In Amsterdam, you can wander the cobblestone streets with no agenda, and gaze at the leaning, off-kilter homes on the many canals that wind through the city. The city is so visually poetic, so you’ll be hard-pressed not to find a photo op at every turn. When exploring any new place, I like to venture out of the center, away from other tourists and find the favorite spots amongst the people who live there.
Here are 7 tips for living like a local in Amsterdam…
1. Rent a bike
Everyone in Amsterdam has a bike and it’s the most popular method of transportation. I recommend walking the first couple days of your visit to get your bearings and then do as the locals do and rent a bicycle from one of the many shops around the city.
2. Stay in an Airbnb
Airbnb’s allow you to get a more local, neighborhood vibe when visiting a city. There are many ideal and affordable options in Amsterdam and it’s nice to have a kitchen if you want to save money by eating a few meals in. I recommend finding a place in the Jordaan District, close to the Prinsengracht.
3. Shop at the local markets
Noordermarkt is a nearly 400 year-old market that sells organic and local produce, books, antiques, flowers, clothing, textiles, jewelry and more. It’s a great way to immerse yourself with the locals and it’s located in one of the most beautiful squares in Amsterdam.
Fromagerie Abraham Kef is another favorite amongst the locals. It’s an adorable wine and cheese shop located on the western edge of the Jordaan, just off the Singelgracht (canal). Come here and buy a few cheeses, snacks and wine to enjoy on the terrace of your Airbnb or take to a nearby park for a picnic.
Marqt is a little neighborhood market within the Nine Streets (not too far from the Jordaan). It has organic foods, homemade bread (including alternative bread) and fresh and packaged foods that cater to all types of dietary needs.
4. Explore the local neighborhoods
Get lost in the beauty of the Jordaan and wander through its charming cobblestone streets. Explore the De Pijp Neighborhood, Amsterdam’s most bohemian side, often referred to as the “coolest” neighborhood.
5. Dine at these local favorites
Cafe de Klepel is one of my favorite restaurants in Amsterdam, located within the Nine Streets District. The food is organic and delivered fresh each day. They have an extensive wine list and a knowledgeable and friendly staff. The ambiance is perfectly quaint–you feel as though you are eating in someone’s home. They have a three-course set menu, typical in Amsterdam, that changes every few days. A reservation is a must, as the restaurant is small and popular with the locals. You can also stop in for their aperitif hour (sans reservations) from 6-7:00p or after 10:00p.
Marius perfectly captures that cozy atmosphere you often find in Amsterdam. The menu changes with the seasons and whatever produce is delivered that day. The restaurant is located in a quiet neighborhood just outside the city center. The staff speaks little English but this only adds to the charm. Although the menu is set, they are willing to adjust for dietary restrictions within reason. They also have a meat or fish option, and sometimes a vegetarian option as well. Make reservations.
Balthazar’s is located in the Jordaan District just off the Prisengracht (canal). The space is charming and has an interesting history denoted by the rustic painting on the wall (just ask the servers about it). They have a three course set menu (you can choose between fish or meat) that changes weekly with whatever local and organic produce is available. Make reservations.
Dignita is perfect for a healthy breakfast or lunch. The food is fresh and homemade, and the space is modern and homey. They have two locations–one is near Vondelpark, which I prefer because of the local vibe. If it’s a nice day, have a meal here and then walk through the park.
Winkel is a prized European cafe that serves hearty meals and a renown apple pie. It is in a great location, overlooking the Westerstraat and Noordermarkt. Enjoy a coffee and pastry in morning or a glass of wine on the terrace.
6. Have Drinks at a Brown Cafe
Traditional brown cafes are arguably the best way to drink like a local. Some of my favorite are…
Cafe De Pels is located in the Nine Streets, a favorite shopping area for locals and tourists alike. Take an afternoon break and people watch.
Café De Doffer is an authentic Dutch neighborhood bar located in the Nine Streets. It offers fresh pub food in a cozy atmosphere.
Café Hegeraad is about as traditional, in terms of an Amsterdam bar, as you’ll get. The structure is nearly 400 years old, and the decorum looks so too! The bartender does not speak English, but she’s nice and welcoming. You walk in and smell stale cigarettes and dust–at which point you’ll wonder why I even recommended this place at all. Resist the urge to walk away and guide yourself to the bar or a table and sit down for a cheap drink. Soak in the history and ambiance; people watch–you’ll see some Dutch regulars.
7. Hang Out in the Local Coffee Houses
Bocca Coffee is one of my favorite coffee spots in Amsterdam. On your way there you may feel like you’re walking into a tourist trap, but then you’ll arrive at a quiet street in the midst of the hustle and bustle of the city center. The space is open and peaceful, quintessential Dutch modern. Peek around the back and you’ll see their in-house roasting facility. The crowd and staff are international, albeit locals. I recommend getting a pour over, or some sort of espresso drink. They also offer homemade treats: gluten-full, gluten-free and vegan.
Screaming Beans is another coffee gem located in the Nine Streets. They offer specialty coffee and house-roasted beans. The ambiance is stylish and pleasant. They have excellent pour overs, cappuccinos and other goodies.