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We’re all probably guilty of not exploring our own home country or even hometown enough. Esmee grew up in a little town next to Amsterdam, and even though she’s been to the city countless of times, until recently she never even saw the city’s highlights. Of course she walked passed it, but never looked at it with the eyes of a traveller.
That’s why we decided to head out to Amsterdam and go sightseeing. It was a day filled with incredible architectures, of course lots of canals and Dutch culture. We ended the day at a beautiful spot not many tourists go to yet.
We’ve put together all the places we went to in this 1-day Amsterdam itinerary for everyone wanting to explore the Dutch capital in a day. You won’t miss out on anything and it will cost you next to nothing!
10.00 - Arrive at Amsterdam Central Station
When you go to Amsterdam’s city center with public transport, you’ll most likely arrive at Amsterdam Central Station. Don’t rush out, but take some time to walk around. The exterior, but also the interior of the station is really nice and dates back to 1889.
10.30 - The Basilica of Saint Nicholas
The Basilica of Saint Nicholas is the primary Roman Catholic church of Amsterdam. It lies right across Central Station so it’s conveniently the first stop on the itinerary. The basilica is free to enter.
11.00 - The Red Light District
Even though this area in Amsterdam is particularly famous for prostitution, peepshows and banana bars, it’s also one of the oldest parts of Amsterdam. The medieval buildings are beautiful and will definitely keep you wandering around for a bit.
12.00 - Coffee break at the Koffieschenkerij
The Red Light District is crowded with tourists most of the time, but we’ve found one peaceful place amidst all the hustle and bustle. At the Koffieschenkerij you’ll find this tranquility. This cafe is situated in the Old Church, which is the oldest building in Amsterdam dating from 1213. It’s a unique setting to have a cup of coffee or tea alongside one of their freshly baked pies. You can either sit outside, downstairs (inside) or in the attic. We would recommend the attic, since it’s mostly empty and the large windows open at the streetside.
13.00 - Dam Square
There’s always something happening at Dam Square. Whether it’s a protest, a flash mob or someone playing music, you won’t be bored here. Besides, you can find the neoclassical Royal Palace and the National Monument (to commemorate the casualties of World War II) here.
13.30 - The Begijnhof
From Dam Square, take a walk through the main shoppingstreet and go to the Begijnhof. This is the oldest ‘hofje’ (inner courtyard) in Amsterdam and dates back to medieval times. It used to be a place for beguines to live and even today it’s a place where only women live. The buildings in the courtyard are tall, Amsterdam-style town-houses. You’ll also find one of the two remaning wooden houses of Amsterdam, a clandestine church and some statues there. If you’re interested in finding out more about the history of Amsterdam, check out the Amsterdam Museum nearby.
14.00 - The Negen Straatjes
The Negen Straatjes (or the Nine Little Streets) are an area consisting of nine side streets of the Prinsengracht, Keizersgracht, Herengracht and Singel in central Amsterdam. In the past, different types of work were carried out here, but especially the processing of animal skins. That’s why the streets have names like Reestraat (‘Roe Deer Street’), Berenstraat (‘Bear Street’), Wolvenstraat (‘Wolf Street’), Runstraat (‘Cow Street’) and Huidenstraat (‘Pelts Street’). The area now mostly functions as a shopping area with lots of little stores and restaurants. It’s one of the best places in Amsterdam for finding vintage clothing!
15.00 - Lunch at Pluk Amsterdam
Pluk Amsterdam in the Negen Straatjes is not only a really nice cafe for lunch, but they also sell stationary, home decoration and much more. On the menu you’ll find healthy dishes, many of them vegetarian or vegan. The food looks (and tastes!) absolutely delicious.
15.45 - The Jordaan
The Jordaan was originally a working-class neighbourhood in Amsterdam, but now it’s one of the most expensive areas in the city. You’ll find many inner courtyards here, which are the unique setting for ‘Hofjesconcerten’ (courtyard concerts) during the summer.
Keep an eye out for the stone tablets on the houses in the Jordaan, because they indicate the profession or the family sign of the people that used to live there. For example, the tablets display a pig for a butcher or a pair of scissors for a tailor. These tablets were fist made in the 16th century.
Another important characteristic of the Jordaan is its music. During the 20th century, popular musicians such as Johnny Jordaan and Tante Leen made a unique kind of folk music. There is a festival, called the Jordaan Festival, still being organized anually to celebrate the music tradition.
16.30 - NDSM
It’s time to head out to the final destination of the day: NDSM. This is the former terrain of the Dutch shipbuilding company in the northern part of Amsterdam, but is now an industrial area with a vibrant arts community. Not many tourists go here yet! To get there, walk back to Central Station and take the free ferry to NDSM. The ferry will take around 15 minutes, and will basically give you a free cruise over the IJ-river.
When you’re at NDSM, we suggest you to just walk around and take it all in. During sunny days, graffiti artists take the stage and make beautiful murals on the old shipyard remains.
19.00 - Dinner at Pllek Amsterdam
Get yourself a table at Pllek, a unique restaurant built inside old shipping containers. The vibe inside is industrial, edgy and cozy – we always feel right at home here. Try to sit close to the window, or go sit outside in the summer. It’s the perfect place to see the sunset over the IJ-river while eating a delicious meal. Almost everything on the menu is either vegeterian or vegan, with only a few meat and fish options.
There’s more: Pllek is not only a restaurant, but also an event space. They host yoga classes and workshops during the day and invite singers, performers and DJ’s during the night. So stay after dinner and have a little dance party. The last ferry sails back to Central Station around midnight.
What's more to discover in Amsterdam?
Of course, there is a lot more to see and do in Amsterdam. You have Leidse Square, Museum Square (with the Rijksmuseum, the Stedelijk Museum, the Van Gogh Museum and the Moco Museum) and the whole Amsterdam-Zuid area. Or go to Nieuwmarkt, Waterlooplein, the Hortus Botanicus or the Tropenmuseum. You can also relax and unwind at one of the many parks in Amsterdam, such as Vondelpark or Westerpark.
If you have any questions about visiting Amsterdam, drop them in the comments below and we’ll get back to you!