Amsterdam was my gateway drug. No… not in that sense. It was a gateway to new, weird, enriching experiences. A place where your daily bike ride to work weaved over canal bridges and cobblestone streets. Where this this sex shop was next to that cheese shop and this one kindergarten thats next to “big mamma alley”. Where art, history, sex and the liberal Dutch culture come together.It was a place I called home for a year when studying abroad in University and somewhere that always feels like home when I go back. For being one of the most popular cities to visit in Europe, Amsterdam still maintains an intimate feel. It’s picturesque canal streets and cozy brown cafes will give you a warm buzz without even having stepping foot in a coffeeshop*. However, visiting the coffeeshops wouldn’t hurt either.
Albert Cuyp: Definitely one of the most popular markets in the city. It’ll give you a little bit of everything from chicken sate to phallic shaped chocolates to a new pair of dancing shoes. There is a guy that makes de-licious, hot, chocolate covered, jumbo stroopwafels. Get one. Walk around, but also watch your wallet since it can be a rather congested area. At night, the area around the market called De Pijp is more of a local hangout area with very.. Dutch bars. I can’t really put into words what being super Dutch means… but if you are curious, check it out!
Dappermarkt: Located in the far East, Dappermarkt is a similar to the Albert Cuyp as far as your typical stands with cheap clothes, shoes, etc. Although, I feel this market has less of a touristic feel. They also have fantastic (and cheap) fried seafood served to-go that is great for lunch or a mid-day snack. I’d reccomend the shrimp or the fried fish filets. Dappermarkt perhaps even has the best pannenkoeken in the city. Ome Tom is a unassuming little stand on the corner of the market. After eating one of the pancakes and chatting with Tom himself, you leave wishing you could call him your real Opa
Waterlooplein: This is a pretty big attraction just East of the city center. It has everything from clothes to jewelry to antiques. If you are in the city for a while and are looking to buy a bike on the cheap, you can find one here. Buyer beware, these bikes have probably been stolen at some point from someone else.
Ij Halle: Happening just one or two times a month, this GIANT flea market is located in the NDSM area. Free ferries run to this little port from central station. It’s a quick 15 minute ride and a place you can easily spend most of a day. I’ve gotten some of my favorite clothes and gifts for family from this market for insanely cheap. You pay a small fee to get in, but it’s worth it. After your done browsing there is a skateboard park in the upper level of one of the buildings and art fixtures scattered around the grounds. Later I’ll talk about some of the fun cafe/bars in this area.
Westermarkt: Located in, you guessed it, west of the city center is the Westerpark neighborhood. This area is one of my favorite places to escape the crowds of the city. The market is located within a small strip of shops and cafes. It has an old warehouse feel and is a nice place to walk around or sit on on of the many outdoor areas and have a coffee or beer. The market has really great food stalls and a wide variety of handmade, high-quality craft items. If my memory serves me right, there is a pie lady there that makes really great meat handpies!
Not your average cup of Joe at these spots. The Third-Wave coffee movement is in full swing in Amsterdam.
One of the best in the city. Two locations now. Great spaces and in some of my favorite areas in the city, the West and the North. Go there, NOW!
Nice cafe with a yummy Flat White!
KoKo Coffe and Design
Close to the city center, easy to miss so keep your eyes out for it. Funky interior and really nice Baristas. Also have many cool handmade crafts. I picked up a refurbished hard-back book turned into a fresh journal. Then promptly lost it in Berlin… but it was great while I had it!
Bakers and Roasters
Also more delicious coffee and baked goods to consume with! ( weed free) 🙂
As you may have already figured out, coffeeshops are not known for their coffee. Here you can enjoy your Mary Jane in peace and in public. I am not an expert on this Amsterdam topic,but I can recommend the ones that I found to be a good hangout and not in the main tourist areas. Some places require passport ID and can be fairly strict. Enjoy!
I can not stress enough how much fun you will have riding a bike through the streets of this city. Don’t worry if you aren’t coordinated or fit or whatever. It’s all flat and the biggest “hill” you encounter are the bridges crossing over the canals. Riding a bike will save you both time and even money if you are planning on taking public transport everywhere. Just ride the damn bike.
