One day in Amsterdam Self-Guided Walking Tour: 15 sights to see

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Amsterdam is a city that is both historic and progressive, elegant and bawdy. There are 17th-century canals and trendy cannabis coffeeshops. Grand, gabled houses line the streets, while a neon glow emanates from the Red Light District. Bicycles outnumber the human population and the city’s long history of beer is being revolutionized by craft brewers. The city is robust, but it is possible to get a vibe of Amsterdam in one day – and an Amsterdam walking tour is a fantastic way to do it. To help other travelers, we designed a One Day in Amsterdam Self-Guided Walking Tour to 15 of the city’s best sights. (Amsterdam Walking Tour Map below!)

Amsterdam, Holland, Netherlands Bridge over Canal JetSettingFools.com

Amsterdam is a compact city, but the sights are spread throughout, making it somewhat difficult to organize an easy-flowing Amsterdam self-guided walking tour. To see the best Amsterdam sights, our walking tour of Amsterdam covers some ground, which includes a little zigging and zagging. Still, at a leisurely pace, it should only take about 2-3 hours to complete the route. For more walking tour Amsterdam tips and things to do in Amsterdam in one day (or more!), see the suggestions below.

 

One Day in Amsterdam Self-Guided Walking Tour

This free walking tour features 15 Amsterdam attractions. The two-hour walking tour (at minimum) includes turn-by-turn directions to help you find your way!

Start your one day in Amsterdam at…

 

Central Station

Amsterdam Central Station was opened in 1889 and today 250,000 passengers pass through the station daily.

One day in Amsterdam self-guided walking tour - sight 1: Central Station

Walk straight away from the station onto…

 

Damrak

Damrak is the busy north-south route from Central Station to Dam Square. The large brick building, Beurs van Berlage, was once the stock exchange building, now a concert hall.

One day in Amsterdamself-guided walking tour - sight 2: Walk along Damrak

Take Oudebrugsteeg (or any narrow side street) to the right to…

 

Nieuwendijk

Running parallel to Damrak, Nieuwendijk is a pedestrian-only shopping street and one of the oldest in Amsterdam.

One day in Amsterdam self-guided walking tour - sight 3: Shop on Nieuwenduk

Walk south to…

 

Dam Square

Dam Square is in the historical center of Amsterdam and is located at the original Amstel River dam, which was built in 1270. Many notable buildings and monuments are on the square including the Royal Palace (built in 1655 as City Hall and converted to a royal residence in 1808); the New Church (built in the 15th century); and the National Monument honoring the victims of World War II (built in 1956).

One day in Amsterdam self-guided walking tour - sight 4: the Royal Palace on Dam Square

From the WWII memorial on Dam Square, walk north on Warmoesstraat to Wijde Kerksteeg and turn right to…

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De Oude Kerk (The Old Church)

The 800-year-old De Oude Kerk, Old Church, is Amsterdam’s oldest building and was consecrated in the year 1306. Built as a Catholic Church, it is now a Calvinist Dutch Reform Church.

One day in Amsterdam self-guided walking tour - sight 5: De Oude Kerk

Walk around the church to the right, cross the canal on Oudekennissteeg and continue to the next canal and the…

 

Red Light District

The Red Light District is an odd prostitution-as-a-tourist-attraction sight. During the day, most of the red-lit window boxes are vacant, with only a few occupied by young women dressed in lingerie. At night, it is a different scene. Sex shops and the Erotic Museum are also found along the street.

{To get a better understanding of the area, take a Red Light District Tour at night, guided by a local.}

One day in Amsterdam self-guided walking tour - sight 6: The Erotic Museum in the Red Light District

Walk north through the Red Light District to Korte Stormsteeg and go right to Zeedijk. Turn right and walk south into…

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Chinatown

A plethora of Asian (not only Chinese) shops and restaurants line Zeedijk, the main street through what is commonly called Chinatown. The He Hua Buddhist Temple, built in 2000, is a striking difference to the rest of the architecture.

One day in Amsterdam self-guided walking tour - sight 7: the He Hua Temple in Chinatown

Continue south to Nieuwmarkt Square and…

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De Waag

Dominating Nieuwmarkt Square is De Waag, The Weigh House. The building, which is Amsterdam’s oldest non-religious building, dates to the 15th century and was once part of the city walls. Now, it houses a popular restaurant.

