Cultural Experience | Netherlands

12 Hour Guide to Amsterdam

A City of Contradictions

Twelve hours in Amsterdam. It may not seem like a lot of time to experience the city, but it is just enough to become immersed in Amsterdam’s culture. As college tourists on study abroad excursions, we sometimes do not have a lot of time to spend in one place and we become experts on surviving on adrenaline and minimal hours of sleep. Sometimes, one day is all we have to see an entire city, and that’s okay with us because as avid travel enthusiasts, we know we’ll be back.

Amsterdam is the capital city of the Netherlands and is located in the province of North Holland. It originated as a small fishing village in the late 12th century and eventually became on of the most important ports in the world during the Dutch Golden Age in the 17th century. This cultural capital expanded throughout the years and is currently rated one of the world’s best places to live. Though renowned for its red-light district and marijuana-serving coffee shops, Amsterdam offers something for everyone and has a way of making you feel safe despite its somewhat risqué reputation.  To ascribe one definition to this city would be doing it an injustice. As seedy as the city is sometimes made out to be, it is one of the most gorgeous and interesting places I have ever been.

Amsterdam canal Schulte

A canal in Amsterdam

So, if you find yourself with the opportunity to spend any amount of time in Amsterdam, most definitely take it. And if you only get the chance to spend 12 hours in this magnificent city, here is a guide to living it up in Amsterdam in only one day.

10 a.m.-12 p.m.:

Head down to Amsterdam’s Museum District. The Museum Quarter is part of Amsterdam’s Old
South district and is the place for culture vultures to be. The quarter is home to the Rijksmuseum, Van Gogh Museum, Stedelijk Museum, Concert Hall, and the Vondelpark. Pick a museum, take a photo with one of the city’s famous “I Amsterdam” signs, and then relax in a cozy outdoor café for brunch and blend in with the locals.

I Amsterdam Schulte

The famous “I Amsterdam” sign

Cafe Amsterdam Schulte

A cozy outdoor cafe

1 p.m.:

After your delicious meal, trek down to Dam Square and join one of Amsterdam’s famous free walking tours. This three-hour tour will take you on a journey through Amsterdam’s past and present and it will give you the perfect introduction to Amsterdam. You will have the opportunity to meet other tourists and cover much of the city with the help of a local guide. On this tour you will experience The Old Church, The Red Light District, The Jewish Quarter, Royal Palace, The Jordaan District, The Anne Frank House, The Dutch East India Company, The Begijnhof Convent, Masterpieces of Dutch Art, The Widest Bridge and Narrowest House and more. Beware of bicycles as you walk around the city, as you will quickly learn how to avoid the bikers when you hear the bell on their bicycles. As the locals say, “If you hear a bell, run like hell.”

4 p.m.:

After the tour, ask your guide about one of Amsterdam’s outdoor markets and experience all of the local goods for sale, ranging from books, prints, clothing, souvenirs, food, etc.

5 p.m.:

Have an early dinner at a local Dutch restaurant and order a delicious local dish and beer.

Local cuisine Schulte

Enjoying some local cuisine and beer

6 p.m.:

Grab some gelato or a bottle of wine and relax in a park or stroll down the canals and just take in the city.

Canal Schulte

Another of the city’s scenic canals

7 p.m.:

Since it is Amsterdam, visit one of the city’s infamous Coffeeshops that looks appealing and see what it is all about; and/or walk down to the Red Light District and experience the local attraction for yourself.

Coffee shop Schulte

An infamous Amsterdam coffee shop

8 p.m.-10 p.m.:

Amsterdam nightlife. When it comes to nightlife in Amsterdam, there are venues, dance festivals and club nights to suit every taste. DJs keep the crowd going at popular clubs such as Paradiso, Melkweg, Bitterzoet, AIR and Escape. Around Leidseplein you will find the city theatre, lots of cafés, restaurants and casinos. Another popular area for clubs, cafes and cinemas is Rembrandtplein. Coffeeshops are usually open until at least midnight, and the Red Light District is always an option for adventurous travelers.

Amsterdam nightlife Schulte

Amsterdam nightlife in the Red Light District

As this is a 12-hour guide, my tour ends at 10 p.m.; but if you have the time to party the night away or spend a few more days in Amsterdam, definitely take that opportunity and experience the city for all that it has to offer. Amsterdam is absolutely mesmerizing and wonderfully intimate despite its magnitude. Like all great cities, Amsterdam brims with contradictions. It is a roller coaster of experiences; a city steeped in history and overflowing with culture and fun. Amsterdam will never get old.

Bikes Schulte

An iconic view of the bikes and canals that fill Amsterdam

Alexandra Schulte

Western Kentucky University | 6 stories

I am a rising junior in the Honors College at Western Kentucky University where I am double majoring in Film and International Affairs. I recently came back from a semester abroad at Harlaxton College in Grantham, England where I was able to explore the UK and also travel around Europe. This summer I will be reflecting on my adventures and writing about my summer living in Kentucky and traveling around the US!


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