Amsterdam canal lined with houseboats

Amsterdam In A Day for Cruisers: The Ultimate DIY Excursion Guide

Docking at the Amsterdam cruise port and wondering how to make the most of your limited time? This guide is for you! I’ve packed in all the must-see sights, from iconic canals to world-class museums, with easy navigation from the Amsterdam cruise port to the city centre. Choose between my 3 different Amsterdam itineraries and map to experience the best of Amsterdam in a day, even if you’re short on time! You can also mix-and-match to suit your interests.

Amsterdam, with its captivating canals, rich history and vibrant culture, has long been a favourite destinations for travellers. Amsterdam Cruise Port has been featured in the press a lot in the past year, as plans to ban all cruise ships from the city centre cruise port was approved in July 2023. However, as of June 2024, when I wrote this, there’s no relocation plans announced yet!

In the meantime, major cruise lines like Royal Caribbean, Celebrity Cruises, Holland America, Azamara, Seabourn, and Oceania still have sailings scheduled from or port calls at Amsterdam in 2024 and 2025. In addition, Celebrity Cruises’ Celebrity Eclipse remains committed to using Amsterdam as its summer homeport in 2025.

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Amsterdam Cruise Port: Is a DIY Excursion Easy? 😎😎😎😎 (Smooth Sailing)

Amsterdam is extremely tourist friendly! And that’s not the only reason why I rated Amsterdam Cruise Port 😎😎😎😎 (Smooth Sailing) for ease of DIY exploration! Here’s more reasons:

  • Easy Access to the City Centre: The tram station right outside the cruise terminal provides a quick and direct connection to Amsterdam Central Station. From there, it’s easy to switch to trains, trams, metro and buses to anywhere in Amsterdam or the Netherlands!
  • Efficient Public Transport Network: This network of trams, buses and metro means you can get to all the attractions independently without relying on taxis or tours, unless you’d like to.
  • Contactless Payment for Public Transport: Tap in and tap out – no need to purchase tickets in advance or carry cash.

If it weren’t for the need to pre-book some tickets to popular attractions, Amsterdam would have easily earn an extra 😎!

Joining your cruise in Amsterdam? Then read my Amsterdam DIY Transfers Guide where I share all my logistics tips to get to Amsterdam Cruise Port hassle-free from Amsterdam Airport or Amsterdam City Centre.

Amsterdam Cruise Port Essentials: All You Need To Know

  • Amsterdam Cruise Port Schedule: Cruise Port Amsterdam’s official cruise port schedule
  • Amsterdam Cruise Port Address: Cruise Port Amsterdam, Piet Heinkade 27, 1019 BR Amsterdam, The Netherlands – see it marked on my Amsterdam cruise port map below 🗺️📍👇
  • Currency: Euros
  • Tourism website:  I Amsterdam is the official tourism website
  • Recommended Transport App: I prefer Citymapper for routing public transit and walking directions but Google Maps also works really well!
  • eSIM for roaming in Netherlands: For a great data connection without the huge roaming fees, use an eSim data pack from Airalo. I always recommend having a smartphone with a valid plan when you’re at port touring independently. Get US$3 off your first eSIM data pack from Airalo when you use ROXANN1666 when you sign up or apply it at checkout

Amsterdam Cruise Port Map

  • My Amsterdam Attractions Map / Amsterdam Cruise Port Map: 👇 Click on the upper right hand corner to see a bigger version. Use buttons on bottom left to zoom in/out. If the map is not loading correctly, click here to see it directly on Google Maps

Why Amsterdam is a Must-Visit for Cruisers

If you’re planning a cruise in Northern Europe and have never visited Amsterdam, here’s my top 5 reasons on why Amsterdam should on your itinerary! Alternatively, pick a cruise starting in Rotterdam – here’s my DIY Transfer guide from Amsterdam to Rotterdam Cruise Port, so you can enjoy two wonderful dutch cities in one trip!

  • Rich History and Culture: Amsterdam’s Golden Age legacy is evident in its grand canal houses, impressive museums,and historic squares. Stroll through the cobbled streets of the Jordaan district or marvel at the masterpieces in the Rijksmuseum
  • Iconic Canals and Bridges: The city’s 17th-century canal ring, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is best explored by boat or on foot. Glide under picturesque bridges, admire the houseboats, and soak in the romantic ambiance.
  • World-Class Museums: Amsterdam boasts an incredible array of museums, from the Van Gogh Museum and Rijksmuseum to the Anne Frank House. Art enthusiasts, history buffs, and those seeking unique cultural experiences will find plenty to explore. Note that visiting these blockbuster attractions require some pre-planning to minimise queues. I’ll discuss these below.
  • Easy Access from the Cruise Port: Amsterdam’s cruise port is conveniently located close to the city centre (hence all the controversy!), making it a breeze to reach your chosen attractions. You can walk, rent a bike or take a tram easily into the city centre.
  • Day Trips Galore: Thanks to excellent rail connections (15 minutes from cruise port to Amsterdam Central station), there’s no destination anyway in the Netherlands where you cannot do a day-trip to and be back to the cruise port on time!

