Can Amsterdam be explored in just one day? No, but some of us don’t have any other option. So if you’re short on time, here’s an Amsterdam 1 day itinerary that’s the best ever on the internet (because I think of myself as an Amsterdam expert).
Guess what, my first trip to Amsterdam was for just one night. I arrived in Amsterdam after lunch so I had the second half of the first day, and the first half of the second day because I left after lunch. So technically I had just 24 hours in Amsterdam.
I did visit Amsterdam over and over again every year because I live in Germany. Some of those trips have been for longer than a day or a weekend in Amsterdam.
In all of my Amsterdam itinerary and tips posts, I mention getting away from the center and exploring other spots, but it doesn’t apply when you have just one day in Amsterdam.
So, I won’t suggest Amsterdam-Noord or NDSM werf even though they aren’t far from the center but I know most of the people would want to stay near canals or narrow houses if they have just 24 hours in Amsterdam.
Amsterdam city center is really just a bunch of concentric circles of canals, walking and cycling paths. So no place is too far if you’re in the center. But I have made this walking/cycling map keeping your limited time in hand so that you can cover a lot in just a short walk.
Amsterdam has an awesome network of tramps and buses. Consider getting yourself a GVB card. Once you have that, you can get on any tram or metro within the city.
I normally suggest the amazing “I Amsterdam City card” which includes all the transport, a boat trip, museums, and many other attractions. But for this specific itinerary, you need just a GVB card because you’re not going to visit museums if you have just one day in Amsterdam.
Walking or cycling, I have chalked out a route for you to spend an epic day in Amsterdam with some of the prettiest spots around the canal ring where you can stop for a photo. Sit on a bench there to admire the beauty of my favorite European city.
Before you read my itinerary for spending one day in Amsterdam, make sure you read my travel tips for first-timers so that you don’t end up making typical travel mistakes.
Amsterdam One day itinerary Walking Map / Cycling Map
Here’s a map with the below spots that I made for you using Google Maps. Open it on your phone and try to save an offline version before you start your one day trip in Amsterdam.
Mainly it is a walking map but you can surely do it by cycling. It is going to be faster and more time efficient. Just for fun, keep your walking tracker on to see how many steps you cover in just 24 hours in Amsterdam. I’m sure it will be at least 15,000 steps.
With so much walking or cycling to do, make sure you were comfortable shoes and not high heels. Amsterdam’s streets aren’t suitable for high heels.
Arrive at Oude Kerk & Breakfast at De Koffieschenkerij
Let’s shoot two birds with the same arrow – breakfast (or just coffee) at Amsterdam’s prettiest cafe with a view, which is literally inside Amsterdam’s oldest church – Oude Kerk.
While the area around Oude Kerk is crowded and busy, inside De Koffieschenkerij is a whole other deal because you will feel calm and relaxed. There’s a spacious sitting area both outside and inside with plants all around.
Drink a cup of coffee or matcha as you energize yourself for today because you have a lot of walking (or cycling) to do. After all, you have to experience the best of Amsterdam in one day!
Click a Picture at Damrak & See De Beurspassage
Where to click the most amazing photos in Amsterdam? One of the places is Damrak and the other is De Beurspassage. Good news – they are both next to each other and not far from Oude Kerk.
You wouldn’t be going out of your way if you visit both Damrak and De Beurspassage. You will most likely cross these spots a few times during your trip because they are right in the center.
Damrak is actually a spot from where most of the boat tours start. If you want to get on one, then I have included it in the afternoon in this itinerary because that’s when your energy level will be lower and you can just sit for an hour on the boat and relax.
After clicking a few photos in Damrak, walk to the nearby De Beurspassage which looks like it came out of another country but got fixed in Amsterdam.
A lot of people click photos as soon as they enter the passage, but I found the end of the passage to be the best photo spot.
I do mention both of these spots already in my Amsterdam Instagram spots post but I swear the rest of the itinerary is different.
Quick Stop at Dam Square
Dam Square is my least favorite place in Amsterdam but it is funny to see it on your first visit because there’s so much going on.
On one side you will see the Royal Palace, on the left side are the overly touristy Ripley’s believe it or not, and Madam Tussauds (please don’t go inside). Right opposite you will see the national monument.
Dam Square is the main square in the middle of these buildings and the National Monument. There are hoards of different kinds of people here – protesters, stoned tourists, walking tours, busking musicians, performers, and a lot of crazy sights.
I describe the madness of Dam Square with more details in my 2 day Amsterdam itinerary post. Enjoy the madness, laugh a little and let’s move on to the next stop.
