Local's Guide to Amsterdam

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Every time I go to Amsterdam, I fall even more in love with this city.

The canals, boats, houseboats, bikes, flowers and bridges are almost too cute to believe. Sometime I feel like I'm walking through a set. Everything so perfectly placed, no detail spared.

Did you know: There are 165 canals in Amsterdam that combine for over 100km (60 miles). The canal ring was added to the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites in 2010. There are so many canals in Amsterdam that there are 1281 bridges, and only 409 bridges in Venice, Italy.

I went to Amsterdam for the third time on my 2017 European summer trip where I spent 4 months in Europe & Morocco. I came back here because it's one of those cities that draws you in. It will always reveal a new layer, there's just so much to discover.

This time I had the pleasure of visiting some friends who live in the city. Together with their help, we've created a list of recommendations for you while in Amsterdam.

Don't have time to review it all now? Don't worry. Scroll to the bottom and save on Pinterest for later.

 

Streets & Areas to Wander

In Amsterdam’s Spiegelkwartier, you’ll find more than 70 antiques dealers and art galleries, together offering a resplendent array of fine historical objects, classic and contemporary art, and exotic folk art.

In the elegant neighborhood of Oud Zuid (Old-South) you'll find Rijksmuseum, Stedelijk Museum of Modern Art, Van Gogh Museum and Vondelpark, the city’s most popular playground. Cornelis Schuytstraat In Oud Zuid is the most expensive neighborhood of Amsterdam, the nicest houses being at the border of Vondelpark called Koningslaan "street of the kings". This posh neighborhood with ravishing villas and tranquil curving streets is arguably the elegant heart of Amsterdam and makes for a lovely walk to see what life is like for some Amsterdammers.

Amsterdam neighborhood of Oud Zuid in the center of town.

Amsterdam neighborhood of Oud Zuid in the center of town.

Jordaan (old town) is a must for visitors. It was built in the early 17th century to house working class and immigrants. After decades of gentrification, there are more galleries, restaurants, specialty shops. Now Jordaan is possibly the most famous neighborhood in the Netherlands. On the border of the Jordaan you can find the Anne Frank House.

While in Jordaan, make sure to stroll 9 Straatjes; nine quaint, picturesque streets between the canals. They are full of small vintage shops & designer boutiques, perfect for finding gifts and souvenirs, plus cozy cafes.

One of the most vibrant spots of Amsterdam is de Pijp. In this very cool district you'll experience bohemian livelihood and charm, attracted by local artists, students, the young, the old and families. In a former brewery, the multimedia Heineken Experience chronicles the history of beer making and offers tastings. The largest market in Europe, Albert Cuyp Market, can also be found here.

TIP: When booking with a custom travel agency like Sapphire & Elm we ensure you have time to fully explore, to discover something new, to create your own story all while being fully prepared and informed about the place(s) you are going to.

 

Parks to Enjoy

Almost every park is a good spot to chill out, and all of them are safe so you won't have to worry that you chose the "wrong one".

Vondelpark is the most famous one because it is big and in the center so it's packed with people especially in summer or when the weather is nice.

INSIDE TIP: If you want to have a bit less tourist walk a bit further west (towards opposite of the center and after the big fountain in the pond it gets quieter) close to Museumplein.

Westerpark is also very big and has lots of stuff going on. There are several bars and restaurants in the park. The park often hosts food and music festivals.

Rembrandtpark is almost the only park where you can still BBQ. It has a good vibe because it is mostly locals as it is a bit further from the center of town.

Museumplein because it's iconic. Here you'll find the Van Gogh Museum, the I AMsterdam sign, Rijksmuseum, and Stedelijk Museum among others.

Museumplein park in Amsterdam

Museumplein park in Amsterdam

Sarphatipark is smaller but located in the cool area of de Pijp.

Oosterpark is also nice and will surely be less crowded than some of the larger, more famous parks.



Restaurants

On the 23rd floor of Hotel Okura Amsterdam, Ciel Bleu restaurant is a unique destination in many ways. Forget it's 2 Michelin stars and let the excellent chefs surprise and delight you.

Also in the Hotel Okura Amsterdam and with one Michelin star, Yamazato serves upscale Japanese cuisine.

Bord’Eau is the two Michelin starred restaurant of Hotel De L’Europe in Amsterdam with an unique décor and sparkling views over the historic centre of Amsterdam. 

Vinkeles is an upscale modern Michelin star restaurant serving French cuisine in an atmospheric former 1700s bakery at the hip Dylan Hotel

For steaks & seafood presented in a cozy, Venus & Adonis is a well-appointed space with a cool, charming vibe & small patio.

Mr Porter artfully blends two concepts into one, the modern steakhouse and a chic lounge. Trendy chophouse for the feminine set. Blending dualities at the W Hotel Amsterdam.

