It’s an international hub… It’s a bikers’ city… It’s Amsterdam! With 8.7 million foreign visitors each year, Amsterdam is both the most cosmopolitan meeting point in the Netherlands and an undoubtedly exciting tourist destination. Even though some visitors wisely stick to some of the traditional tourist to-do-lists guidelines – after all, it is hard to ignore the stunning Rijksmuseum – it is worth wondering; where do all the locals go?
The rapid expansion of the city’s permanent population (nearly 18,000 new residents in 2015-2016) is continuously redefining Amsterdam’s dos and don’ts. And with many locals avoiding the city centre because of the tourists’ uncanny biking skills and excessive traffic, it’s worth taking a sneak peek to the real, off the beaten path Amsterdamer favourites!
Unconventional Things to Do in Amsterdam Off the Beaten Path
Put off by the extra energetic fellow tourists waiting in line for the Van Gogh museum? Already visited the city and coming back for more? No matter why you wish to take an off the beaten path to Amsterdam, be safe on your bike and take a ride with us to check out some of the city’s local gems!
Also, for those who intend to indulge in “greener” activities, you can find a list of the best coffeeshops in town by visiting our friends at Coffeeshop Guru. Hey! We don’t judge 😉
Where to Eat in Amstedam (like a local)
Food is ample in Amsterdam. The city is filled with restaurants of all cuisines, takeaways and fast-food places. If you don’t want to be stuck in overfilled and overpriced restaurants when you’re hungry (hangry), take a look at some of the insider tips!
Have a Picnic
There is nothing better than a fresh, relaxing picnic in Vondelpark, Amsterdam’s largest city park. After a full day around the Museumplein district, get your supplies from a local supermarket, find a sunny spot in the Vondelpark and lay back! With Amsterdamers never missing the opportunity to sunbathe in the park, you’re very likely to experience Dutch culture as it is; don’t forget to comment on the weather and on how gezellig the situation is!
Gezellig [ɣəˈzɛləx]: a – untranslatable to English- Dutch word which can be used to mean everything from fun to cosy, friendly, comfy or snuggly. Just about everything can be gezellig, but when it is, it’s definitely commented upon!
FEBO is Amsterdam’s favourite fast-food chain. Founded in the city in 1941, FEBO has an automatic food serving format. Using local products and offering high quality and value-for-money, FEBO is locals’ most prized fast-food chain. Just don’t forget to try the frikandel!
frikandel [frikɑnˈdɛl]: a traditional Dutch snack, a sort of minced-meat hot dog of which the modern version was developed either in 1954 or in 1958/1959. The history of this snack goes back to the 17th century.
Discover Off the Beaten Path Amsterdam Neighbourhoods
Amsterdam is not particularly big, especially when compared with other major metropolitan cities of the world. It is, however, very densely populated and with the continuous expansion of tourism, some neighbourhoods are often virtually unbearable. And we don’t mean that you shouldn’t check out the Red-Light District; we just mean that when the headache starts kicking in, you can find shelter in some stunning, less crowded neighbourhoods!
Check out the Westergasfabriek
The Westergasfabriek, former gasworks site and reopened as a creative complex in 2003, is a spot that’s never going to be boring. Located inside the second major park of the city, the Westerpark, the Westergasfabriek complex offers anything from excellent food to galleries and creativity to great nightlife.
Amsterdam Noord (North)
Undoubtedly one of the most up and coming neighbourhoods of Amsterdam, Noord is across the water and behind the city’s Central Station. Combining innovative architecture, with traditional building facades, street art and waterside hangouts, Noord is an Amsterdam favourite. And keep in mind that a bit of flea market shopping in Europe’s largest outdoor market never hurt anybody. So, take the ferry for free from the Central Station, admire the North’s hidden beauties and check out the IJ-Hallen flea market!
In Amsterdam West, there is an area, which despite its proximity to the city centre, has not become unbearably overcrowded yet. With most tourists going until a certain point on Kinkerstraat and then going back towards the Dam Square, De Baarsjes keeps the concept of local neighbourhood real.
Many artists and students live in this vibrant and fresh neighbourhood. Bars and restaurants are hidden in every corner. Take a leap of faith and get lost in De Baarsjes; if you’re lucky, you might even stumble upon one of the local markets!