One day in Amsterdam self-guided walking tour - sight 8: De Waag

Continue walking south on Sint Antoniesbreestraat across the canal and turn right on Zwanenburgwal to the…

 

Waterlooplein Market

The outdoor Waterlooplein Market has more than 300 stalls selling second-hand clothing, antiques, tools, books and other trinkets. It originated as a Jewish market in 1893 and was revitalized as a general market in the 1960s.

One day in Amsterdam self-guided walking tour - sight 9: Waterlooplein Market

At the end of the market, turn right on Waterlooplein Street and right again before the bridge to the front of the…

 

National Opera & Ballet

The Amstel River fronts the National Opera and Ballet. Many of Amsterdam’s iconic houseboats are moored in the area.

One day in Amsterdam self-guided walking tour - sight 10: Houseboats moored in front of the Opera

Heading west from the Opera, cross three canals using Staalstraat and then walk south on Nieuwe Doelenstraat to…

 

Muntplein

Intersection at Muntplein and Munt Tower in Amsterdam, The Netherlands JetSettingFools.com

This busy square is actually a bridge with six streets leading to it. The Munt Tower, after which the square is named, was once part of the city gate. In the 17th century, the tower served as a mint.

Continue south and turn right (west) on Singel to the…

 

Flower Market

The flower market stalls are housed in floating shops and sell everything from seeds to fresh cut flowers.

One day in Amsterdam self-guided walking tour - sight 12: Shop the floating flower market

Continue west to Leidsestraat and turn left. Walk to Prinsengracht and turn right to follow the canal north to…

 

Westerkerk

The Westerkerk is a protestant church that was built between 1620 and 1631. The tower, which stands at 279 feet, is the tallest church tower in Amsterdam.

One day in Amsterdam self-guided walking tour - sight 13: Westerkerk

To the north of the church is the…

 

Anne Frank House

Now a museum, the Anne Frank House is where Anne, a young Jewish girl, hid from the Nazis during World War II. It’s easy to find, follow the long line and the door numbered 263 will be just past it.

{Interested in learning more about the life of young Anne Frank? Take a private Anne Frank walking tour with a guide.}

One day in Amsterdam self-guided walking tour - sight 14: Anne Frank House Museum

Across the Prinsengrach Canal is the…

 

Jordaan neighborhood

The working class settled the Jordaan neighborhood in the 17th century and attracted many with radical political ideas. In the 1970s, gentrification overtook the area, attracting young professionals, well-to-do families and, along with it, trendy cafes, bars, galleries and specialty shops.

{For a unique way to experience the Jordaan neighborhood, join the Jordaan district food walking tour.}

One day in Amsterdam self-guided walking tour - sight 15: Walk the Jordaan neighborhood

Crisscross north through the neighborhood to Brouwersgracht and turn right (east) to complete the loop back at Central Station.

 

One Day in Amsterdam Self-Guided Walking Tour Map:

One Day in Amsterdam self guided walking tour map

Click here for a link for the route on Google Maps

 

Top Tips for your Trip to Amsterdam

If you have just one day in Amsterdam to see the sights, these tips may help!

 

What to Eat and Drink in Amsterdam

We absolutely love Netherlands food! Read Dutch Cuisine: 17 Must-Try Things To Eat in the Netherlands, which includes everything from cheese to apple pie – and incredible Dutch dishes that tempt the palette. 

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Having a locally brewed Heineken is an essential Amsterdam experience. The distinctive red star logo is plastered throughout the city and it’s sold just about everywhere. Even though Heineken is mass produced (and available in 192 countries), it wouldn’t be right to visit Amsterdam and not have one. That being said, don’t miss out on the local craft beer, too. When we wandered into Café P96 on the Prinsengrach Canal, we were introduced to excellent craft beer by Brouwerij’t IJ IPA – and we highly recommend sampling a brew by IJ and other Amsterdam microbreweries.

Glass of craft beer on Amsterdam canal, Netherlands

 

Stroll The Canals

Charming. Quaint. Lovely. Picturesque. Beautiful. The canals in Amsterdam are worthy of these overused adjectives and many more. It is not just the water flowing through the neighborhoods that make it so appealing. It is the allure of the entire scene: the floating houseboats, endless number of bridges and detailed architecture of the gabled houses that stand in the background. We had the pleasure of seeing it all with autumn leaves. No matter the season, take some time to savor the scenery and wander aimlessly! 