Located in the heart of De Pijp, Mana Mana is a tiny Middle Eastern hidden gem in Amsterdam. Has several vegetarian and vegan options like the incredible cauliflower dish, yum!

vegan eggplant dish at Mana Mana

vegan eggplant dish at Mana Mana

For anyone who loves good food, lots of meat, exotic beers and the most beautiful wines, Cannibale Royale will fulfill your needs.

Known for steak and famous for their sauces, Loetje is clearly a local favorite with it's roughly dozen locations. If you like spice, try the "Bali Style".

Mossel & Gin, the name says it all. This place serves mussels, other seafood, and gin cocktails. They have a very nice terrace in Westerpark.

Craving pasta? Spaghetteria Pasta Bar serves high quality Italian food at fair prices with some Amsterdam flair in a vibrant atmosphere. It can feel a bit loud and crowded, but it feels like Italy. They've got big tables where everyone sit together.

Happy Happy Joy Joy brings the turbulent streets, rich flavors and bright colors of Asia to Amsterdam. With two locations in West and East, their East locations has a large terrace to enjoy!

For a warm Italian atmosphere serving traditional wood fired pizzas, try Pazzi. Located in the Joordan and Oud-West areas.

Located in the De Hallen cultural complex in Amsterdam’s hip Oud-West neighborhood, Foodhallen is a classy indoor food truck/market and bar serving up a range of artisanal street food and beverages inside of an old train depot. Very nice, especially when it it cold or rainy outside.

Feeling like seafood? The Seafood Bar is a modern restaurant with a great passion for fish & great wine.

Try Kantijl & the Tijger, a vibrant restaurant with a takeaway counter, for Indonesian/Asian dishes.

For plant based friends, head to SLA Organic Salad Bar. They offer organic, vegan & gluten-free options at three locations in the city.

Head to Salsa Shop for a quick and easy lunch favorite. With 4 locations around you should be able to find one close to you.

For poke bowls and sushi burritos, you must try Sushito

The famous and beloved Brasserie Van Dam is inseparable from the picturesque street of Cornelis Schuytstraat. Come for a cozy atmosphere of a French brasserie and real hospitality.

Around the corner from Brasserie Van Dam is Restaurant Oud-Zuid, a simply styled brasserie with bold rose wallpaper lines and terrace serving French classics.

Vegan Junk Food Bar is the vegan hot spot in Amsterdam with new takes on comfort food like burgers and "chik'n caesar salad". And with two locations my plant based friends won't go hungry!

Also check out Marqt Supermarket, it's like Dutch Whole Foods

 

Coffee Shops (actually coffee, not weed!)

Coffee and food meet fashion in a Scandinavian setting at Scandinavian Embassy.

Head to CT Coffee & Coconuts for craft coffee, fresh coconut juice & an eclectic menu served in an airy space with beach-shack vibes.

Bocca Coffee is a specialty coffee roaster with the aim of the best quality coffee for a fair price. Roasting since 2001 and proud owner of their first store since 2015.

For coffee, fresh fruit and vegetable juice and a delicious assortment of food look no further than the aptly named Coffee & Juices.

Coffee & Juices

Coffee & Juices

For a quick cup of coffee, breakfast or lunch try Brug 34, located in one of the most important buildings on the Utrechtsestraat (street). Also serves up wine at night.

Tucked away in a quiet street of Amsterdam’s busy city center, Sweet Cup is a no-frills, hipster escape from the bustle. Sweet Cup is a third wave coffee bar and coffee roastery in Amsterdam.

Just a stone's throw from the Vondelpark is Brasserie de Joffers. For a lovely cup of a coffee in quite a posh setting, you can enjoy breakfast, lunch, afternoon tea, drink or dinner at any time of the day. 

 

Brunch

Check out Little Collins for brunch, dinner and drinks with lots of vegetarian options.

Bakers & Roasters is a bright, modern cafe for brunch, homemade baked goods & specialty coffee, plus cocktails & beers. Also with many vegetarian options!

Located in De Wallen in Amsterdam, just off Dam Square, Cut Throat combines a world class barber shop with quality barista made coffee, craft beer, cocktails and New Zealand style brunch.

G’s has a love affair with brunch and Bloody Mary's. They serve it at 2 locations in Amsterdam on land (pijp & jordaan), and one sailing the canals (the brunch boat).

TIP: for a truly Dutch experience, eat on their brunch boat. Pretty cool to stroll on a boat and have brunch! It has a retractable roof and heaters so it sails summer and winter, rain or shine.

Dignita Amsterdam serves brunch all day long! With two locations their menus highlight the seasons and reinvent traditional brunch classics with a twist.

Brunch by day, sushi and cocktails by night at Staring at Jacob.

The Fuckin' Everything Brunch plate at Staring at Jacob

The Fuckin' Everything Brunch plate at Staring at Jacob

All day food and drinks in Amsterdam, the Breakfast Club has three locations for you to enjoy.

Jansz at the Pulitzer Hotel serves simple yet beautifully crafted dishes inspired by classic European cuisine.

