Amsterdam is one of the most popular destinations in Europe and I’ve been longing to return to the capital of the Netherlands since my first visit over 10 years ago. With over 40 museums, many theatres, picturesque bridges, and great food options, Amsterdam has a lot to offer, so I couldn’t wait to make the most of my 24 hours in Amsterdam.
Since Amsterdam is only 400 km away from my German hometown, there was no better time to embark on a road trip with my mum. We stayed in Amstelveen, 30 minutes South of the centre of Amsterdam. After we had a delicious breakfast at the hotel, we hopped onto the metro and arrived at Centraal station 30 minutes later. Below is my personal guide how to spend 24 hours in Amsterdam!
11:30 – Cruising along the canals with Lovers
There’s no better way to start exploring Amsterdam than by a canal cruise. Most cruise operators leave conveniently opposite Centraal station. The most popular tour is the 1h cruise that allows you to experience the beautiful canals of the city from a different perspective, but there are lots of other options including the Burger or Pizza cruise, or the candlelight cruise in the evening. We got discounted tickets (13 EUR) for the Lovers 1h Canal Cruise that departs opposite the main station, and shortly after we were en route to explore and learn more about Amsterdam.
13:00 – Lunchin’ at Manneken Pis
Back at Centraal Station, we walked along Damrak street and couldn’t resist getting a portion of french fries at Manneken Pis. We got the medium portion which was absolutely massive. Plus, Dutch people must like sauces on fries as we could choose from over 20 delicious versions including the classics ketchup and mayonnaise, but they also had more exotic ones like curry sauce, cheddar cheese sauce, pesto mayo, and the special that comes with ketchup, mayonnaise and onions.
13:30 – Strolling through the centre and Jordaan
We continued walking to Dam square – the main square of the city. That’s also where you can find the wax museum Madame Tussauds, and lots of street artists. After a small break, we walked towards the canal district. Did you know that Amsterdam has more than one hundred kilometers of canals, around 90 islands and 1,500 bridges? One of the most beautiful canals is Herengracht due to the beautiful houses surrounding it. We walked past Anne Frank House, crossed the canal, and strolled along Prinsengracht in the trendy neighbourhood Jordaan. It’s a lively area full of charm and perfect for a lunch or coffee break.
15:00 – Admiring art at Museumplein
Only a 20-30 minutes walk away is the museum quarter (or Museumplein) which is home to the popular Rijksmuseum (rare art and antiquities), Stedelijk Museum (modern art), Moca Museum (currently hosting a Banksy exhibition), and the Van Gogh Museum. Another highlight is the large iAmsterdam sign in front of the Rijksmuseum. Taking a picture can get a bit tricky though during the day, as a few hundred people are trying to do the same.
16:00 – Relaxing at Vondelpark
After all the walking, we decided to head to the nearby Vondelpark – located west from the Leidseplein and the Museumplein. The park has over 47 hectares and is an amazing oasis to relax and wind down. As it was a sunny Saturday, lots of the locals flocked outside, had a picnic, or just enjoyed the sunny weather with friends or family.
17:00 – Shopping at ‘The Nine Streets’
On our way back to Dam Square, we walked through ‘De 9 Straatjes’ which is popular for its unique shops and boutiques. The lively neighbourhood is also home to restaurants, cafés, galleries, so it’s a great place to hang out, or have dinner, too.
18:30 – Exploring the wonders of the human anatomy at ‘Body Worlds’
Back at Damrak, we headed to ‘Body Worlds – The Happiness Project’ – an interactive exhibition with more than 200 real human bodies. The entrance costs 18 Euro (with a discount) and we still had until 10pm to explore. The focus of this exhibition is how happiness affects the body and our health. Spread across 6 floors, we learned more about the body and what factors influence happiness. I found the exhibition super interesting and it showed how little changes in life can make you happier.
21:00 – Winding down at Amsterdam’s harbour
It’s been a long day, so it was time for dinner! Amsterdam has lots of great restaurants in Jordaan and De Pijp, but we decided to head towards the harbour and ended up at Vapiano – an Italian restaurant that offers some great views over the harbour. It slowly started to get dark, and the sky turned purple. The perfect end of an action-packed day.
24 hours in Amsterdam is certainly not enough to explore this beautiful city, but it gives you a first impression. Are you staying in Amsterdam longer, or planning to return? Here are a few more options what else you could see and do in the city.
What else to see and do in Amsterdam?
Are you a foodie like me? Then you should go to Foodhallen. Located in the hip Oud-West neighbourhood, Foodhallen is a great place to grab some food and drinks. Around 20 vendors offer everything from wood-fired pizza to Vietnamese summer rolls and Dutch pancakes to delicious burgers. Another reason for me to come back!
- Red Light District:
Amsterdam is known for its red light district and this is certainly something you should check out if you’re around in the evening.
The famous flower market has everything from cut flowers, house plants to seeds and gardening essentials. Of course, you’ll find tulips in every colour here, too. Besides flowers, you’ll also find souvenirs such as local cheese.
- Icebar Amsterdam:
If you need to cool down and like to sip on a few cocktails or a beer, this is the place to go. Having heard of the Icebar in London, I was excited to see it in Amsterdam, too. Everything in the bar is made of natural ice. Don’t worry if you haven’t brought your thermal coat and gloves – all will be provided and is included in the price. If you book online in advance, you get a ticket for 19 Euro (3 drinks + warm clothes included).
- Rent a bike:
Amsterdam has 400km (250 miles) of amazing bike lanes and it allows you to explore the city much faster. Be careful though, there are set rules you should follow otherwise you might get into trouble.
- Stay on a houseboat:
If you like to treat yourself, stay like a local in Amsterdam and rent a houseboat for a few nights. There’s no better way to experience the city!
