Welcome, dear hasty traveller! You only have 24 hours to spend in this lovely metropolis… but don’t feel rushed – Amsterdam is perfect for this kind of trip! It’s rather compact, so getting around is very easy, especially on foot or by bike. And the center of the city is so charming and gorgeous that just walking around is a delight for the eyes. But if you’d like to add a little more structure to your short journey, here’s 10 ways that I would recommend spending just one day in Amsterdam.
If you’re going to make the most of your day here, you’ve got to do breakfast right. Pass by this cafe and its store-front, full to bursting with a colorful mountain of cakes and quiches, will stop you in your tracks. “The Last Crumb” is so cute you almost can’t take it. While there’s not many seats, you should definitely try to squeeze in here for your first cup of coffee, freshly squeezed juice and a lovely little scone or croissant. And of course, something indulgent to take with you for later. (My personal favorite? The zucchini cake with lemon curd.) This place gets bonus points in the summer, when they open up a pint-sized terrace out back which overlooks the canal.
De Laatste Kruimel
+31 (0)20 423 0499
Open: Daily 8 am – 8 pm
Take in the Atmosphere
Just a few minutes’ walk from De Laatste Kruimel, the oddly-shaped Spui square is great for people watching. It can get busy but in a cheerful way, thanks to the nearby university library, cozy cafes, bookstores and the occasional art and book markets that happen on the square. Take a few minutes to browse or just soak up the atmosphere. You can also slip in to the Begijnhof (you’ll spy the door to the right of the American Book Center) for a glimpse at a peaceful courtyard with houses reserved just for women.
Open: Daily 9 am – 5 pm
Throw Down Some Euros
If you’d like to do a bit of shopping in Amsterdam, I have one very important piece of advice: avoid Kalverstraat like the plague. It’s crowded, and has more or less the exact same brands you’ll find on most major shopping streets. Utrechtsestraat, which runs parallel to the Amstel River, between Rembrandtplein and Fredericksplein, is a very attractive alternative. Here you’ll find an eclectic mix of clothing stores for all budgets, a few traditional cheese shops and herring stands, bookstores, restaurants with cuisine from all over the world, and cute bars. And as you work your way down the street, you’ll get lovely views of the river and canals.
A Massive Sandwich in a Tiny Café
Since their sandwiches are so delicious, I guess the people at Singel 404 figured they didn’t really need to bother coming up with a name for this slightly cramped but rather cozy cafe. So just look for this street address and you’ll get treated to a lunch menu crammed with decadent sandwiches and desserts, as well as great views from the terrace (as you can see here… rainbow not always included unfortunately).
+31 (0) 20 4280154
Opening hours not listed
A Lovely Garden on the Amstel
Given your time crunch, you probably don’t want to spend your precious hours inside a museum. But I would definitely recommend taking a peek at the Hermitage. In addition to the stately building on the Amstel River, you can sneak around back to get into one of the most peaceful courtyards in Amsterdam, which has a bountiful garden surrounded by old canal houses. And if you fancy a cup of tea, you can relax at the organic cafe called Hoftuin. Not only is it beautiful, but it’s dedicated to a good cause: supporting the social initiatives of the Protestant Diocese of Amsterdam. All the buildings that surround you belong to the Diocese… just as the Hermitage once did, when it was a home for the elderly.
Nieuwe Herengracht 18A
+31 (0) 20 370 27 23
Open: Daily 10 am – 6 pm
History and a Bird’s Eye View
It might not surprise you that the city’s oldest building is a gorgeous church. But did you realize that it’s right in the middle of the infamous Red Light District? Welcome to Amsterdam! The Oude Kerk functions mostly as a cultural center now, with frequent exhibitions, including World Press Photo every year. If you want to get a good view of the city, you can climb the tower with a guide, who’ll tell you all about the history of the church and point out the highlights of Amsterdam’s skyline.
Church open: Mon – Sat 10 am – 6 pm, Sun 1 pm – 5.30 pm
Tower open: April – Sept, Thu – Sat 1 pm – 5 pm
Sip of the Local Culture
Like its southern cousin, the Netherlands is a nation of beer drinkers. But don’t let your exploration of their favorite poison stop with a pint of Heineken. Stop by a bottle shop like the Bierkoning, close to Dam Square, and you’ll get a sense of the enthusiasm and creativity behind the Dutch craft beer scene. The staff is super knowledgeable and helpful, and they also have a few books in stock with beer bars in Amsterdam if you want to dive in even deeper. You can also grab a few bottles from their coolers and go enjoy them canal-side.
+31 (0)20 625 2336
Open: Mon – Sat 11 am – 7 pm, Sun 12 noon – 7 pm
If you haven’t heard about it yet, I have to break the news to you: it’s really difficult to find a restaurant that serves Dutch food… because most Dutch people prefer to eat something a little more interesting when they go out. But hey, I get it: you want an authentic lowlands culinary experience, right? Well, luckily for you, fellow low country Belgium is home to “Burgundian cuisine” (not, in fact, food from Burgundy in France, but the term we use to describe the richer cuisine of our southern neighbors), and Amsterdam is home to the wonderful Lieve restaurant that serves it! The decor is fabulous and they’ve got a couple of different menu concepts, depending on how much you’d like to spend. I took my cousin and aunt here when they were visiting and they were definitely charmed by the variety. And there’s a great Dutch beer bar next door if you want to keep going after you’re finished eating!
+31 (0) 20 624 96 35
Open: Mon – Thu 5.30 pm – 10 pm, Fri – Sat 5.30 pm – 10.30 pm, Sun 5 pm – 9 pm
Once you’re done with dinner, you might want to spend a little time saying goodbye to this beautiful city. After all, you’ve only got a few hours left. The way I would do it would be to talk a walk around Prinseneiland, which is just slightly north of the Lieve restaurant. This neighborhood is one of the city’s most peaceful and picturesque. You enter it by going over an old-fashioned bridge, and as you wander the cobblestone streets, you’ll pass lush flower gardens and tall buildings with iconic red shutters. Go a little farther north and you’ll make it to the Westerdok, which is lined with sailboat after beautiful sailboat… and even has a floating playground on two repurposed boats.
Not Ready for Bed Yet?
If you’re still hungry for more, you’re sure to find something in the Westergasfabriek area of Westerpark. Thursday to Saturday, you’ll find upbeat, danceable rock and an energetic crowd at Pacific Parc. It can tend to get a bit crowded, but entrance is always free and it’s generally a really good time. If that’s a little too much for you, you can also find numerous other bars in Westergasfabriek.
+31 (0)20 488 7778
Open: Mon – Wed 11 am – 1 am, Thu 11 am – late, Fri – Sat 11 am – 3 am, Sun 11 am – 11 pm
This list is, of course, not exhaustive… but you can only fit so much into 24 hours! I hope that I’ve managed to give you a good taste of this wonderful city… and entice you to come back for a second round. Got something that you think I definitely shouldn’t have left off this list? Let us know in the comments below!