. Maybe it will make the next guide? 😉
We love Cafe de Klos. This is this place for ribs and just meat in general. It’s pretty small and they don’t take reservations. It’s a get lucky kind of spot but worth it! It has a local vibe without being all about Dutch food. Just a good spot for good food.
Among the lovely restaurants in the guide, we love that it includes De Kas. This restaurant is in Amsterdam east and worth the tram ride out there. It’s in a greenhouse with food they’ve grown themselves. You can even see some of the ingredients still growing as you walk in the door — just look left. They know how to make incredible dishes!
Another restaurant you’ll find in the Amsterdam guide that Marco Polo put together is The Seafood Bar. We go here when we have something to celebrate. It’s great for seafood (obviously) but the ambiance is different and brighter than in many other Amsterdam dinner spots. The seafood tower is perfect for 2 or more to split if you are feeling hungry!
Oh, just so you know, much of Amsterdam runs on reservations. That trips up a lot of visitors…but also kills our spontaneity. Just know to book ahead of time if they do take bookings.
End the night with after-dinner drinks
Amsterdam might not be known for its cocktail or bar culture as in other cities. But, as a local, it’s a staple in our social lives. We have the go-to bars for something special, the pop-in after work bars, the speakeasys, and the just-chill but still nice spots.
If you are feeling a bit upscale, find a spot in the Pulitzer’s Bar which is one of the coolest spots in the city. They will make you memorable cocktails with very professional bartenders.
One of our favorite locals that serve killer cocktails is Tales and Spirits. Again, reservations are highly recommended but if you go early you can grab a spot at the bar and everyone who works there is some kind of awesome. If you are even a little bit hungry, get the crunchy chicken. Finger-licking good!
Do you love beer? Then head to a Cafe Gollem! You’ll find them sprinkled around the city. These are the modern-day Amsterdam dive bars. Cozy, simple, with a crazy big selection of beers. I even found a cherry beer I actually liked! As local as it gets, I hope you find time to pop into one of these bars.
Looking for a hotel in Amsterdam?
We have a ton! We have the fanciest of hotels and we have a hostel known for not being great…and that’s their marketing plan. No…I don’t get it either.
I haven’t stayed in many since we own a house (read more!) and don’t need a hotel but I can pass along what I’ve heard amazing things about and ones that are in the Marco Polo guide.
The Dylan (check prices here) is in the canal ring and the location is exactly where would want to be. You can pretty much just walk anywhere you could want. They have a restaurant in the hotel but this is a high-end place, so keep that in mind when you are looking.
Another hotel that looks great but I’ve spent plenty of time in (in the lounge) in the Hoxton (check prices here). This hotel just exudes coolness. Their restaurant is moderate in pricing and good with the food. The bar is one I’m more than happy to go to any time.
For a budget place without too much compromise, check out Citizen M (check prices here). Everyone seems to love this place. It doesn’t feel like a budget hotel. You’ll find this hotel in the south part of the city, but there’s a tram and metro super close by, so it’s easy to get to the center within minutes.
Final tips for your one day trip to Amsterdam
Don’t feel like you have to ride a bike in Amsterdam…especially if it’s been a while since riding one. Bike paths are roads for bikes. Locals aren’t leisurely biking, it’s their transportation from point A to point B. But if you have your heart set on riding a bike and can fit it in, read this post on riding a bike in Amsterdam first.
Ask for directions if you need them. People are willing to help you find your way. It’s a pretty friendly place, but you do have to ask. Nobody will just assume you are lost.
Coming to Amsterdam for a day will give you a quick glimpse into this beautiful city, but if you have the chance, I really encourage you to also check out our posts about the Amsterdam
Google Map of Amsterdam
Wishing you joy and travels.