Corey and I lived in Amsterdam for two years from 2011-2013 and I have since returned twice since moving home — in the summer of 2015 and the fall of 2017. It is one of our absolute favorite cities in the world and certainly one of the most picturesque. It pains me that to some, the city is only known for it’s legal marijuana and prositutes because that is such a tiny part of this beautiful city. It has perhaps the most recognizable architecture in the world, is full of history and culture and is a must-visit in Europe.
Even though we haven’t lived in Amsterdam for five years I still often get emails and messages requesting recommendations for where to stay, what to do and where to eat, so I am finally putting all this information in one place so it can be easily accessed! As a bonus I have included recommendations from one of my very best friends who lived in Amsterdam with her husband more recently than us — from 2015 to 2017. She has amazing taste in food and drink and I was able to try many of her recommendations myself when visiting in 2017. They are winners!
Hotels in Amsterdam are quite expensive. If you are on a honeymoon or special trip and can splurge I highly recommend The Dylan. It is a luxury boutique hotel in a beautiful area of the city.
We stayed at the Andaz Amsterdam on points and we loved it. The location is perfect right in the nine streets and the hotel design is modern and gorgeous.
If you’re looking for an Airbnb look for places in the Jordaan, Nine Streets, Centrum, Zuid, near Vondelpark or if you want a lively young atmosphere De Pijp is fun!
Anne Frank House (Open daily from 9:00 am – 7:00 pm, Saturdays from 9:00 am – 9:00 pm) – I’d recommend buying tickets ahead of time to avoid standing in line forever!
Walk around the Nine Streets (one of the city’s most picturesque areas to explore, photo ops at every turn!) – very close to Anne Frank in the Jordaan District
Museumplein (this is where you can take a photo with the iAmsterdam sign if you’re interested) and right by the Van Gogh Museum.
Rent a bike and ride around the city (if you like bikes). It’s truly an experience! (To rent a local-style bike, try Het Zwarte Fietsenplan in the city center on Nieuwezijds Voorburgwal http://www.hetzwartefietsenplan.nl/12___centrum-het-zwarte-fietsenplan)
Do a canal boat tour – they only take 1-1.5 hours usually and it’s a great way to see the city and hear some of the history. (I recommend the Canal Hopper for a smaller, more personal boating experience https://www.canal.nl/en/canal-hopper) My best friend lived in Amsterdam for two years and she highly recommended Those Dam Boat Guys!
Walk through the Red Light District. A quick walk, but I feel like everyone should see it as it is unlike anything else I’ve ever seen. Don’t take photos – very against the rules. You won’t want to anyway…
Stroll (or ride a bike) through Vondelpark (huge and beautiful city park). Stop at one of the outdoor cafes there for a fresh mint tea and just people watch. You should also venture outside of the park, the neighborhoods around the park are beautiful!
Favorite Museums: Rijks, Stedelijk (modern art), Van Gogh & Hermitage
You should try out a “Dutch Brown Cafe” – they are typical, sometimes-divey bars where people gather after work for snack and beer. A big part of the dutch culture – you can read more about them here: . A good one to go to near the Jordaan is Cafe Van Zuylen
Skip the Heineken Experience (Heineken Museum) — it’s cheesy and touristy. A more fun and authentic Dutch drinking experience can be found here at Wynand Fockink, where you can taste and drink the Dutch flavored liquer jenever!
If you want a fun activity for the day, love to ride bikes and want to see a bit more of the quaintness outside of the city I highly recommended biking out to Ouderkerk aan de Amstel. It’s about 14 miles round trip give/take and easy and flat (like all of Holland!). It’s quaint little village that sits right on the water and has beautiful architecture to take in. You can grab a nice waterside lunch at Loetje aan de Amstel and fuel up for your ride back to Amsterdam!
Easy day trips by train: Utrecht, Gouda, The Hague, Haarlem, Antwerp (via Thalys train) and Bruges (via Thalys train).
And a couple more recommendations from my friend Jenna who lived in Amsterdam the last two years and recently returned to Portland:
Albert Cuypmarkt – in de pijp area. Old school market with some occasional hidden gems. Eat a fresh Stroopwafle ☺.
Play old school arcade games at Ton Ton – http://www.tontonclub.nl/
De Kaas: For a truly special dining experience. Set in a gorgeous greenhouse. Definitely a bit off the beaten path for tourists as it isn’t close to the center of the city, but worth the trek! I blogged about our experience here and you should visit their website, too! Make reservations!
Food Hallen [Indoor Food Market] – This is new since Corey and I returned to Portland, but we were able to visit when we returned. Super cool indoor food hall with lots of different food options: http://www.foodhallen.nl/
Pata Negra – Cash Only. Amazing Spanish Tapas – VERY busy on the weekends, reservations recommended! Fun place to go with a group, but also fun for just two for some sangria and yummy food!
