What Should You Do On A Day Trip To Amsterdam?

A day trip to Amsterdam is a fun way to get a glimpse of The Netherlands, especially if you've got a stopover or a spare 24 hours in Europe. It's the land of clogs, tulips, canals, and windmills, so the scenery's likely vastly different from your hometown. Considering it's only a 20-minute train ride away from Schiphol Airport, one of the coolest airports in the world, Amsterdam is also a fantastic (and convenient) city to spend the day in. 

Unfortunately, the city has a reputation for wild stag parties, weed shops (better known as "coffee shops"), and sex worker windows illuminated by red neon lights. While all those things may sound interesting, there are better ways to spend a day in Amsterdam. The Netherlands is so much more than coffee shops and lackluster sex shows, and the city is a gateway to the region's rich culture and history. If you have only one day in Amsterdam, then you'll want to fill those hours with the most enriching activities possible. Pulling from first-hand experience, these suggestions from a Dutch resident can help you create the perfect one-day itinerary in Amsterdam.

See Dam Square

When you get off the train at Amsterdam Central Station, one of the first places you should head to is Dam Square. Not only is it a quick 10-minute walk to get to, but it's also a straight shot there. It's hard to get lost on the way to this famous square, but you may need to push past the throngs of people who linger around the station area.

You'll know you've arrived at Dam Square when you see the tall National Memorial statue. It's been around since 1956 and was built as a tribute to the fallen soldiers of World War II. You'll also know you've arrived because Dam Square is rarely empty or quiet during the day. Whether it's street performers, protestors, or activists, there's never a dull moment here.

If you're traveling with other people and want to split up, then this is a good meeting place, considering it's easy to get to and isn't far from the station. You can then go your own way and see nearby sights, such as Koninklijk Palace (the Royal Palace) and Nieuwe Kerk (the New Church). Madame Tussauds and Body Worlds Amsterdam are nearby as well, but they're not worth your time, seeing as they're in many other popular tourist towns, too.

Go museum hopping

There are around 75 museums in the city, meaning you're spoiled for choice if you're thirsty for knowledge. Plus, these buildings are great for ducking into if you're caught in a typical Dutch downpour. Most museums are heated, so you can warm up during a cold winter day as well. Some of the best museums in Amsterdam you should consider are Rijksmuseum, Van Gogh Museum, Stedelijk Museum, and Anne Frank House.

To save yourself some money, think about purchasing the Museumkaart. This card costs €75 for adults and €33 for youth, or around $81 and $42, respectively. The card allows you to visit up to five museums on their list. You can buy this on-site at select museums, which makes things extremely convenient. Another option is the I Amsterdam City Card. A 24-hour card costs €60, or around $65, and in addition to museum entries, you'll have access to other Amsterdam attractions, as well as public transport by metro, tram, bus, and ferry, a ride on a canal cruise, and a full-day bike rental.

Considering that most museums are open from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m., and admission costs around $22 for each museum, the I Amsterdam card may be the better option if you want to visit, say, three museums. Exploring five museums in one day, with a limit of 1.5 hours at each, would be a hurried experience. Keep in mind, too, that a reservation may be required depending on the museum you visit. Some tickets are not sold at the door, and availability may be limited, especially between May and August when tourism peaks — so you'll want to book your visit(s) in advance if possible.

Stroll along Zeedijk

Zeedijk (pronounced "zay-dike") is a street that starts up near Amsterdam Central Station and runs southbound to Nieuwmarkt, which is another famous square. There are many cozy cafes and bars lining the perimeter. In these establishments, you can taste hot Dutch snacks such as bitterballen (deep-fried balls with roux, beef stock, and meat) and kaassouffle (melted cheese inside thin dough that's also deep-fried).

Zeedijk is also home to Amsterdam's Chinatown. There's a wide range of Chinese restaurants, grocery stores, and other businesses with Asian influences. Near Nieuwmarkt, you'll find the Buddhist He Hua temple. You can tour the inside and even join in on the activities and events. Zeedijk is also home to the city's "Gay Village." Amsterdam is incredibly LGBTQIA+ friendly, and if you're lucky enough to be here during King's Day, Pride, or Hartjesdag, then you'll get a taste of how festive street parties can be on Zeedijk.

Walk around De Wallen

If you're already on Zeedijk, then you're only a stone's throw away from De Wallen. This is the medieval city center and is actually the oldest part of Amsterdam. You'll find lots of beautiful old architecture and churches, such as the Oude Kerk (Old Church). You'll have a charming time viewing the numerous canals and small alleys. It'll be easy to take a break in a brown cafe, which is the Dutch version of a pub.

