Bitterballen are perhaps the most popular beer snack in the Netherlands. Imagine crunchy breadcrumbs on the outside and a soft, juicy meat ragù on the inside. But be careful! Bitterballen tends to be searingly hot in the middle. So don’t just carelessly pop one in your mouth; first, dip it in mustard and carefully bite a tiny piece off, so that the inside can cool down a little. Tip! Try bitterballen on board our Jordaan Food & Canals Tour!
The Netherlands’s most famous cheese originally comes from a town called Gouda in the south. There are plenty of places in the capital to sample Holland’s cheese; head to an outdoor market for some of the best and freshest. There are several types of Gouda that range along the age scale. Look for jonge kaas, which means young cheese, if you prefer a lightly flavored and creamy cheese; while oude kaas, which means old or mature, has a strong complex taste and a grainy, sometimes almost crystallized texture.
Anyone spending time in Amsterdam should try a meal at an Indonesian restaurant. Indonesia was once a colony of the Netherlands, which brought the country’s spicy cuisine to Europe. The most common way to enjoy it is as a rijsttafel (literally translating as “rice table”): lots of small but sauce-heavy meat, vegetable and fish dishes to share, eaten with steamed rice. Just make sure you show up with an empty stomach! Check out our recommendations for the best Indonesian restaurants in Amsterdam below.
Pannekoeken and poffertjes
Dutch pancakes, called, are thinner and bigger than their American counterparts. They can be eaten salty or sweet, at any time of the day. Sometimes they are topped with fruit or powdered sugar or cooked with ham and cheese for a savory breakfast. A near relation to pannekoeken is poffertjes. These are small, puffed and sweet. They are most often eaten outside because the dough is cooked in a large and scalding iron form that wouldn’t fit in a home kitchen. Topped with butter and powdered sugar, poffertjes are a great treat when the weather is cold.
If you love French fries then you’ve got to try them when in Amsterdam. The secret to Dutch fries, locally called patat or frietjes, is that they are double fried, which ensures an all-around crispness that’s addictive. Order yours in a paper cone, topped with a big dollop of Dutch mayonnaise. Or try patat oorlog for a classic Dutch combination of satay sauce, mayo, and raw onions – not for the faint-hearted!
If raw fish is your thing then stake out the haringhandels (herring stalls) or vishandels (fish stalls) dotted around the city. Actually, herring in Amsterdam isn’t exactly raw but preserved in brine. The history of raw herring in Amsterdam began when trade came into the city’s ports. The fish proved popular and have stuck as a local delicacy ever since. There are a couple of ways to eat herring: either on a sandwich served with onions (broodje haring), or sliced on a paper plate with onions and pickles, usually eaten with a toothpick topped with a Dutch flag. Want to try before you buy? Taste them on our Jordaan Food Tour!
If you come across a place serving fresh stroopwafels, don’t let the opportunity pass you by! (If you don’t, you can still buy a packet of them in the grocery store.) There’s nothing quite like a warm stroopwafel: a sandwich of two “waffles” filled with a thick syrup, or stroop. Gooey and delicious, they’re proof that Amsterdam sure knows its sweets!
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Café Brecht looks like your German grandmother’s living room, with antique furniture, soft lighting, and old photographs on the walls. In terms of food, Café Brecht only serves snacks and finger food, but it makes up for it by offering special German beers and seasonal drinks such as mulled wine, warm apple cider, or Beaujolais Nouveau.
+31 (0)20 627 2211
Hours: Sunday – Thursdat 11 am – 1 am; Friday and Sat 12 pm – 3 am
All ingredients used in the kitchen at Wilde Zwijnen are grown or bred in the Netherlands, and the dishes are beautifully presented. If you have trouble choosing one dish, order a surprise menu to taste the full potential of this restaurant. The service is great, too!
+31 (0)20 463 3043
Hours: Monday – Thursday 6 pm – 10 pm; Friday – Sunday 12 pm – 10 pm
Browerij ‘t IJ
Say goodbye to Heineken’s monopoly on beer! Recently more and more cafés in Amsterdam offer specialty beers produced by local brewery Browerij ‘t IJ. Located in a windmill (worth visiting just for the venue itself!), the brewery has been producing its non-pasteurized and non-filtered beers since 1985.
