This post most likely contains affiliate links to things such as tours, transport, accommodation, products & amazon associate links. I may receive a small commission if you use the links which costs you no extra, but helps keep this blog going.
Amsterdam is a City I had been wanting to visit for ages so I was pleased to finally visit in November! Due to being on a trip to Den Bosch and The Hague as well it meant I was short on time. I just had a day and a half in Amsterdam and I went on my own.
I knew that Amsterdam wouldn’t be the best city to be solo in due to the bars and cafes etc etc that make Amsterdam Amsterdam but at the same time I didn’t have much interest in that and I just wanted to see all of the beautiful canals and houses that I had seen so many pictures of!
Update: I have since been back to Amsterdam a second time solo and loved it too – My Top 10 Tips For Visiting Amsterdam as a Solo Traveller.
I ended up having a great day in the centre of Amsterdam on my own, I walked a lot – 22km to be precise and I saw an endless amount of beautiful canals and houses. Without completely realising it, I structured my day into 3 sections which enabled me see a lot of the city.
If you are heading to Amsterdam and want to see a lot of Amsterdam’s iconic places in one day I would recommend you structure your day in a similar way to me:
1- Walk in a horseshoe shape around Herengracht canal from West to East.
2- Walk through the Centre where Chinatown is and the Red Light District (because it has to be seen) and then further West to see the sunset.
3- Take an hour-long Canal Boat trip.
If you’re also visiting Amsterdam on a budget, also check out my post – How Much Money I Spent during a Weekend in Amsterdam on a Budget!
I used my Marco Polo Perfect Days in Amsterdam Spiral Guide to help me get to grips with the city and work out how to best structure my day. The spiral guides that Marco Polo offer tend to have a ‘Walks’ section towards the back of them which is perfect for me as I love my walking and wandering.
The walk I found and decided to do was from Brewers Canal in the West of the City, all the way round to the Nemo Science Museum in the East of the City, which took me in a Horseshoe shape around Amsterdam, mainly following the Herengracht Canal.
I followed this walk from start to finish although I did stop a long the way and come out of the recommended walk slightly to see some other areas that I had seen in the guide too.
I started at Brouwersgracht also known as brewers canal, as many breweries used to line the canal in the 17th & 18th Century, back when the water was too dirty to drink so beer was the answer.
When this canal joins Herengracht I headed up here and I quickly started to see the Amsterdam that I had been wanting to see – the buildings, the boats and all of the trees over the water. I started on the right hand side of the canal as you look ahead of you.
Each of the canals surrounding central Amsterdam were built for a particular class and they each have a name. Herengracht is the Gentlemen’s Canal or Lord Canal and was where the wealthiest people of Amsterdam traditionally used to live, meaning the buildings along here are gorgeous. Although these days they are generally banks or museums, for example the guide points out a particularly nice building which is Bartolotti Huis which is a fine mansion.
Not far from here the canal starts to bend round and this is known as the Golden Bend, the most fashionable and desirable stretch of the Herengracht canal although this too is not like it was and is now occupied by business and foreign consulates but this area does get noticeably busier.
From here I veered away from the Herengracht Canal and headed up Nieuwe Spiegelstraat Street which takes you all the way to the Rijksmuseum. This is one impressive building and worth visiting just to see it from the outside, even if you aren’t going to go in. It’s a 19th-century building housing Dutch Golden Age painting masterpieces & vast European art collection.
Behind the museum is where the very popular I Am Amsterdam sign is. I was in Amsterdam on a Saturday and I found it to be crazily busy around here and not enjoyable at all which was a shame.
From here I wanted to visit the Instagram-famous cafe -The Avocado Show so I walked East to find it, unfortunately this too was super busy so I didn’t go in, but not far from here is Gerard Doustraat Street which is full of places to eat and full of other streets which are packed with cafes. Away from the canal’s this seems like a good place to get some food in restaurants that aren’t particularly ‘touristy’.
Marco Polo Perfect Days in Amsterdam Spiral Guide
I retraced my footsteps back to Rijksmuseum and back down to the Herengracht as I was determined to see the whole of this beautiful canal. Along the way I did take some smaller streets off of the main street and it was really nice to see residential streets that weren’t on the canal.
The next section of the canal does start to look a lot different than the start. Most noticeably more tour boats appear, especially as around here you can see the Seven Bridges which are 7 bridges all in a line only visible by boat (which is why I’m glad I did a boat trip at the end of the day).
