I’ve already told you that I loved my quick trip to Amsterdam last month, but now it’s time to share some off-the-beaten-path recommendations with you! The usual Amsterdam sights like the Van Gogh Museum and Anne Frank House have been covered in-depth by all travel guides, so I wanted to share some things that not every tourist is aware of. If you’re a first-time visitor to Amsterdam, make sure to also check out these two great itineraries:
1 Visit the Western Islands
There are three peaceful, quiet little islands in Amsterdam: Prinsen, Bickers and Realen. The islands are just west of the central station and you can visit all three in about 1.5 hours, making for a lovely walk.
2 Stand on the ‘Skinny Bridge’
Amsterdam has 1,281 bridges and you’ll cross many of them during your visit, trust me. Some are ordinary bridges, others have a story to tell, some are special. The Magere Brug (which translates to Skinny Bridge) is one of them. The bridge is a double-swipe wooden bridge and it is one of the most remarkable bridges in the city. If you’re visiting Amsterdam with your lover, visit the bridge at night, when it’s all lit up and super romantic.3 Free views Head to Amsterdam’s public library for spectacular views over the city. Just take the escalators all the way to the top. There is a restaurant with a lovely terrace, but you don’t need to order anything to enjoy the views. Fun fact: Amsterdam’s library is the largest in all of Europe! Address: Oosterdokskade 143 Opening Times: Monday – Sunday 10am till 10pm. Extra Tip: Head up to the terrace just before sunset! The other good place for free views is the rooftop of the NEMO Science Center. Address: Oosterdok 2; Opening Times: Tuesday – Sunday 10am till 5.30pm.
4 Visit the ‘9 Streets’
The 9 Streets are nine small cobblestone streets that connect the main canals between Leidsegracht and Raadhuisstraat, known for their unique and innovate independent shops. You find everything here from vintage stores to designer shops, plus several lovely cafes and galleries.
5 Don’t miss the North!
North Amsterdam has a completely different feel to it than central Amsterdam. The buildings are more modern, it’s trendy, and where the locals hang out. The waterside offers great views over the city, and there are many cafes and bars right by the water. A hipster favorite: The Noorderlicht Café. The best thing about the north? You can get here for free with the free water ferry that leaves behind the Central Station.6 A different museum experience Most Amsterdam visitors head straight to the Rijksmuseum, the Anne Frank House and the Van Gogh Museum – however, there are other museums in Amsterdam that are quirkier than your usual museum experience and for photography lovers like me, there are two photography museums! My tips for a visit to Amsterdam: The Huis Marseilles Photography Museum (the most cutting-edge exhibitions), the FOAM Photography Museum (contemporary photography), the House Boat Museum (see what life on a house boat is actually like!), the Sex Museum (the world’s oldest sex museum), EYE (an impressive film museum) and the Museum Of Bags And Purses (a must for fashionistas!).
7 The best Dutch food and beer
You can’t leave Amsterdam without having a good meal – the Dutch are particularly known for their Dutch pancakes but also for their love of good breakfasts. Here are some recommendations for meals that won’t disappoint: De Vier Pilaren (A traditional Dutch pancake house), Greenwoods for breakfast (get Eggs Greenwood and thank me later!), Bar Lempicka for breakfast or for a typical Nordic meal of smoked salmon and cream cheese rolled in Swedish flat bread. The best place for craft brew in Amsterdam is Brouwerij ‘t IJ
For an authentic Dutch dining / pub experience, visit a ‘brown café’ (bruin café), which are the typical Amsterdam pubs. The name ‘brown café’ results from the dark brown wooden furniture in these pubs. Some of them date back to the 1600s (The oldest one, In ‘t Aepjen, first opened its doors in 1509)! A traditional Brown Café snack to try are bitterballen, which are breaded and deep-fried balls with a ragout filling, served with mustards, and of course you can’t leave without trying a regional beer here.8 Begijnhof Head to Spui Square and look for a wooden brown door, go through it, and you’ll find yourself in another world! The quiet garden courtyard, surrounded by gabled buildings, couldn’t be a bigger contrast to the busy Spui Square. Begijnhof dates back to the early 15th century and is one of the oldest courtyards in the city, and look out for Begijnhof 34 – the wooden house is one of the oldest houses in Amsterdam!
9 Waterlooplein Flea Market
Waterlooplein Flea Market is a huge outdoor market with over 300 stalls, selling anything from kitsch to antiques furniture to vintage clothes. If you love a market stroll as much as I do, you should definitely make Waterlooplein Flea Market part of your trip to Amsterdam, and you might even find an unusual souvenir here! The market, which was created after World War II ended and has attracted hippies from all over Europe in the 70s is still a place where people of all backgrounds, ages and origins come together – every day of the week! It can get pretty crowded these days, so I recommend visiting early or bringing patience. The market is located in the Jewish Quarter, which is worth a visit in itself, by the way, so make sure to explore the streets around Waterlooplein Square when you’re finished shopping.10 Jordaan The Jordaan neighborhood is a young area of the city, with lots of funky cafes, galleries and independent shops. If you happen to be in Amsterdam on a Saturday, don’t miss the market on Lindengracht and the flea market around the Noorderkerk.