Am(ber)sterdam Travel Guide
One of my favorite parts of living abroad was when friends from home traveled to Amsterdam. Not only did these visits give us a chance to catch up, but they also provided an opportunity for me to share all of my new favorite places. If you plan to take a trip to the Netherlands sometime in the future, here is a list of Am(ber)sterdam highlights I collected over the past six months!
All the recommendations also link to websites!
Tip 1: The Dutch love reservations. Make reservations for a few spots before your trip, so you don’t spend the night wandering around figuring out which restaurants have space!
Tip 2: Live the Dutch life. A huge part of Dutch culture is working to live, not living to work. Abandon that deeply ingrained Puritan work ethic on your vacay. Grab a book, pour yourself a glass of wine and hang out canal side.
Tip 3: Don’t confuse Tip 1 with over-scheduling yourself. Depending on your vacay style, pick one or two things to do each day and then walk around and enjoy the rest!
Food & Drinks
Organized by neighborhood
Madam: Looking for a fancy cocktail and a view of Amsterdam from the only tower higher than the Bain building? Head to Madam! You can take the ferry from Central to Noord. They also have swings on the top of the roof if you are feeling brave!
Tolhuistuin: Dinner and a show! Check out the cultural events and concerts going on a Paradiso Noord (located in Tolhuistuin). There is an outdoor bar downstairs where you can grab a pre-dinner drink. Head up to Tolhuistuin for some tasty tapas influenced by cuisines all over the world, and then explore Paradiso— all conveniently located in the same building.
Another advantage to heading to Noord, a less touristy "I amsterdam" sign.
Oedipus Brewery: This funky, colorful space has phenomenal beers boasting fun flavors. You have to walk through a parking lot to get here, but I swear I’m not leading you astray!
Foodhallen/ Denhallen/Filmhallen: Denhallen is a strip of really adorable shops. Check out the Maker’s Store and fuel up with some tasty food at Foodhallen from all over. It can get touristy and packed, so don't be devastated if you do not manage to squeeze it in. You can also grab a drink and enjoy a flick at Filmhallen.
Waterkant: This unique waterside bar boasts some intriguing menu items including a banana burger! You have to walk under a parking garage to get here and it might feel like you are headed the wrong way. Keep going. This place is worth it!
Festina Lente: This bar is adorable and has Rummikub. When my fiancée visited, we spent six hours here playing cribbage and drinking gin & tonics.
Roest: Yet another bar that you walk through a parking lot to get to. Roest has an outdoor beach with hammocks and picnic tables. There is also a music venue inside, seating in an old bus, and delicious food and drinks! If you’re familiar with Brooklyn, this has a Bushwick meets burning man vibe.
Brouwerij: A brewery in a windmill! Within walking distance of Roest, I recommend pairing these two together.
Bloem: Delicious vegan, vegetarian and meat options! Right on a canal in a quieter part of the city, slightly east of the center.
Dignita Hoftuin Amazing food nestled into a garden behind the Hermitage Museum. They have beautiful outdoor seating options when the weather is nice.
Macrobiotic Summer Salad Bowl. Yum.
The center is packed with tourists, and to be honest, I avoid it at all costs. However, there are some fun bars, clubs, and restaurants.
Indonesian Food: I never tried Indonesian food before coming to Amsterdam. Not only is it delicious, but it is truly an experience. Make a reservation at Sama Sebo. This place is a gem, and fills up quick!
A culinary experience.
Probably one of my favorite Amsterdam neighborhoods. Sort of feels like Brooklyn, with awesome food and drink options.
Coffee + Coconuts: I used to justify spending so much money here as “paying rent,” because I would sit for hours and do work. The food is excellent, the ambiance feels very California/Hawaii— hence the coconut theme, and there are some super comfy couches.
