In this guide we the the top places to visit in Amsterdam in less than 24 hours. Amsterdam Airport Schiphol is the third busiest airports in Europe, so there is a big chance you will have a layover in Amsterdam. During your next layover, make sure to get out of the airport and hit some of the best things to do in Amsterdam.
The city of Amsterdam has gone through many transitions in its long history, but acceptance has always been a core value. Amsterdam was founded in 1300. Acceptance of religions, new ideas, drugs, and even prostitution has kept Amsterdam and the whole country of the Netherlands an important player on a global stage throughout history. Amsterdam is now a top player in global finances and innovation.
We have been to Amsterdam half a dozen times and each time it is a completely different experience. I have visited with each of my parents, with Steven and alone. Want you get out of your time in Amsterdam all depends on your preferences.
Amsterdam without a doubt is one of the most beautiful cities in Europe. It has 165 canals running through its downtown with beautiful architecture that makes of Amsterdam a place everyone should visit at least once in their lifetime.
In Amsterdam you will never be bored. This vibrant city has enough to offer you for a day trip, weekend getaway or even a full week trip. Amsterdam is famous for its “free spirit” and the amounts of bikes you can find. According to our taxi driver, there are over 881,000 bikes, which equals 1.2 bikes per habitant.
➳ Find all: Hotels in Amsterdam
How to get to Amsterdam?
There are so many ways to get to Amsterdam, all depending on where you are coming from. The most common ways are by bus and to fly there. Having done both, it is easy to get to Amsterdam either way.
The first time I flew from Russia, the second time I came from Germany so my dad drove. The third time Steven and I traveled from Brugge, Belgium by bus with Eurolines, as the tickets only cost €6/person and the bus ride took about three hours.
The fourth time we visited Amsterdam again as a long layover on our way back from Istanbul. The fifth time, we took a train from Rotterdam. The train ticket is about €16/person and takes less than an hour.
If you arrive to the Amsterdam Airport Schiphol the best way to get to the city center is by train or Uber.
In Amsterdam the best way to get around is to rent a bike, walk, take the tram, subway, or taxi/Uber. We love walking so highly recommend to walk the city to get a better taste and sense of it.
➳ Just a note about this travel guide: Many things in Amsterdam might not be appropriate for children, some of which are discussed in this post. This is your warning.
Things to know before visiting Amsterdam – General Tips:
- The official language in the Netherlands is Dutch but most locals also speak English.
- The local currency is Euro. You can pay with credit cards almost everywhere and there are tons of ATMs around the city.
- Wake up early to get better photographs of the city and avoid crowds.
- The power supply is 230v- Type F – European – Type C also works.
- Be careful with the bikers! You cannot walk on the bike lanes, it is dangerous for everyone. Bikes are like cars so before crossing look for cyclists.
- Book your accommodation well in advance to get the best value for your money. Accommodation in Amsterdam is expensive.
- Some of our favorite day trips from Amsterdam: Keukenhof Flower Gardens (during Tulip Season), Rotterdam, The Hague, Zaanse Schans, and Kinderdijk.
- All the museums in the Jewish Quarter of Amsterdam, along with 60 other museums and attractions around the city, are included in the I amsterdam City Card for one price. Chose a pass between 1 to five days, depending on how many museums you plan to visit and enjoy free public transportation as well.
Things to do in Amsterdam Walking Map:
What to do in Amsterdam – Top attractions:
In Amsterdam there are over 40 parks, a Royal Palace, 44 museums, many churches, endless bars, markets and so many other countless things to do. In this post we want to highlight the best things to do in Amsterdam in one or two days. For a longer guide see our five days in Amsterdam itinerary.
1. Heineken Experience
The Heineken Experience is the official visitor center for the Heineken Brewery. This high-tech experience brings you through not only the history of the brewery itself, but the process of brewing. It has many things to offer for beer lovers, their family and children.
Included with the ticket is three free samples of Heineken beer, or soda for the kids. During the self paced tour your group is asked several questions by the staff, answer it first for an extra beer!
The center is open Monday to Thursday from 11AM to 7:30PM; and Friday to Sunday from 11AM to 8:30PM. Last entry into the experience is two hours before closing times, due to the length of the experience.
Tickets are €18/adults at the door, but only €16/adults if you preorder the tickets online.
➳ How long does it take to go through the Heineken Experience? It can take anywhere from 2-3 hours.
The Rijksmuseum is largest and most visited museum in the Netherlands. The museum is focused on the arts and history of The Netherlands. It is located in the middle of Museum Square, conveniently located near the Van Gogh Museum, the Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam, and the Concertgebouw.
The museum is open daily from 9:00AM to 5:00PM. Tickets are €17.50/adults and free/children under 18.
The iconic Iamsterdam sign used to be in front of the museum but it was moved to the airport temporarily.