Before long I hit the Amstel River. To the right I saw Magere Brug, also known as the ‘Skinny Bridge’ but I walked left across the Blauwbrug or ‘Blue Bridge’ which was constructed in 1874.
Nieuwe Herengracht canal was in front of me along with another bridge, a replica of the skinny bridge called Walter Suskindbrug after a German man who helped hundreds of Dutch children escape the Nazi’s during World War II. It certainly gave me chills walking past it and reminded me that this city holds a lot of history.
After this it was time for the scenery to change again as I headed through parts of the old Jewish Quarter and towards Hortus Botanicus Greenhouse.
It was quite strange to see a greenhouse in Amsterdam but the park gave me a well needed quiet moment. Close to here is the Wertheim Park which has a memorial to the thousands of Dutch people of Jewish decent who died in Auschwitz Birkenau in Poland which is very moving.
I carried on down the canal to the Nemo Science museum. As I crossed the busy roads I could see the rooftop of the museum ahead and continued to head up the many stairs.
The rooftop is free and it’s a gem that I imagine not everyone comes across due to its Eastern location, but its well worth finding it and seeing the view of the City and Rivers from up here. It’s a bit of a sun trap too, even in the winter, and it was beautiful to rest my feet with the sun on my face and a view of Amsterdam ahead.
From here I walked along the waterfront back to Amsterdam Central Station to get my bearings. I knew I wanted to see the Centre of the city but I also knew this would be where the Red Light district is and the craziness is. I randomly headed up Zeedijk Street which took me right into the busy centre and into Chinatown, which I didn’t know existed in Amsterdam. I actually came across Fo Guang San Temple, a Buddhist temple which isn’t hard to miss from the street.
Related Post from my second trip to Amsterdam- Walking Guide from Amsterdam Centraal Station to the Rijksmuseum.
I then took a direct right which took me down Molensteeg where I saw a lot of guys in the street looking into the windows and of course girls wearing not much through those windows. Although I felt quite uncomfortable and awkward because I was on my own, I am glad that I saw it.
From here, to get me away from the area I headed West, I went through a lot of very touristy areas, especially where the likes of Madame Tussaud’s is but eventually I came back out onto the canals and I realised that I hadn’t yet been to Anne Frank’s House so I headed further West that way. It actually turned out to be a really good decision as it was quite late in the afternoon and the sun was starting to go down. The sun looked so gorgeous going down over the canals with the sky change colour!
I headed back towards Amsterdam Central Station and as it was November it was now dark at only 6:00pm. I wasn’t ready to head back to the hostel but I also wasn’t keen on walking around in the dark, plus my feet and legs were killing me, so I thought that a boat trip in Amsterdam would be the answer! There are lots of tourist offices near Central Station selling tours so I picked the one closest to me, bought a ticket for €16.00, boarded a boat and headed off into the dark.
To pre-book a boat cruise ticket to ensure you get one at the right time of the day that you want, have a look at these options:
I didn’t have high expectations of this boat trip, especially because it was dark but the commentary of it alone was so great and I learnt so much! They said how the houses on Amsterdam are all built onto the water and that’s why they’re tipping to the sides and front and back. We also passed a lot of places that I had walked around earlier in the day. It was good to see them all in the dark and the commentary explained the history of the canals and some of the buildings. I found it really made the whole day come together so I would 100% recommend doing a boat tour whilst you are in Amsterdam! It’s touristy but it’s good!
I hope this gives you a good insight into my day in Amsterdam and helps you plan your day there too! Whether you just have a day as I did, or you have longer but want to spend one full day just walking around and seeing as much as you can, this should help you out!.
My Marco Polo Perfect Days in Amsterdam Guide really helped me and it’s full of recommended walks and useful information. It’s a shame I couldn’t visit more of the places the guide talks about but that just means I’ll have to go back hey?! If you want to purchase it you can buy it here, its pretty cheap too!
Or, there is now a brand new Amsterdam Guide which is even compatible to an app! You can buy that here!
To look up accommodation in Amsterdam or to book Stayokay Zeeburg, check out Booking.com!
For more of my Amsterdam Posts see:
This post is in collaboration with Marco Polo Guides however all thoughts, opinions and ramblings are my own! This post may contain some affiliate links but at no extra cost to you!