Amsterdam is one of those cities where you can pack a lot in to 24 hours! From cycling through the picturesque cobblestone streets, taking a boat ride along the canal, visiting some unique museums or coffee shops, Amsterdam has something for everybody!
On my latest trip to Amsterdam I had 24 hours here with my young niece and nephew so everything was very tame during our trip. But equally if you want to hang out smoking or eating space cakes in coffee shops or visit the ladies in the red windows go ahead! Amsterdam is unique. It’s different. There is no judgement here and the city begs to be explored! Here is the perfect 24 hours in Amsterdam itinerary! I have included options at the bottom too if you have more than one day in Amsterdam, and you may find you might have to pick and choose the activities you would most like to do if you don’t think you’ll be able to see them all. My tip is to get up and start exploring early to maximise your time here as much as possible!
Where to stay in Amsterdam
First off where to book your accommodation in Amsterdam. Amsterdam is a very touristy city so hotels in the centre can often be expensive. If you want to save a little money you will need to look at options a little further from the centre. That being said, transport into the centre is very good so as long as you pick accessible accommodation that is near to a metro/bus line then it is perfect. Just remember buses don’t take cash so you will need to buy a transport card! Click here to view accommodation options for Amsterdam.
When to visit Amsterdam
Amsterdam is a popular tourist destination all year round however the warmer months and the summer holidays are understandably much busier. Due to it’s location near The North Sea and Atlantic Ocean, Amsterdam can have quite cold winters and it does tend to rain a lot in Amsterdam. Therefore it is best to avoid visiting during the winter and also during the busy peak summer months where prices can be higher. Late spring and early autumn are the perfect time to visit as it is still pleasant to walk around and less crowded.
24 HOURS IN AMSTERDAM
For your 24 hours in Amsterdam you should be able to walk to most of the sights as the main tourist areas are compact and all within walking distance of each other. However one piece of transport you must go on when you are here is a canal boat to explore all the waterways that make up this beautiful city!
A trip along the canals of Amsterdam is a must if you only have 1 day in Amsterdam! There are several ways you can go on a canal trip – you can go on one of the overpriced big canal boat tours or get a private boat for around €20 an hour. We did the second (cheaper) option and I loved it so much as it felt much more relaxed and it was all outside whereas some of the tours you can be stuck inside on the boat tour. To find a private boat tour just stroll along the river around The Red Light District and you’ll see guides. Alternatively if you see locals on their boat you can ask them if they would do a boat tour for you. This is what we did and the locals even had a cute dog on the boat which was fun!
Another fun way to explore the canals and get food at the same time is to do an Amsterdam evening pizza cruise with unlimited drinks – click on the link to buy tickets! Or you do the hop-on hop-off canal boat cruises with Stromma. This is a great option so you can get off and explore when you wish and then hop back on again.
Jordaan is the most famous and well-loved neighbourhood in Amsterdam, known for it’s beautiful canal-side houses. Once a poor inner-city area, Jordaan is now a trendy area but not touristy despite being very close to the centre. It is full of charming narrow streets and little canals and you’ll find lots of nice cafes and restaurants here. Jordaan is also beautiful to explore at night.
De Negen Straatjes (The Nine Streets)
A great area very close to Jordaan and the canal belt to explore is the area of 9 Streets (9 Straatjes). As the name suggests, they are a cluster of 9 streets or alleyways, all small and very cosy and picturesque. It is a lively area with lots of independent and unique artisan shops here. Also there are so many places to go for food around 9 Streets including some hidden treasures that you’ll have a hard time choosing which one to pick!
If you stroll down a little bit from 9 Streets you’ll come to Rembrandtplein (Rembrandt Square). From here cross over the Amstel River onto ‘s-Gravelandseveer (click for Google maps location). Here you’ll then have a stunning view looking back over the river of the Dancing Houses on Amstel. The Dancing Houses are totally Instagrammable and you have most probably seen pictures of them before – they are one of the typical Amsterdam places that you will see on postcards here.