31 (0)20 261 9801
Hours: daily 2 pm – 8 pm
When you enter Olivity, you immediately feel like you’ve just arrived in someone’s kitchen. The owner, a Greek woman who quit her copywriting job to pursue her passion for food, cooks fresh lunches and bakes cookies in the open kitchen at the back of the café. Don’t forget to try the home-made ice tea and the best dairy- and sugar-free baklava in Amsterdam!
+31 (0)6 43177443
Hours: Closed Monday & Tuesday; Wednesday – Fri 12:30 pm – 6:30 pm, Saturday – Sunday 12 p, – 5 pm
Thin crust pizzas, incredibly smooth mozzarella, salami imported from Italy… Forget about the overpriced, touristy restaurants serving pizzas dripping with grease. La Perla reminds us that what we consider to be fast food for hangover days actually has its roots in simple and seasonal Italian cuisine. La Perla has two locations: you can choose to go to one side of the street for a takeaway pizza, and to the other for a cozy dinner.
Tweede Tuindwarsstraat 14 and 53
+31 (0)20 624 8828
Hours: Daily 10 am – 10 pm
Serving real Sicilian food, Hostaria is a hidden treasure of a family business, run by a Sicilian chef and his Dutch wife and employing mostly Italian-speaking staff. It’s easy to miss because it’s a small place with a humble interior, but the food is to die for. Seafood dishes are true masterpieces and don’t even think of leaving before trying the homemade tiramisu or panna cotta.
Tweede Egelantiersdwarsstraat 9-H
+31 (0)20 626 0028
Open: Wednesday – Saturday 5:30 pm – 11:30 pm
De Kas definitely takes local cuisine to the next level. The venue has its own greenhouses growing fresh vegetables and herbs. There is no menu, as the chef prepares new dishes daily based on the harvest. Whatever doesn’t come from the greenhouse, De Kas orders from local farmers.
Kamerlingh Onneslaan 3
+31 (0)20 462 4562
Hours: Monday – Friday 10 pm – 6 pm; Saturday 1:00 pm – 6 pm
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With its refreshingly modern, split-level interior and out-of-town location, Blauw is the most off-the-beaten-path restaurant on the list. That means it’s packed with local clientele and is a great excuse to escape the tourist crowds in the city center. The restaurant also has its own digital “Polaroid Guy” who’ll take your photo during the evening – you can download it for free from the website the next day. A cute touch!
+31 (0)20 675 5000
Open: Monday – Wednesday 6 – 10 pm; Thursday — Friday 6 pm – 10:30 pm; Sat 5 – 10:30 pm; Sun 5 – 10 pm
In contrast, Sampurna is right in the center of town, just off the bustling flower market and a great option after a hard day’s shopping. There may be a few more tourists, but the food is still good and not as pricey as you might expect for the location. It’s been in business for 25 years – so they must be doing something right!
+31 (0)20 625 3264
Hours: Open daily from 12 pm
A relative newcomer on the Indonesian food scene, Jun is a little west of center, which makes it a handy option if you’re staying in the Jordaan area for one of our Jordaan Food Tours. It’s also run by the sweetest proprietor I’ve ever come across. Ask for extra chili if you like it super-spicy!
Frederik Hendrikstraat 98
+31 (0)20 785 9185
Open: Wednesday – Saturday 6 pm – 10 pm, Sun 5.30 – 10.30 pm
Things can get a little frenetic at Tempo Doeloe, but that’s all part of its charm. Do book a table, and do expect to wait despite having done so. You’ll be rewarded for your patience: the food is great quality and the atmosphere is fun too. Just make sure you have a glass of water at hand – the chilies they use are fiercely hot and not for the faint-hearted! You have been warned…
+31 (0)20 625 6718
Open: Monday — Saturday 6 – 12 am (reservations required)
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Get on your bike and ride
Spend even just a minute in Amsterdam and you’ll realize that everyone and everything is on a bike. Bikes with babies, bikes with dogs, bikes with couples (bike-watching is another fun activity in Amsterdam). The infrastructure that supports all these pedaling riders — the bike stop lights and bike lanes — means Amsterdam is a city to be explored on two wheels. Get comfortable on your bike in the Vondelpark, the biggest open space in central Amsterdam. And once you’re stable and confident, join the Dutch biking around town. But beware: the Dutch are very serious about biking, so pay attention to everyone around you and don’t be offended if you hear the ding of a bike bell!
