I went to Amsterdam in early May and had the living best time. I won a prize from the South African Avocado Association that included a weekend in this fabulous city plus lunch at the Avocado show. I wanted to go for longer because I have a nephew at university in The Hague and good friends who live in the city so I added extra days. I also bolted on a week in Paris but more about that soon. If you followed me on social media you would have seen me share pictures and stories about my trip as I always do (and have many of these saved in my Instagram story highlights), but I wanted to put up a post here too.
The Netherlands has a rich history and beautiful cities but it is not considered a top foodie destination. This is not to say you can’t eat well there, but you could find your best meal in an Italian, Japanese or Mexican restaurant. Expect more of a global eating experience. They have an established and very enjoyable drinking culture, which kind of reminded me of home, so that along with their famous ‘coffee shops’ you could be set for a very good time.
Before I travel I do much research and ask everyone about where to eat. I received two amazing lists form foodie friends that I truly trust in this department. They came from my friend Kristy who lives in Amsterdam, and Jenna who travels there quite often. A lot of people also sent recommendations on social media, so thanks to everyone for all the tips. I went to as many places as I could fit in the short space of time, so this list is by no means complete but here goes.
A few things I missed that you probably shouldn’t:
1. Herring – A local speciality that I just know is not my cup of tea so I chose to rather eat things I would like. Others rave about it. You eat it raw with loads of chopped up white onion and can get it all over the city.
2. Rijstaffel – Many restaurants offer this feast of a meal of Indonesian origin and its something you need to share. As I was mostly on my own I never got around to experiencing this but plan to do it next time. Indonesia was a Dutch colony for over 300 years and only got their dependence in 1942. A stream of Indonesian immigrants to the Netherlands led to the embracing of Indonesian cuisine. Whilst rijstaffel is not strictly Indonesian but more of a Dutch Indonesian hybrid, you can expect much deliciousness and spicy flavour.
Where to eat in Amsterdam
Everyone mentioned this spot and I went twice. You can see the full review with all my pics here. This was a great way to taste a few different things in a casual environment. They have a few fabulous bars so it’s worth visiting for drinks as much as for the food. I can highly recommend the pork tacos from Taqueria, the Dim Sum, the Vietnamese bahn mi, oysters and the soft shelf crab bao.
This is a fun and very Instagram famous concept restaurant where avocado appears in almost everything on the menu. We enjoyed a generous serving of nachos with gauc and salmon poke bowls served beautifully with a wall of avocado. Their homemade lemonade was sensational.
This is another very hip spot in De Pijp (near the Avocado show) that is famous for brunch. The restaurant is owned by New Zealanders and the menu was filled with delicious items. I loved my BBQ pulled pork with poached eggs, corn relish and sourdough toast.
This is a local market where you can pick up an array of street food like: Poffertjies, stropwaffles (freshly made), bitterballen, hot chips with all the trimmings, and so much more. You can buy fresh produce and cheese from local vendors along with cheap clothes and what seems like everything else in between. Walk the length of the market and choose what you want to eat for when you walk back down.
Centrally located on Leidesplein, this has to be one of the most beautiful restaurants I’ve ever been in. I enjoyed a lunch of seasonal white asparagus with smoked eel as a starter and delicious fish and wild mushrooms for my main. The menu is peppered with Dutch influences and local/seasonal ingredients so this is a good place to get something more home grown. They have a lovely pavement café outside too and I’m assured by a friend who lived there that their coffee is really excellent. This iconic venue is part of the stylish Hotel American which looks really lovely.
Kristy recommended this cute Italian restaurant in the Jordaan and I landed up going twice. I cannot resist exceptional and authentic pizza wherever I am in the world. I Loved it.
This uber-stylish gastropub is located below the Wyers Hotel (rated amongst the coolest hotels in the city) in the shopping district and near the station. We popped in for their famed Sunday brunch and enjoyed a delicious hot dog with kimchi and fried onions and a fantastic burger with our bottomless mimosas. They do Bloody Marys too from their bloody Mary bar.
Pancakes are big here and I enjoyed mine at this place on Negen Straatjiesin the Jordaan. The Pancake Bakery is apparently good too
This place was recommended by Jenna and happened to be just down the road from my first hotel in De Pijp so I popped in for a quick dinner. It also happened to me Cinco de Mayo (5th May) so that was pretty cool. I had an absolutely delicious burrito and would go back to this cute place in a heartbeat.
Almost everyone recommended Winkle 43 for their famous Apple Pie and sadly I never got to experience this. I did walk past it and it looked really quaint.
Jenna raved about this famous place that claims to sell the best Flemish fries in Amsterdam and they were really good. I ate fries twice in Amsterdam and these were the best of the two. I’m not sure if they are the best I’ve ever eaten in general (the fries I ate at Five Guys in Paris were amongst the more exceptional I’ve encountered in a fast food environment). It’s a hole in the wall place and located in central Amsterdam.
Food shops to visit
Cheese shops are a must to visit and I loved Kaashuis Tromp in the Jordaan but apparently, Abraham Kef on Marnixstraat is the best cheese shop in Amsterdam and where top restaurants source their cheese.
SUMSUM – I stumbled on this halva shop form Jordan and tasted a few of their 40 odd halvas on sale. I also bought a bottle of the best quality tahini which I’m slowly and frugally working my way through.