More notably, the Red Light District (RLD) is also located in this area. We did say that there are better things to do than spend money on a live sex show, but that doesn't mean you should avoid the RLD completely. It operates 24/7, so you can see what it's all about, whatever time of day you go. Just remember to be respectful and not to take pictures or videos of the sex workers.

If you want to learn more about the city's sex work industry, spend an hour or two in the Red Light Secrets Museum. It's the world's first prostitution museum, and the museum itself is a converted brothel in its original state, so you can see what "the rooms" look like behind closed curtains. You can also experience what it feels like to be in front of a window for the crowd's scrutiny, as the museum has a red-lighted window for visitors to sit in.

Explore Albert Cuyp Markt

Albert Cuyp Markt is one of the most famous markets in Amsterdam — and Europe. It's located in the neighborhood of De Pijp and is named after the 17th-century Dutch painter Albert Cuyp. It's open every day of the week except Sunday, rain or shine, so it's very likely you'll get an opportunity to visit. This market boasts 260 stalls, so you can count on a diverse shopping experience. The stalls sell clothes, accessories, flowers, fabrics, vegetables, and fruits. You can pick up some special gifts and souvenirs to bring home after you're stopover. 

The stalls also offer ready-to-eat foods, which will show you what casual Dutch cuisine is about. For example, there are the warm and sweet treats of stroopwafel and poffertjes. The former is a waffle cookie that has a delicious caramel filling, and the latter are fluffy mini pancakes dusted with powdered sugar and butter. Or, if you're feeling courageous, you can have a quick snack or meal of pickled/brined herring. You can eat it by itself or nestled in a soft bread bun with onions and pickles. Whichever you choose, be fast and strategic when eating, as the bold seagulls won't hesitate to snatch the fish out of your hands. 

Shop in De Pijp

Speaking of De Pijp, once you've had enough of Albert Cuyp Markt, you can get off Albert Cuypstraat and explore the rest of the neighborhood. Considering that you're just south of the city center, you'll see fewer tourists, especially the louder partying types. Instead, you'll be among locals, giving you a taste of what daily life's like in Amsterdam. In fact, if you're considering moving here, De Pijp is the perfect place to scout out since it's popular with expats.

This melting pot of a neighborhood is a delight to shop in. If you haven't had your fill at Albert Cuyp Markt, or you've skipped the market entirely, then you'll be happy to know that there's a wide variety of cuisines to choose from, such as Surinamese, Syrian, and Moroccan. To bring something back to your hotel kitchen, browse your choices of delicatessens and grocery stores, too. Otherwise, grab a drink, rest your feet, and people-watch at a bar or cafe.

Have a picnic in Vondelpark

Vondelpark is the largest park in Amsterdam, so if you only have time for one park visit, then this is it. It's still within the city center, but it's way down south, which means a long walk from Amsterdam Central Station (over 45 minutes). However, if you've already been making your way through the city, then you might be close by. Otherwise, you can take the tram or metro to minimize travel by foot.

When you get to Vondelpark, make sure you stay to the side of paths and roads since scores of residents jog, rollerskate, and bike through the park. With so much space and green grass, this park allows you to spread a blanket anywhere to feast upon the goodies you've picked up. Afterward, you can lazily digest while gazing up at the sky or observing the waterfowl going about their lives. If you're in town during summer, then make sure to catch the free performances at the open-air theater. There's also a bandstand that features talented musicians that'll serenade you.

Take a look at the Begijnhof

If someone were to tell you that there's a quiet place away from the hustle and bustle of Amsterdam, but it was still in the heart of the city, would you believe them? Probably not, seeing as how nearly every street is packed with people. Yet such a place exists in the Begijnhof. Located just off Spui (a main street), the Begijnhof's entrance is easy to miss if you blink. Even if you're looking for it, the carved sign is inconspicuous, which may explain why so few people know about this enclosed courtyard. Once you're in, you're transported to a whole other world.

This 14th-century hofje (courtyard) is one of the oldest in Amsterdam. It contains several houses, as well as two churches. Begijnhof actually began as a place of residence for devout women. To this day, single women live in this courtyard, so be quiet and respectful when looking around. You can soak in the history and architecture relatively quickly, then continue onto other parts of the city.

Take in the sights at Bloemenmarkt

The Netherlands is known for its tulips, which are visible in expansive fields during the spring. If you're lucky enough to travel during this season, then you can visit Keukenhof in Lisse, which shows off the most beautiful spring flowers for a few months. However, you might not be able to fit the trip into a short day trip to Amsterdam or here during the wrong season. Regardless, you shouldn't miss the Bloemenmarkt (Flower Market), which is open all year long.

Founded in 1862, the Bloemenmarkt is the only floating flower market in the world, as the stalls are located on stationary houseboats. Truth be told, it's become a gimmicky tourist area, but that doesn't make it any less beautiful. Walking along the many colorful stalls will have your eyes dancing.