➳ How long does it take to go through the Rijksmuseum? It can take anywhere from 4 to 5 hours if It you like to visit the whole museum you but you can get a good idea of the highlights of the museum’s collection in 2 or 3 hours.
3. The Van Gogh Museum
The Van Gogh Museum is our favorite museum in the city. It holds the largest collection of artwork in the world by Vincent van Gogh. It is so inspiring to see Van Gogh’s work in person and learn more about his life.
➳ Note: If you are using the Iamsterdam Card make sure to book your entrance time to the museum.
4. Anne Frank House
The Anne Frank House is one of the most important stops in Amsterdam. Anne Frank was a young Jewish girl in hiding during the holocaust. It is a very powerful experience to see the hidden life of Jews during the Shoah. We would argue it is the most important thing to do in Amsterdam. If you have never read Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl, make sure to add it to your reading list for your next flight.
The museum is open with the following schedule:
- April through October: Daily from 9:00AM to 9:00PM. (Saturdays from 9:00 AM to 10:00 PM).
- In July and August the museum is daily open till 10:00PM.
- November through March: Daily from 9:00AM to 7:00PM (Saturdays from 9:00AM to 9:00PM).
Tickets are €9/adults, €4.5/children aged 10-17, and free/children under 10.
A short ticket line is described by locals as anything less than an hour wait. So plan accordingly, or purchase tickets online if you have a set schedule.
➳ How long does it take to go through the Anne Frank House? It can take anywhere from 45 minutes to 80 minutes.
5. Walk around the Jordaan Neighborhood
In front of Anne Frank House is the Jordaan Neighborhood. This calm and quiet neighborhood is not so full of tourists as many of the other areas. It is a perfect for photos of the classic Amsterdam architecture and homes.
- Homomonument: Next to Westerkerk Church is the Homomonument. The monument depicts three pink granite triangles making up a larger triangle. The purpose of the monument is to “inspire and support lesbians and gays in their struggle against denial, oppression and discrimination.” The monument is a wonderful representation of the accepting life in Amsterdam. The monument is located outside of a church and close to the Anne Frank House.
The Begijnhof is an inner courtyard and hidden church. It used to be religious community of women who were not nuns when religion was frowned upon within the city.
This area is popular among locals as it is always a quiet place to go for a moment of relaxation and calm in the middle of a bustling city. Remember to keep this quiet atmosphere when you visit.
7. Walk around Dam Square
- Royal Palace Amsterdam: The Royal Palace is one of three palaces in the Netherlands. The palace is used by the monarch for entertainment and state functions. While the palace is open to the public, it is not actually a museum. You can view the rich history and interior of the magnificent building. The Royal Palace tends to be open Tuesday to Sunday from 10AM to 5PM. However, there are many events and circumstances that keep it closed to the public. Make sure to check out their online calendar to confirm open dates. Tickets are €10/adults, €9/students, and free/children. You can buy tickets online or on site.
- De Nieuwe Kerk: The New Church of Amsterdam was built in the 15th-century. However the building is now used as an exhibition space and for organ concerts. The exhibition is rotated every few months, so make sure to check out their website to see what is currently on display. Nieuwe Kerk is open daily from 11AM to 5PM. Tickets cost €16/adults and free/children.
- National Monument: The National Monument is a monument to those who suffered or perished in World War II. It is often used as the “center” point of the old city and the perfect meeting point for friends and groups. It is sometimes described as an adult toy, but that might be offensive for its true purpose.
8. Take a photo of the Basilica of St Nicholas
The Basilica of St Nicholas is located near the central station. The Neo-Baroque and neo-Renaissance styles are combined to create an impressive architecture. The church is conveniently located in the old center, making it an easy photo stop.
9. Take a stroll along the Red Light District
The Red Light District is arguably the one thing that everyone in the world knows about Amsterdam. It is the most lively part of the city during weekdays and evening. At any time of day, you can experience the same type of atmosphere, just with fewer tourists. The legal prostitution and drug use in this area give a glimpse into another type of world.
➳ Quick fact: Rates are standard at €50 for 15 min for prostitution, but most of that money ends up in rental fees and taxes.
10. Canal Boat Tour
A fantastic way to enjoy the city and see it from a different perspective is by taking a boat tour along the canals. It is a great
11. Visit a Coffeeshop
If you are curious about one of Amsterdam’s most well known industries, then step inside a coffeeshop and see what it is all about. It is definitely a cultural experience. But wait, what is a coffeeshop? It is a place where you can buy and smoke small amounts cannabis, but you are not allowed to then take this out and smoke on the streets.
It is a common misconception that weed is legal in Amsterdam, it is just that the police do not enforce this with purchase of under 5 grams in a licenced establishment.
➳ Note: Read more about the rules of smoking Cannabis in Amsterdam.
