What to do in Amsterdam in one day

Amsterdam has its own reputation, known for its openness to marijuana and its Red Light District. But there’s a lot more to Amsterdam than its sex, drugs and rock and roll. The city is known for its canals, snaking through the city, lined with flowers and chained up bicycles. Amsterdam is known for its prevalence of bicycles. Everywhere you look, you’ll find people on them, or see them chained up on the side of streets whilst people are working, enjoying cafes or in the various museums around the city

This Amsterdam day, you’ll find yourself exploring the real Amsterdam. You’ll stay in the Hoxton Hotel, located in the center of Amsterdam, surrounded by canals.  You’ll visit the Museumplein, with the famous ‘IAmsterdam’ sign, and sit surrounded by three famous museums. You’ll visit the Rijksmuseum and learn all about the history of Amsterdam, followed by the Albert Cuyp market and a walk through the Jordaan neighborhood

Between all these museums, you’ll get to try some of Amsterdam’s finest food, in places like Bagels and Beans, Chocolaterie Pompadour, Bakers and Roasters for lunch, to enjoy their Kiwi/Brazilian food, before the Heineken Experience and then The Seafood Bar for dinner, and a night full of fun at the Red Light District, Dampkring and BitterZoet

09:00 – Start smartly at the Hoxton Hotel

The Hoxton Hotel is a sweet little boutique hotel, located near the center of Amsterdam, looking over one of the famous canals.  The hotel is expertly decorated and furnished; leaving you stunned with every room you look into.  You have the choice of four different room sizes – the Shoebox – still with room for a cozy bed and your own shower room

If you want a little more space, you have the ‘Cosy’ option, with a queen bed, a view over the canals, and again your own en-suite. Next up is the ‘Roomy’ option, with room for your bed, a sofa and a desk, perfect if you’re there for a longer period, or like to spread out in your space. Last is the ‘concept’ room option, based up in the attic, the three rooms used to the be the mayor’s rooms and have the grandeur to match, with a roll top bath and a view to match.  The added bonus is that all rooms have their own (affordable) minibar, free breakfast, and if you’re a little homesick, they also have free international calls

And if you’ve got a late flight out or just fancy a lie in, you even have the option to check out late, for only €10 an hour. If you’re not keen on the complimentary breakfast or fancy a nice lunch or dinner, the hotel has its own restaurant, on the lower level. Added bonus, the hotel has its own bikes that you can borrow for the day and explore the canals around you // Hoxton Hotel – Herengracht 255, Amsterdam

09:30 – I Amsterdam at the Museumplein

You’ll find the Museumplein a 25-minute walk – or 8-minute bike ride away from the Hoxton. Spend some time posing, taking photographs of, or climbing on the famous IAmsterdam piece. It began as a marketing tool for Amsterdam but quickly became a well known and a well-visited tourist spot – there’s also a version at the airport, and a traveling version popping up all around the city

Within the Museumplein, you’ll find the Rijksmuseum, the Van Gogh Museum (an art museum dedicated to the works of Van Gogh and his close colleagues – it’s the second most visited museum in Amsterdam). You’ll also find the concert hall Concertgebouw, and the Stedelijk museum – a museum for modern and contemporary art and design

If you’re there in winter, you may be lucky enough to find the annual ice skating rink – hire your skates for only €10 for two hours, and skate until your heart’s content.  If you’re there in spring or summer, enjoy the open grass area, sit and read a book, relax and just enjoy the open area, in the heart of a big city.  And if that’s still not your type of thing, just around the corner you’ll find the Vondelpark, a big open area, with plenty of water and cycle track to spend your time exploring // Museumplein – Museumpromenade, Amsterdam

10:30 – Have a break at Bagels and Beans

Between the Museumplein and the Vondelpark, you’ll find Bagels and Beans, a cute little coffee shop – part of a well-known local chain. Enjoy some bagels, fresh coffee or even their famous date crumble, whilst you soak in the local atmosphere

Ask the baristas all about the coffee they’re serving, and they can give you all the information you want – where it’s from, how it’s been roasted – they’re passionate about their coffee and they can prove it. With a relaxed interior, you’ll be more than happy to spend too much time there, soaking in the feel of the place, the joy of the baristas and the people around you

The locals will surround you, out for a morning brew, tourists wanting a quick break before their next museum, students, catching up on their morning lectures. There’s never a dull moment. Try one of their bagels, they’re full of a range of fillings – they’re known for them! // Bagels and Beans – Van Baerlestraat 40, Amsterdam

11:00 – Immerse yourself in Holland history at the Rijksmuseum

Immerse yourself in the Rijksmuseum, full of historical artifacts, spanning the history of both Amsterdam and The Netherlands. As well as the permanent collection, there’s an ever-changing and ever-rotating collection of exhibits, covering everything from wards to Rembrandt and beyond