Anne Frank House
Anne Frank House (Anne Frank Huis) is very close to Nine Streets and is absolutely worth a visit. It is the museum dedicated to the Jewish girl Anne Frank who kept a diary during her years in hiding in the annexe of this building during World War II. The museum is laid out very well and explains The Holocaust very well. Tickets are €10.50 for adults and can often sell out a couple of months in advance as the museum is very small, so make sure to buy them beforehand. Click here to book.
Red Light District
Even if you don’t wish to spend money on ladies in The Red Light District, you should definitely explore it in your 24 hours here in Amsterdam! It makes up a big part of what makes Amsterdam unique. Note you should not to take pictures of the ladies in the windows. They don’t like it when people try and it can even get you into trouble.
Many Red Light Districts developed in the same way in the past because sailors would dock and come to the cities looking for women. This was exactly how it happened in Amsterdam too, but it was agreed to keep the ‘working ladies’ who would please the soldiers in a specific part of town. This way the sailors would only go there when they were looking for women.
Prostition is legal in The Red Light District for female EU citizens who are over 21. The age limit was imposed to prevent teenagers being exploited into prostitution. And only EU citizens are allowed to work as prostitutes in an attempt to stop women from poorer countries being thrust into the sex trade. Nonetheless, over 90% of sex workers in Amsterdam’s Red Light District are from poorer Eastern European countries.
Visit a coffeeshop
In Amsterdam it is legal to smoke marijuana or eat pot brownies (‘space cakes”) at coffee shops. Therefore many tourists like the experience of visiting the coffee shops of Amsterdam and trying some of the products, especially if this is not allowed in their country!
My first trip to Amsterdam was during my University days and we were very interested to try some weed (sorry mum, I was just being cultural!). Don’t go crazy though. The cannabis in Amsterdam is very strong and if like me you are not used to weed you must take it easy otherwise it could knock you out or make you feel quite ill! If you don’t know what to get just ask the people working at the coffee shop that you haven’t tried marijuana before and they will advise you the best option. For example, we just tried space cakes, we weren’t interested in smoking the cannabis, so the lady told us to eat just half of the space cake first, wait 15 minutes or so and then if we feel fine it should be okay to eat the rest. Often it won’t have an immediate impact on you which is why it is important to not have too much too soon.
Dam Square, Amsterdam’s most important square, is located in the heart of Amsterdam very close to the Red Light District so make sure you stop there afterwards. You’ll see the Royal Palace and the National Monument. You’ll also find several pancake stalls here if you need a snack!
Rent a bike
Cycling on a bike is a very ‘Amsterdam’ thing to do, so if you fancy cycling down the cobbled streets of the Old Town and exploring this way, click here to check out a few different bike hire companies. There are even a few that do bike tours if you are interested.
Just be careful cycling as there are a lot of cyclists and locals use bicycles as a form of transport so they can often cycle quite fast! You’ll need to keep an eye out too if you plan to cycle in busy areas as there can be a lot of pedestrians! If you will have children cycling on separate bikes just be careful – try not to go to the very busy places incase you get split up or your child has an accident trying to swerve people.
Museumplein (Museum Square) is a grand 19th Century square home to Amsterdam’s 3 most important and famous museums: Rijksmuseum, Van Gogh Museum and Stedelijk Museum of Modern Art. If you only have 24 hours in Amsterdam you most likely will not have time to go inside any of these museums AND explore the rest of the city. But if there is one museum that you really want to see though, do your best to wake up early and maximise your time sightseeing so you can fit it in.
Sadly 24 hours never allows us to see everything in a city, which is why it is especially important to plan your itinerary well when you only have one day so you don’t miss out on anything you will later regret!