Walk around (or boat through!) the canals
The horseshoe shape of the canals, expanding out from the Central Station like ripples, are perfect for walking around. To avoid getting lost, keep Dam Square as your point of reference — most of the sights are within a small radius of this focal point. An especially charming area, slightly to the west of center and good for shopping, is the Negen Straatjes (or Nine Little Streets). You know you’re there if you’ve run across eclectic shops selling clothes, jewelry, and home furnishings (not to mention the famous toothbrush shop!). Alternatively, see Amsterdam from the canals: hop on a canal tour near the Central Station to experience a unique viewpoint on the city. (Tip! Our Jordaan Food & Canals Tour includes a one-hour tour of the canals by boat!)
Go out at night
There’s no doubt, Amsterdam is a city of the night. The chilled-out coffee shops and the brash allure of the Red Light District are best explored after sunset. This area can get rowdy with groups of bachelor and bachelorette parties reveling late into the night, but don’t worry if that’s not your scene; Amsterdam’s nightlife doesn’t stop there. With many establishments serving locally brewed beers from the Netherlands and neighboring Belgium, there are lots of cafes and bars around the city to choose from. The Dutch love the concept of gezelligheid, meaning cozy and comfortable, and you’ll find that feeling emulated in many of the city’s restaurants and bars.
Visit De Pijp
If you’re a traveler who likes to get out of a city’s tourist center, then head south to the area of Amsterdam known as De Pijp. Here you can find the locals hanging out at their favorite corner cafe drinking a coffee and eating a hapje (Dutch snack). There are several cool bars and ethnic restaurants to choose from, as well as the Albert Cuypmarkt: the largest outdoor market in Amsterdam, open Monday to Saturday 9 am to 5 pm. This market is worth a trip in itself: sample local cheeses like Gouda, and try some Dutch sweet treats such as stroopwafels or poffertjes, made fresh while you wait.
Take in a museum
If you’re a museum lover, then Amsterdam is the city for you. With more than 50 museums to choose from, you’ll be sure to find something to suit your interests. The Rijksmuseum and the Rembrandt House exhibit some of the best collections by the master artists working in the Dutch Golden Age. At the top of many lists are the Anne Frank House, Van Gogh Museum and the Stedelijk Museum of modern art. Plus, there are several quirky museums around town, including those devoted to bags, cats, sex and – of course – cannabis!
Star in your own personal Dutch masterpiece
Most visitors to Amsterdam won’t want to leave without seeing the famous Rembrandt and Vermeer paintings in the Rijksmuseum, or indeed the wealth of art in the Van Gogh Museum. But how about becoming the “muse” in these famous artists’ paintings yourself? At Museumfoto, just behind Dam Square, you can! The shop’s friendly owners will you have you dressed up as a Vermeer’s Milkmaid or a member of the Night Watch in the flash; you’ll then get into position with the props from the painting in question, and voila! A truly unique photographic memory to take home from your time in Amsterdam.
Take a drive and enjoy the famous windmills
Those looking to see more of the Netherlands will surely enjoy renting a car in Amsterdam and driving to see some iconic windmills. Zaanse Schans is a convenient 20-minute drive from the city of Amsterdam, and this site offers visitors a museum of Dutch History on the Zaan River, accompanied by views of 8 gorgeous windmills. Travelers will also be rewarded with a Dutch gin tasting room, cheese maker’s shop, and a pancake restaurant. Drive a little further to Kinderdijk (it’s about 1 hour and 15 minutes from Amsterdam by car) and you’ll be treated to the site of the largest collection of mills left in the Netherlands: 19 stunning structures all perched along a pristine waterway.