If you want to plan your day in advance, there’s a downloadable app, where not only can you plan your visit, but you can use it whilst you’re there, where you can learn more, with its more in-depth detail and information. And if you’re uninspired, the app even has the option of fourteen different tour routes. You can also look at the artworks in person, and then use the app to get a more in-depth look, with built-in zoom, and more information about each piece.  And if you’re not quite so tech savvy, and don’t have the app on your phone, there’s also a rentable device at the museum, so you’re not left behind. Find the Gallery of Honour, when you can soak in both the atmosphere of the museum, but also still hear the music and atmosphere from outside

You’ll find many a Rembrandt painting, a Van Gogh self-portrait, the famous Milkmaid by Johannes Vermeer, more famous art than you can imagine. And if you’re not a big art fan, you can always admire the architecture and design of the building itself, where the architect – Pierre Cupers even included a sculpture of himself. Spend your time staring into the Treaty of Munster by Bartholomeus van der Helst – you could spend hours staring into this painting, because every time you look at it, you find more and more details that you hadn’t seen before // Rijksmuseum – Museumstraat 1, Amsterdam

12:30 – Live the hipster life at the Bakers and Roasters

Once you’re done immersing yourself in the Dutch history, head over to Bakers and Roasters, only a five-minute walk away (or three-minute bike ride!) across a canal – which is almost expected for Amsterdam. Step inside, and take yourself from the Dutch culture surrounding you, to the Kiwi/Brazilian fusion restaurant you find yourself in

Forget the Dutch treats you’ve been eating since you’ve arrived in Amsterdam, and indulge in some kiwi treats and Brazilian coffee. If you’re in the mood, there’s the option of New Zealand wine, local beers, and brunch cocktails, to go with Kiwi inspired brunches – ranging from a full fry up to veggie and vegan option – all with that Brazilian twist

If you’re not sure what you want to order, you can always check out their Instagram, and see what they have to offer.  And if a full brunch meal is for you, there’s the choice of homemade baking, fresh juices, and milkshakes // Bakers and Roasters – Eerste Jacob van Campenstraat 54, Amsterdam

14:00 – Visit the Albert Cuyp Market, the largest day market in europe

Just a two-minute bike ride or a five-minute walk you’ll find the Albert Cuyp market. On the way, you’ll pass the Marie Heinekenplein – a grassy open area within the city center.  The Albert Cuyp market is a must-see for Amsterdam, it’s the most popular market in the whole of The Netherlands. It’s also the largest day market in Europe. You can find everything from clothing, leather goods, jewelry to food – waffles, coffee, and treats. Find yourself an afternoon treat or some fresh fruit and vegetables to enjoy in a park or some flowers for your bicycle basket

Find some of the famous Dutch cheese and some souvenirs to take back to your family and friends. It’s bright and colorful, and constantly bustling with conversation and haggling, the diversity around you ever apparent

At the Albert Cuyp Market, you can find the original Goudsche Syrup Waffles, made according to generations of traditional recipes. You can get three packs of waffles for €6. If you’re extra excited after your trip, you can get your own designs printed onto caps or t-shirts, or pick up some of their preprinted options. And naturally, if your bike has a puncture, there’s someone there able to fix it.  If you miss your pet back home, you can even pick them up a treat too! // Albert Cuyp Market – Albert Cuypstraat, 1073, Amsterdam

16:00 – Melt for the Chocolaterie Pompadour

Once you’re done exploring the market, and when you think you’ve had enough food to snack on, it’s time for a 25-minute walk (or seven-minute bike ride) to Chocolaterie Pompadour. Enjoy the walk as you pass too many canals to count, past the famous Ponte dei 15 Ponti (Bridge of 15 bridges), and pose and take some photos. Find yourself walking canals, passing museum after museum lining the streets

The Pompadour is known for its homemade French and Belgian pastries, chocolate from France and coffee from the Catalan area of Spain.  You’ll also find financiers made with Spanish almonds and a beurre noisette – and you’ll get one free with every one of your coffees

All the chocolates you find in the shop are handmade there, with their honed craftsmanship, ready for your plate. Indulge yourself, after all, you’ve done a lot of walking (or cycling!)s // Chocolaterie Pompadour – Huidenstraat 12, Amsterdam

