Amsterdam - recommendations from a local
My lovely home town
Amsterdam has about 800,000 inhabitants. It feels like a big village,
easily covered on foot, by bike, or by tram/metro/bus, but has all the
amenities of a metropole.
- Cecilia -
Amsterdam from above
|Nice areas for a
stroll, some coffee, some shopping
The part of the centre called De Jordaan is really nice. Beautiful centuries old houses, canals, quaint shops and restaurants. Good for a full day of strolling around.
The 'grachtengordel' (canal belt) right next to De Jordaan is also beautiful. It's part of the city centre and consists of Prinsengracht, Keizersgracht, Herengracht and Singel.
I especially love the giftshops in Herenstraat and Prinsenstraat (not to be confused with the much bigger Herengracht and Prinsengracht).
One of my favourite places for coffee or lunch is "Spanjer & Van Twist" on Leliegracht.
Anne Frank House
TIP: get tickets in advance through the internet, that way you won't need to queue.
TIP 2: it's open in the evenings, and a lot less crowded then.
More about the queue, ticket scalping, record numbers of visitors, and an exerpt of a documentary about visitors, here.
Climb Westerkerk tower
From April through October you can climb
Westerkerk church tower (right next to Anne Frank House) and have
amazing views over the old rooves of the Jordaan area and canal belt.
Anne Frank describes the sound of these church bells in her diary.
Tickets can only be bought on the day itself and are € 7.50 per person. Only 6 people get to go up with a guide every half hour, you will hear explanations about the 400 year old church, the bells etc. You go up to a viewpoint at 42 meters height.
Cafe Marcella is a lovely brown cafe with a local
feel that serves alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks and snacks.
De Jordaan area
View from Westerkerk tower
Double Tree Hilton Hotel,
11th floor terrace
Java-eiland, eastern islands Amsterdam
Rijksmuseum tea garden
Marriage book at Stadsarchief/ City Archives
Don't miss the lovely tea garden at the foot of Rijksmuseum.
- Stadsarchief = City Archives (loads and loads of black and white photos in their digital systems; varying exhibitions about Amsterdam's past)
- Even the Museum of Bags and Purses is fun and interesting! And in a beautiful canal house.
- And of course Anne Frank House is an important museum that I warmly recommend visiting, with pre-arranged tickets.
If it's not raining a walk through Vondelpark is lovely.
Have a drink at Blauwe Theehuis in the middle of Vondelpark or at Vondeltuin (way in the back near Amstelveenseweg; less tourists!).
Go see a show for free at the open air theatre (only a few weeks in summer, Wednesdays through Sundays).
Westerpark is great in summer. Bring a picknick blanket and some food and drinks and you need nothing else to get through the day. The old part with lots of trees attracts mainly families and low key locals.
If you want to go for some food, Cafe Restaurant Amsterdam (industrial building with very high ceiling) is within walking distance.
Sarphatipark is also nice for summer picknicks, so are Oosterpark and Museumplein.
Also see this blog with Top 10 summer hotspots in Amsterdam.
Blijburg has sand and safe water for swimming and a beach bar.
Westerpark (new part)
Go to a Boom Chicago comedy show on Rozengracht 117. It's in English and takes the piss out of both American and Dutch culture. It's half improvised. You can also take improvisation classes.
Pllek (NDSM wharf)
De Nieuwe Ooster cemetery
Liquor / genever distillery 't Nieuwe Diep in Flevopark
EYE Film institute
A tacky canal boat trip is actually very interesting and nice! You will see a lot of the city in one hour, and hear a lot about the history and the reasons why the houses stand crooked, or how many bikes are stolen or thrown into the canals every year.
if it's dry you can consider the smaller open boats run by Canal
Hopper, with live explanations from the guide.
Tired of running into so many other tourists? This is where the locals like to go.
From the back of Central Station, take a free ferry to NDSM-werf. An industrial area gone cool with a few bohemian cafes/restaurants called Pllek (with a tiny tiny city beach and amazing views over the water) , and Noorderlicht (with indoor and outdoor seating, a nice garden and a bonfire).
Jaap Eden ice skating rink (October - April)
Go ice skating on Jaap Eden outdoor skating rink (400 meter circles), see how Dutch people enjoy themselves and be amazed by the nimble movements of kids on the slippery ice. You can rent skates there.
And have typically Dutch hot drinks (with or without alcohol mixed in).
Radioweg 64, Amsterdam (east).
De Nieuwe Ooster cemetery
While you're in the neighbourhood, visit the beautiful cemetery called De Nieuwe Ooster. Okay, it might be weird, but this cemetery is really pretty. It has trees from all over the world, is park-like, and lots of famous Dutch people are burried there. They even have a little museum Tot Zover, about death and rituals people from all over the world use.