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This recently renovated Jordaan hotel, rebuilt to resemble a 17th century canal house, is an idyllic, small, family-owned establishment. It is situated in a prime spot, on one of the city’s prettiest canals and only a few minutes’ walk away from Dam Square. The renovation is apparent as soon as you enter, with a stylish reception and breakfast room. The hotel’s small size, consisting of only 8 rooms, makes it feel all the more intimate and gives it a homely atmosphere. The rooms are all elegantly decorated with either a canal or garden view, and provide all the amenities needed for a relaxing stay.
+31 (0)20 422 2741
This Jordaan hotel is one of the most famous and deluxe hotels in the city. Beautiful inside and out, it’s made up of converted 17th century canal houses, giving it that authentic and traditional Dutch feel combined with elegance and charm. It is one of the Jordaan’s largest hotels, located between the Prinsengracht and Keizergracht canals. It provides a whole range of facilities including an art gallery, fitness center, restaurant offering an exquisite culinary experience, bar, and courtyard. The Pulitzer also owns a traditional wooden salon boat called “The Tourist.” If you take our Jordaan Food & Canals Tour, you’ll cruise the canals for an hour on this beautiful boat while sampling some Dutch culinary delicacies!
+31 (0)20 523 5235
The Chic&Basic hotel is in a great location, at one end of the Herengracht canal, in a picturesque and quiet spot overlooking houseboats and bridges, within 10 minutes’ walk of Central Station. The hotel is made up of 3 inter-connected old canal houses, combining tradition and modernity with minimal, artistic furnishing. The name says it all: it’s simple but offers all the basic needs, with a quirky interior and chic edge. Its location, cleanliness and friendly service make it a definite value-for-money option if you’re looking for a less extravagant hotel in the Jordaan.
+31 (0)20 522 2345
This stylish, boutique hotel in the Jordaan is among Amsterdam’s most luxurious properties. The brick frontage and elegant porch overlooking the Keizergracht canal give it a traditional look, which gives way to a glamorous, contemporary and stylish interior. It has 23 spacious rooms in a range of 5 different types. The combination of glamorous décor and classic style runs throughout, with an impressive bar and Great Room, and traditional Dutch artwork lining the walls. The large garden is a rare feature for canal houses in Amsterdam, and is a hidden gem – a relaxing and beautiful attraction to stay at this exclusive Jordaan hotel.
+31 (0)20 622 5182
From the time you first see the classic Dutch bicycle hanging outside the Bicycle Hotel, you know you have come to stay somewhere delightfully different. Once inside, you discover that its true signature is its environmentally friendly attitude towards guest accommodation and the great neighborhood it resides in. Through solar panels and an impressive recycling program, the hotel manages to strike the perfect balance between profit and planet, and the surrounding De Pijp neighborhood will help make your stay memorable with its blend of hip and multicultural influences. Budget-friendly bike rentals are also available at the hotel, saving you both time and money.
Van Ostadestraat 123
+31 (0)20 679 3452
Located on a large vintage boat near the NDSM Wharf in the Amsterdam Noord area, you really do get the best of both worlds at the Amstel Botel: stay in an up-and-coming neighborhood of Amsterdam while being located right by Central Station. Free ferries shuttle you from the dock near the Botel to Central Station in minutes, and from there it’s an easy walk to anywhere in Amsterdam. Back at the Botel, the surrounding NDSM Wharf is home to a burgeoning cultural scene, and the Botel offers a large deck for those who want to take in the sun and views of the city.
NDSM Plein 3
+31 (0)20 626 4247
Home to three rooms on what is widely considered the prettiest canal in Amsterdam, Frederic feels more like a home than a hotel. Once inside Frederic’s cozy interior, you are treated to an eclectic mix of vintage decorations and wall furnishings, and when you walk out of the door and spot the Brouwersgracht, you are treated to images of Amsterdam you thought only possible on postcards. Simply put, staying here feels like being in on a secret, and even if they are full, they do have some other houseboats and apartments in their repertoire they may be able to accommodate you in.
+31 (0)20 624 5509
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