17:00 – The Jordaan Neighborhood and Amsterdam canals

Once you’ve stuffed yourself silly again, it’s time to get up and explore some more of Amsterdam. A twenty-minute walk (or 6-minute cycle) away, through canals and over bridges, you’ll find the Jordaan district. It’s known for its beautiful houses, good restaurants, and boutique shops. Wind yourself through side streets, and get to know one of Amsterdam prettiest suburbs. It started out as one of the cities poorest suburbs, with its houses full of mostly immigrants. 80,000 people used to live in this one small area, back in 1900 compared to the 20,000 today

Around 1920, the council improved the living conditions and in the 1970’s a huge rebuild and restoration project began. By the end of the 20th century, it became home to artists, and young professionals, raising the living costs in the area.   Throughout the area, you’ll find ‘inner courtyards’ or hofjes, and if you’re lucky enough you’re able to explore these areas, and if you’re there in summer, you may find some free concerts. Throughout the area, you’ll find the Pianola museum (with old pianos), a museum about the writer Theo Thijssen, and a fluorescent light museum (Electric Lady Land). And if you want to learn more about the area, there’s even a Jordaan museum

Up and down the canals you’ll find Woonbotens – also known as houseboats. Which, naturally, if you want to find out more about them, head to the Houseboat Museum.  The most famous museum in Amsterdam can also be found on the borders of Jordaan – the Anne Frank Museum. But if you’re planning on visiting here, make sure you’ve bought your tickets in advance, or you will miss out // The Jordaan Neighborhood, Amsterdam

18:30 – Beer is all we need at the Heineken Experience

Once you’ve explored the Jordaan area until your heart’s content, it’s time to head over to the Heineken Experience. A half hour walk, 9-minute cycle or even a 10-minute tram ride away, you’ll find the Heineken Experience. Heineken hails from Amsterdam and the Experience is set in the first Heineken brewery in Amsterdam. It’s no longer the sole brewery for Heineken, as in 1988 they had to build a bigger brewery to meet the demand

At the Experience, you can learn all about the history of Heineken, the brewing process and whom Heineken sponsors.  There’s also the option of the ‘Rock the City’ package, where you finish the tour, and then hop on a boat for a cruise up the canals and entrance to the A’Dam lookout (and even a free souvenir!). For €18, you gain entry to the experience, a free city map (with some hidden gems labeled for you!), and two beers! Because after two hours learning about the beer, you naturally would want to taste them too!

Best of all, the bartenders are all Amsterdam locals, who’d be able to give you all the best city advise.  And just like the Rijksmuseum, there’s also an app, that you can use throughout the tour, to gain additional information – both audio and video, and also the tour in nine different languages // Heineken Experience – Stadhouderskade 78, Amsterdam

19:30 – Fresh and popular – The Seafood Bar

After your beer (or two), you’re going to want a bite to eat before you head out for the night. Opened by Fons de Visscher in 2012, he used his past history of a fisherman of 27 years to inspire him and help him create the menu for his restaurant. Everything is freshly prepared on the day from the freshest, sustainably caught seafood

The restaurant prides itself on its choice of Fair Trade, organic and sustainable produce. There are three locations around Amsterdam, with the closest to the Heineken experience being only a 15-minute walk away (or a 5-minute cycle away).  It’s a very popular eatery across Amsterdam – and if you’re worried about getting a table, you can always make a reservation in advance

It’s reasonably priced, with prices starting from €15 for a plate of fish and chips, through to €50 for platters of seafood to share. If you’re stuck for what you want to pick, ask the staff and they’ll be more than happy to offer suggestions or go for the catch of the day – it’s always changing, but be assured it’s the freshest of the fresh // The Seafood Bar – Ferdinand Bolstraat 32, Amsterdam

21:00 – The world known Red Light District

In the center of town and only a ten-minute walk from The Seafood Bar, you’ll find yourself in the world known Red Light District. Known for its sex shops and the clubs, you’ll never have a dull moment once you’re here. You can find museums too – the Museum of Prostitution, Museum of Erotism and even the Museum of Cannabis. What else would you expect!

You can find the famous Moulin Rouge, peep shows on every corner, and if it really takes your fancy, there are even interactive shows – like the Banana Bar. You’ll find women in shop windows (300 windows in fact!) advertising their services and what you can find inside – both throughout the day and at night.  The atmosphere will lul in the early evening – whilst everyone’s enjoying their dinner, and the later it gets, the busier it will be, with people eager to enjoy the ‘traditional’ dutch experience

Be on the lookout for pickpockets, eager to prey on the distracted tourists, and never go alone – you’re always safer in at least pair. It may look like a dangerous place, but if you’re aware and vigilant. It’s quite a safe area of the city – with the police presence there to protect the employees.  If you are interested – look at the architecture and the buildings lining the canals – it’s situated in one of the oldest parts of the city.  Just remember, wherever you are within the district – photos and filming are forbidden. Working women are known to become aggressive to defend themselves and their colleagues // Red Light District – De Wallan, Amsterdam