Head to Staalmeestersbrug for a Photo
I have already mentioned this spot in my Amsterdam Instagram spots post – this is actually a bridge over the Groenburgwal canal with a good view because you can see a church in the background. The name of the church that you can see is Zuidkerk, which literally means South Church.
This spot is often called “the million dollar view” in Amsterdam because it was made famous by Claude Monet and it was on one of his paintings.
You won’t spend more than 5-10 minutes here but I wanted to make sure I include it in this itinerary so that you walk through this spot instead of taking one of the other parallel ways to the next spot, the floating flower market.
Arrive at the Flower Market (Bloemenmarkt)
The Dutch are famous for their flowers and gardening skills, and what better place to enjoy it than a flower market? To make things better, it is a “floating” flower market.
Amsterdam’s famous floating flower market is called Bloemenmarkt in Dutch. The time I visited, the flower market was full of colorful tulips and one can buy bulbs to grow them. You can’t really click photos inside most of the shops here.
Walk through the colorful market and enjoy the freshness of flowers around you. The flower market is on Singel canal so you will walk from Muntplein to Koningsplein to cover it end to end.
Cross de Negen Straatjes
As you get away from the Flower Market, you will cross a pretty neighborhood – de Negen Straatjes, which means the 9 streets. It is actually a sub-neighborhood of Grachtengordel, the canal ring.
You will see some amazing sights as you walk from here to Jordaan because the scenery just gets prettier. The streets get more narrow and so do the canals. There are many bridges on which you can stop and enjoy the sights.
There is a spot here near Pastini restaurant where two canals – Leidsegracht and Keizersgracht intersect and the view is really good.
Stop for Lunch or a Snack (3 Options)
Not everyone eats lunches but I do. Whether do want a full-fledged lunch or a quick snack, I have listed three restaurants for you below that aren’t expensive and are known for good food.
1) Foodware (Family friendly)
This is a cool minimalistic and casual restaurant where you will find everything. If you’re looking for a well-balanced meal that’s not just limited to roadside pizzas or pancakes, this is the place for you. It is also vegan-friendly.
2) Van Stapele Koekmakerij for famous Cookies
Not up for a full meal? Grab a cookie at the super famous cookie shop Van Stapele Koekmakerij. The most famous cookie here is the signature chocolate cookie with white chocolate that oozes out of the center.
3) Pastini restaurant for Italian food
Pastini is a famous Italian restaurant right here that’s known for not just pasta but also prawns and lamb. I wouldn’t bring my kids here because it would be a little boring for them but this is the kind of place I’d enjoy with people of my age.
Relax in Jordaan
After your lunch or a snack, walk along the canals till the time you reach Jordaan. Mark Ann Frank Haus in Google Maps for directions and it will talk you to the prettiest canals and bridges.
On every single visit to Amsterdam, I make sure I spend enough time in Jordaan because it is peaceful, pretty, and romantic in every way. Historically, it was the residential space for the working class of Amsterdam. How I wish I was lucky enough to live in one of the houses here overlooking a canal.
Walk around along the canals in Jordaan and stand on top of the tiny bridges. Some of the canals get narrower here and Jordeen really feels like it’s tucked away from the hustle and bustle. This is why it is one of the best places to visit in Amsterdam in 1 day.
Get on a Boat for a Canal Cruise
You don’t have to go back to Damrak to find a canal cruise. Since you will be in Jordaan, I have found a few options that start right where you will be. Just be sure to select the meeting point as Ann Frank Haus when you pre-book your tour:
1) Open Boat Canal Cruise with Onboard Bar
I highly recommend opting for an open-boat canal cruise because the experience is a thousand times better. But it comes with a risk of getting wet in case it rains. So do it at your own risk.Click here to book
I have done two canal cruises in Amsterdam and the one on a smaller open boat with a bar was way better than the usual one.
This tour costs EUR 19.95 per person as checked in May 2023, and the duration is one hour. Select “Ann Frank Haus” as your departure when you book. The best part is that you can purchase drinks on the boat too!
2) Lovers Canal Cruises
Now this is also one of the most famous tour operators for canal cruises in Amsterdam. It is a covered boat with glass windows. You will see a lot of these boats doing rounds as you stand on the bridges and explore Amsterdam.Click here to book
If you’re traveling with small children and if they are younger than 4 and won’t occupy a seat, then they can go for free. This is a one-hour tour and costs EUR 16. Be sure to select Ann Frank Haus as the departure point.
3) Classic Boat Cruise with Cheese & Wine Options
This tour is for one hour and costs EUR 19.95 without cheese and wine and EUR 21.50 with cheese and wine. With hardly any difference in the cost, I’d pick the option that includes cheese and wine!