Amsterdam Oost (East)
Amsterdam East is one of the newest but also most underestimated (tourist-wise) spots in Amsterdam. Fifteen minutes from the city centre, the Oost is home to students, families, young professionals and international locals. The beautiful Indische Buurt, with its distinct squares and markets, is more than worth a visit! In the area, you can find Studio/K, watch a movie and then enjoy a drink on the lively Javastraat.
Interesting Museums (That Are Not the Rijks)
Foam (aka Fotografiemuseum Amsterdam)
Foam is Amsterdam’s principal museum of contemporary photography. The museum cooperates with artists from all over the globe and puts forth well curated regular exhibitions. Foam is active in bringing international emerging and experienced photographers together.
It also has its own Foam Magazine, with three issues a year, each dedicated to a specific theme. No matter whether you’re an aspiring photographer or someone who just enjoys their occasional cultural immersion, the Foam should be added to your Amsterdam to-do list!
- Opening Hours: Monday – Sunday from 10 am to 6 pm, Thursday & Friday from 10 am to 9 pm.
- Admission Fee: Adults: € 12.50, Students: € 9.50, Children up to 12 years: free, Museum card or I Amsterdam Card: free
- Address & How to get there: Keizersgracht 609, 1017 DS Amsterdam
- By subway:
- From Amsterdam Central: route 52, direction Zuid (Vijzelgracht stop)
- From station Zuid: route 52, direction Noord (stop Vijzelgracht)
- From Amstelstation: route 51, 53, 54, direction Amsterdam Centraal (Waterlooplein stop)
- By Tram:
- From Amsterdam Central: tram 24 (Muntplein stop); 4 or 14 (stop Rembrandtplein); 2, 11 or 12 (Koningsplein stop)
- From Sloterdijk station: tram 19 (Spiegelgracht stop)
Situated at the Jordaan, and first opened in 1999, the Electric Ladyland museum is one of a kind. The museum is (the first museum) devoted to fluorescent art! Minerals and artworks are exposed to ultraviolet light and create a unique experience for visitors. Interesting in learning how different wavelengths can immerse common and not so common rocks in different bedazzling colours? Book your tour at the Electric Ladyland!
- Opening Hours: Wednesday – Saturday from 2 am to 6 pm, by appointment only, send an e-mail to www.electricladyland.appointy.com
- Admission Fee: Adults: € 5.00, Children under 12: free
- Address & How to get there: Tweede Leliedwarsstraat 5, 1015 TB Amsterdam
- By Tram:
- From Amsterdam Central: tram 3 (Marxinplein stop); 18 or 21 (stop Frederik Hendrik Plantsoen)
- From Sloterdijk station: tram 19 (Marxinstraat stop)
Find the Best View in Amsterdam
Want to see Amsterdam from above? Blue Amsterdam is a restaurant – café offering a beautiful panoramic view of Amsterdam. Located in a glass tower (yes, you’d have to take the glass elevator), this spot is the best hiding place after a day of shopping in the city centre. Open seven days a week; Blue Amsterdam lets you see your fellow-tourists -literally- from above!
Day Trips from Amsterdam
Amsterdam is a beautiful city which can keep your interested sparked for days. However, it is also quite small, so you will see most of it within three to four days. That’s not to say Amsterdam ever gets boring, but sometimes, you need a change of scenery. What do you if you plan to spend a week in Amsterdam? You can’t just spend your days and nights going to museums, cafes, and enjoying the nightlife. Thankfully the Netherlands is a fairly compact country with a cutting-edge transport system.
Here are the best day trips from Amsterdam, as chosen by our team of travel experts.
Zaanse Schans & Edam
Zaanse Schans is included in most of the Netherlands guidebook, and for a very good reason. This place is one of the most photographed landscapes in the nation. Zaanse Schans is a small village that is home to the country’s most famous windmills (the ones you usually picture when thinking of the.Netherlands).
Old-timey villagers have smartly built the windmills along the banks of River Zaanse to harness its power. This layout has a unique effect on how you see the windmills. Sometimes the water tends to reflect the beautiful structures, giving you amazing photo ops of the countryside. You can ask the locals about the history of some of those windmills to get a better understanding of the place.