- Anne Frank House:
Whether you’ve heard of Anne Frank or not, this is a great place to learn more about the dark past of Jewish people in Europe. Visit Anne’s hiding place and learn more about her story. Make sure to book tickets in advance, or it’s likely you have to queue for hours.
This museum is a classic when visiting Amsterdam and if you’re interested in art, it’s an absolute must. It’s a huge building, so allow a few hours for it. Reservations can be made ahead but are not necessary.
- Van Gogh Museum:
If you’re an Van Gogh lover, this is the right museum for you. Plus, the museum is beautifully designed!
There a plenty more museums in Amsterdam such as the Erotic Museum, the Houseboat Museum, and the Heineken experience for beer lovers. It’s your choice!
Shaily24. February 2018 at 10:14 pm
Amsterdam is such a lovely city! You’ve listed a lot of cool places to visit in a day. I didn’t know Amsterdam has over 40 museums, more than one hundred kilometers of canals, 90 islands and 1500 bridges – these are just wow facts about the city! Hopefully I’ll visit this bucket list destination soon.
Sina Meyer3. March 2018 at 9:48 am
It’s incredible, isn’t it? There is just so much to see in Amsterdam, definitely have to come back 🙂
Lydia Smith24. February 2018 at 2:05 pm
I was supposed to visit Amsterdam last year November but some silly thing crept in. See what I’ve missed. And I can relate to all these things. My list had everything except the houseboat which I’ll consider adding for this year. Biking was topping my Amsterdam list last year, there’s so much rave about it. I look forward to visiting Amsterdam!
Sina Meyer3. March 2018 at 9:51 am
Hope you get a chance to go soon, it’s a beautiful city with so much to see. If you get the chance, I would definitely try to stay on a houseboat – looks like a cool experience!
Nathan23. February 2018 at 5:10 pm
Amsterdam’s on my bucket list for sure, and I’d really love to visit especially after seeing so much that it has to offer. Beautiful architecture and great local fare! 🙂
Sina Meyer3. March 2018 at 10:16 am
It’s a really nice city – definitely go when you get the chance!
Followingtherivera23. February 2018 at 2:53 pm
Amsterdam is a great and vibrant city! My brother used to live in Museumplakt so I know the area well. You can’t go wrong with those frites, just delicious!
Sina Meyer3. March 2018 at 10:00 am
Haha, I was tempted to go back for a second portion. So delicious and loved that they had so many different types of sauces 😀
Amy @ Family Globetrotters22. February 2018 at 11:24 pm
Not sure why but Amsterdam is never on my European list of places to go despite wanting to always go. Heading to Europe again soon but going to the East this time. Really must make an effort next time. and I had no idea they have over 40 museums…. that is like heaven for me! Great post:)
Sina Meyer3. March 2018 at 10:11 am
There are just so many beautiful cities in Europe… I’ve also got a few places on my list I wanted to go to for a while but I keep pushing them back. Enjoy your time in East Europe!
Rachelle22. February 2018 at 10:04 pm
I’m going to be having an extended layover in Amsterdam this fall, so this post was awesome to read! I think renting a bike would be a great way to get a quick overview of the city, while stretching out from a loooong flight from the US. I figured the iAmsterdam sign would be super busy during the day. Do you think it would be less crowded early in the morning, maybe around sunrise?
Sina Meyer25. February 2018 at 8:41 pm
Glad you like the post, Rachelle! I would definitely give it a go in the morning as it’s definitely going to be less busy. Have an amazing time travelling 🙂
Outdoor Fact29. January 2018 at 5:09 am
Wow you really covered everything in a day! Thanks for sharing this such useful information, I’m sure it’ll give lots of inspiration to people traveling to Amsterdam. It’s undeniable that 24 hours is not enough to explore this exotic city. One place you should include on the schedule is the A’Dam Tower. It has the best view over the city!
Sina Meyer11. February 2018 at 3:07 pm
Thanks, glad you enjoyed the post. Yes, it was a long day but we definitely didn’t have enough time and will be back. Thanks for tip, I’ll keep that in mind for next time 🙂
Karl10. September 2017 at 6:27 pm
Excellent, you make me take the backpack and go 😀
Justine19. June 2017 at 10:49 pm
Oooh I’ve also done the canal cruise, red light district, and of course, devoured some frites! You’re right, staying in a house boat is surely something to experience in Amsterdam (which I didn’t do!) but maybe next time!
Sina Meyer22. June 2017 at 11:46 am
It must be a cool experience to stay on a house boat in Amsterdam. It seems quite expensive though, so I had to skip it this time but who knows, maybe in the future 🙂
Kate19. June 2017 at 2:18 am
How do you feel about the Red Light District being a major attraction in Amsterdam? Would you visit? I think I would feel really uncomfortable about the whole thing, but it definitely looks like Amsterdam has lots of other gorgeous attractions. I really hope that I can visit one day, but yet to set foot in Europe.
Sina Meyer19. June 2017 at 9:57 am
The Red Light District wasn’t on top of my list hence I didn’t go this time, but I can imagine that it’s interesting to get to know that part of Amsterdam, too. I’ve been to the Reeperbahn (Red Light District in Hamburg) and this was definitely an experience! Nonetheless, Amsterdam has so much to offer, so you definitely won’t get bored. Hope you get a chance to visit Europe soon 🙂
Mel | The Wandering Darlings18. June 2017 at 7:26 pm
The more I see and read about Amsterdam the more I just want to get there to explore!! Loved your blog about it and pinning to save for when I finally get there
Sina Meyer19. June 2017 at 9:39 am
Thank you Mel! Amsterdam is really a beautiful city and perfect to explore by foot. When you get a chance to go, make sure to stay longer than 24 hours 😀