Amsterdam Cruise Port to Amsterdam City Centre: Getting your Bearings

Amsterdam trams turning a corner
Image by Marius Steinke from Pixabay

Amsterdam’s cruise port, located on the banks of the IJ River, is 15 minutes walk from Amsterdam Central Station. While there are always taxis around the cruise port, I’d focus mainly on public transit options so you don’t need to worry about taxi queues or traffic.

The easiest way to head into the city centre is via Tram #26. The stop is right outside the cruise terminal – just exit the cruise terminal building and walk up the ramp. The tram station is right ahead of you – see this marked on my map above 🗺️📍☝️. One stop on the tram takes you to Amsterdam Central Station. From there, you can easily change to the metro or the tram, depending on where you’re going next.

  • Tram Frequency: Tram #26 happens to be a route that runs every few minutes (at least during day time), so no need to check for timetables!
  • Tickets: Since June 2023, Amsterdam transport has introduced OV-Pay (ie. pay by contactless card), which has made paying for public transit tickets so much easier!
    • Automatic Fare Calculation: Public transport fares are charged based on a base fare plus a variable component depending on how far you’ve traveled. If you pay by contactless card, your fare will be automatically calculated. No hassle!
    • Affordable Fares: Public transit fares in Amsterdam is good value (at least compared to London!). For example, the fare from Amsterdam Cruise Port to Amsterdam Central Station is €1.33.
    • Tap In and Tap Out: Tap in with a contactless card (or your phone or smartphone) on the fare reader and don’t forget to tap out, as you hop off the tram!
    • No American Express: Only Mastercard and Visa cards are accepted. Use a credit card if possible. If you use a debit card, be prepared to see a small balance temporarily on hold and refunded if not used in a few days’ time.

Three Unforgettable Itineraries for Your Day in Amsterdam

To make the most of your limited time in Amsterdam, I’ve put together three distinct itineraries, each catering to different interests and preferences – do mix and match depending on your preferences:

1. Museum Lovers’ Delight: Dutch Art and History

Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam
Photo by Pixabay

The three big must-sees are the Rijksmuseum, the Van Gogh Museum and Anne Frank’s House. Unfortunately all three necessitates some planning if you definitely want to see them.

If it’s your first trip to Amsterdam, I would recommend that you only see one of the three museums during your Amsterdam port day. If you’re planning a pre-cruise trip in Amsterdam and want to see all three, I think you’ll need to spread them over at least two days.

  • Rijksmuseum: Celebrated for its vast collection showcasing eight centuries of Dutch art and history, there’s an exceptional collection of Dutch Golden Age masterpieces from Rembrandt, Vermeer, and Frans Hals. The star treasure is Rembrandt’s “The Night Watch“.
    • How to Get There: Take Metro #52 from Amsterdam Central station to Vijzelgracht; it’s then about 5 minutes walk. Alternatively, take the scenic tram #2 or #12 from tram station outside Amsterdam Central and get off at Museumplein.
    • Opening Hours: Daily 9am to 5pm; last entry is at 4:30pm but I would allow at least 2 hours to enjoy the museum.
    • Tickets: €24.50 for adults and free for kids under 18. Note that you still need to book a free ticket for every kid. I remember pre-booked tickets have a separate queue, so pre-booking will save you time, but the tickets are dated and timed. I checked availability at the time of publication in June 2024 and there is availability for almost every day during 2024 summer months.
    • Note about The Night Watch: The Night Watch is temporarily encased in a specially designed glass chamber, to allow for research and conservation.
  • Van Gogh Museum: Arguably even more popular than the Rijksmuseum is the Van Gogh Museum, which houses the world’s largest collection of Vincent van Gogh’s artworks. The collection spans his entire artistic career and you can see most of it in chronological order and appreciate his evolution as a painter. Unless loaned out, “The Potato Eaters”, “Sunflowers” and “The Bedroom” are there. There’s also numerous drawings and letters.
    • How to Get There: From Amsterdam Central Station, take tram #2 or #12 and get off at Museumplein, then follow signs.
    • Opening Hours: 9am to 6pm daily from March to September. From October to February, it may close at 5pm with Fridays till 9pm. Double check opening hours here.
    • Tickets: All visitors need to pre-book a timed entry ticket now – there’s no more walk-ins and you can’t purchase tickets at the museum! €24 adults, free for kids under 18 but you’ll still need to book a free ticket for every child coming with you. Pre-book here. I checked availability at the time of publication (June 2024) and the Van Gogh museum was completely booked out for the next 3 weeks, so don’t leave pre-booking till the late minute! Double-check terms and conditions but you can usually cancel without charge up to 24 hours before hand.
  • Anne Frank House: The museum is located in the actual secret annex where Anne and her family lived in hiding. Her cramped quarters where she lived in fear has been preserved and you’ll see her diary entries, photographs and personal belongings in the museum.
    • How To Get There: 20 minutes walk from Amsterdam Central station or take tram #2, #12 or #13 from outside the station to Westermarkt. Anne Frank House is then around the corner.
    • Opening Hours: 9am to 8pm daily.
    • Tickets: All visitors need to pre-book a timed entry ticket now – there’s no more walk-ins and you can’t purchase tickets at the museum! €16 adults, €7 for kids aged 10-17, free for kids under 9 but you still need to book a timed ticket for the free child. Pre-book through the official website.

