Oh, Amsterdam. A city that captured my heart the first time I visited, and has lured me back many times since then. A city on canals, Amsterdam is easy explored by foot, boat or bike. With delicious eateries, charming boutiques, and incredible museums, there’s no shortage of things to do in the capital of the Netherlands.
If you’re short on time and new to Amsterdam, this is how I’d spend a day in Amsterdam, soaking up some of the best things the city has to offer.
Your morning begins in the Jordaan- if you’re able, I’d recommend staying near this area. It’s quintessential Amsterdam, arguably the city’s most charming neighborhood. The Jordaan doesn’t have any major sights, it’s more so a place where you stumble across things.
First thing: Head to the Anne Frank Huis. Seeing the Secret Annex is a powerful experience. It’s a dark and airless space, and hard to imagine the families who lived there had to be completely silent during the day. Touring the house takes under an hour, and admission is under €10, but purchase your tickets months in advance if you don’t want to wait hours to get in.
Post-Anne Frank, if you have a nice day, walk next door to the Westerkerk, a Reformed church within Dutch Protestant church. For ~€7, you can join a guide-led tour to the top for incredible views of the city. The tours are scheduled, so heading there in the morning is best if you want to have flexibility with when you climb to the top. When we went, it took ~30 minutes to climb up and down- a small chunk of time for such stunning perspective.
By now, you’ve likely worked up an appetite. Luckily, the Pancake Bakery is a few blocks away. The Dutch are known for their pancakes, and after coming here, you’ll understand why. Pancake Bakery may be tiny, but they make amazing sweet and savory pancakes. You’ll also find the best poffertjes (mini pancakes) in the city here.
Heading into the afternoon, do a bit of wandering (and shopping, if that’s your thing) in the Jordaan.
One street in particular that’s adorable because of all the shuttered old warehouses: Brouwersgracht (Brouwersgracht 107, 1015 GD Amsterdam, Netherlands).
As you’re wandering, if you need a bit of caffeine, one of my favorite coffee shops is nearby- Two for Joy Coffee Roasters. Cosy cafe with great espresso and free wifi.
A couple of my favorite shops in the area: Sukha, Store Without a Home, Ko and Restored.
Keep walking the narrow cobblestone streets in the Jordaan for a bit- the three inner canal rings, Prinsengracht, Keizergracht and Herengracht are picture perfect.
If you need an activity for the afternoon in the area, I love the cheese and wine tasting at Reypenaer Proeflokaal. Holland is the largest cheese exporter in the world. The tasting is an hour long, and well worth it- their cheese literally melts in your mouth. And they’re still producing it the traditional way, letting it age in a warehouse where temperature control means opening or closing the windows. If you’re traveling on a budget, this is a pretty affordable afternoon activity, coming in at €15. Tastings sell out though, be sure to book your spot in advance.
As your wandering, you’ll see a bunch of canal-side eateries and bars. One of my favorites, Cafe P96, has both indoor seating and houseboat seating at the adjacent canal. Relaxing atop the houseboat with a glass of wine or local brew late afternoon is one of my favorite ways to take in the city.
I’d recommend being flexible with lunch- there are a lot of great eateries in the Jordaan. Foodhallen, a beautiful food hall with lots of great vendors) is just outside the neighborhood and has something for everyone. Within the Jordaan, there are plenty of great delis and cafes where you can grab a quick bite- I’m a big fan of sla, serving healthy fresh salads, and Boca’s- great cheese & charcuterie boards and sandwiches.
Late afternoon/early evening, head to Central Station to hop on an hour long canal cruise. Amsterdam is known as the “Venice of the North” because it has so many canals, so touring them by boat is a must. I’ve done day, night and sunset canal cruises, and enjoyed the time right before/during sunset the most. Near Central Station, there are a bunch of providers to choose from, typically ranging from €15-18 for the cruise.
Post-cruise, I’d walk back to the Jordaan. For dinner, be flexible again. Two of my favorite eateries in the neighborhood- La Perla for great Italian or Moeders for traditional Dutch food.
Be sure to save room for Dutch Appeltaart at Winkel 43. I’m not a pie person (unless it’s strawberry rhubarb), but when you’re visiting a country that’s been making apple pie for centuries- an early Dutch cookbook dates it back to 1514- you make an exception.
To end the night, head to either Tales & Spritis for a few cocktails- order off the menu of inventive drinks or tell the waiters what kind of flavors/spirits you like, and they’ll take care of you. If cocktails aren’t your thing, walk or take a tram across the city to Brouwerij ‘t IJ, a modern brewery next to a windmill producing organic craft brews.
If you’re not ready to turn in just yet, take a stroll through De Wallen (red light district) to see a different side of Amsterdam, or grab another drink at one of the canal-side bars. Watching lights twinkle on the canal as the night settles in is a perfect way to end your day exploring Amsterdam.
More to See & Do
Of course, there’s so much more to see and do in Amsterdam- one day only scratches the surface. If you have more time-
- Where to Eat & Drink in Amsterdam
- Where to See Windmills in Amsterdam
- 10 Things to See & Do in Amsterdam
- What it’s like to Stay on a Houseboat in Amsterdam
What is ‘A Perfect Day’? Often, I’m asked for my top recos for cities near and abroad by friends who only have a few days to explore a destination. ‘A Perfect Day’ are my top recos for exploring a city if it’s you’re a first time visitor and short on time.