Amsterdam has more than 40 museums, countless gardens, spectacular architecture and so much more. So when you are taking a mini cruise or a short break, you might be worried that you aren’t going to be able to fit it all in.
But fear not. Amsterdam’s layout means that you can quite easily walk to many of the sights, or even just jump on a bike or the tram. So before you slip on a comfortable pair of shoes, check out this list of activities and attractions to enjoy during your 24 hours in Amsterdam.
Museums in Amsterdam
Amsterdam is one of Europe’s most iconic cities, with a colourful history. Of all the 40 museums to choose from, we have picked out a small selection for you to explore.
The Anne Frank House
Everyone knows the story of Anne Frank. The House at Prinsengracht 263 in Amsterdam is where Anne and her family lived in hiding for more than two years during World War II, before they were betrayed on 4th August 1944.
Now converted into a museum, the sobering exhibition sheds a raw and honest light on the persecution of Jews during that time. Historical documents, images from film, photographs and original possessions, including Anne’s original diary, are all on display.
Sofie Couwenbergh from Wonderful Wanderings recommended the Anne Frank House when we asked what you should do in Amsterdam:
"If you're even the slightest bit interested in history, a visit to the Anne Frank House is a must. Yes, everybody goes there, but they do so with a reason. The house doesn't just offer us a glimpse into the life of the Jewish girl who became known around the world, it also confronts visitors with moral questions and shows them how modern ethical dilemmas find their roots in the Second World War. Make sure to book your tickets beforehand, as the museum is frequently sold out and you need to go within a certain time slot."
The Rijksmuseum is Amsterdam and possibly the Netherlands’ grandest museum. Famous around the world, it houses over 8,000 pieces of art inside one of the most striking buildings in the city.
Translated as The State Museum, The Rijksmuseum has been open for more than two hundred years and has experienced a number of transformations and renovations during that time. It originally opened as the Nationale Kunstgallerij (National Art Gallery) and contains numerous masterpieces from around the world, including Rembrandt’s ‘Night Watch’ and works by Vermeer, Jan Steen and Van Dyck. Open all year round, you can arrange to go on a group tour or take it all in at your own pace with a private tour.
Van Gogh Museum
Including the world’s largest collection of one of the most iconic and best-loved artists, the Van Gogh Museum is one of the most popular museums on the planet. Paintings, letters and drawings, alongside art from his contemporaries draw in 1.6 million visitors each year.
With more than 500 drawings and 200 paintings from Van Gogh alone, the works are divided into a chronological order across five periods from different parts of his life, including: The Netherlands, Paris, Arles, Saint-Remy and Auvers-sur-Oise. The museum is a unique and inspiring attraction for anyone visiting Amsterdam on a mini cruise, with a 2013 refurbishment ensuring that the exhibition is cutting-edge and current.
Showcasing the world’s oldest private collection of automobiles, The Louwman Museum contains more than two hundred and thirty antique and classic cars, with experts suggesting that it is one of the finest in the world. Each car has a special place in history, with the exhibition detailing its own story and unique role. The museum is housed in The Hague, which is the city where P.W. Louwman began an import dealership for both Dodge and Chrysler.
Food and drink in Amsterdam
There are a number of dishes that no visit to Amsterdam could be without. Even on a mini cruise, you will find countless opportunities to try some of the nation’s best treats, as Wibke from Eating Amsterdam Tours told us:
"When coming to Amsterdam, we recommend trying pickled herring, bitterballen and apple pie. With a cup of coffee or tea, poffertjes are best. Amsterdam also has a huge Indonesian influence, so try some of those dishes at a rijsttafel. Or even better, book a food tour to try a bit of everything!"
One of the best-loved Dutch dishes, stroopwafels are the thin and crisp version of their doughy Belgian cousin. Two waffle-like wafers are bound together by stroop (a molasses-y syrup) through the middle.
They began life as a poor man’s cookie and originated in the late 18th century, when crumbs and basic ingredients are pressed on a waffle iron. Today, stroopwafels can be found in a shops and stores in multipacks, but for the best experience you should buy them fresh. Often you can get them in cafés which is perfect, as you should place it over the top of your hot drink so the middle becomes gooey and warm.
Throughout Amsterdam you’ll find countless opportunities to try these delicious bites, from small versions, to giant slabs from street-food vendors. Have them dipped in chocolate or dusted with icing sugar if the syrup isn’t enough to satisfy your sweet tooth.
Sticking with the sweet-treats, poffertjes are like miniature fluffy pancakes compete with both waffles as the must-try sugary snack in Amsterdam. Served with a hearty helping of powdered sugar and butter, you can get them in many restaurants across the city but easily the best place to savour them is on the streets.
Poffertjes are a very popular street food, associated with festivals, fairs and markets which fortunately, are very regular in Amsterdam. These are great during the cooler months
What do you have with your chips? A bit of salt and vinegar? Maybe a dollop of ketchup? Well the Dutch have taken it up a notch with patatje oorlong. Brilliantly simple, it is a very common snack to enjoy on the go around Amsterdam consisting of chips, mayonnaise, chopped fresh onion and peanut sauce. It may seem like an unusual combination, but it’s one that you won’t be able to forget.
