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Amsterdam Boat

Exploring Amsterdam in a day

Although I’ve been to Amsterdam before, I wouldn’t say I know the city. One thing, however, I knew: it’s impossible to take it all in and to take pictures of every landmarks in just one day.

With its 1281 bridges, 75km long canals and 2500 houseboats, Amsterdam has a unique ambience like no other place. No wonder, everywhere you turn, there’s something to take a photo of.

I only had one day to spend in this beautiful city, so instead of running around the famous spots, I followed my own route I planned before. It didn’t even interest me what the weather was going to be like. I just wanted to explore and look for details and scenes that would catch my eyes and would give me that distinctive Amsterdam-feel.

So instead of giving you something like “The ten most Instagram-famous spots in Amsterdam”, let me share what route I walked to explore this charming city and how I spent one day in Amsterdam.

amsterdam walking route map
My route was more or less like this one on the map

Staalmeestersburg

We stayed next to the Central Station, so I walked down the Geldersekade towards Staalmeestersburg. I passed Chinatown and Nieuwmarkt and got the very first impressions of Amsterdam’s canals.

It was still early in the morning, and nothing was really open. It sort of surprised me that even cafes were closed on a weekday until 11-11.30am. Only a few bakeries were open and served freshly baked pastries and coffee.

The streets, however, were relatively empty, which was good for photography. What I had to realise quickly, though, was that there are renovations going on in almost every street. So there might be something disturbing the view on your walk: a container, a skip, scaffolding, etc. But there are so many canals and beautiful houses that it doesn’t really matter. You will be able to take nice photos.

At Staalmeestersburg there is a charming bridge which in itself is picturesque enough. However, when you stand on the bridge and look back towards Zuiderkerk, you’ve got one of the most iconic views of Amsterdam.

kloveniersburgwal

staalmeestersburg

kloveniersburgwal

Bloemenmarkt – Singel (Flower Market – Singel)

From Staalmeestersburg I carried onto the famous Flower Market (Bloemenmarkt) in Singel. The canals and the Amstel river were gorgeous. However, to me, the flower market was a disappointment. I really don’t understand the Instagram hype around this place. Unless you want to buy some bulbs and souvenirs, it’s a waste of time, in my opinion.

Herengracht (Gentlemen’s Canal)

I carried on to Herencgracht which is the most important canal in the city. The richest merchants and most influential people lived here in the 17th century, which explains why this canal has the poshest houses.

herengracht

Keizersgracht (Emperor’s Canal)

This is the middle of the three main canals of the city. Its name refers to emperor Maximilian of Austria and it’s the widest canal.

Bloemgracht

Up next was Bloemgracht (Flower’s Canal) which I liked a lot. It has a very calm atmosphere, elaborately gabled houses and the streets are quiet. If you walk up here, the Anne Frank House and the Amsterdam Tulip Museum are just around the corner. Unfortunately, I didn’t have time to visit.

bloemgracht

bloemgracht

Prinsengracht (Prince’s Canal)

I walked along Prinsengracht and admired its houses, which apparently were designed for warehouses and artisans.

prinsengracht

prinsengracht

Rijksmuseum

To break off my walk and to have a cultural experience, I decided to stop at the Rijksmuseum. I’ve been there before, but the museum is so brilliant and rich in collections that I wanted to have another look. I got to the Rijksmuseum around 11:00am, so the walk here took around 2,5 hours.

It was a surprise though that you have to buy tickets online. I bought mine whilst I was standing in the queue and got in fairly quickly.

It’s useful to put your bag and jacket in the wardrobe or lockers as it’s more comfortable to walk around in this huge museum without having to carry everything. There are toilets, shops and a café. However, if you would only like a cup of hot drink and a bite to eat, there’s a small café corner on level 1. Mind you, seats are limited and you are not allowed to take drinks and food to the museum area.