This cruise is also on a semi-open boat but it is a bit fancier and has wine, cheese, and soda options.Click here to book
The reason why a canal cruise makes sense to do in the afternoon is that that’s when your energy level will be lower versus morning, so you can sit back and relax as you enjoy Amsterdam from a new perspective.
If you want to skip it, then you can just find a nice bench along a canal and sit with a snack or a drink and pause.
De Hallen for Dinner and Drinks (Optional)
If you are visiting in the summer months, then the sunset will be at around 9:45 or 10 pm. It means you need to eat your dinner before you watch the sunset or enjoy the nightlife. For other months, just switch this point with the next one.
De Hallen is my favorite place to enjoy a lively atmosphere in the evening with a few beers. It is actually a group of halls and the one that’s dedicated to food and drinks is Food Hallen. I loved it so much and I think it should be included in every single Amsterdam 1 day itinerary.
Enjoy food and snacks from different places – Bitterballen from Ballenbar (started by a Michelin Star Chef), or dumplings from Dimsum Thing.
Bitterballen is a traditional Dutch delicacy that’s basically an elevated version of fried meatballs. I mean, it is a bit fancier than just meatballs and the result is lovely. There are vegetarian versions too. Make sure you try them in Food Hallen.
Both the Bitterballen and Dimsums were so delicious that I could have eaten 50 of them but note that most of the places started closing by 10 pm.
Sunset on Skinny Bridge
Amsterdam has many bridges but Skinny Bridge is special. It goes over the Amstel River and looks very pretty as the sky turns red at sunset. Post that, the lights around and on the bridge glow, and the overall effect is super romantic.
I did mention the skinny bridge in my Amsterdam for couples post because it is supposed to be lucky if you kiss on top of the skinny bridge. I don’t have a very good picture of skinny bridge and the above is just a screengrab from my video because I was very hungry when I was cycling here.
The skinny bridge used to be narrower than what it is today, that’s how it got its name originally when it was built in 1691. But it was later renovated and broadened. It opens up several times a day to let ships pass. For this reason, it is one of the best places to visit in Amsterdam in one day.
Walk Through the Red Light District (De Wallen)
Amsterdam’s Red Light area is world-famous and has been included in many movies. Of course, you have to walk through it once to see the madness.
Remember – you can’t click pictures of sex workers in Red Light District otherwise your camera will be taken away by the cops. I do remember seeing how one of the angry sex workers was yelling at a tourist because he clicked a photo.
Drinks at De Sluyswacht
Still have some energy left after spending almost a full day in Amsterdam? Visit De Sluyswacht, it is a fun lopsided bar that’s close to the Red Light District.
If you have noticed, some of Amsterdam’s streetsides are slanted and even some of the buildings look like they aren’t straight. That’s one of the things that makes Amsterdam really special for me.
This is why if you get a table outside De Sluyswacht, most likely it won’t be straight and it adds to the fun. I was amazed to see this little place was also featured on Conde Nast Traveler.
Where to Stay in Amsterdam?
I will list a few options based on different budgets. Keep in mind that staying in Amsterdam is unbelievably expensive and even more so on the weekends in summer. Book in advance because the affordable places sell out fast:
- Generator Amsterdam: Click here to book the Generator hostel on the Booking.com website.
- NH Hotel: Click here to book NH Hotel on the Booking.com website.
If you’re traveling solo to Amsterdam then booking a hostel makes sense. If you’re driving to Amsterdam then you can actually park your campervan at Gaasper Camping and take a train to the center. We did that once and loved this campground with a bar and a restaurant.
Closing Thoughts on Spending One Day in Amsterdam
Haters and snobs will scrunch up their noses, but holidaying in Europe is expensive and even more so if you’re visiting hyped-up cities like Amsterdam, Paris, or Rome. So, in terms of time constraints or budget, not everyone can spend more than a day in Amsterdam.
So, if you have just 24 hours in Amsterdam, you have got to make the most of it. Do your research well, put on your walking shoes, and enjoy your time in my favorite city. Below are some of my posts about Amsterdam that you should read before visiting:
- An honest review of the I Amsterdam City card – is it worth it?
- Weekend in Amsterdam itinerary
- 2 days in Amsterdam itinerary
- 30 Ridiculously Useful Amsterdam Travel Tips
- Amsterdam for couples + Romantic things to do in Amsterdam
- Amsterdam Quotes and Instagram Captions
- Amsterdam Nightlife Guide
- Amsterdam Coffeeshops and Ganja Tourism info
I hope my itinerary makes you fall in love with Amsterdam and you come back for more.
PS: Drifter Planet contains affiliate links. If you make a purchase through these links, we will earn a little commission at no extra cost to you. We are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites.