One Day in Amsterdam: Art Museums, Cafes & Canal Cruises

Amsterdam is a treasure trove of art among other things, we were there for less than 24 hours but had a lovely girls trip and spent one day in Amsterdam exploring the city’s museums, galleries, cafes, and historic central district.

Whether you have a weekend or just one day in Amsterdam, and looking for the best things to do, here are some ideas. My daughter and I spent some time exploring the Dutch art scene, shopping, and doing some sightseeing in Amsterdam. It was a sort of homecoming for us since we had done this trip together ages ago when Miss. Peachy was only 3 years old. She loved running around in Madurodam, a miniature park perfect for kids.

Amsterdam in a Day Itinerary

Our One Day Amsterdam Itinerary

Visit a few Museums in the Museum Quarter
Spend some time in Vondelpark
Buy some flowers & souvenirs at the Flower Market
Go on a Canal cruise
Explore the Central District and “Coffeeshops”
End your one day in Amsterdam with a special meal

Explore the Art Scene in Amsterdam

Van Gogh Museum: My favorite Artist and the first thing we did during our one day in Amsterdam

Vincent Van Gogh is one of my favorite artists, having seen his works in museums around the world and having been to his asylum in St. Remy, the museum in Amsterdam is one of my favorites. Established by his brother and his son the Van Gogh Museum has many of the artist’s portraits and his famous paintings like the Sunflowers, Almond Blossoms, Potato Eaters, and more.

You can admire Vincent van Gogh’s distinctive rough brushwork and enjoy the lush color palette of yellows and blues. Over 200 paintings and 500 drawings make up the permanent exhibition here. You can also find examples of his Japanese prints and works by Toulouse-Lautrec that lend perspective to van Gogh’s own efforts, plus a few of van Gogh’s contemporaries and show his influence on other artists.

Get your tickets to the Van Gogh Museum early since they seem to sell out fast.

Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam

Rijksmuseum

Designed by Pierre Cuypers and opened in 1885, the Rijksmuseum holds the Netherlands’ largest collection of art and artifacts. The museum’s 80 galleries showcase 800 years of Dutch art and historic objects including 22 Rembrandts and four Vermeers.

We were fascinated by the world-famous Delft Blue pottery as well as decorative Asian art, which has its own pavilion. But the biggest draw is the collection of artworks such as Rembrandt’s Night Watch and Vermeer’s The Milkmaid and Woman Reading a Letter.

Don’t miss the largest and oldest library at the end of the hall in the Asian Pavilion, The Cuypers Library. One of the top things to see at Rijksmuseum. Visitors, students and art historians alike can use the library to delve deeper into the Rijksmuseum collection.

Top things to see at the Rijksmuseum
Collection of Delft Blue pottery used for flower arrangements. How awesome are the flower towers with the hostess figurine on the top
Night watch by Rembrandt : Top things to see at Rijksmuseum
Night watch by Rembrandt
The Cuypers Library, Amsterdam Museum
The Cuypers Library

Grab a quick lunch at Rijksmuseum cafe before heading to your next destination. Both Stedelijk Museum and MOCO Museum are great options if you like contemporary art. If not skip it and spend some time exploring the city on a bike (they are easy to rent from your hotel).

Rijksmuseum cafe
Chickpea burgers at Rijksmuseum cafe

Summer days in Amsterdam are long and MOCO is open later, so we decided to visit the museum and then walk around the canal district.

The Stedelijk Museum

If you like modern and contemporary art, add this to your 1 day itinerary in Amsterdam. All the four museums listed here are with the Museum Quarters or Museumplein and you can easily visit them all in one day.

With its incredible bath-shaped extension, the Stedelijk Museum is Amsterdam’s go-to institution for modern and contemporary art. It has an extraordinary collection that includes works by Piet Mondrian, Yves Klein, Roy Lichtenstein, Jeff Koons, Yayoi Kusama, and Sheila Hicks. The museum’s permanent collection is split up into sections that correspond to key social movements and themes. 

Best things to do in Amsterdam | OutsideSuburbia.com

MOCO Museum

Moco which stands for “modern contemporary” is a private museum that is much smaller than the Stedelijk. Housed in an early 20th-century mansion, Moco’s permanent collection includes works by Andy Warhol, Jeff Koons, Damien Hirst, Keith Haring, and even a few by Basquait and ‘unauthorized’ works by Banksy. (The artist himself does not support gallery exhibitions of his work.) 

Don’t miss the impressive array of contemporary sculptures in the Moco Garden and the Instagram friendly mirror rooms and photo opportunities.

Anne Frank’s House

The most poignant of the city’s museums is Anne Frank’s House and Museum. You can get tickets by online reservation only, timed tickets are released two months ahead and a limited number on the day itself. The 17th-century canal house always has a line outside. Keep in mind it’s very emotional—the attic where the Frank family hid from the Nazis, and where young Anne penned her famous diary. It takes about an hour to complete a loop of the house.

See a visual story here

Spend some time in Vondelpark

The most popular park in Amsterdam attracts around 10 million visitors per year. 120 acres brimming with scenic lakes, ancient trees, miles of trails, and a charming rose garden, it’s easy to find a quiet corner to yourself despite the high visitor count here in Vondelpark. It is much like the Central Park in NYC. Look for the Fish sculpture by Pablo Picasso.

Explore the Central District and Coffeeshops

After the museums, we took an Uber to the Central district and walked around the canals. It is the oldest part of the Dutch capital, with about 90 islands and 1,500 bridges that form concentric belts around the city.

Amsterdam Red Light District is here but it is more than just brothels, coffeeshops and tourists. There is also a Gothic church that’s located in the Red Light District. Consecrated in 1306, Oude Kerk is the oldest surviving building in the city. The artist Rembrandt was known to be a regular visitor, in fact, his children were christened here. 

If you didn’t know (I didn’t before my visit), while Amsterdam is known for its ‘coffeeshop’, this does not mean you will find espresso there. You will find marijuana on the menus! There are more than 100 licensed coffeeshops in the city. They are an establishment where cannabis can be purchased and enjoyed. It is an integral part of Amsterdammer culture as its museums, canals and restaurants. That’s Amsterdam in a nutshell!

What to do in Amsterdam in a day

Buy some flowers & souvenirs at the Flower Market

Holland is famous for its flowers, even if you miss tulip season, you can still find other flowers in the Flower Market. You can also get tulip bulbs, seeds, and other souvenirs. Don’t forget those clogs, or klomp (plural klompen) a whole-foot clog from the Netherlands, or a wheel of Gouda cheese!

Albert Cuypstraat, between Ferdinand Bolstraat and Van Woustraat, has been around for over 100 years. It’s one of the largest markets in Europe with over 250 stands selling fruit, vegetables, flowers, and more, It is open Monday through Saturday.

Blushing Cafe, Amsterdam
A stop for some tea and apple strudel at Blushing, a cute cafe in the Museum Quarter

Go on a Canal cruise

Canal cruises in another great way to experience Amsterdam and the landscape, history and culture. To be honest, we didn’t have time for this popular activity, after all, we had just one day in Amsterdam. We opted to spend them admiring all the art we could and just watched the boats gliding by from one of the many bridges.

How to spend one day in Amsterdam | OutsideSuburbia.com

End your 24 hours in Amsterdam with a special meal

The Foodhallen is a great place to get a meal if you have the time. Different from other food halls and housed inside a former tram depot, it features its top-notch offerings, serving everything from reimagined Dutch classics to Vietnamese and Mexican treats. It is buzzing at all hours of the day. 

As for us, we opted for some Pizza and wine right across from the museums at Barpiazza across from the Stedelijk Museum. The wine was flowing, the pizza delicious and a perfect finish to our mother daughter girls trip to Amsterdam.

If you are flying out of Schiphol Airport after your day in Amsterdam (whether it was just 24 hours or a whole weekend) make sure to get to the airport ahead of time. Travel is crazy right now, especially from Amsterdam. We were taking a KLM flight end of May, and the line was snaking outside the airport with wait times of over 4 to 5 hours.

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