Terpentijn serves easy going International dishes which you can put together yourself and are good to share.

 

Going Out & Getting Drinks

In the center of Amsterdam, Lion Noir bar and restaurant offers delightfully crafted cocktails, bar menu and full service dinner in an eclectically chic ambiance. Their seasonal menu is constantly evolving, reflecting the availability of locally-sourced fresh ingredients. 

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Dark wood & Art Deco accents adorn this Prohibition era-style bar for classic & creative cocktails at Door 74. It's the first speakeasy style cocktail bar in The Netherlands. 

With innovative culinary & mixology techniques, Tales & Spirits is a multi-level building featuring a cocktail bar and restaurant serving exquisite drinks, amazing food and bar bites in contemporary, unique and vintage glassware.

Waterkant is the summer hot spot in the city. The modern canal side bar & eatery with Dutch & Surinamese fare, has a wide choice of beer & outdoor seating.

Hanneke Boom is a shack-style, waterfront cafe, with live music & DJ nights with salvaged & recycled furniture adorning this joint. It’s one of the most popular spots in Amsterdam when the sun is out. Their food is tasty too, and they host evening BBQs in the summertime.

Converted industrial buildings housing a laid-back bar with outside picnic tables & live music at Amsterdam Roest. This place hosts many events like festivals, films and concerts.

Take a quick ferry to Amsterdam Noord to Pllek for a relaxed beach ambiance and an amazing view of Amsterdam. 

For Belgian Beers, head to Gollem.

Wine lovers look no further than Glouglou.

Hiding in Plain Sight, or HPS, is an award-winning cocktail bar in the heart of Amsterdam serving craft cocktails in an intimate setting.

Cafe van Leeuwen is a two-story café is situated on the corner of the lively and diverse Utrechtsestraat and the beautiful Keizersgracht canal. Cozy and great atmosphere.

For the most elegant yet casual luxury bar in Amsterdam, head to the Tunes Bar at the Conservatorium Hotel.



Nightlife

Most nights clubs are electronic music. There are different closing times for each sort of bar:

  • Coffee shops and some café will close at 1am
  • Bars close at 3am
  • Nightclub close at 5am

So it means that line can happen at nightclub at 03:10, since you might start in a bar and end up in a night club. It also mean uber price are more expensive at the closing times.

Streets for going out:

  • Reguliersdwarsstraat it is the gay street and have a lot of bars and night club. It Is a fun street, atmosphere is laid back and everyone feels welcome.
  • Rembrandtplein is mostly tourist but there are lots of options here which are still fun, and if you are a tourist you will probably love it.
  • Leidseplein with come nightclubs and pubs.

Clubs:

Dutch Foods to Try

The Dutch aren't exactly known for their culinary tradition. However, we are huge fans of trying the local food. If you see any of the following dishes on a menu, it might be worth ordering a plate to try!

  • Bitterballen: order while enjoying a drink at a bar, they are small balls of meat croquettes
  • Stroopwaffel: a classic Dutch treat! Try the one at Hema (sort of like Dutch Target) are delicious and cheap. Avoid the touristic shops for them.
  • Stampot: lovely in the winter as it's a very hearty dish mashed potatoes and veggies served with sausage or meat ball and gravy
  • FEBO: a local chain of automated walk-up fast food. There are 20 FEBOs in Amsterdam, so even if you don't eat here, it is still cool to see. If you eat here, try their croquette (meat goulash), kaas soufflé (cheese), and fricandele (meat of unknown origin). 

 

Best Shopping Streets

For big brand, large stores you can go to Kalverstraat & Leidsestraat.

If you're looking for haute couture, then head straight to PC Hoofstraat. It's the high-end shopping destination in Amsterdam, located at the northeastern end of Vondelpark. You'll find boutiques such as Prada, Louis Vuitton and Chanel, which rub elbows with the latest in exclusive labels: 7 for All Mankind, SuperTrash, Agent Provocateur. Make sure to check out the glass Chanel store.

9 Straatjes for smaller brand and boutiques. Also known as the Canal Belt. There are countless shops here so just start wandering and see where you end up!

Steps away from the museum district in the south of Amsterdam is Cornelis Schuytstraat, a lovely shopping street. It is well-known as home to luxury stores, exclusive fashion brands and stylish cafés.

 

Getting Around Amsterdam

There are many options for getting around Amsterdam including trams, metros, buses, bikes, and trains. In addition, Amsterdam is a very walkable city especially if you are staying in the center.

Getting around Amsterdam with public transportation is easy with the very reliable 9292 Route Planner.

Alternatively, you can rent bikes in Amsterdam to get around and see the city.

 

One of many perks of working with Sapphire & Elm Travel to plan your trip is that we have personal experience in many cities around the world, including Amsterdam. This allows us to create the most memorable and customized trip, uniquely for you.

Contact us to start planning your trip to Amsterdam and beyond.

 

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