Pondering the typical things to do in Amsterdam? You’re thinking bikes, canals, and coffee shops? Of course, you are. Although small, there’s so much more to this beautiful city than elaborate waterways, iconic architecture, and a high concentration of art galleries and museums. So get off the beaten path (or canal) with our top 10 things to do in Amsterdam recommended by locals and see another side to the city. Whether it’s your first time visiting Amsterdam or you’re a regular visitor and want to discover something new and a little bit different, our hit-list will be your new best friend (if your best friend was useful but never actually spoke to you).
We feel like we might get into a little bit of trouble for sharing this one with you since it’s pretty much locals only and not well known to tourists. So shh, don’t tell absolutely everyone, please. WesterGasfabriek is an old gasworks factory turned cultural venue in the dynamic Westerpark neighborhood, which funnily enough is in the west of the city. There's tv studios, a huge park with daily activities and concerts a few times a year, but our favourite thing is the local food and craft market on the first Sunday of the month, so if you’re in town then head down and have a morning exploring the stalls and take your pick of the delicious food on offer!
It would be rude not to visit a brouwerij or two whilst in Amsterdam. A couple of our favourites are Brouwerij de Prael which is the city’s smallest brewery, and Brouwerij Het Ij which is located in a windmill, along with their pub in which you can drink your way through their impressive list of beers. We’re sure you’ll agree, these two sound pretty unique. If that’s not enough for you, de Prael not only brews great beers but is a social working place which means they work with people facing obstacles in the job market for various reasons.
Brasserie De Roode Leeuw
A favourite spot for dinner, De Roode Leeuw is actually part of an upmarket hotel just off Dam Square which serves traditional Dutch food in a perfectly matched ambience. Think dark wood panelling, plush red upholstery, and fine food. You get the idea; this is the one for a little bit of refined Amsterdam elegance.
NEMO Science Museum
Our top pick for things to do in Amsterdam with kids, the science museum is four floors of hands on, interactive science fun. Although to be honest, you don’t have to be a kid to enjoy playing with the giant soap bubbles or experimental chemistry lab. And like most buildings in the Oosterdok, the architecture alone is pretty special, and you’d be hard pushed to miss the copper green structure on the water’s edge.
OBA, The Amsterdam Public Library
You’d probably have found the library without us, but it definitely deserves a mention and is always going to be recommended by locals in Amsterdam. The view of the city from the seventh floor is pretty spectacular, and it’s free. The OBA actually has 25 branches, but the Central Library is our favourite.
Oh, you wanted to go to a floating Chinese restaurant? What a happy coincidence, we were just about to recommend one. This floating Chinese pagoda in the midst of the Amsterdam skyline has become something of an institution, and the food certainly lives up to the reputation. Although they specialize in Cantonese cuisine at Sea Palace, all of your dim sum cravings will be catered for too and the location will be one to remember.
EYE Film Institute
More stunning architecture and a fantastic views (are you sensing a theme?), EYE is a little more than just a museum. Film screenings run from 10am to 10pm, their exhibition program is always innovative and thought provoking and their restaurant which is open for morning coffee through to evening drinks and everything in between has some of the best views of the harbor.
Just next door is the A’DAM Torren, affectionately nicknamed by locals as the Shelltoren. The tower has just undergone a huge renovation, and now has an exciting new revolving restaurant. Pretty special we think you’ll agree. The restaurant, called Moon, is we suggest you dine whilst in the area as they specialize in ‘classical dishes with a modern twist, using only carefully sourced local ingredients’. Unsurprisingly, the view’s alright too.
Loetje aan ‘t IJ
Great food, a fantastic view, a ferry ride from Central Station, and quite possibly the best steaks in the city. We’re sure you’re already been won over with this short description of Loetje aan 't IJ, but just in case we’ll add that they have a terrace overlooking the water, perfect for sunny evenings with a glass of wine in hand.
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