From world-class museums to pretty parks, windmills and a maze of canals, there's much to explore in Amsterdam. Given its size, speeding through side streets on two wheels is easier and often faster than waiting around for trams and buses. Get your Google Maps out and your bicycle and let's go. With this 12-hour itinerary to use as a guide, you can do a lot in one day!
8am: Cycle through Vondelpark
Get on that saddle and start in Vondelpark, one of the city's most beautiful public spaces. At this time of day there are hardly any tourists and you’ll get the best photos of lakes, ponds, dogs, ducks and trees of all sizes and colours. You’ll also discover why the Dutch painters of the Golden Age loved living here. See the way the morning light shines through those branches.
9am: Witness the genius of Van Gogh
Vondelpark to Van Gogh Museum: 4 minutes by bicycle
From Vondelpark, head to Amsterdam’s Museumplein. Here you'll find the Rijksmuseum, the Stedelijk Museum, the recently added Moco – featuring the world’s largest collection of Banksys – and the Van Gogh Museum. If you have to choose, the latter is a great pick. To see the world's biggest collection of his work in a tiny time frame, book Skip The Line tickets and park your bicycle across the street from the entrance.
12noon: Lunch time with the locals
Van Gogh Museum to Food Hallen: 7 minutes by bicycle
Amsterdam's hip Oud-West neighbourhood is home to the popular Food Hallen. This spot is not often discovered by tourists. Park by the coffee shop Lot Sixty One (grab an excellent flat white while you're at it), and head inside for a taste of local life and an even bigger taste of gourmet street food. Food trucks serve everything from sushi to chicken fried doughnuts and Wagyu beef burgers. There's even a beer garden and gin bar inside!
1pm: Boutique browsing in De 9 Straatjes
Foodhallen to De 9 Straatjes: 5 minutes by bicycle
De 9 Straatjes (the Nine Streets in Dutch) is a photogenic mini-neighbourhood straddling two canals, and it's been packed with artisanal businesses for more than 400 years. You'll find some of the best boutique shopping, cafes and galleries here in what some call 'the real Amsterdam'. Park your bike somewhere on Wolvenstraat to be in the middle of it all.
De 9 Straatjes, (the Nine Streets in Dutch) is a photogenic mini-neighbourhood straddling two canals, and it's been packed with artisanal businesses for more than 400 years.
2pm: See the city from the canals
De 9 Straatjes to Amsterdam Canal Cruises: 4 minutes by bicycle
There are more than 100 kilometres of canals in Amsterdam, dug in the 17th century. Several tour companies will welcome you onboard to cruise these charming waterways. Cycle to Herengracht and park by Amsterdam Canal Cruises for a hop-on, hop-off option. You'll cruise past clog shops, traffic jams and cheese stores, and take in sights such as West Church (Westerkerk), the Seven Arches Bridge, Anne Frank House and more.
5pm: Time for some Dutch snacks
Amsterdam Canal Cruises to Leidseplein: 7 minutes by bicycle
Leidseplein is full of tourists, but park your bike near H&M and walk to one of the bars overlooking the square. In winter there are heaters; in summer it's a great place to catch the afternoon rays. Order a drink and some bitterballen – deep-fried balls filled with delicious meats – and settle down to people watch; it's always fun.
6pm: Dinnertime with the Dutch
Leidseplein to nearby restaurants: 5 minutes by bicycle
There are a number of restaurants around Leidseplein, but avoid the tourist traps and get back on your bicycle. For traditional Dutch dishes in a home-cooked style, Moeders – meaning Mothers – is a must (5 minutes from Leidseplein). For Italian with an operatic twist, the singing waiters serve a mean pasta at Pasta e Basta (4 minutes from Leidseplein). Or if you feel like filling up on gourmet baked potatoes try Jacketz (4 minutes from Leidseplein).
8pm: Visit the iconic Red Light District
Restaurant to Red Light District: 5 minutes by bicycle
The Rossebuurt (Dutch for pink or red neighbourhood) might be full of tourists peering into windows, but if you look beyond the adult shops and neon lights you'll see some stunning 14th-century architecture in the Red Light District. Park your bicycle by the city's oldest building, the 800-year-old Oude Kerk (Old Church) and set out to explore. Tour guides will tell you more about the neighbourhood and the world's oldest profession.
The locals love to sip cocktails at SkyLounge, which offers panoramic city views and delicious drinks till 1am (4 minutes from Oude Kerk by bicycle). For dancing, exotic club Prime or techno club Panama will satisfy – but leave your bicycle safely at Centraal station and take the tram. You can catch the tram home from there too, and go back for your wheels the next day in daylight.
You might have filled 12 hours, but you've only scratched the surface of Amsterdam. There's much to see on your next visit, so start planning your trip now.
Best Time to Visit
The spring and summer months of March–September are the best time to visit Amsterdam. The tulips are in full bloom in March, and in summer, the parks and canals make for great outdoor activities.
When not on a cycle, you'll find taxis are abundant in Amsterdam and, due to a local agreement, Uber is no cheaper than taking a taxi. Trams work with either a pre-paid card or on a pay-as-you-go basis. The latter is best for a short visit as obtaining a card can be confusing and costly – websites tend to be in Dutch. Trains run frequently to other parts of the Netherlands and beyond from Central station.
The Euro (€). There are ATMs everywhere and most places accept credit cards.
Airlines flying regularly to Amsterdam from Changi Airport include Singapore Airlines, KLM Royal Dutch Airlines and Garuda.
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