You can fill your bags with mountains of souvenirs and Dutch delights for loved ones, and as its name suggests, the Bloemenmarkt sells flowers as single stems or bouquets. In addition, there are ready-to-export flower bulbs you can bring home. This market is great for last-minute gifts, too, as the stalls and nearby stores sell small trinkets, such as fridge magnets and keychains.

Take a canal cruise

It's exciting to discover Amsterdam, but it's a large city, and walking can get tiresome. And since you have limited time here, you don't want to waste a second. So why not book yourself a canal tour of Amsterdam? This allows you to get a different perspective of the city, learn more about its history, and rest your weary legs. Not to mention, if it's raining, you can hide underneath the boat's glass roof.

If you have an I Amsterdam City Card, simply find a departure location. You can find one through I Amsterdam's interactive map. The tour's included with your card, and no reservation is needed, which makes it easy to go for a ride when you get tired. Cruises tend to be around an hour long.

Otherwise, there are several companies close to Amsterdam Central Station that offer canal cruises. While the cruises affiliated with the I Amsterdam City Card have toilets, heating, and audio guides on board, the ones you find on your own may not necessarily offer these amenities. You should double-check before paying to ensure you have the best experience possible.

Grab a drink at De Prael

While you shouldn't get blackout drunk, as some tourists like to do in Amsterdam, you don't have to be a teetotaler, either. Those who appreciate good beers will want to seek out brown cafes and bars that serve European brews, and De Prael is a popular choice. Just a five-minute walk from Amsterdam Central Station, and tucked in an alley of a busy street (Warmoesstraat), De Prael is a microbrewery that'll take a special place in your heart. 

The moment you step in, the cozy atmosphere will hit you, as the establishment is decorated with vintage furniture, and the brewery holds some admirable core values: It offers jobs and careers to those who struggle elsewhere, whether it's due to physical disabilities or mental health concerns. The menu is simple, and the environment is highly structured, but De Prael also offers some of the tastiest beers in the city. The taps rotate based on availability and the season, and if you love any of them, you can head next door to the shop to buy a few bottles. There are also delicious bites and meals to pair with your beers if you're feeling hungry.

Go genever tasting at Wynand Fockink

Liquor connoisseurs need to make a trip to Wynand Fockink, which is a 10-15 minute walk from Amsterdam Central Station. Like De Prael, it's tucked into a small street, meaning it's easy to miss. The store has been around since the 17th century and has perfected the art of genever, which is a Dutch and Belgian type of gin. Do note that it's a tiny establishment and can be crowded, but if you wait a bit, groups typically clear out quickly.

Not only can you taste this liquor, but you can try flavored liqueurs or pair your genever shots with beers. In fact, the genever paired with beer is called a "kopstootje," which translates to "small headbutt." Just make sure not to "shoot" your drink. It's customary to lower your head and take a sip from the glass before lifting it with your hand, as the bartender will fill it to the literal brim. Once you've settled down with your genever, sip it slowly to appreciate the flavors. If you like what you taste, walk a few steps next door to buy a bottle to bring home.

Shop and dine at De Negen Straatjes

De Negen Straatjes (The Nine Streets) is a trendy and picturesque neighborhood with tons of shops and eateries. You're sure to find unique treasures to buy yourself and for loved ones, and these gifts can help you remember your time in Amsterdam fondly. De Negen Straatjes is excellent for lunch, too. On any street, you'll be able to catch a casual meal, with food you can take around in your hands while you shop. You also won't need to spend much money. 

This area is also home to many TikTok-famous places. These include Van Stapele (cookies), Fabel Friet (cookies), and Chun Cafe (boba tea). The lines can be mindboggling long, and service can take around an hour, so it may not be worth your time to queue up. But if you're lucky, you might see only a few people waiting. If so, then seize the opportunity to grab an Internet-famous treat. 

Have dinner at Moeders

For traditional Dutch cuisine in a cozy establishment, make a reservation for dinner at Moeders. This restaurant opened in 1990 and has been serving Dutch specialties for over three decades. The snack portion of the menu features bitterballen and cheese plates, which you may have already tried at the markets. So, for the meal itself, the restaurant serves a variety of popular Dutch dishes, such as ertensoep (green pea coup), stamppot (hotchpotch of mashed potatoes and vegetables with sausage, bacon, and meatballs), hachee (beef stew), and Hollandse rijsttafel (a combination of Dutch classics).

What makes this restaurant truly spectacular is its walls, which are plastered with pictures. When you look closer, you'll realize that they're all women. This is because "Moeders" translates to "Mothers," and the restaurant honors these ladies. You can even bring in a picture of your own mom to put up and immortalize her at the eatery.