The national museum of the Netherlands has seven million works of art, out of which only a fraction is on display. It comes as no surprise that it’s difficult to take everything in during one visit only.

The museum was established by King Louis Napoleon in 1808. The current building was designed in 1865 and the museum opened in 1885.

You can see famous works like the Night Watch by Rembrandt, or The kitchen Maid by Johannes Vermeer and distinctive blue and white Delftware. Don’t miss the beautiful library!

rijksmuseum

rijksmuseum park

rijksmuseum staircase

rijksmuseum library

Reguliersgracht

After the cultural experience, I made my way to Reguliersgracht. This area is famous for its pretty houses and hump-backed bridges. This is a place to visit in the evening, though to see the arches of the bridges all lit up.

reguliersgracht

reguliersgracht doors

Magere Burg (Skinny Bridge)

This bridge is said to be the most romantic bridge in Amsterdam. According to the legend, if lovers kiss on the bridge or passing beneath by boat ensures that they will be in love forever.

The bridge has several stories and to how it was built, and why it was named skinny. My favourite one is of 1691, when two sisters who lived on opposite sides of the Amstel river decided to build a bridge to visit each other every day.

At this point I was getting tired, so I sat on a bench for a while and just watched the area. Everywhere in Amsterdam, but here particularly I saw loads of houseboats. They became popular after World War II when there was a housing shortage.

magere burg

magere burg boat

magere burg houseboats

Waterlooplein Market

After a short break, I made my way to Waterlooplein Market, which is said to be a great flea market. I was hoping to find some antique or vintage props, but the market was a disappointment.

It might be different at the weekend, but on a weekday, all it was about was clothes and shoes in piles on the ground. Unless you are a fashion blogger or stylist, I’m not sure it’s worth visiting.

amsterdam shop window

Dam Square and De Beurspassage (Exchange Passageway)

On my way to the passage, I passed Dam Square, an iconic landmark. It was too busy, so I didn’t bother taking any pictures.

The De Beurspassage is well worth a visit. However, this is a place to explore early in the morning to avoid the crowds. It’s quite small, so it gets really busy during the day.

de beurspassage amsterdam

de beurspassage

Damrak and Red-Light District

From the passage, I walked up to Damrak, which is one of the most iconic places in Amsterdam. It offers a wonderful photograph at almost any time of the day.

Interestingly enough, The Red-Light District is packed with historic and beautiful buildings, so you’ll find many beautiful details here, from architectural ornamentation to shop signs. This place is best to visit in the early hours as later on it’s heaving.

damrak

red-light district amsterdam

red-light district amsterdam

red-light district shop front amsterdam

Ship Museum

On my way to the Ship Museum, I passed the magnificent building of the Central Station. It was built by the same architect who designed the Rijksmuseum, P. J. H. Cuypers in the 1880s.

The reason I took this last stretch of walk was to see the East Indiaman, a replica of the Dutch East India Company ship that sank on its maiden voyage in 1749. I must say, at this point, I was getting exhausted.

But it was worth walking up to the ship because you have an amazing view of the Floating Pagoda, a Chinese restaurant in Oosterdok and St Nicolaaskerk (St Nicholas Church).

When I got back to the hotel in Oosterdok it was 4:30pm. I walked 8 hours and 19,2km in total. I was knackered, but I had so much fun. Although I only visited one museum, it made my day in Amsterdam feel complete.

east indiaman ship amsterdam

Photography tips:

  • Start early to take pictures at sunrise and get the soft lights and pleasant reflections on the canals.
  • You will need a wide-angle lens to take pictures of some canals and houses.
  • Use a tripod and a remote to take blue hour or night photos of lit up bridges.
  • Take your zoom lens as well to capture details of elegant houses.
  • Break up your walk – you don’t have to do this walk in one day. It’s easier to split it up or leave out some locations.
  • Take it easy and have fun. Look for details that you like and explore streets, canals and corners.

 

amsterdam house

lijnbaansgracht

 

 

 

 

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