Having been to Amsterdam before and experienced it’s famous tourist sights, such as Anne Frank Huis, the Royal Palace, the Vondelpark and the Rijksmuseum, on my second visit, I wanted to experience more of the real Amsterdam. So, I asked a few locals where they’d recommend in preparation for my city break, here’s what I thought of each…
(Reestraat, otherwise known as ‘Nine Streets’, 15 euros for brunch and a drink)
An extremely warm, stylish and intimate café in Amsterdam, Ree7 is my top recommendation for a cosy, value-for-money brunch spot in the city.
With a menu boasting warming, homemade soups and hand-made sandwiches, it’s very hard to choose what to order in this self-professed gastro-bar. But if I were you, I’d opt for the breakfast platter with its multiple options. Choose a base (eggs, granola or pancakes), 2 supplements (jam, Nutella, cheese or ham) and you’ll get a free orange juice too. Top it all off with a pleasant takeaway Chai Latte and your set for a day of exploring!
Tip – Get here just before 11am when it starts to get a little busier and whatever you do, go back in the afternoon for a slice of their Carrot Cake or Apple Pie.
(Eerste Anjeliersdwarstraat 6, 15 – 20 euros on dinner and a drink)
And to think I nearly let this place pass me by. Without a doubt the best tacos I’ve ever eaten anywhere in the world in one of the most unassuming Mexican restaurants I’ve ever come across.
A little dark inside but with catchy Mexicana tunes, Los Pilones has a more traditional interior with sugar skulls hidden in wall alcoves and tequila lining the wall of the bar at the back of the restaurant. Arguably too small for its growing clientele, this place crafts thirst-quenching cocktails and Mexican dishes to savour. Their flour-dusted soft, wheat tortillas topped with a chilli sauce, fresh salad, cool sour cream and juicy chunks of tuna were a dream – I’d go back to Amsterdam just for them.
Tip – Book ahead, this restaurant is garnering a great local reputation so it fills up quickly, especially on the weekend.
(Prinsengracht 60-62, 13 – 15 euros on dinner and a drink)
From the outside, this charming Vegetarian restaurant is hidden by ivy. All you’ll be able to spot from the main canal walkway is the main window and a revolving door, a true metaphor for this hidden gem.
Inside, you’ll be hit by warmth, artistic interiors and a smell that will immediately make your mouth water. Expect plentiful Mexican, Asian and Italian-inspired veggie dishes that will leave you full and your taste buds tingling for days after your visit. I had the smoked tofu kebabs, spinach strudel, quinoa salad and hummus dip, washed down with a glass of white wine. It was honestly the best vegetarian meal I’ve ever had – unforgettable in a word.
Tip – Ask about the ‘Dish of the Day’, it’s much better value for money and practically includes a little bit of each of the menu’s main dishes.
After happening upon this kitsch shop on Instagram, I knew I had to go there. Bright, full of plastic goodness and a vibrant, Mexican theme – who wouldn’t?
As soon as you walk in, you’re surrounded on all sides by so many colours; it’s almost blinding. With a ceiling of piñatas made from characters out of various Disney films, there’s no way you can walk out empty-handed. To put the store’s offering into perspective, I walked out with a scuba diver bath toy, a doughnut Christmas tree decoration and a jingling tumble bear – I wanted to leave with so much more. Go – it’s an experience in itself.
Tip – Don’t forget to go upstairs and look in the reduced section, that’s where I found my bear at less than half price and I was planning on buying him anyway!
(Haarlemmerdijk 70, 10am-6pm Monday to Saturday)
When you read countless guides to Amsterdam, you pick up a lot of ideas – especially foodie. So when I read about this little sweet shop near to where I was going to be staying, it was fate that I’d end up in there.
Papabubble only need sugar, water and glucose to make the most fun creations for sweet tooths the world over. All sweets that you’ll see on the shelves are made in store and what’s more, you can watch them being made. When I visited, both artisan sugar crafters in-store were making a penguin! I watched them for about an hour, asking them all about the process they go through and it was eye opening. I left with a sugar robot and a pair of clogs in tow…
Tip – Take a look at the sugar clumps that don’t quite make the shelf; they’re cheap and they’re massive. You’d have to love your dentist a little!
(Noorderkerkplein, 8am-2pm Monday, 9am-4pm Saturday)
Noordermarket is made up of two bazaars set around the base of the Noorderkerk. On Mondays, you’ll find secondhand clothing and antique gems whereas on Saturday, you’ll find fresh farmer’s produce and blooms from all around Amsterdam.
I wandered around this market on Saturday morning with the locals and their cute little shopping hampers. It’s fair to say, you can’t walk within a few metres of any of the stalls without smelling their fresh produce, no matter what it is – cheese, meats, pastries and much more. You’ll be spoilt for choice among the many different vendors, so it’s definitely worth investing some time and looking for the best price with a couple of laps of the stalls. I’d recommend trying the Pecan Pie, Stroopwafels and bright green Pesto Gouda – free samples are aplenty!
Tip – Get to this market as early as you can, after about 11am, it becomes pretty busy with tourists.
(Stop off points are available all around the city, expect to pay between 10 – 14 euros for 24 hours of travel)
Since the 17th century, Amsterdam’s UNESCO-protected canal ring has been one of the city’s main draws, so I’d suggest beginning your trip with a little urban exploration via boat.
I’ve been on tours from both Canal and Lovers but there are many more reputable suppliers available; both were as good as each other with regular hop on hop off services. Unpack, relax, take a tour on your first day, get your bearings, take a few snaps of the curious Dutch architecture, then take to your feet and begin getting into the city itself.
Tip – With some providers you can get discounted tickets to various museums with your ticket, this is worth investing in for the fast track element.
(Paulus Potterstraat 7, adult 14 euros, child free, 10am-6pm Saturday to Thursday, to 10pm on Friday)
If you love expressionist art, then this is the place to be in Amsterdam. This contemporary museum houses more than 200 canvases as painted by Van Gogh himself, ranging from his early works in Holland to his bold, later works in France – the largest collection of his in the world. Even if you’re not a fan of art, per say, this museum does a brilliant job of walking you through this troubled artist’s mind – fascinating from a psychological perspective.
Tip – Queues can be long, so I’d suggest enjoying some lunch in the De Pijp neighbourhood nearby, then wandering over for about 3pm.
(Anjeliersstraat, Jordaan neighbourhood, Host – Boyd)
Last time I stayed in Amsterdam, I spent far too much on a hotel for 2 nights, this time around I spent just under £250 but on this fabulous AirBnB apartment and didn’t regret it one bit.
Boyd is an amazing host – super helpful with all communications and even gave me a few local tips that I’ve included in here, not bad for my first AirBnB experience abroad. His minimalist apartment is perfect – not only does it look like something out of an IKEA catalogue; it’s in a quiet, friendly neighbourhood too, which is why I have no hesitation in recommending it here.
Tip – Book up on AirBnB ASAP, the nearer you get to your travel date, the more expensive it becomes and the less options you’ll have.
I flew from London Heathrow and back to Birmingham International as a guest of KLM UK via their hub at Schiphol Airport, Amsterdam. My flights were complementary, but return flights with KLM UK from London to Amsterdam start from just £95 per person, or from Birmingham starting from £89.
It’s important to note that all views here are my own.
Have you ever been to Amsterdam – what would you recommend?