 

Watch out for Bikes in Amsterdam

Bicycles are everywhere. Of the 450 photos I took in our one day in Amsterdam, I would be hard-pressed to find more than 10 that didn’t have a bicycle somewhere in the frame. As fans of pedal power, we were impressed with so many people using bikes as their method of transportation. We found it amazing how effortlessly people moved about on bicycles, even with the extra encumbrance of hauling groceries, musical instruments and multiple children. Visitors need to be aware of bikes as much as cars. It is wise to always look both ways when crossing the street. And, for shutterbugs like myself, be aware of your surroundings when looking through your lens.

Busy bike traffic in Amsterdam, Netherlands

 

Amsterdam and Marijuana

From the moment we exited the airport, we detected the scent of potent pot floating in the air. Within 24 hours of being in Amsterdam, the smell became commonplace and no longer garnered our attention. In The Netherlands, the laws covering the buying, possessing and using of small quantities of marijuana are complicated and evolving.

Individual joints are sold in coffee shops and can be purchased for less then $5 USD. Some shops, with names like Coffeeshop Reefer, seem to be geared toward tourists who find the freedom to smoke up a novelty. Other shops are more reserved. The unfortunate side effect of tourists using drugs is that some idiots overdo it. We saw more than one foreigner dazed-and-confused and struggling to function in broad daylight. Not cool.

 

To Visit – or Not Visit – the Red Light District

We didn’t venture into the Red Light District after dark, but even during the day, young women stood in the red-lit, glass-paneled box windows in their lingerie. The girls we saw looked bored, texting on their phones and not even looking into the crowd outside their windows. The scene is not for everyone. Visitors using our One Day in Amsterdam Self-Guided Walking Tour who not keen on walking through the Red Light District can simply continue walking north on Warmoesstraat from De Oude Kerk to Prins Hendrikade. Turn right (east) and follow it as it curves into Zeedijk and continue through Chinatown.

 

Amsterdam Sightseeing Tips

Although we provide a free Amsterdam walking tour map in this post, we recommend picking up an Amsterdam city map from the Amsterdam tourist information office. There is a VVV, in front of Central Station.

If visiting museums and other attractions in Amsterdam is high on your list, consider purchasing the I Amsterdam City Card, which includes free entry into the most popular museums, free public transportation and a canal boat ride. 

 

Amsterdam Walking Tours

We have outlined a free walking tour that is easy to follow and can be completed at any pace. However, there are many Amsterdam tours that are led by knowledgeable, professional Amsterdam tour guides. Visitors can choose from a private walking tour with a local guide or join a small group for Amsterdam sightseeing. Find the guided Amsterdam walking tour you are looking for on this list of tours

Free Amsterdam Walking Tour

Visitors looking for a guided free tour have many options, including Sandemans New Europe tours. Keep in mind, however, that these ‘free walking tours’ are tip-based and guides should be tipped for their time. For a truly Free Amsterdam Walking Tour, use our outlined guide above. 

 

Amsterdam Sightseeing Options

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Where To Stay

During our visit to Amsterdam, we stayed near the airport (for convenience) at the Ibis Budget Amsterdam Airport (which was just a short walk to the bus station where we could catch a bus into the city center). However, for those who prefer staying closer to the city, there are many Amsterdam hotels to choose from. Check out these top-rated hotels (based on guest reviews!) for your upcoming trip: Park Mansion Centre Hotel and The Toren. 

Budget travelers can find accommodations at Amsterdam hostels, like The Flying Pig UptownClinkNOORD Hostel or Generator Amsterdam. However, we’ve often found apartments to be cheaper (as well as more spacious and comfortable!) than hostels or hotels, especially if there are two or more people traveling together. You can search for Amsterdam holiday apartments on FlipKey (which is part of TripAdvisor), on VRBO – Vacation Rentals By Owner or Airbnb (which offers additional savings for creating a new account with this link).

Travelers who are on a budget or simply looking for a truly local experience should check out Couchsurfing. The website connects travelers to local hosts who offer accommodations in their home for free

 

Getting There

Amsterdam can be reached by plane, train, bus or car. Our preferred method of getting anywhere is by flying (we are JetSetting Fools, after all!) and when we need to purchase plane tickets, we start our search for the best deals on airline tickets on Skyscanner.