Kruislaan 126, Amsterdam (east).
't Nieuwe Diep distillery
The lovely old building of 't Nieuwe Diep in the middle of Flevopark and is now a distillery of jenevers (Dutch gin) and liquors in many flavours with a cafe.
Indoors it's small but cosy and bustling with people, children and dogs in winter. Outdoors there is lovely seating by the lake. Very friendly owners are happy to explain you everything.
Buurtboerderij Ons Genoegen - local farm & cafe
This formerly squatted farm Buurtboerderij is a tranquil and unique place in Amsterdam. It's a hippie sort of place with very cheap tea from a big tank and pancakes (not always), and all kinds of different chairs and tables in the gardens around it.
Spaarndammerdijk 319, Amsterdam (west, walking distance from Westerpark).
EYE Film institute
This funky new building is bliss for modern architecture fans. But it also has a sunny terrace and indoor restaurant with amazing views across IJ. It's also a film museum and cinema.
You can have a mini flipbook made with a short 'movie' of yourself! Tape the movie first, then have it turned into a flip book for only €4.95. Go to EYE's shop for examples and instructions.
|Flea markets / vintage / second hand clothes
There is a flea market on Waterloo-plein 6 days a week, Mon-Sat from about 10 am to about 4 pm. More and more stands offer new clothes though... but the shop called Episode on the corner near Rembrandt House is nice for second hand clothes. A bit expensive though. They also have a shop on Keizersgracht.
Petticoat on Lindengracht has really nice second hand clothes and fair prices.
If you're there on a Monday morning, go to the Noordermarkt, with lots of second hand clothes and books and antiques. Open until 13.00h. Afterwards, have the best apple pie in town at Winkel, Noordermarkt 43.
A brand new second hand shop called Zora has opened on Linnaeusstraat in eastern Amsterdam (tram 9), opposite the police station.
There are various quite expensive second hand shops in 9 straatjes, for example the shop called Lady Day.
Some nice ordinary markets can be found on Dapperstraat, Albert Cuypstraat, Ten Katestraat. More about markets....
For good restaurants go to en.iens.nl. You can search by area (wijken) and by cuisine (Spanish, vegetarian, etc, 'keuken'). The restaurants are graded and most have visitor's comments too (most in Dutch but some in English).
Some of my personal favourite
- 't Gasthuys, Grimburgwal 7. Brown cafe with cheap meals: big portions and tasty. Outdoor seating too. Staff is sometimes a bit clumsy but friendly. Very central, not far from Dam square or Munt.
- Dappertutto has amazing mediterranean food that looks and tastes like 'haute cuisine' but is very affordable. They have various meat dishes, fish and vegetarian options. Their starters are also amazing. The owners are very friendly. Location-wise this fits well after a visit to Brouwerij 't IJ beer brewer / windmill.
- Moeders, Rozengracht 251. Basically the only place I can think of that serves 'traditional Dutch food'. The Dutch nowadays eat Italian, Thai, French, Ethiopian and all kinds of food but not many eat traditional 'veggies+potatoes+a piece of meat' dishes, or the stews from the old days. This restaurant Moeders (Mothers) is a tribute to all mothers and the walls are covered with pictures of moms.
- Cafe De Koe (a.k.a. De Gevulde Koe), Marnixstraat 381. A convenient centrally located cafe-style restaurant. No-nonsense, big portions, affordable, cozy.
- Roopram take-away, 1e Van Swindenstraat 4, the best Surinamese 'roti' in town for only 7 euros. The place itself looks horrible so bring it to a park or somewhere else.
- The street called Zeedijk in the center has many cheap Asian eateries.
|Places to have drinks
- One of my favourite places for coffee or lunch is Spanjer & Van Twist (picture right) on Leliegracht 60 (canal belt). It has a lovely (though a bit scarily close to the water) terrace by the canal. The waiter has to cross the street to bring the food and drinks. This place tends to have super friendly waiters which is rare in Amsterdam (in other places do not be surprised by grumpy waiters or no service at all).
- Brouwerij 't IJ, Funenkade 7. A beer brewery underneath a windmill which makes its own Columbus beers in different flavours. A mellow laid-back place with mostly locals. Open until about 8pm.
- Latei, Zeedijk 143. A kitsch place full of vintage furniture and decorarations, all of which are for sale. Nice organic cakes and good coffee and tea. Open until about 7 or 8 pm.
