Ultimately this city is worthy of way more time than just 24 hours. We just happened to have a 24 hour stopover between a short-haul and long-haul flight, and decided to make the most of it.
Where to Stay
When we discovered the cheapest backpackers hostel we could find was in excess of 70 Euros, we decided with a 6am flight just to sleep in the airport (not recommended when you have a long-haul flight directly after, but we survived). Amsterdam is expensive, to cut down costs avoid peak summer periods (July/August) and look out for deals on accommodation well in advance.
Top things to do
Here’s a list of our top 10. If you start out early you can make time for them all.
1. Amsterdam Centraal
We arrived by train from Amsterdam Schiphol airport early in the morning at this historic train station, which first opened in 1889. An attraction in itself, it’s beautifully designed by Pierre Cuypers and A. L. van Gendt. Located right in the city centre, it’s a perfect base to explore and there is access to a number of tram lines. We also took advantage of the luggage storage facilitates.
2. Drop by Dam Square
From Amsterdam Centraal, make your way to Nieuwendijk, Amsterdam’s main shopping street (some consider it Amsterdam’s best), walk the length of the street and you’ll soon find yourself at Dam Square. In the centre of Dam Square you’ll find the obelisk shaped National Monument, The Royal Palace, the 15th Century De Nieuwe Kerk “The New” Church and Madam Tussauds.
3. Bloemenmarkt (Floating Flower Market)
The only floating flower market in the world. We saw plenty of the Netherland’s national flower, the Tulip, in a rich array of colours. There were a multitude of other flowers, succulents and other plants, artistically potted, along with fresh produce, trinkets & souvenirs.
4. Cruise on the Canal
Take a short cruise through Amsterdam’s famous canals, while basking in some rays. There are plenty of different options from short 1 hour trips to day ticket hop-on, hop-off style where you can use the boat to visit various sites around the city. There are also sunset and three-course dinner cruises. If like us you’re on a budget Grayline 1 hour Canal Cruise visiting the city’s highlights for 16 Euros.
5. Stop for Lunch in the Jordaan neighbourhood
This picturesque neighbourhood is the perfect place to refuel and take photos of the well-preserved 17th Century houses, restaurants and shopfronts. We ate lunch just on the edge of Jordaan at Spanjer en van Twist. I can’t recommend this place as we had to send our arancini balls back twice because they were still frozen inside. There are a number of decent places however, check tripadvisor to get an idea for budgets and the best reviewed places.
6. Spend the afternoon exploring the by bike
Rent a bike for half the day and explore the city like a local. Starting in Jordaan, rent a bike from Black Bikes Rental from 6 Euros and explore the old churches, Westertoren, Westerkerk and Noorderkerk. Black Bikes has 13 locations around the city where you can drop off your bike, so no need to pedal back to your starting point.
7. Cheese Tasting
Making our way back toward the Bloemenmarkt, we found a collection of cheese shops. Many shops offer free tastings but you can also do proper tasting tours, some include wine and whisky tastings as well.
8. Anne Frank House
My favourite thing in Amsterdam, it’s best if you book online to avoid the long queues. We went late in the afternoon and lined up for about about 45 minutes, it was worth it. You can’t take photos inside the museum. This sunflower reminds me of the light that Anne brought into the world in what is one of the darkest times in history
“Dead people receive more flowers than the living ones because regret is stronger than gratitude” Anne Frank
9. Visit the Red Light District
Amsterdam’s Red Light District is located in ‘De Wallen’, where you’ll see prostitutes on display in windows illuminated by lights and an array of sex shops, sex theatres and shops legally and openly selling marijuana. There is even a whole museum devoted to Cannabis. While many travel to Amsterdam purely for an unadulterated experience. This is not our kinda thing so I can’t give any tips on how to make the most of this part of town. But you can’t visit Amsterdam without at least a stroll through this infamous neighbourhood.
10. Whatever YOU want!
Who am I to tell you how to spend your time. If you’re an art lover you might spend a whole day wandering the Van Gogh Museum or Rijksmuseum, it might be your hangover day napping in Vondelpark or eating your way through the street food. For me it was visiting Leger des Heils (Salvation Army) Museum. I once worked for this charity that founded much of what we know to be modern social work. For anyone who doesn’t know, I am a social worker by profession (apart from being a musician, traveller and perpetual dreamer). This museum is free however the opening hours can be a little random. It’s not surprising at all that it is located in the heart of Amsterdam’s Red Light District, where Salvation Army Major Alida Bosshardtn worked with the homeless, substance addicted, and prostitutes.