The Ultimate Guide to Canal Cruise in Amsterdam


1 day itinerary Amsterdam – See Amsterdam in one day!

1 day itinerary Amsterdam - See Amsterdam in one day!

Cruise iconic canals, discover the Anne Frank House's WWII secrets, explore 9 Streets' eclectic boutiques and artisans, or immerse yourself in Van Gogh’s genius at his namesake museum. Here is a complete 1 day itinerary Amsterdam. Read on.

Only have 24 hours to take in Amsterdam? Don’t despair! This complete guide lets you experience the most alluring attractions this captivating city has to offer – from gliding under tiny bridges along the tree-lined canals to understanding the struggles of a young Jewish girl hidden away during wartime. 

Marvel at one iconic artist’s progression through boldly colored self-portraits and textured landscapes. Explore the narrow brick alleys dotted with niche boutiques that fuel today’s cultural pulse. And cap it off by indulging in an array of seasonal flavors paired with wine as boats drift lazily by your waterside table at dusk. 

Follow this perfect one day itinerary to immerse yourself in Amsterdam’s intricate beauty, history, world-class art and cozy Old World charm in just a single, yet splendid day.

Scenic Canal Cruise

Start off your day by enjoying a leisurely scenic canal cruise that lets you take in the atmosphere of Amsterdam from its iconic waterways. Glide slowly past the gabled merchant houses and homes that line the narrow cobblestone streets. Appreciate how the tranquil canals shape the layout of the city as you pass under quaint bridges while houseboats bob gently in your wake. 

Many canal tour companies such as Blue Boat Company and Holland International offer cruises ranging from 1-2 hours, with most tours starting early in the morning to take advantage of golden morning light illuminating the sights. 

As you cruise along, listen to audio guides providing commentary on Amsterdam’s history and architecture spanning its rich Golden Age heyday as a maritime mercantile hub through to today. Tours generally take you through the center of town looping through the network of Herengracht, Keizersgracht and Prinsengracht canals that were built during the 17th century expansion known as the Grachtengordel. 

Keep an eye out for famous landmarks like the gabled Ahouse, the iconic Magere Brug (Skinny Bridge), the historic Waag building, and Montelbaanstoren tower just to name a few sights seen along the varied routes showcasing quintessential Amsterdam. After an hour of serene sightseeing along the city’s UNESCO-listed waterways, you’ll certainly appreciate why they’re touted as one of Amsterdam’s top attractions.

Anne Frank House

After your canal cruise, meander over to the Anne Frank House museum on Prinsengracht canal to step back in time to WWII when young Anne along with seven others hid out for 25 months before their capture during a raid in 1944. Enter into the historic 17th century canal house that preserved Anne’s Secret Annex hideout and displays the movable bookcase that once concealed the hidden staircase leading into the Annex. 

Spend an hour and a half making your way through this compact yet powerful museum as you view preserved rooms like the two-tiered space where Anne slept alongside Fritz Pfeffer as well as seeing the family photographs, diary pages, and wartime documents that provide intimate insight into Anne’s life, thoughts and dreams. An extensive photographic gallery documents the Franks’ story from their early years up through to the tragic deaths of Anne and her sister Margot from typhus at Bergen-Belsen within the last year of the war. 

Exhibits also share stories of the others who hid out with the Franks including the van Pelses and Peter van Daan, detailing their eventual capture and deportation fates. There are historically impactful displays examining racism and fascism that characterized the Nazi regime’s warfare and genocide. An alternate experimental biographical space provides a reflective journey examining Anne’s childhood through her years in hiding. 

Budget extra time to watch some of the short films and interviews bringing further illumination to this young writer’s poignant yet powerful recollections that touched the hearts of millions. Expect crowds and book advance tickets during high season, but visiting this moving landmark shining light upon Holocaust horrors proves extremely worthwhile, especially if you make it there early afternoon when queues shorten after lunchtime.

 9 Streets Shopping and Dining

After your heavy history lesson, lose yourself wandering through Amsterdam’s 9 Streets neighborhood around 12:00 PM, providing the perfect afternoon pick-me-up. Here you’ll discover one-of-a-kind specialty shops, eclectic boutiques, cozy brown cafés, unique jewelry stores, intriguing galleries and some of the oldest canal architecture within the city’s historic core. 

The 9 Streets known locally as the 9 Straatjes are nestled in a grid west of the Dam square located between the running waters of Singelgracht, Herengracht and Prinsengracht canals originally built during Amsterdam’s Golden Age heyday. Named for the nine short side streets that comprise the area, each has its own delightful character – the 9 Streets as a whole offer visitors a vibrant glimpse into authentic local culture. 

Dine al fresco while canal side people watching, sample Dutch pancakes at a traditional eetcafé or try smoked eel inside a historical tavern. Other tasty treats not to miss are poffertjes, frites with mayonnaise, bitterballen, and stroopwafels, the thin, caramel-filled waffles that are a Dutch delicacy. 