See the sights
You will never tire of the sights in this beautiful city. It doesn’t matter if you are visiting for a week or are just spending 24 hours in Amsterdam on a mini cruise, there is plenty to keep you entertained.
But that doesn’t mean you should rush. If you try too hard to fit everything in you just won’t be able to savour what is one of Europe’s finest capitals. Sarah and Kris of Jet Setting Fools echoed this and offered some advice as to make the most of your time:
“With only 24 hours in Amsterdam, visitors will be eager to see as much of the city as quickly as possible. It’s important, however, to take a few moments to slow down and simply savour the city atmosphere. Stroll along the canals (Leidsegracht is particularly charming) without a destination in mind or pause at a café to sip coffee on the lively Dam Square. In your short stay in the city, reserve time in your Amsterdam sightseeing schedule to appreciate the city itself.”
Established in 1838, the Artis Royal Zoo is the oldest in the Netherlands and is guaranteed to enchant you. The vast space is an oasis of nature in the midst of the lively city and a haven for roughly 700 species of animals and 200 types of trees.
Voted the best zoo in the Benelux (Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg) in 2015, the Artis was also voted the 22nd best zoo in the world, among another 11 zoos from around Europe.
Brilliantly laid out, the zoo has numerous buildings within the grounds, including the Large Museum (1855) and the Library building (1867). It also has a range of ‘zones’ which includes the aquarium, Botanical Gardens, Micropia, Planetarium and more.
Rent a bike
With its many bridges, canals and parks, you can enjoy Amsterdam on foot. But you only have 24 hours in the city, so hire a bike for the time you’re there. Unlike major cities in England, cycling in the Dutch capital is safe and easy. Wide bike paths couple with the flat landscape to make it the best way to get around the city, as Katie Dawes, otherwise known as The Hostel Girl, says:
“By far the best way to get around Amsterdam is by bicycle. Don't be fooled into thinking that the bike lanes are dangerous - in fact it's much safer than being on foot as the bicycles in Amsterdam have almost complete right of way. And the lanes have the same rules of the road; cyclists have traffic lights and crossings that make the whole experience a lot simpler than you'd think! If you're not able to hire a bicycle for the day, then I'd grab a tram pass. You can grab a 24 hour tram pass on any tram for just €7.50 and the tram network in Amsterdam couldn't be any easier to use. Just grab a map from any train station and get ready to explore!”
It is something that Kasha from Lines of Escape also recommends:
"If you only have a single day to soak up as much of Amsterdam as possible, do as the locals do and hop on a bicycle. The city caters perfectly for cyclists, and this means you’ll be able to cover a lot of ground. Take in sights like the Rijksmuseum, the Red Light District, De 9 Straatjes and Vondelpark."
You can go it alone and tick off the sights on your own list or join a bike tour of Amsterdam, whichever is your choice, get on your bike and enjoy the city.
Amsterdam is a city connected with water and a canal cruise is by far the best way to appreciate this connection. Without a doubt, this is the most memorable way to explore the capital city. There are a variety of different cruise options you can take. From specific sight tours to alcohol and food-fuelled expeditions, you can’t really experience Amsterdam without going on a boat.
Hire your own boat
If you’re feeling a bit more adventurous and independent, do as Kasha suggests and hire your own boat, unlocking some of Amsterdam’s hidden gems:
“For a real hidden gem, visit Our Lord in the Attic, a secret mini Catholic Church that was built into the top levels of a canal house. Instead of taking a touristy canal cruise, become your own captain by hiring a boat; for a few hours, you’ll be able to explore Amsterdam’s famous canals at your own leisure. Finally, don’t miss out on sampling the apple tart from Winkel 43; the café has become famous for this sweet treat and it also happens to be a great spot to do some people-watching.”
One of the Netherlands’ most famous exports are its tulips. Presented in a rainbow of colour, there are many iconic images of rural areas surrounded by a sea of these flowers. But when in Amsterdam on a mini cruise or short break, you must visit The Amsterdam Flower Market – the only floating market of its kind in the world.
Aside from the wonderful smells of food that you can find elsewhere, this is quite possibly the most fragrant part of the city. Beginning life in 1862, the stalls stand on houseboats offering different kinds of tulips, narcissus, geraniums and many more.
Try some beer in Amsterdam
It is a brewery and a restaurant in one, where they brew their own beers alongside rustic dishes including free range barbeque chicken. Including tap tables, this is a relaxed, happy destination. So if you have some spare time or really want to enjoy your beer in a unique environment then you need to visit.
Visit the biggest flea market in Europe
Including roughly 750 stands, the IJ-Hallen is the biggest flea market in Europe and will most likely be one of the most unique you will ever visit. Hosted both indoors and outdoors, you have to pay an entry fee of 4.50 Euros, but the bargains will be worth it.
The stalls overflow through and around two disused factories that were once used to build ships, selling clothes and almost every second-hand item you can think of. All it takes is a short ferry ride to reach the treasure trove of jewellery, books, shoes, clothes and antiquities. Be sure to bring a backpack or extra bags if you’re visiting during your 24 hours in Amsterdam, while visiting early guarantees your choice of the best goods.
With so many amazing attractions and things to try, your 24 hours in Amsterdam will just fly by.