22:30 – Like a local at the Dampkring Coffee Shop

You can’t visit Amsterdam without experiencing a coffee shop, even if you don’t want to try the goods. Coffee Shops have been around in Amsterdam since the 1970’s where the law was introduced, where coffee shops are licensed to smell small quantities of cannabis

The rules are strict – no advertising, no hard drugs on the premises, no sales to under 18’s and no sales of quantities more than 5 grams.  Coffeeshops aren’t allowed to advertise that they sell cannabis, usually advertising that they’re a coffee shop, rather than a café (who are just a normal coffee shop everyone else!), use Rastafarian memorabilia to advertise their shop and usually keep their cannabis-filled menu under the counter, and the cannabis itself out of view from everyone

Dampkring is one of the more well-known coffee shops in Amsterdam, with a diverse menu of products available. It’s a hub of first timer’s and regular smokers – it was even featured in Oceans 12!  Find yourself enjoying a cake or teas, and even some smokable products, and relax and enjoy the atmosphere around you. It’s the perfect place to enjoy yourself, and meet new people and enjoy a new experience!  As with the laws in place, there’s no alcohol served, so it’s a nice relaxed place – with their own cat who’s always out to meet everyone // Dampkring CoffeeShop – Handboogstraat 29, Amsterdam

23:59 – Alternative partying at the Bitterzoet

Once you’re all relaxed and mellowed out, it’s time to head to Bitterzoet, a club known for its alternative gigs, and club nights  – with music ranging from hip-hop to reggae. A fifteen-minute walk from Dampkring, back through the Famous Red Light district

And if you’re in the mood, there’s plenty of places to stop along the way to have a quick pre-drink and get ready to go. A bonus is that the staff’s English is great too, so there’s no need to drunkenly try and attempt to speak Dutch! The drinks are reasonably priced, and if you’ve been caught short, you can even get some cigarettes there, and enjoy them in their well-known smoking room 

There are lockers available, in case you want to drop your coats and bags off, and if you’re not in the mood to dance, you can enjoy the sofas on the balcony level. If you can, admire the stained glass windows, with the building steeped in history. There’s a large dancefloor if you’re in the mood to dance and enjoy the night. If you’re lucky enough, there’ll be a concert the night you head there, or a house DJ ready to mix the night away // Bitterzoet – Spuistraat 2 , Amsterdam

We mapped out your day trip in Amsterdam

Each highlight of your day trip is numbered, simply follow the guide

What you should absolutely know about Amsterdam

City highlights, food & drinks, expressions, weather, how to get there and how to get around

Well-known for its artistic atmosphere, streets lined with narrow houses, and intricate system of elaborate canals, Amsterdam is a city that is bursting with life. During your Amsterdam day trips, soak up the sun outside a local café, lurk around the lively Museum District, looking at modern art and other famous artists. Enjoy a bike tour around the city or rent a bike to zip around town like a local on the over 400 kilometers of bike paths. Amsterdam has plenty of theaters, places to shop and opportunities for guided tours around the city. Amsterdam is a mecca for dreamers and artists

Cruise down the many canals, looking at Dutch architecture or stop for the must-have photo at the “I amsterdam” sign. Visit the Van Gogh Museum and the Anne Frank House. Picnic at Vondelpark or hang out at Dam square in the heart of the city

Bitterbal is a Dutch food staple and served for lunch and dinner. Enjoy Ontbijtkoek for breakfast and the fish dish, Kibbeling, for a meal later in the day. Indulge in one of the hundreds of flavors of Vlaaien, pastry-filled pies or tarts

Dutch can be intimidating, but these few phrases should make you feel more comfortable. To say “Yes”, say “Ja” and “Nee” is “No”. “Ik spreek geen Nederlands” is Dutch for “I don’t speak Dutch”. Another useful phrase is “Ik begrijp het niet” means “I don’t understand”

The long sunny summers in Amsterdam rarely bring temperatures above 75 degrees and fall is usually around 60 degrees and slightly rainy. Winters bring plenty of fog and mist, with temperatures in the 30s and 40s. Springs are slightly warmer, and comfortable with a light jacket

To get to the city center from the airport, take the direct railway line from platforms 1 and 2. This is the fastest way into the city and costs around 9 Euros one-way. This line is really popular, well organized with lots of trains

Purchase a 24-hour OV card for 7.50 Euros for access to all trains, buses, subways, and trams. Amsterdam is also a perfectly walkable city and very bike friendly. Rent a bike for around 8 Euros and enjoy the day as a Dutch resident

Feeling adventurous? Have a look at these city guides