2. Canals, Heineken & Local Flavours: A Taste of Amsterdam

Amsterdam tourist canal boat cruise in Netherlands
Photo by Eduardo González

Not interested museums or art? Then join me on this quintessentially Dutch itinerary of Amsterdam!

  • Morning: Start your day with a relaxing canal cruise, taking in the iconic sights of Amsterdam’s waterways. All canal cruises will take you past canal houses, canal bridges alongside picturesque houseboats.
  • Mid-Morning: After your canal cruise, you’ll be dropped by at Amsterdam Central Station. Walk along Damrak, the main street from the Central Station, towards the city centre. 10 minutes walk and you’ll be at Dam Square – arguably the heart of Amsterdam. This is also a very popular shopping area, if you’re keen to pick up some souvenirs. There’s a few landmarks that you’ll see at Dam Square:
    • Royal Palace (Koninklijk Paleis): This grand 17th-century building originally served as the city hall and later became a royal palace. A guided tour is available
    • Nieuwe Kerk (New Church): While not actually new (it dates back to the 15th century!), this church hosts exhibitions and events throughout the year.
  • Lunch: You’ll see many places around Dam Square but for a truly Dutch lunchtime/snack experience, head to a FEBO. (They are all over Amsterdam but I’ve marked two close to the Central Station and Dam Square on my map 🗺️📍☝️).
    • Window Shopping Fast Food: FEBO is renowned for its unique approach to serving food! As soon as you walk in, you’ll see a wall of glass-fronted compartments, each housing a tempting array of hot snacks like the iconic “kroket” (deep-fried roll filled with ragout), frikandellen (minced meat hot dogs), hamburgers and other savoury treats. You simply insert your coins or card, open the compartment and voilà – it’s ready to eat! FEBO is deeply ingrained in Dutch culture, so this is not a tourist gimmick!
  • Afternoon: Immerse yourself in the world of Heineken at the Heineken Experience, an interactive tour that takes you through the brewing process and history of this famous Dutch beer. Unfortunately no kids are allowed.
    • How to Get There: Metro station to Amsterdam Vijzelgracht and walk for 5 minutes. If you’re around Dam Square, Tram #4 will take you south, within 5 minutes walk of Heineken Experience
    • Tickets: You’ll be on a self-guided tour with live presentations. Budget for 1.5 hours to 2 hours to complete, plus time to enjoy your 2 free included drinks! The Heineken Experience is incredibly popular; pre-booking is a must during summer months, especially if you’re visiting Amsterdam on a weekend. Tickets are €23 and includes an audio guide. If you want to wing it, do check for availability before heading there.
  • Late Afternoon: Take a stroll around the charming Jordaan District, full of narrow streets, galleries and trendy boutiques. Still looking for that souvenir? Then wander around the Nine Street shopping area (De 9 Straatjes). Both are marked on my map above 🗺️📍☝️

3. Hidden Gems: Dodge the Crowds

Traditional ship in Amsterdam harbour
👆The building on the left is the A’Dam Lookout | Image by G.C. from Pixabay

I’m not sure that it’s possible to entirely dodge the crowds in Amsterdam during the peak summer tourist season, but here’s a few significantly less crowded hidden gems which I’ve done:

  • Free ferry rides: There’s not that many free things to do in Amsterdam, so take advantage of this!
    • Most Popular Route is the ferry running from Amsterdam Central Station to Buiksloterweg and ideal if you’re interested to see “This is Holland” and “A’Dam lookout” – see below. Catch if from the ferry terminal – exit Amsterdam Central station at the back of the building and the ferry terminal is well-signposted across the street. This runs 24 hours a day and as often as every 5 minutes. Note that these are commuter ferries, so you’ll see people bring their bikes onboard the ferry.
    • Ferry to NDSM Wharf: This is a longer ferry ride to the former shipyard transformed into a vibrant cultural hub with lots of street art, quirky boutiques and trendy cafes. This ferry runs 2 to 4 times an hour from 7am to midnight. Journey time is about 15 minutes.
  • This is Holland: Been on “Soarin’ over California” in Disneyland? This is the Dutch version of it! The actual “flying experience” is only about 10 minutes (much longer than the Disney version!) but the entire experience is about an hour.
  • A’Dam Lookout: An observatory tower about 100 metres (~330 feet) above ground. For those wanting a thrill, there’s also “Over the Edge”, Europe’s highest swing. Once you’re strapped in, you will be swung over the ledge, almost as if you’re about to be thrown over to the harbour! Not for the faint-hearted!

Featured Photo by Chait Goli

I hope this guide has helped you plan your perfect day in Amsterdam! If you found this blog post helpful, I would really appreciate you sharing it with your fellow cruisers in your roll-call groups. Have a wonderful cruise and Bon Voyage!

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