Amsterdam In One Day

One day in Amsterdam

[Disclaimer: I wrote this post back in 2014. Although the facts in this blog post have been updated and I do still recommend that you visit these places in Amsterdam, I have not edited my past thoughts and opinions on matters, even though I don't necessarily agree with them now. So please excuse my younger, naive, mostly narcissistic, ever-exaggerating, accidentally non-pc, meat and dairy eating ass:]

I. How to Spend One Day in Amsterdam on a Budget

Amsterdam is a bucket-list city for most people: the iconic clog slippers and tulips, the relaxed attitude to weed and prostitutes, the chance to see Van Gogh art pieces and an abundance of bicycles and canals. Whether you're there for a party weekend or if you're interested in true Dutch culture - Amsterdam will cater to you. One day in Amsterdam is often how much time people have in Amsterdam. Maybe you're fitting it into a longer Europe trip, maybe you're doing party stuff the rest of the time you're there. No matter the reason, 1 day in Amsterdam is a great start. This post is all about what you can do in Amsterdam and how much of it you can fit it into a day because, despite the fact that we will definitely be going back, I'm here to tell you: yes, Amsterdam can be done in one day (or night). Don't get me wrong, we absolutely loved Amsterdam and definitely didn't do everything (far from it), but in one day in Amsterdam you can get a really good taste of the city and do pretty much all of the highlights. So let's answer the question: how to spend one day in Amsterdam?

#1. Walk Along the Amstel

We recommend starting off your 1 day in Amsterdam with a walk along the Amstel - the river which flows through Amsterdam. This will give you a great first impression of Amsterdam and show you a world that's far apart from the weed, red light and touristy centre. You'll see tonnes of bikes, beautiful buildings and cute houseboats:

one day in amsterdam

There are also pretty, wildflowers everywhere. The streets are really clean (especially for a capital city). And the locals here!

#2. Visit the Albert CUYP Markt

Albert CUYP is a fun market to walk through - they have all the usual suspects: cute touristy clog slippers, Dutch cheeses, beautiful flowers:

1 day in amsterdam

It's free to browse and take shots of the clog slippers:

Amsterdam Clog Slippers

#3. Museumplein

If you're looking for that classic Insta-good Amsterdam shot, head to Museumplein - that's where you'll find that famous I Amsterdam sign:

Iamsterdam 1 day amsterdam

Right behind the I Amsterdam sign is the Rijksmuseum aka the museum of the Netherlands, inside you'll find Dutch art and history from the Middle Ages right up to present day. Tickets are around 17.50 Euro and whether or not you go in depends on your interest in Dutch art and history how much time of your one day in Amsterdam you want to spend on that. Personally, we just contented ourselves with taking a billion photos in front of the Iamsterdam sign:

24 hours amsterdam

Right next to the Rijksmuseum on the way to the Van Gogh Museum are a few pretty (albeit touristy and overpriced) shops:

one day in amsterdam

Where you can pick up some beautiful (fake) Van Goghs:

spend one day in amsterdam

I love a bit of Van Gogh. The Van Gogh museum itself costs 18 Euros to get in or free if you have an I Amsterdam city card.

#4. Explore Vondel Park

The Vondel park is named after a Dutch author and is a big park very near the Museumplein. We sat and watched the many many cyclists go by. It was cute! On a sunny day, this is the absolute best place to take a picnic.

amsterdam for the day

#5. Canal Tour

There are tonnes of ways to enjoy Amsterdam's canals in 1 day - they are literally everywhere. Start off by walking around them and getting good and lost. (If you don't really want to get lost on your one day in Amsterdam I recommend the app - I'm not affiliated with this app, and I recommend it to people all the time, none of which listen to me, but get this it's so.much.better than google maps, try it for free and see - also, it's always free).

to do in amsterdam one day

If you've got the time and money, I highly recommend doing a canal tour. We're normally pretty snobby when it comes to touristy tours, but this is honestly an ideal way to see all Amsterdam has to offer in 1 day, without tiring your feet out. AND you get the added bonus of seeing Amsterdam from a new angle.

how to spend a day in amsterdam

Even if you're doing Amsterdam on a budget, there are plenty of budget-friendly canal tours. We recommend this hop on hop off Amsterdam canal tour - it's only $30 and you get the best of both worlds: you can see Amsterdam from a canal, and you can hop off when you see something interesting like:

#6. Visit Anne Frank's House

Anne Frank's House is one of the most iconic sites and important historical places in Amsterdam. Make sure you include it on your one day in Amsterdam trip. You can see it from the outside by foot, see it from the canal tour, or of course go inside. My favourite bit was seeing Anne Frank's House. We'd planned on walking there and viewing it from the outside (apparently if you go in it's boring and you're shepherded around like a sheep) but when it came to it we were too tired to do that, so it was great to see it in the same way, but from the boat:

a day in amsterdam

Be warned, tickets for Anne Frank House sell out very quickly, you can't just rock up and expect entry, pre-book. We decided that we didn't have enough time or cash to go in, so we contented ourselves to viewing it from the outside. A few people told us it's kind of boring inside and you're shepherd around like sheep. What I personally think is more interesting is a Jewish Quarter tour - it only takes 2 hours (perfect length for your 1 day in Amsterdam), and you get to hear about the real history. Tickets don't include entry into Anne Frank's House, but you will see it from the outside and probably learn more than if you went in - depending on how you like to learn, personally I'm a listener, not a reader. Tickets from $30 (book here).

