How to spend half a day in Amsterdam

I recently found myself with a free morning in Amsterdam. 

After a week of gruelling 14 hour days at a conference I had a 6 hour oasis of free time before I needed to catch a train to Belgium where I planned meet some friends.  Sure this wasn’t exactly the ideal amount of time to explore Europe's most vibrant and liberal capital, but there’s a lot you can do in 6 hours!

Here are my top tips for how to spend half a day in Amsterdam:

 Trying to look like a local.

Trying to look like a local.

1. Rent a bike

First things first - rent a bike! It’s undoubtedly the best, and most enjoyable way of getting around Amsterdam.  Cycling is the preferred method of transport for Amsterdam locals, so the roads are generally quiet, and cycling lanes abundant.  I was able to rent a bike for the morning for around 10 euros from the Yellow Bike rentals right next to my hotel. It was worth every cent. Amsterdam is a lot bigger than it appears on a map, so cycling saves you a lot of time and gives you a pretty unique perspective of the city.

2. Skip the big attractions

I know it’s tempting to visit Amsterdam’s biggest attractions, especially if it’s your first time there! While the Ann Frank House and Van Gogh Museum are must-sees, they almost always have waits of an hour or more, so much better suited to a longer stay in Amsterdam. On the morning I visited, both the Van Gogh Museum and Ann Frank House had lines trailing right round the block. 

3. Check out some of the lesser-known museums and galleries

Amsterdam is full of gems such as the Stedelijk Museum or Droog design studios. If you’re cut up about skipping the Van Gogh Museum, visit the Stedelijk. It's crammed full of everything from impressionist works  (including Van Gogh and Matisse) to more recent experimental pieces like Hans Haacke’s Condensation Cube.

4. Discover Amsterdam's street art

Amsterdam boasts some incredible street art, and a great place to start is Spuistraat. Spuistraat is a street with a history of squatting and incredible graffiti. I parked up my bike, and wandered around the neighbourhood taking in the art before grabbing a quick coffee and pastry at one of the many alternative-style cafes.

5. Just explore!

Amsterdam is a great city to just explore without much of a plan (or even a detailed map). I could have happily spent a whole day cycling along the winding canal side streets. Let me know where your bike takes you.

A pop-up BBQ on Spuistraat - a great neighbourhood for street art, cafes and quirky shops.

Arman, Couleur Tracante , 1967 at the Stedelijk Museum.

A classic Amsterdam scene near the Red Light District.