- Studio/K, Timorplein 62. Lunch cafe, restaurant, cafe, bar, cinema and nightclub all in one. With sunny outdoor terrace in a residential neigbourhood right nextdoor to StayOkay Zeeburg hostel.
- De Ruyschkamer, Ruyschstraat 34. Mellow cafe full of soft couches and chairs and other vintage furniture. Juices, smoothies, more than 30 types of bottled beer, friendly staff.
- Getto, Warmoesstraat 51. Gay (but straightfriendly) cocktail and burger bar. Over 20 different types of cocktails, and apart from burgers named after Amsterdam's most famous drag queens they also serve other good meals.
- De Biertuin, Linnaeusstraat 29. A good place to go after a visit to Tropenmuseum. They serve tens of different beers, various on draft and the rest in bottles; and good chicken and fries or other simple meals or snacks. They have a heated outdoor terrace so you can sit outside almost year-round.
- Cafe Brecht, Weteringschans 157. 'Berlin' style cafe with vintage furniture and German snacks. They also serve lunch and good beers on draft. It's close enough to Rijksmuseum to combine it with that.
Spanjer & Van Twist
They have a second location in
northern Amsterdam in Tolhuistuin.
A'DAM tower - yet to open
Also check out the flyers in shops like Episode (Waterlooplein), bars and hip hairdresser shops, the website called www.good2b.nl.
And see www.iamsterdam.nl > What's On.
9292 is a perfect door-to-door public transport planner to help you find which tram, bus, metro, train or ferry you need to get around Amsterdam or the whole country for that matter.
It shows you how long it takes and how much it costs, allows you to enter street addresses as well as stations and public transport stops, and shows you the bits you need to walk to and from stops (on a map if you want to).
|Rent a bike and do tours in and out of
If you can steer a bike, it would be nice to rent bikes and cruise the city by bike.
Please read this! How to bike safely through Amsterdam. And watch this video and pay
close attention to how hectic traffic is before deciding whether you're
up for it. Take special note of what is said from minute 5:14 onwards.
Daytrip to the countryside
This is my Google Maps suggestion for a medium-length bike ride in the countryside just north of Amsterdam, which is not very taxing. (1.5 hours net cycling time, more hours with photo stops and other breaks of course.)
Buy maps at Pied a Terre, Overtoom 135; or at A La Carte, Utrechtsestraat 110. The tourist information office at Central Station also sells some basic maps, as do many other shops. But the two I mentioned are specialised map shops.
Signposts for scenic bike routes
A route that is also signposted is easiest to follow. Biking signposts with green letters show you scenic routes. (Normal white bike signs with red letters show the fastest route which can be boring and alongside a smelly highway.)
The system with numbered junctions ('knooppunten', see image to the right) is easiest to follow and explained excellently in this video.
More info about cycling
In post #15 in this topic I give a lot of information about cycling scenic routes in the Netherlands, how to find your way, which signposts are for the scenic routes, how to bring your bike on a train etc.
These websites also comes in handy: http://holland.cyclingaroundtheworld.nl
Bike rides to villages around Amsterdam: http://www.gobyx.nl
Cheap bed & breakfast: "Vrienden op de
Knooppunten / junctions signposts for scenic bike rides
|Where to stay
Which neighbourhoods are nice? Which ones are to be avoided? If you're looking for a hotel, or want to live in Amsterdam, read my recommendations on zip codes to look for nice areas.
Or have a look at this simple map and explanations.
Links, and tips from
Your little black book
A fantastic website full of the latest new hotspots such as rooftop cinema nights, hip new coffee cafes and lunch places, cocktail bars, festivals.
Safety in Amsterdam
I wrote an article about safety in Amsterdam on Tripadvisor.
Animation of Amsterdam's growth 1600-1700
Watch a beautiful animation of how central Amsterdam expanded and the canals were built from 1600 onwards.
Amsterdam in numbers
Bicycles: 881,000 (estimated)
Percentage of people who cycle daily: 58%
Canal Ring on UNESCO World Heritage List: 1
Bridges in the Canal Ring: 80
16th, 17th and 18th century buildings: 8,863
Gable stones: 654
Paintings by Rembrandt: 22
Paintings by Van Gogh: 207
Concerts and theatrical performances per year: 9,000
Concerts and theatrical performances per day: 25
Theatres and concert halls: 55
Cafés and bars: 1,515
Hotel beds: 54,857
View from Muziekgebouw aan 't IJ
|Also check out my Amazing Travel Tips document which has a list of web sites about Amsterdam and the Netherlands.|
I hope you will enjoy visiting my city as much as I enjoy living here!
- Cecilia -
|Last updated: December 2015|