Amsterdam’s Top Museums:
Spending one day in Amsterdam can quickly fly by, especially with so many attractions to visit. But if you do find some extra time in the day, here are some addition top museums to visit in Amsterdam.
12. Sex Museum
The Sex Museum covers the history of society’s fascination with sex and the human body. It is an extremely graphic and sometimes grotesque museum. If you not interested or offended by many nude photos and related materials, or have younger tourists, do not go!
The museum is open daily from 9.30AM to 11.30PM. Tickets cost €4/adults with a minimum entry age of 16.
13. Museum of Prostitution
The Museum of Prostitution covers the history of the business itself. You have the opportunity to delve deeper into the history and role it played and continues to play in the world. This new as the first of its kind in the world to cover the life on the other side of the glass in the red light district. The Museum of Prostitution is open from noon to midnight. Ticket costs €7.50/adults.
14. Hash Marihuana & Hemp Museum
The Hash Marihuana and Hemp Museum covers the history of the cultivation, usage and culture surrounding the hemp plant. Hemp and marijuana have many uses beyond the often assumed consumption, and this museum shows its wider use.
The museum is open daily from 10:00AM to 10:00PM. Tickets are €9/adults (€8.50 online) and free/children.
15. Things to do in the Jewish Quarter:
Our favorite part of Amsterdam is its historic Jewish quarter. Jews have been actively living and accepted as part of the community for the last 400 years. Unfortunately 80% of the Jewish population perished in the Shoah. However, the contemporary community is vibrant and ever growing.
There are four main museums in the Jewish quarter, and all are accessible with one ticket! Tickets cost €15/adults, €7.50/students and youth, and €3.75/children under 12.
- Jewish Historical Museum: This museum covers the history of Jews of Netherlands and information on Judaism itself and its practices. It is a good place to not only learn about the local Jewish culture, but the religious practices as well. The museum is open daily from 11:00AM to 5:00PM.
2. JHM Children’s Museum: The JHM Children’s Museum is the perfect way for children to learn about Judaism through an exciting interactive journey. The activities are informative for children of all religious backgrounds and knowledge. The museum is open daily from 11:00AM to 5:00PM.
3. Portuguese Synagogue: The Portuguese Synagogue is the oldest synagogue in Europe still in use today. The synagogue is open as a museum with the history and artifacts of the Jewish community in Amsterdam combined with the impact and implications of WWII. The Portuguese Synagogue was protected during the Shoah, described as an important landmark by local museum affiliates to prevent its destruction at the hands of the Nazis.
The Portuguese Synagogue is open:
- Sunday to Thursday:
February – November: 10:00AM to 5:00PM
December – January: 10:00AM to 4:00PM
- Sunday to Thursday:
March – October: 10:00AM to 4:00PM
November – February: 10:00AM to 2:00PM
➳ If you would like to attend religious services, contact the Jewish community.
4. National Shoah Museum for the Netherlands: The National Shoah Museum for the Netherlands is located inside the historic Hollandsche Schouwburg theatre. In 1942 the theater became a deportation center for the city’s Jews. The Nazis found it perfect as the building as it had no windows, and at the front door were train tracks to deport Jews to the extermination camps. After the war it became a monument for Jewish victims and has since grown into the national Shoah memorial. While we were told entrance to the Shoah memorial was included in the price of the ticket to the other museums, it is in fact free for all visitors! The memorial is open daily from 11:00AM to 5:00PM.
Where to sleep in a friendly budget in Amsterdam:
Budget Friendly: Aivengo Youth Hostel
The first hostel we stayed at is the Aivengo Youth Hostel. We not only chose this hostel because of its price, but also because of its self described atmosphere. They are a party, drinking and smoking free hostel. While the bathroom and kitchen facilities are not great, it was much better than others in the area.
The dorm room was empty at 11PM, but by midnight, everyone was already back and asleep. It is the perfect place for young adults who are looking to enjoy Amsterdam during the day, and not just solely for its nightlife.
Mid-range: Espresso Hotel
If you are looking for private hotel accommodations in Amsterdam, we recommend the Hotel Espresso City Centre. This comfortable mid-price hotel is located just a minute walk from the Vondelpark. It is at the edge of the downtown district, but has a very reasonable nightly price.
The benefits of having the Iamsterdam City Card:
If you are trying to see the best spots of Amsterdam in one day or a weekend, it can be cost effective to get The Iamsterdam City Card. The card includes access to over 70 major museums and attractions in the Amsterdam Area.
The The Iamsterdam City Card also includes unlimited use of public transportation including trains, metros, ferries, and buses to help maximize your day trip or layover in Amsterdam.
⇟ More articles from the Netherlands that might interest you:
➳ Read More: The best things to do in Rotterdam in One Day
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