The area around Museumplein is very busy and it is very child friendly with a shallow pool that becomes an ice-rink in the winter. There is also a skate park here as well as several food stalls and lots of space so you can sit and enjoy a picnic if the weather is nice.
If you enjoy Dutch art and history head to Rijksmuseum. Rijksmuseum is set in a stunning building and at Rijksmuseum you will find lots of beautiful paintings from Dutch artists such as Rembrandt, Van Gogh and Frans Hals. Rijksmuseum is often called one of the best museums in the world and for this reason it gets very busy here so try to get here early. You can buy tickets online here.
The I Amsterdam sign stood inform of The Rijksmuseum for a few years but since 2018 it has been removed.
Van Gogh Musem
Van Gogh was born in The Netherlands and you can visit the Van Gogh museum here in Amsterdam. It hosts the world’s largest collection of Van Gogh paintings, including the iconic Sunflowers as well as several self portrait paintings. If you do plan to visit, go at late afternoon when there are less crowds. You will need to buy your tickets online beforehand and tickets are €19 for adults. The museum is child friendly (children under 18 are free to enter!) but note photography is not allowed here.
What food to eat in Amsterdam
Despite fries being Belgian, Belgium is just next door to Holland and so Belgian frites is a popular snack here in Amsterdam! You’ll see lots of stalls selling fries and they make a cheap and tasty snack or meal on the go if you don’t always have to stop off at a restaurant for lunch.
Herring is also a popular Dutch food that you should try (it is called haring in Dutch). You’ll see lots of street vendors selling herring from their food carts.
For those of you with a sweet tooth, stroopwafel is a famous sweet here. It is basically a waffle filled with caramel or honey.
Poffertjes are small fluffy pancakes that are very popular in Amsterdam too and you should definitely try them!
I recommend for dinner you head to The Pantry, a traditional Dutch restaurant.
If you have more than 24 hours in Amsterdam
If you have more than 24 hours in Amsterdam and you are lucky enough to be here during April or May, get yourself down to Keukenhof to see the tulip fields there. They are so stunning and only 25 miles from the centre of Amsterdam. Other things to do in Amsterdam if you have more than one day here include:
Drink beer under a windmill
Along with tulips, windmills are synonymous with Holland. Head to The IJ Brewery (Brouwerij ‘t IJ) – a modern brewery just a short walk from the centre of Amsterdam (or take tram 10 or 14 to get here) and enjoy drinking beer under a real windmill. Click here to see the Google maps location.
Or alternatively, experience the world’s favourite beer at The Heineken Experience. The Heineken Experience is in the centre of town and offers a really fun interactive experience! Click here for tickets as well as lots of other options you can do if you have more than one day here!
Parks are a great place to relax for a little bit when the sun is shining, and popular Vondel Park is the perfect place to go in Amsterdam during the warmer months to unwind. At Vondel Park there are lots of fountains, lakes, paddling pools and rose gardens to enjoy here in Amsterdam’s biggest park. It is so big it can even be compared to New York’s Central Park. You’ll also see wooden tree huts with swinging rope bridges and a zip line in the middle of the park. Perfect for children!
Amsterdam with kids
Amsterdam is a great city to explore with children. As well as visiting the parks, exploring around the canals and eating the street food, many children love visiting the museums in the city. One museum in Amsterdam not mentioned above but that lots of children really love is the NemoScience Museum. From here there are great views of Amsterdam and on the roof of the museum is a beach with sand!
Alternative places you can also take children to in Amsterdam include Amsterdam Forest and Amstel Park. You’ll also see lots of decent kids playgrounds in Amsterdam as you are walking round.
Where to visit after The Netherlands?
The Netherlands is quite a small country so because of this many people combine a trip here with visiting a couple of other nearby countries. Germany for example is just next door to The Netherlands and is roughly 9 times bigger. There are so many unique places to visit in Germany for example Neuschwanstein Castle, Rothenburg ob der Tauber, Berlin or you could even check out Munich for Oktoberfest!