Thai Bird or Thai Bird Snack Bar – Super yummy Thai in Chinatown, very well known. Be prepared to wait in line for the restaurant or just go across the street and get takeout.
Koh-i-Noor – Amazing Indian food! Best in the city that we found – there are two locations — one in the Jordaan and one in the city center.
Casa di David – One of our fav italian spots in the city – small and cosy – our go-to date night spot 🙂
Burger Meester – Cute burger joint with gourmet options, also relatively affordable
Café George – pretty affordable, good place for lunch (yummy sandwiches and fries) Also, brunch is fun here.
Buffet van Odette – Great cozy spot for brunch or lunch! Would be a nice place to sit and linger with some work or a book while drinking a cappuccino 🙂
De Laatste Kruimel – This is an unassuming but incredible little
bakery. Great place for pastries on a weekend morning, or we’d go here for cheap (but huge and delicious!) sandwiches on weeknights. The owners are a brother/sister pair who work their butts off and the space is super cute!
Cafe de Jaren – This is a popular spot in Amsterdam. Especially great during the summertime as they have an outdoor patio area that sits right on the Amstel. You can go for a coffee, soup, sandwiches, etc. We lived right around the corner so frequented this place often
Pancakes! Amsterdam – Yummy dutch pancakes in the Jordaan. I highly Recommend the smoked salmon, creme fraiche, guacamole, pine nuts one. To.die.for!
Two For Joy Coffee – DELICIOUS pancakes – almost like home – great place for a lazy weekend morning
Bar Moustache – Small and cute restaurant/bar, good place to grab a glass of wine and appetizers with friends or a nice (but spendy) meal
Greenwoods – One of our favorite spots for brunch/lunch. Affordable, yummy food! We never went for dinner, but they do serve it.
Droog: This is as much something to do as a place to eat and enjoy some coffee. If you are into design, this is a must-visit. Droog is an art gallery, hotel and cafe all fused in one. Definitely worth a walk-through and stop for a cup of coffee. And bonus that it is right off the street we used to live on in Amsterdam (Groenburgwal)!
Lastly, my favorite place for a quick and easy to-go coffee was Coffee Company – so delicious (way better than Starbucks) and all the locations are cute and different! You’ll see them everywhere!
A few more recent restaurant recommendations from my best friend Jenna (I wholly trust her taste in good food and was able to try a few of these, which I denoted with an asterisk, when I did my girls’ trip last fall and they were all amazing!)
CANIBALE ROYAL: Amazing ribs and just a good food and drink spot. Can be very busy on weekend but they take reservations.
LA PERLA: If you’re in the Tales and Spirits area, head over to La Perla for pizza. Best in the city, but keep in mind there isn’t great pizza here, they even do take away.
BLEU – Cute and cozy French restaurant in the Jordaan area (close to Ann Frank House and 9 streets shopping).
VAN ‘T SPIT – very simple rotisserie chicken and sides. Cozy, casual, and convenient.
THE DYLAN HOTEL* – nice for tea or wine in a very nice and cozy hotel in the 9 streets area. Have a quiet back garden to escape the chaos.
BAKERS AND ROASTERS*: Great brunch spot.
STARING AT JACOBS/KU KITCHEN: more brunch but also does Japanese food in the evenings. Chill neighborhood and vibe.
LITTLE COLLINS: and more brunch.
MOOK – more pancakes. Less traditional and more hipster.
DIGNITA* – great brunch in a cute restaurant. Motto is eat good, do good. Highly recommend. They have multiple locations.
LOT SIXTY ONE: Some of the best coffee located right by foodhallen.
COFFEE AND COCONUTS*: cool chill place to grab a coffee, cookie, light lunch and do a little work or browse IG.
CAFFENATION AMSTERDAM – Hipster coffee shop, locally roasted great coffee, cool kid vibes. A place to go to get coffee to stay and hang for a bit. Also their hot chocolate is a chocolate bar melted into steamy milk, looks yummy and cozy when you get caught in the rain.
FRIES: Vlaams Friethuis Vleminckx – Suppose to be the best in town and definitely a dutch must eat.
VAN STAPELE – COOKIES. YUM!
WINKEL 43* – Best Apple Pie around. A sugar cookie crust and fresh whip cream make it the perfect afternoon treat with a cup of mint tea (a dutch favorite made with fresh mint).
TALES AND SPIRITS: Fun small cocktail shop that knows what it is doing when it comes to mixology.
WATERKANT: Great for a casual beer with a local crowd sitting by a canal.
WINDMILL BAR* (actually known as Brouwerij ‘t IJ if you can pronounce dutch). Note from Liz: We loved biking from our house in the city center to this cute windmill bar! Fun activity for a day!
OEDIPUS TAPROOM: Local beer that is far better than Heineken.
BAR CENTRAAL – perfect for a small bite and natural wines!
GLOU GLOU* – Natural wine bar. Same owners and concepts as Bar Centraal but in different neighborhood.