Amsterdam is one of my favorite places in the world. The city is downright charming, and there are endless things to see and do. If you’re visiting around summertime, you can expect everyone to be outside — sipping coffee overlooking the canals, barbecuing at the Vondelpark, or biking around the city. In the colder months, locals trade outdoor seating for cozy cafes and bars or ice-skating in the square. There’s so much to love about Amsterdam, but my favorite is the people: diverse and friendly, they make this trendy city feel like home. Something tells me after this Amsterdam travel guide, you’ll fall in love with the idea of visiting too…
Left to right from top: One of Amsterdam’s side canals in spring, sitting on Leidsegracht canal, boating down Amstel river, rooftop views of Rokin street, lattes outside of Sweet Cup Roastery, Prinsengracht canal at sunset, the rooftop of Dutch canal houses, the picturesque corner of Spiegelgracht and the Rijksmuseum, a crooked canal house in the 9 streets.
needed to take it all in
Where to Stay
- Hotel Pulitzer – the Pulitzer refers to itself as “Dutch elegance”, and this description is well-deserved. The hotel is spread over 25 connecting Golden Age canal houses in one of the most desired neighborhoods of the city.
- The Hoxton Hotel – this trendy hotel hosts weekly events and has an upbeat bar and restaurant that’s worth visiting even if you aren’t staying the night.
- Generator Hostel – for reasonable accommodations and a memorable stay, try the Generator Hostel. Known as a ‘designer hostel’, it was converted from an old zoological university building and provides plenty of spaces to meet up with other like-minded travelers.
- Airbnb – there are endless gems to be found on Airbnb. Besides the main canals of Amsterdam, more budget-friendly neighborhoods like the Jordaan and De Pijp are great options. Here’s $40 off your first Airbnb booking!
- Hotel De L’Europe – this hotel is an institution and is known for its 2-Michelin star restaurant Bord’Eau. It’s situated on the Amstel river in the city center, right next to major squares and streets in the heart of the city.
- Conservatorium Hotel – the ultimate in luxury, the Conservatorium is a design-lovers dream. An entry way with a full glass ceiling and rooms with modern touches make it truly unique. Bonus: it’s also located steps from the Rijksmuseum and Van Gogh museum!
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Where to Eat
- De Carrousel – head here for a traditional Dutch pannenkoek (think open-faced crepe). Pannenkoeken come in sweet and savory flavors. Don’t forget to end your meal with a plate of poffertjes.
- Pluk – perfect for an afternoon cup of coffee or sandwich in the picturesque 9 streets neighborhood. Browse their selection of swoon-worthy items for sale while you’re waiting. Pluk also just opened a new location on Berenstraat!
- Foodhallen – can’t decide what to eat? The Foodhallen has everything from Vietnamese spring rolls to traditional Dutch bitterballen. Order the Yuzu cake from Petit Gâteau, it’s such a treat!
- Lombardo’s – arguably the best burger in town, Lombardo’s is perfect for a quick and satisfying meal. Try the lamb burger, it’s truly mouth-watering.
- Sweet Cup – easily my favorite laid-back café to grab a latte. The coffee beans are hand-roasted by the owners daily. Don’t forget to say hi to ‘Sjef’, their basset hound! *Update: Sweet Cup closed its doors in November 2018. For another cozy coffee spot, I recommend heading close by to Back to Black.
- Restaurant de Luwte – this ‘gezellig’ (Dutch for ‘cozy’) restaurant in the Jordaan neighborhood has a rotating dinner menu featuring French-inspired dishes and a picturesque view of Leliegracht canal. Definitely don’t skip dessert here…
- Bar Fisk – a newer concept that combines seafood dishes with the flavorful fare of Tel Aviv. My favorite is the grilled octopus – it’s worth the short bike ride to De Pijp alone!
- Buffet van Odette – situated on a corner overlooking Prinsengracht canal, Buffet van Odette serves seasonal dishes and is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Tip: reserve a table outside for dinner with a view!
- Salmuera – a local favorite, this romantic Argentinean restaurant will make you feel like you’ve stepped back in time. If a dedicated ceviche bar isn’t enough, they also have some amazing cocktails and a mezcal bar. For date night or a dinner with friends, Salmuera is a clear winner.