After refueling, browse through boutique shops and flagship stores. Standouts include festive FOAM selling camera equipment and photography books, the Papabubble sweet shop with colorful blowing candy demonstrations, Magna Plaza’s converted 19th century post office filled with Dutch fashion designers, and ultra-Instagrammable store HEMA, the Netherlands’ own quirky yet classic department store chain. Or pick up some Delft Blue pottery, artisan cheese and clogs for the folks back home. With minimal traffic, canal side charm and much to stimulate the senses, one could easily spend hours discovering local treasures within the 9 Streets’ sublime setting.

Van Gogh Museum

By mid afternoon around 2:00pm, make your way over to the world-renowned Van Gogh Museum, home to the planet’s largest collection of Vincent Van Gogh’s masterful works spanning his prolific decade-long career. Housing over 200 paintings, 500 drawings, and more than 750 personal letters, this impressive modern museum lets you dive in depth into Van Gogh’s oeuvre from his earliest gloomy Dutch Potato Eaters through instantly recognizable Sunflower still lifes towards those final wheat field landscapes swirled with impasto skies that hint at his troubled state of mind. 

Plan on spending 60-90 minutes viewing this extensive overview of Van Gogh’s artistic output – standouts include self-portraits that seem to capture his very psyche; vibrant floral canvases, and his iconic work The Bedroom vividly depicting his simple furniture in Arles.

Multimedia displays enrich the showcased paintings, bringing further illumination to Vincent’s thoughts, feelings and sources of inspiration from the southern French light and landscapes he fell in love with towards the end of his short life. Beyond the temporary visiting exhibitions, one permanent exhibit not to miss includes displayed letters from Vincent to his brother Theo that offer a glimpse into the artists’ close fraternal relationship. The letters describe day to day accounts of Vincent’s activities but also reveal his inner turmoil and depressive mental health struggles.

After taking in this expansive spectacle spanning Van Gogh’s development and noticing his mastery of color, texture and light that cemented his reputation as an innovative yet troubled genius – one comes away with deeper insight about the man behind all that brilliant brushwork. Cap off your visit by stopping in the Museum shop afterwards to browse through glossy art books, prints, handmade souvenirs and unique presents to forever remember one of history’s most influential painters who captured ways of seeing the world radically different than all who came before him.

Café Hoppe

Recharge while embracing old Amsterdam’s atmosphere by visiting Cafe Hoppe on the famous Spui Square around 4 pm. As one of the city’s most iconic and long-operating brown cafés, Hoppe exudes cozy yet bustling energy as a popular spot among local writers, artists, academics and politicians who have gathered at its dark-wood tables for over four centuries. 

Grab a seat on the leather banquette inside or at the tables of out front that offer a prime vista point for people watching. Hoppe has a comprehensive Dutch beer menu – try ordering Lamme Goedzak, a specialty draft they’ve been pouring for over 50 years now. Associate yourself with Hoppe’s colorful history by raising a glass – legend has it that in 1624, the Mayor of Amsterdam joined one of its early meetings inside this esteemed establishment. 

People watch and take in Hoppe’s old-time ambience – admire the stained glass, antique chandeliers and oak interior while relaxing amid the lively conversations swirling all around you. Soak up some quintessential cafe culture, and look around at the jovial mix of regulars and tourists laughing over beers, alcoholic coffees and comfort food. Expect to easily spend an hour taking in this beloved atmosphere while getting immersed in local history at one of Amsterdam’s quintessential Grand cafés.

Canal-side Dinner

Cap off your day by dining along the historic Herengracht canal to soak in one last picturesque Amsterdam scene at around 7 pm. Find a waterside window seat at Restaurant De Belhamel, an elegant yet cozy eatery housed within a step-gabled canal house dating back to around 1660. Originally built for the Jordaan mayor, De Belhamel is named after its 18th owner Abraham Belhamel, and current proprietor and head chef Gilbert serves a seasonal menu of beautifully presented contemporary French and Dutch cuisine inside its beamed, brick-walled dining rooms.

Start off your meal with traditional Dutch smoked eel served with sweet and sour fennel and apple salad. For mains, try meaty Bresse chicken with creamed savoy cabbage, Jerusalem artichoke and black truffle. Or opt for North Sea crab with egg butter emulsion, brown crab toast and pickled sea vegetables. Pan-roasted cod with beetroot risotto also proves popular. 

For dessert, finish off with their Dutch Apple Pie enhanced with Calvados crème fraîche and beetroot ice cream. Complement your meal with pairings from De Belhamel’s extensive wine list boasting over 350 labels showcasing great French regions like Burgundy and Alsace along with Italian regions like Tuscany offering robust Super Tuscans. 

Inside, admire Jacob Jordaan themed artwork while from your canal view table, notice houseboats, cyclists and tour boats traversing the atmospheric waterways as evening light illuminates the Golden Age bridges and gabled houses. Lakeside dining along Herengracht canal lets you cap off your day on the perfect postcard pretty note before you jet off from Amsterdam feeling immersed in history, art, culture, cuisine and quintessential Dutch scenery for a day well spent embracing all this vibrant capital has to offer visitors in just 24 short yet sweet hours.

More useful information about Amsterdam Canal Cruises

We are a group of travelers who love to explore and write about Amsterdam. Over the years, we have gained extensive experience with cruising over the Canals in Amsterdam. Here, you could find all the essential information you need to know about Amsterdam Canal Cruises, including the different types of cruise, prices, tickets, operating hours, departure points, and many more.


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