Let’s start with the fact that you can’t see everything in Amsterdam in just one day. It is simply not possible. There are just too many things when it comes to what to do in Amsterdam, but if you try really hard (and walk fast) you can cover most of the must-sees. I made a list that worked for me, so you can have a look and let me know in the comments what do you think!
1. Wander around the channels
What is more Instagram perfect than a gorgeous shot of one of the many Dutch channels? A bit cliché, I know, especially if you add a bike in the mix, but seriously, they are soooo pretty that it is hard to resist. Besides, even if you decide not to add this to your what to do in Amsterdam list, channels are gonna be hard to avoid, since they are everywhere.
As you know, I mostly travel solo, so it is not that simple to get shots with me on them, so I decided to spice it up a bit and ask a stranger to take this for me. Result: the dude thought I was flirting and he followed me for half an hour around town. He finally desisted when I decided to give him my (fake) number and my (fake) name. Anyways, the composition could have been better, but I kind of like the final result so it was (almost) worth it.
2. Go cheese sampling
One of the reasons I was so delayed from my itinerary while I was in Amsterdam was the huge amount of cheese shops I found on my way. I had not anticipated that and I couldn’t resist the temptation to stop at every dairy goodness that crossed my way.
Seriously, if you are looking what to do in Amsterdam this is one of the best things you can go for. The cheese sampling is free everywhere, they sell other cute Dutch souvenirs and almost every pack they sell is suitable for airplane travel, since they are properly sealed. I felt a bit bad the first couple of times I entered the shops to eat without actually buying something, but after my fourth cube of smoked cheese I got over it. Clerks are used to that, but they are still going to make a big effort to sell you something, so be polite and decline the offer if it’s not on your budget.
3. Visit a museum (Van Gogh Museum or the Rijksmuseum, preferably)
Amsterdam has a great choice of places for all art lovers like myself. Maybe too many choices if you are on a limited timeframe, but that only gives you more reasons to go back! When I was looking for what to do in Amsterdam I knew I would only have time to visit one museum during my day trip so I narrowed it down to either Van Gogh Museum or the Rijksmusem. They are both in the same area, have a similar price and are right between the “I Amsterdam” sign, so it is a win-win.
After some thought I went for the Van Gogh one, because I felt the Rijksmuseum would require a whole morning. And although I don’t regret it, I do wish I had had time to do both, especially after seeing pictures of the Rijksmuseum’s library. But I’ll leave the choice to you.
It is advisable to book online in advance to avoid queues. However, it’s a bit more expensive to get an e-ticket, so I decided to try my luck and, fortunately, I just had to wait for about ten minutes to get inside the place. Although I would strongly suggest to get your ticket earlier if you plan to visit during the summer.
4. Go to a street market
How many times will I write about my street market obsession? Not enough. every time I go to a new city I cannot miss the chance to visit at least one street market. Just before arriving to Amsterdam, I found out the city has 12 daily outdoor markets, 15 markets which are open one or two days of the week plus several seasonal markets. It was like traveller’s porn to me.
Anyways, I had to make some choices again because I could definitely not fit 12 markets in one day and still keep my shoe soles or my wallet intact, so I decided to go for the flower market and the Albert Cuyp Market.
The flower market is a lovely starting point. It is right next to a big channel and although they do sell flowers and tulip bulbs they also have tons of souvenirs. From mini Dutch houses to weed grinders with cartoon characters on them. I got my mum a ceramic windmill and some Van Gogh’s socks for Conor. I also convinced myself that I did not need red wooden clogs. I’m still regretting it.
The Albert Cuyp market sells a bit of everything, from food, cheeses and spices to clothing and flowers. However, I arrived a bit too late and most of the stalls were already closing. I didn’t mind it that much because that area of the city is amazing. There are plenty of restaurants, cafés and clothing shops around so you won’t get bored at all.
Anyways, a good list of what to do in Amsterdam can’t be complete without a market, so here is a list with all of the ones available in the city. Have a look around and pick the one you like the most!
5. Go to a coffee shop
And yes, when I say coffee shop I don’t really mean coffee shop in the usual sense of the word. I mean it in the Dutch sense of it, which means a weed shop. You don’t necessarilly have to smoke if it is not your thing, they actually sell coffee and regular drinks there, but I do believe is part of the experience of any What to do in Amsterdam list.
6. Visit Anne Frank’s house
I think Anne Frank’s house is a must if you are looking what to do in Amsterdam. But unlike Van Gogh’s museum, you absolutely have to book online. Tickets are sold out weeks or even months in advance and you have to queue for hours if you decide to book on the spot.
Unfortunately, I though I could try my luck again and arrive to the house late at night (around nine). However, the line was still ridiculous. I realised I would miss my train back home if I decided to wait. So I had to settle for a couple of pictures of the façade and a deep contemplation of the place. On the plus side, with the cash I saved from the ticket I got a new top. So, silver linings, huh?
7. The red light district
I do not have a picture of this one because it is rude to take photos of the girls. Also because I just a glimpse of it while I was running back to my train. At least this time I did it on purpose. Not like the time I ended up lost in the red light district in Belgium. But hey, when it comes to what to do in Amsterdam, this really is a no brainer.
8. Go shopping
Ok, Amsterdam is expensive, I know, but the shopping scene is unbelievable. Not only they have the big commercial brands, but also a lot of local, independent shops full of unique pieces! I decided to splurge a little bit (and skip dinner) and get a jumper. But, god, if I had had more time (and money) I would have needed a bigger piece of luggage!
Everyone speaks English. And I mean everyone. Do not worry.
Finding what to do in Amsterdam will inevitably cost you money. And paying by card in the Netherlands can be a bit tricky, since some places only take Dutch cards. I got rejected in a few places in the country when I tried to pay with my MasterCard. Amsterdam, being a big capital full of tourists does accept other payment methods, but just as a precaution, I paid mostly by cash while I stayed there.
Travelling inside the Netherlands can be an expensive business. Return tickets can cost up to 40.00 Euro for a two-hour journey so that almost put me off visiting the capital (I was staying in the north of the country). Luckily, there are several promotions that offer day tickets for half the price. You just need to keep your eyes open. Stores like Hema, Blokker, Albert Heijn, or Etos offer some discounts occasionally. I bought mine with Spoordeel Winkel and I only had to pay 19.00 Euro, less than a single ticket at the station.