The first time I visited Amsterdam, I was 21 years old and did all the things a college kid would do in Amsterdam: spent most of the time visiting all the famous "coffee shops", giggled awkwardly though the Red Light District, snacked on hash-laced banana bread in Vondelpark, wandered around the most touristy parts of the city and satisfied late-night munchies at the popular automat, FEBO.
This time though, 8 years later, I did things differently. Without any kind of plan or itinerary, I wanted spent my 3 days in Amsterdam avoiding the crowds of tourists and experiencing the city the way a local does. I wanted to find the best local coffee shop (that actually serves coffee), eat traditional Dutch foods and try the local craft beers, walk through the less touristy but equally beautiful neighborhoods, get picnics from the grocery store around the corner and see the city from the canals (sans mega tour boat).
Approaching travel that way made all the difference and I totally fell in love with Amsterdam. It's a city that, although bustling and quite touristy, I could see myself living in. We're already trying to figure out how we can turn the Airstream into a houseboat and open up a little quilting studio on one of the quaint streets of Jordaan or De Pijp.
I didn't go to Amsterdam trying to do everything or visit all the museums, or eat at all the top-rated restaurants. I went to explore and enjoy the city - and that's exactly what I did.
Below is a list of places where I ate and drank, along with a few of the things I did, all of which I highly recommend. Enjoy!
- FRNZY in De Pijp - funky, cozy cafe that serves surprisingly flavorful and inexpensive Vietnamese street food, including banh mi, fresh summer rolls and huge bowls of bun heaping with fresh veggies and marinated meats
- Little Collins in De Pijp - a hip little Melbourne-inspired bar and restaurant that specializes in brunch dishes, like avocado on toast, kimchi waffles with a fried egg and hot smoked salmon with asparagus and poached eggs on rye
- Haring met Brod (Raw Herring on Bread) from a street vendor - sounds real weird to eat raw herring with raw onions and pickles, especially when it's considered "street food", but trust me, it's the best Dutch sushi you can get
- Foodhallen in Oud-West - a bustling indoor food market built in a former tram depot with every imaginable cuisine; don't miss the gourmet bitterballen and the gin & tonic bar
- Back to Black in Spiegelkwartier - inviting coffee shop (think your hip friend's cozy apartment) that serves some of the best espresso in Amsterdam alongside tasty pastries
- Bocca Coffee in Grachtengordel-Zuid - surprisingly large and very sleek shop with minimalist menu home to a world barista champion; their cappuccino (or short white, as they'd call it) was the best I've had anywhere
- Venster 33 in De Pijp - a casual neighborhood spot perfect for people-watching at the picnic tables on their outdoor terrace while enjoying beers from local craft breweries and snacking on bitterballen
- Brouwerij de Prael in the Red Light District - unassuming brewery hidden along a quiet side street in the Red Light District with a well-balanced blonde ale and a solid snack menu
- NJOY in Leidseplein - upscale, two-story cocktail bar that at first glance, seems a bit too "VIP room in da club", but worth it for the expertly crafted (albeit very pricey) cocktails made with fresh, house-made ingredients and conversation with the friendly bartenders
- Sterk Avonderkoop in Jordaan - this unassuming market just happens to carry an impressive 1,800 different types of beer (the largest selection in Amsterdam) from around the world, along with wine and groceries; a must-shop for a picnic on the canals or in Vondelpark.
- Sloepdelen Boat Rentals in Jordaan - I HIGHLY recommend renting your own electric boat to tour the canals of Amsterdam, grab a picnic and some friends and see the city (and creep on all the incredible houseboats) from the best angle
- Albert Cuyp Market in De Pijp - a 100+ year old daily (except Sunday) multicultural street market where you can find fresh produce, Dutch cheese and fresh fish alongside clothing, knick knacks, and flowers; don't pass by the freshly made poffertjes (tiny little pancakes) without getting a plateful
- De Hallen in Oud-West - housed in a former tram depot, this multi-use space has a movie theater, hotel, a shop full of locally made goods, galleries, pop-up shops, a library and a huge food hall; pick up a €2 tube of gin mayo from the Maker Market as a souvenir on your way out