#7. The Bicycles in Amsterdam

In Amsterdam, everyone rides a bike. There are mens bikes, there are bikes for women, believe it or not there are even bikes that don't care about your gender too... It was so great to see people out on their bikes, the carbon emission must be quite low here. We'd heard before that Amsterdam was bike crazy, but we didn't know that the bikes were all so old fashioned and cute. We also didn't know that every type of person rides a bike - people in suits, skirts, heels, parents with one or two kids on the front/back. Every new person looked less prepared for cycling, and the Dutch must be really good at balancing too - there were bags and kids everywhere:

1 day in amsterdam

You can, of course, opt to do a bike tour of Amsterdam - it's so flat there and so bicycle friendly, it's a great way to cover lots of ground on your one day in Amsterdam. [Tickets are from $30, you can book yours here.]

one day in amsterdam

#8. Church of Saint Nicholas and Amsterdam Centraal

The Church of Saint Nicholas and Amsterdam Centraal (the main train station) are two of my favourite buildings in Amsterdam and they're right next to each other, I recommend checking them out!

amsterdam on a budget

#9. The Red Light District Amsterdam

One of the most famous things in Amsterdam is, of course, the Red Light District - also known as De Wallen. This is the place to go if you're looking for sex shops, peep shows, the sex museum, prostitutes, and of course window prostitutes - you can walk past and see people sat in red-lit windows, not wearing a lot and looking bored. It's a big tourist spot, and I'm not sure prostitution as a tourist attraction is the best idea ever. Like in Thailand, you'll find lots of excited looking boys (probably from England), waiting to go into peep shows. These are people bro, grow up. Saying that, prostitution should be legal, for the safety of the prostitutes so that's a plus.

#10. Buying Marijuana in Amsterdam

In the red light district, you'll also find the weed museum and lots of coffee shops offering legal marijuana. I think weed is great, I think going to Amsterdam for the day purely to smoke it is kind of lame. But hey, enough of my judgements let's give you some facts: the coffee shops are easily distinguished from the regular coffee shops by the smell. You're legally allowed to buy it there. There are loads of weed souvenirs in Amsterdam, like lollipops, they won't get you high:

Amsterdam Coffee Shops

And if you want an actual guide by a real Dutchman check this out: Amsterdam Guide To Drugs - factual, informative - all the good stuff.

II. Accommodation in Amsterdam

If you're spending one day in Amsterdam on a budget, accommodation may well be what costs you the most - the food is reasonable, there's plenty of cheap sites/ things to see for free in Amsterdam, but accommodation can be a lot, what should you do?

house sitting in amsterdam

#1. House Sitting in Amsterdam

Firstly, we highly recommend house sitting. What is house sitting? House sitting is an exchange - you look after someone's house (and often pets) whilst they are away and in exchange, you get to stay in that house for free! What it is, is free accommodation in Amsterdam, what it isn't, is a free place to crash whilst you go to peep shows and throw up because you smoked too much pot. But, if you're responsible and you love animals, definitely check out house sitting in Amsterdam. We have a whole guide and helpful tips on how to start house sitting, but if you're already convinced head straight on over and start browsing house sits in Amsterdam.

#2. Couchsurfing in Amsterdam

Couchsurfing is another way to have free accommodation in Amsterdam. This is a great way to meet people who actually live in Amsterdam and to learn what it's really like there.

#3. Airbnb in Amsterdam

Airbnbs in Amsterdam can be expensive, if you opt for just a room it will be cheaper and you will have the added bonus of meeting real locals. 

#4. Hotels in Amsterdam

hotels in amsterdam

Hotels in Amsterdam vary, you can find ones cheaper than Airbnbs but you can find grottier ones too. If you're spending one day in Amsterdam on a budget we recommend either the Qbic, Corendon or the Levell they both have great reviews and are only £52 a night. If you have a bit more of a budget in Amsterdam, go either the B&B Amsterdam - it's in a great location (right by the Stedelijk Museum) and - you guessed it - they include breakfast, prices there are from £112. The Ambassade is also really nice - it's luxury 4-star and only £131 per night. And if you're in Amsterdam for the day for a special occasion and want to splash out/ have true luxury go for the Sofitel or the Waldorf - you won't be disappointed. Last, and certainly not least, last time we were in Amsterdam we stay at Hotel2Stay Amsterdam. 

III. The Food in Amsterdam

vegan Dutch Food

The food we had in Amsterdam was epic, this was before we were vegan, and we pigged out on stroopwafel, Dutch cheese, poffertjes, Dutch fries with patatje oorlog (peanut, mayo and onions), liquorice and more. Of course, nowadays we recommend you visit one of Amsterdam's vegan restaurants (there's 26)! And discover that stroopwafel, poffertjes and fries with patatje oorlog all taste amazing vegan (and sometimes even better than the original version). There's also incredible vegan Dutch cheese too.

Wrap Up: How to Spend One Day in Amsterdam

Amsterdam gigantic Clog

Amsterdam is everything you expect and more. You could easily spend months there (and you might be able to with house sitting in Amsterdam), but if you don't have months don't worry 1 day in Amsterdam is a great amount of time to get a good taste for everything Amsterdam has to offer, to see the main sites and leave you eager to come back for more! For more information on Amsterdam written by a local resident, check out Karen's post! And if you have any questions about spending one day in Amsterdam or how to visit Amsterdam on a budget or anything else, just let us know in the comments below! Oh and here's a video involving Amsterdam I enjoyed :)

P.S. was kind enough to provide us and our readers with a 10% discount -- click on the link to use it!

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Travelling through the kyriarchy and weaselling our way out of the rat race - a female travel blogger writing about socially and politically conscious travelling.


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