To get from city to city when flights are not possible, we usually rely on public transportation and take trains or buses. In Europe, we use Rail Europe to find train tickets and our preferred bus company is FlixBus – as it is economical, clean and comfortable with on-board wifi, seat-back entertainment, refreshments and a toilet. We aren’t keen on driving abroad, but renting a car can often save time and money (especially when traveling with more than two people) – and it allows for greater discovery.  
 

Before You Go

  • Don’t forget to pack a pair of lightweight and comfortable walking shoes. I (Sarah) have traveled with these shoes by Columbia, Skechers and Reef. Kris prefers wearing these shoes by Merrell and Sanuk.
  • We’re certain you’ll be snapping tons of photos during your trip. Rather than relying on your mobile phone to capture the sights, upgrade to an actual camera for higher quality photos photos (that can later be beautifully compiled into a travel photo book). We travel with a Canon Rebel (which takes amazing photos, but can be a bit clunky) and a Canon PowerShot ELPH (which takes beautiful pictures, is slim and lightweight – and the new models are wifi enabled so you can share your trip pics to social media in real time!).
  • It’s easy to get turned around or lost in any new city! Be sure to have a good city map and/or guidebook prior to arriving.  
  • We think travel insurance is essential! If you haven’t already obtained travel insurance for your trip, travel protected with World Nomads

Want more travel planning tips? Head over to our Travel Planning page for our complete packing list and other travel resources!

 

We want to know: What is your favorite thing to do in Amsterdam? What would you add to our One Day in Amsterdam Self-Guided Walking Tour? Tell us in the comments!

 

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35 thoughts on “One day in Amsterdam Self-Guided Walking Tour: 15 sights to see

  1. Bekah

    Thank you so much for this guide. We had a 12 hour layover from 8am-8pm and this was just perfect. By the time we got out of the airport and took an Uber to our starting spot, we added an hour long canal tour and spent 5 hours total with this tour. It was the perfect day to see all the big stuff without feeling too ‘touristy’. We always love self guided tours because we are cheap and don’t like crowds. This one was just perfect!!

  2. Becky

    Thank you for this! I was in Amsterdam by myself for the day and this gave me a great way to get out and see the city. It was a nice walking loop and allowed me to see the sights on my own schedule. I felt safe and didn’t get lost. I was also able to take small detours on my own and get right back on the path you’ve created. Again, thank you!

  3. Andrea Hopf

    Thank you so much for this clear and no fuss itinerary. I had a really lovely morning walking and now it’s time to explore some more.

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  5. Georgia

    Thanks for the article! Just wondering if you could share the location that the first two photos were taken (of the bridge, canal and Dutch houses)? I think they’re just stunning!

    • Thanks Georgia! Both photos were taken on Leidsegracht. The orange bike is on the Keizersgracht bridge and the 3-arched bridge is Herengracht. I’ve dropped a pin on each bridge on this Amsterdam map. Hope that helps! There are so many beautiful canals in Amsterdam 🙂 Enjoy!

  6. Jen

    We are going to Amsterdam this October, and this is exactly what I need. Thank you so much!! Plus we are also staying in Ibis Budget Amsterdam, it makes me giddy. Thank you mucho.

    • Hi Jen –
      So exciting! Hope you enjoy your time in Amsterdam – the autumn is a fantastic time to visit. One more tip: you can buy a day bus pass from the hotel check-in desk 😉
      Cheers and have fun!

  7. Claire

    I am doing a very short layover in Amsterdam next month and was looking for something just like this – thank you so much for sharing!

  8. Mel

    Stop at the pancake bakery, it is some where near Anne frank house, it was one of the most amazing meals I have ever ha d in my life!

  9. Jillian

    I’m heading to Amsterdam for a day next month and stumbled on your article – what a fantastic guide – will be trying it out! Thanks for sharing it.

  10. Deanna

    Visited Amsterdam many years ago with a tour group. Loved it. Hope to visit again. It rained a lot and the tulips bloomed before we got there.

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  12. Dana

    Hello! I have a 22 how layover in Amsterdam in my way home to the States and it starts at 11 am from the airport. I was wondering how long your tour took so I would know If I have enough time to complete it?

    Thanks!

    • Hi Dana –
      Our walking tour could probably be completed in under two hours without too many stops. The sights are located within close proximity – and, if time doesn’t permit, spend less time wandering Jordaan and cut back through the city. Enjoy, it’s a beautiful city!

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