So you’ve seen all the museums and art galleries, and now the red light district and the coffee shops are starting to grate. If you want to discover a little more from this great city then here are ten of our favourite things to do in Amsterdam for travel snobs…
1. Explore one of the best streets in town
Herenstraat was our favourite street in the Jordaan district, although the whole of the Jordaan area should be explored if you have the time. If you imagine a smaller Dutch version of London’s Soho or New York’s Greenwich village then you’re on the right lines. Take a handful of boutique shops, some excellent design shops, restaurants you’d give your right arm to be seen in and throw in lots of beautiful types and pretty cobbled streets and you have the Herenstraat street area. There are also plenty of very similar streets covering most of the upper part of the Jordaan area.
2. Visit the Totalitarian Art Gallery
This place has the feel of an old curiosity shop from a different era. It’s actually a very eclectic collection of propaganda, including paintings, signs, toys and other memorabilia collected from countries with very dark pasts. There are also some random oddities thrown into the mix. The Totalitarian Art Gallery might not be for everyone but it definitely makes an interesting stop in the Jordaan area especially if you’re a history fan.
3. Hang out at Cafe Kobalt
If you’re looking for a traditional Brown cafe/bar to mingle with the locals then try Cafe Kobalt. It’s housed in a 17th century ex-warehouse located very near the famous Singel canal. Reasons to visit? Cosy surroundings, good food, generously proportioned drinks and one of the friendliest atmospheres in town. They also have a DJ on a Friday nights and live Jazz on Sundays. Just try it, you won’t be disappointed.
4. While away a few hours in Nieuwmarkt
This large square is one of the oldest parts of Amsterdam. It’s overlooked by an attractive looking castle complete with gates and turrets known as De Waag. Although located in the middle of the Red Light District, it has a more relaxed vibe than other central parts of the city. Nieuwmarkt has everything from funky bars and cafes to Buddhist temples and even – unusually for this area – a convent. If you are looking for things to do in Amsterdam there is a also a daily market, an organic food market on Saturdays and an antique market on Sundays. Although the real reason you should visit is to sit with a coffee or a beer and people watch for a few hours.
5. Try an award winning cocktail
The Vesper cocktail bar is another great place in the Jordaan area (can you see a pattern forming here?) It’s a small ’boutique’ cocktail bar named after Vesper Lynd, the only woman James Bond ever loved. The bar has an understated classiness about it but it’s the little details that really make this place. There’s a tattered James Bond novel on the top shelf, a retro Schweppes soda stream and a portable shaker set housed in a little leather suitcase, of course not forgetting cocktails mixed to perfection by an award winning bar team.
6. Hunt for bargains at Waterlooplein Flea Market
If you head towards the city’s beloved Waterlooplein area you’ll find a daily outdoor flea market with over 300 stalls. This place has everything you’d expect from a Amsterdam flea market ranging from second hand army gear and Che Guevara T-shirts to antiques and general bric a brac (you’ll even find cheap canned spray paints which supply the city’s graffiti artists). It’s located in the quiet former Jewish quarter next to the Amstel river and you’ll have plenty of traditional cafes and restaurants to choose from if you want to stretch out your stay in this area a bit longer.
7. Eat out at Humphrey’s Restaurant
Humphrey’s restaurant bridges the gap between a good value eatery and a trendy restaurant. These kind of places are quite hard to find, hence the reason it has made the list. For around €20 you get a decent 3 course meal in homely but contemporary surroundings (think wooden floors, dark decor and plenty of bookcases). An evening out at this price in an otherwise fairly expensive capital is quite unusual, it’s just a shame more cities don’t have places like this.
8. Wander the Nine Streets
This is another area in the Jordaan district you shouldn’t miss. Nine Streets is made up of three-by-three-blocks of roads prettily interwoven with canals. You’ll find lots of independent shops selling everything from hand made jewellery to vintage chic and there’s also some very unusual stores you won’t find anywhere else – one barber shop even doubles as an art gallery. Make sure you stop for a coffee at one of the many canal-side cafes to take it all in for a bit.
9. Stop for lunch at La Place restaurant & food hall
We stumbled across this food hall purely by accident. It’s actually part of the Vroom & Dreesman department store (one of the largest stores in the Netherlands) which is located at the end of Rokin near Muntplein. Easily one of the nicest places in Amsterdam for a healthy self-service lunch, you can choose from the most colourful salads you’ll probably ever see, freshly baked bread, sandwiches and cakes, a huge variety of fresh soups and juices. Even noodles and pizza. Alternatively try the fresh meat and fish sections to pick up something to cook later.
10. Return to a different era
Most visitors to Amsterdam find time to squeeze in at least one canal trip and there is definitely no shortage of boat tours to choose from. If you’re a person who likes to do things a little differently then consider the paddle wheeler Kapitein Kok. This authentically old fashioned boat regularly hosts popular Twenties parties complete with paparazzo style photographers, professional Charleston dance teachers, a roulette table and a strict prohibition era dress code.
Although, if you want to skip the water altogether then why not try the Bootleg Party? This secretly located party is regularly hosted in an speakeasy-style club and you’ll need to be dressed in 1920s clothing to gain access. Once inside, the bootleg alcohol will be flowing and live jazz and other nostalgic entertainment will have you swinging until the early hours.
I hope you’ve liked our suggestions, they should keep you occupied for a three day city break. Although if you want to explore a little further afield you should definitely try Rotterdam and the other great Dutch city Utrecht.
Want to stay somewhere unique? Check out our Top 10 cool and unusual Hotels in Amsterdam.