Located just next to Zaanse Schans is the deliciously named town of Edam, known for its distinct cheese production. You can go for a factory visit to see how the cheese is made and even sample some of the finished products.
Have you ever imagined a place full of flowers? In Keukenhof, you can feast your eyes on rolling tulip fields and idyllic streams forming a setting straight out of a fairy tale. In Keukenhof, you will find one of the most extensive flower gardens in Europe – there are more than 32 hectares of blooming and colourful tulips.
Unsurprisingly, the Netherlands is the world’s largest exporter of tulips. This amazing flower was also the subject of the world’s first speculative bubble market collapse. During the early 17th century, tulip prices inflated so much that some bulbs ended up costing more than a house. The so-called “tulip mania” collapsed in February 1637, when prices returned to normal.
If you want to see the garden at its best, you should visit during spring when most of the flowers are bursting out of their buds. Keukenhof is a destination of incredible beauty. The central theme of the area is ‘Romance in Flowers’.
Marken & Volendam
Marken and Volendam are two places found in the northern part of the Netherlands. You have to get to Marken first before you can visit Volendam.
Marken is a small fishing town with a rich shoemaking history. In fact, you can visit a shoemaker, and they will show you how to make shoes by hand. We suggest that you try the activity if you want to make the trip truly memorable.
After you’re done doing rounds in Marken, you can take an express boat to the village of Volendam. Here, you get the opportunity to enjoy the beautiful views of Ijsselmeer Lake. When you reach the town, you can visit the local museum to know more about the place. You can also do rounds and buy memorabilia to remember the place long after you’re gone.
Rotterdam is almost as big as Amsterdam. It is Netherland’s second biggest city. While visiting Rotterdam, one of the main places to visit is the Euromast, which is an observation tower that’s 185m high. You can take the elevator up and then go down using ropes. The tower offers splendid views of Rotterdam, including the Antwerp when the skies are clear.
After you’ve abseiled from the very top of the Euromast and all the fear has left your body, you can take a stroll along the banks of the Maas River. After that, you can visit the Old Port to see the unique yellow cube houses. There are many things to do in Rotterdam and you could easily stay for a day or two.
The Hague (Den Haag)
Located on the Netherlands’ coastline, The Hague is just 45 minutes away from the capital. A great day trip from Amsterdam, The Hague is also the home of the UN’s International Court of Justice and the International Criminal Court responsible for prosecuting crimes against humanity. However, don’t let this scare you, as the city is quite pleasant to visit.
Although you wouldn’t expect it, The Hague or Den Haag is the official seat of the government and home to the royal family. It was even the capital of the nation before the early 19th century. There are many palaces and museums to admire in The Hague, such as the Paleis Noordeinde. Home to Dutch royalty since the 17th century, this magnificent building is located in the dead center of the city.
If you are looking for a city with a more laid-back atmosphere than Amsterdam, Leiden is the place to go. Just 30 minutes away from Amsterdam, this charming city was the birthplace of Rembrandt and has more picturesque canals than your Insta account can fit. Leiden is also home to the country’s oldest university, with a vibrant student population pumping life in its cobblestone streets. We guarantee you will fall in love with this cute town, even if you only visit for the day. Don’t forget to climb the 450 steps to reach the top of the Dom Toren and admire the views.
Store your luggage in Amsterdam with Stasher
Trying to discover Amsterdam off the beaten path is no fun when you have to drag heavy luggage with you. Whether you have just checked out of your Airbnb or waiting until check-in opens, leave your luggage in one of our Amsterdam StashPoints. It’s safe, affordable, insured and comes with 24/7 customer support!
Stasher’s “Off the Beaten Path” Series
Hungry for more non-touristy guides? Find more below:
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- Amsterdam Off the Beaten Path: Unique Things to Do in Mokum
- Beyond Mardi Gras: New Orleans Off the Beaten Path
- Athens Off The Beaten Path: Things to do in Athens Like a Local
- Off the Beaten Path: Unique Things To Do In Paris
- Top 10 Hidden Gems in Rome – When in Rome do as the Romans do