Things you should definitely do while in Amsterdam:
Van Gough Museum
It was absolutely mesmerizing to see this much of his work in one place an I particularly loved the exhibition of his work from his Japanese period which I wasn’t familiar with. Make sure you book online before as no tickets are on sale at the museum and then just arrive at your allocated time slot and show your ticket.
*NB – I haven’t mentioned other museums and well-known places of interest because this is my second trip to Amsterdam and I did a lot of that the first time around.
A boat cruise of the canals
This was an absolute highlight and I was lucky that for the entire time I was in Amsterdam the weather was sunny. There was also a rare heat wave and temps got up to 30C so I didn’t get to experience the famous rainy/cold weather. I took a tour with Those Dam Boat Guys (also recommended by Jenna), which was a bit more personal and highly recommended. They take a maximum of 10 people on their open boats and encourage you to take your own drinks to make it a boozy cruise. I’m obsessed with the canals so I think a boat trip is an absolute must to see the city from the water.
This is a huge and very beautiful park and my only regret is I only managed to visit it once. It was on a very sunny and warm day and it felt like the entire city was there having a picnic. Next time I want to rent a bike and cycle through this stunning green belt.
Ride a Bike
This is also potentially a very scary thing to do and I only managed two short rides on my friend’s bike. Both times at night and after I had been drinking (recommended in some ways but also NOT recommended). I only had to cycle behind my mates without having to think about where to go. It was also one of the most exhilarating things I did in this magical city but be warned the locals have no patience if you hesitate. They are equally intimidating towards pedestrian and I nearly got run over a few times. Despite looking left and right constantly, they seem to come out of nowhere. In a city where there are more bicycles than people, it’s a real vibe. I would recommend renting a bike – there are many places you can do this and most hotels will have bikes you can rent, and then take a ride through Vondel Park to get yourself acquainted (it’s less intimidating than cycling on the road). Alternatively, do a guided cycle tour until you have your bearings.
The Red Light District in the day
I have no interest in the night-time party vibes of this famous neighbourhood but it really is so beautiful and historic so I loved my daytime walk-through of the area.
Walk, walk and then walk some more.
I hardly took any public transport while in Amsterdam because the city, when compared to other major European cities, is relatively small. I also love walking so I did a LOT of that. It also gave me the opportunity to stop and take hundreds of photos of the canals and apparently I really like canals and cities with canals (see my trip to Venice last year). Judging by the enormous number of images of canals I have been editing since my return, apparently, I can’t get enough of them either. I have also Googled ‘every city in the world on canals’ because now I have a new bucket list. Coming soon, my post about my trip to Bruges – another city on canals and known as little Venice.
This was my favourite area in the city and the place I spent most of my time. Its beautiful and there is so much to do and see here.
This was my second favourite part of the city and where I spent the first two nights at the amazing Sir Albert Hotel. They are also home to IZAKAYA Asian Kitchen & Bar where modern Japanese cuisine merges with South American influences aka Nikkei cuisine. I cant recommend this luxurious 4-star hotel highly enough. The breakfasts were pretty excellent too.
A few travel tips for Amsterdam
- Not all places take cash (including the trams), so make sure you take 1 or 2 cards with you at all times. A few don’t take American Express, so its best to have your bases covered Visa or Mastercard.
- For very popular restaurants make a reservation. Most will have online booking systems that are very efficient.
- You don’t need to tip in the Netherlands
- Everyone speaks English in Amsterdam.
- Phone – I always buy a local sim card when I travel and I found the best deal was not at the airport where I priced 3 different cell phone company options. I bought a card at Vodaphone near my hotel in De Pijp and was connected instantly. I paid around 15 Euro for 5Gb of data and it worked across Europe too (this is standard now). It’s also nice to have local airtime to make reservations.
- If you visit the Van Gough Museum you have to book online and choose a time slot.
- Download a map of the city to Google maps offline and if you don’t buy local data. I literally don’t know how I ever travelled without Google maps.
- Uber works in Amsterdam and I used it twice to get home late at night and to take me to the airport.
- If you stay near a tram line and want to get from A – B quicker, buy a 48-hour tram ticket which is better value than buying single-use tickets.
- If you are travelling by train from Amsterdam to another country, make sure you book your ticket as long in advance as possible as prices go up daily. There is no such things as last-minute cheap train deals or not that I could find.
- The opposite is true for accommodation and I found that leaving my hotel bookings to the last-minute I was able to secure incredible deals on 3 occasions. This would be very risky to do in peak season or on busy week ends when there is high demand, but since accommodation is really expensive in Amsterdam I think its worth giving it a shot. Use Trivago and Bookings dot com
Other places mentioned that are on my list for the next trip:
The Noord Market in the Jordaan opens on the weekend and Monday (less busy on a Monday).
Hummus DNA for excellent Middle Eastern food
The Nine Streets – a nice shopping area that is charming and trendy.
Amsterdam is such a great city to just hang out in and have fun, so whilst I could have done day trips to other places nearby or trekked off to see the tulips, I was very happy to spend my time enjoying the place. I can’t wait to go back.
Here are a few more pics from my stay
Find me on Instagram