Cafe De Pijp: The food is alright, but the gin & tonics here are extra tasty. The Dutch invented genever and the tonic water here is unlike any I have tried before. You can grab a G & T anywhere, just be prepared to specify the type of gin— they aren’t playing around! I recommend Hendrick’s or Damrack.
Sipping on some Gin and Tonic.
Kingfisher: Great beer selection, try a La Chouffe and anything from Gebrouwen door Vrouwen (Brewed by women). Also, snack on some bitterballen, a traditional Dutch snack consisting of fried balls of mashed potatoes and meat, and make sure to get Kaasstengels— fried cheese sticks, noticing a theme?
Vegan Junk Food Bar: You do not have to be a vegan to enjoy the flashy fries. Nestled into Marie Heinekenplein, I brought everyone who visited me here, and even the hesitant enjoyed it.
Nope, not real meat. Mind blown.
Pancakes: There are tons of places, just throw "pancakes" into Google Maps and grab yourself some! Big or small, they are all delicious. I recommend trying the poffertjes (tiny pancakes) because they are a specialty, though the big pancakes are also deliciously Dutch.
...or small, eat them all!
For when you are full of food and need something else to do.
Boat tour: The best way to explore Amsterdam is by water. Get on a boat for 15 euros with Boat Amsterdam and enjoy all-you-can-drink beer and wine for the 70-minute ride!
G’s Brunch Boat: Brunch on a boat! Another boating option, this time with food!
However you do it, get on a boat.
Anne Frank House: The pickup for G’s brunch boat is right next to the Anne Frank house, just make sure to buy your tickets in advance. The museum and memorial are both beautifully done, and as one of my friends said, “visiting the Anne Frank house grounds the Amsterdam experience in the history of the city.”
Pick a museum! Any museum! There are so many to choose from. Micropia is the world’s first museum for microbes! The Rijksmuseum, situated right behind the iconic “i amsterdam” sign, is humungous. I went in hour and a half increments for five weeks to see the whole thing. The Van Gogh museum shows a beautiful progression of his work and descent into madness. The Stedelijk is the modern art museum and has some fascinating installations. For all museums, buy your tickets beforehand, especially in peak travel seasons.
Vondelpark: Now, I do not want to recommend hopping on a bike if you have not ridden one since you were a tween, but biking here is fantastic (especially compared to biking in NYC). To control all the bike traffic, the rules of the road are the same as cars (stay on the right, pass on the left). If you are up for it, rent a bike and head to Vondelpark to have a picnic. Pick up some cheese in the 9 streets beforehand at Kaas Kamer or another cheese shop— just not a touristy one. The cheese is unbelievable. I was not that into cheese previously, but now it is a staple in my diet. The only reason why I did not gain twenty pounds living here is all the biking!
Albert Cuypmarkt: Expansive market in De Pijp! You can pick up goodies here for a picnic and do not forget to grab a Stroopwafel! Pretty touristy, but worth visiting.
Stroop, there is it.
The 9 Streets: I never enjoyed shopping before moving to Amsterdam, but one of the most enjoyable things has been wandering around all of the quaint boutique stores in the 9 streets. If you are looking for vintage clothing, they have some great places as well! Make sure you have a travel card with no international fee or take out some euros before coming this way. Also, if you spend more than 50 euros, you can apply for value-added tax (VAT). I never went through this process, but my shop-loving friends did. Apparently, you ask for a form at the store with your receipt, fill it out, and bring it with you to the airport.
If you have not yet booked a place check out my two hockey teammates’ Airbnbs:
Tjakko has two apartments in the 9 streets (unbelievable location):
Tjakko gave us the AirBnB for a night when Lindsey visited. It is absolutely fantastic.
Meet Ms. Daisy.
Amsterdam is a phenomenal city, and there is no shortage of fantastic places to explore. Thank you for reading my Am(ber)sterdam recs. I am forever grateful to all my Dutch friends for showing me all the best restaurants and bars! Enjoy your time in Holland, and please comment below with any additional spots you love!