Where to Drink
- Café ZILT – this whiskey café has a wide selection of specialty craft beer and whiskey. The staff is incredibly knowledgeable about their spirits, and the warm interior makes for an excellent spot to spend time with friends.
- Hiding in Plain Sight – a cozy, intimate bar with leather couches and award-winning cocktails. Reservations are recommended if you’re visiting on a weekend.
- Brouwerij ‘t IJ – located next to a windmill, this brewery with lots of outdoor seating is perfect for a sunny day.
- Vyne – this spot is great for a glass of wine pre-dinner. They also have a very reasonable flight if you’re feeling indecisive (like me).
- Shiraz – one of my favorite wine bars to duck into when the weather takes a turn. This cozy spot nearby the Rijksmuseum features delicious wines and plenty of food options for when a snack craving hits.
Where to Shop
- Gerard Doustraat – dotted with cute boutiques selling clothes, accessories and gifts, this street in De Pijp is exceptionally quaint. Tip: head down Eerste van der Helststraat afterwards for lunch.
- The 9 Streets – filled with trendy shops and restaurants and the occasional vintage store, this neighborhood is a must-see in Amsterdam.
- Nearby Dam Square – start at the Dam Square and wind south on Kalverstraat. For a pick-me-up, grab a softijs (soft serve ice cream) at HEMA. It won’t disappoint.
- Wildernes Plant Store – it’s worth stopping by this picturesque plant store for the photo alone. Don’t worry, they serve coffee – so you can linger as long as you want!
Where to Go
- Albert Cuypmarket – open every day except Sunday, this outdoor market has everything from clothes and shoes, to flowers and home goods. Don’t forget to grab a warm stroopwafel (Dutch caramel-filled waffle cookie) for a pick-me-up between stalls!
- Vondelpark – bike, walk, or picnic at this park below Amsterdam’s canal district. It’s full of beautiful bridges, canals, and the occasional restaurant.
- Bloemenmarkt – get your flower fill at Amsterdam’s Bloemenmarkt (Flower Market).
- Red Light District – besides being home to the world famous red-curtained brothels, the Red Light District is one of the oldest parts of Amsterdam. My advice: start at the Oude Kerk (Old Church) and just wander.
What to Do
- Take a canal ride. There’s no better way to see the city and learn about its history than cruising through the picturesque canals.
- Visit the Hortus Botanicus. One of the oldest botanical gardens in the world, the Hortus Botanicus is perfect for an afternoon stroll. Grab lunch nearby at De Plantage afterwards. Don’t forget your camera!
- Tour the Anne Frank Huis. If I had to pick one tourist attraction to see, it would definitely be the newly renovated Anne Frank Huis. It’s a humbling and fascinating visit. Book tickets in advance, it fills up fast.
- Visit the Rijksmuseum and the Van Gogh Museum – the Rijksmuseum itself is a masterpiece. The Van Gogh Museum hosts the world’s largest collection of his work and is just a stone’s throw away, so make a day of it!
More Things to Do in Amsterdam
These are some of my favorite essential things to do while in Amsterdam! The Rijksmuseum is notorious for long lines, so I highly recommend booking in advance. Visiting the windmills just north of Amsterdam are a must, and the Zaanse Schans windmill tour below meets at a very central location in Amsterdam (literally, Amsterdam Central Station) to provide transportation.
What to Bring
- An umbrella. The Netherlands is notorious for rain and unpredictable weather.
- Floral-print anything. Flower-lined canals call for inspired floral design.
- A backpack to carry the essentials around the city. It’s the easiest bag to bike with!
- Comfortable shoes — you’ll be doing a lot of walking. I wear these brown matisse booties almost every day, they’re the most comfortable boots I’ve ever owned!
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For more of our favorite things to do in Amsterdam, check out where to have a home-cooked meal on a Dutch rooftop, our experience boating around Amsterdam’s canal district, and our tips for visiting Keukenhof flower gardens.
What’s your favorite city to explore? Let us know in the comments below!