Depending on the weather or if you just really, really don’t want to rent a bike, the city is very walkable and you may be surprised how quick you can cover ground. Plus you’ll get to work off those extra beers and stroopwafels.
The biggest park in the center of the city is Vondelpark. It is a favorite hangout for people of all sorts. Its a perfect picnic and people watching spot. If your looking for a little escape from the city center, the Amsterdamse Bos is the place to go. Literally translates to Amsterdam forest, it is a massive area to run, play sports, fish, ride bikes, etc. They also have some events going on throughout the year at their outdoor cinema.
Other favorite outdoor activities: Waterbike through the canals, Tai Chi in Oosterpark, and Ice Skating in Museumplein
So what is Dutch food you ask? Um… good question. Imagine various shaped pieces of fried meat and “meat gravy”, maybe some chips (fries) with mayo or saté sauce, and a raw piece of Herring covered in relish and onions. YUM… right? As unappetizing as that description is, all of those foods are actually quite good.
Eating out in Amsterdam is can be quite expensive for the average traveler, so I usually just stuck to eating quick street food or grabbing some things from the supermarket and cooking for myself. Good produce is actually very cheap in the Netherlands and you can save some serious Euro preparing your meals yourself or pic-nic-ing, without really missing out. There are some go-to places I would recommend though for food that is delicious and easy on the wallet. Amsterdam has a great Asian food scene, particularly Indonesian and Thai.
Kantjil & de Tijger
Pannenkoeken Huis Upstairs
Typical Specialties: Bitterballen, Gouda, Poffertjes, Dutch Pancakes
If your idea of sightseeing is from the bar stool with beer in hand, then check out these spots:
Local brewery located in a quieter spot just east of the city center. Solid beers and nice outdoor seating right on the canal. Look for the giant windmill on Funenkade, can’t miss it!
A beer bar offering over 200 delightful brews. This cozy spot is down an unassuming narrow street in the city center, however this gem is fairly well known so be prepared for a bit of a crowd.
This American style beer bar will be sure to fill the hoppy void if you were like me and were missing a little slice of home ( being the USA). Great selection of over 35 rotating drafts and, bonus, BOARD games!
Haven’t actually been to the brewery, but had their beers at a festival in the city. Good people and good beers from what I have seen. Check em out, support your local brewer!
Obviously, nightlife scenes are not a one-size-fits-all. Like most big cities, there usually is a spot for every type of person, and Amsterdam is no exception. From jazz clubs to electronic mega-parties there are plenty of places to drink and dance the night away, let’s get to it!
If you don’t see hipsters in the city center, it’s because they are all here. Up in Amsterdam Noord, this new cafe promotes sustainable practices in every way. From growing their own food, to rolling composters, to using recycled materials for constructing the cafe itself. They hosted a beer festival there this summer and often have outdoor live music. One of my favorite new places in the city.
Fun spot to relax and have a couple drinks. Has a funky theme and two floors. Couches, drinks, friends. Gezellig
This is a great weekend place. Lots of outdoor space by the water. Energetic place to be on a sunny day. If you are on a short trip, I guess everyday is a weekend anyways so give it a look if you find yourself in the Noord, NDSM in particular.
This is close to central station, right across the water from NEMO. It also boasts a great outdoor area, but in the winter has a cozy fireplace for you to sit around and eat your bitterballen
Shots anyone?! This was my go-to place if I wanted to get a night started. Over 200 shots from 2 – 5€. Harry Potter and Chemistry shots are crowd favorites, both fun and delicious.
Popular spot just off Leidsestraat. I mostly went for the great live artists/bands. However, I’ve heard its a good place to go “clubbin” as well 🙂
Hip-Hop/alternative club lovers must!
More underground, off-the-beaten path kinda place. Ping pong anyone?
Big club, lines, and usually a cover. However I’ve had some great nights here and if you are in the right mood, or have had enough to drink, you’ll probably enjoy it as well. Check out the website for current events
In conclusion, Amsterdam is a city that will surprise you. Wander, wonder, enjoy 🙂