It’s that time of year again where bags are being packed and last minute trips are being booked – if they weren’t already! Last year we left it very last minute to book our summer holiday to Amsterdam – and spent just over a week in the Dutch city and surrounding area. Now summer has rolled back around, I thought it was finally time to run through some of my Amsterdam favourites! It’s taken me SO long to compile this list, and go through everywhere I would recommend heading to on your first, or next trip to the ‘Dam – but here it goes. We had a great time exploring the city, and having done a tonne of research before heading there, I was ready to embrace all of the gems.
I believe it was one of my favourite French bloggers Hello Valentine who drew my attention to Ivy and Bros, but a short walk from the main station in Amsterdam, toward the red light district is this quirky little cafe that I absolutely loved. If you’re a fan of cabinets of curiosities, adore clutter and love letting your eyes wander over the weird and wonderful things hanging on walls and shelves with your lunch, this place is perfect. Add to that the yummy sandwiches and drinks, which were some of the best food we had whilst we were in ‘Dam – and this place is a must, right opposite the canal.
This tiny basement cafe is a cute little spot for brunch, particularly if you’re into mid century furnishings, and tonnes of feta. They do lots of different versions of eggs benedict here – and the iced coffee is amazing. This place felt more New York than Amsterdam, and I enjoyed the feeling of being across the pond, if only for an hour or so.
This outdoor terrace restaurant overlooking the water is great for people watching, or boat watching to be more specific. It may seem like an obvious tourist destination based on location – but it’s actually filled with locals – one of whom was kind enough to bestow a tonne of great Amsterdam insider knowledge upon us! The food options are really varied so there’s something for everyone – it’s just a charming place to sit while the sun goes down.
You might not automatically think of Mexican food as a Dutch must-do, but I tend to seek out good Mexican wherever I go. Los Pilones was recommended highly by Amsterdam dweller Andy from Style Scrapbook, and I can see why. We only got to try out a passionfruit margarita on a pit stop, but it was hands down the most delicious margarita I’ve ever had. If you’re a lover of all things Mexicana, the decor and general vibe is just to die for, and it’s super wallet friendly. There are a few locations, so you can find one nearest to where you’re hanging out.
Every blog post I’ve ever read about Amsterdam recommends popping into Anna + Nina, and it’s not hard to see why. With their straw bags, gold jewellery, quirky crockery and generally insta perfect aesthetic it’s hard not to fall in love with everything, even if it does lean a little on the pricier side.
If you’re heading to Amsterdam from London as we were, you’ll find Amsterdam’s ‘Richmond and Kew’ in the area of Plantage. A picturesque, leafy, affluent neighbourhood, it houses some of the nicer architecture of the city, aswell as the zoo, and most importantly for us the botanical gardens, which I would highly recommend for a visit. For a welcome break from the bustle of the city, moving in and out of the greenhouses and between the trees is a really tranquil exercise that doesn’t take too long. We walked around in about an hour, having seen everything, and for only €8-9 it’s a nice little stop. We also wandered up towards the zoo and stopped for a drink under the trees near the giant glass house of ‘De Plantage Cafe’. It’s not a million miles to walk from here for a peruse at the maritime museum if you choose, I just wanted to see the replica of ‘the Amsterdam’ ship sitting beside the museum. We didn’t end up going in as they were due to close, and we didn’t want to spend all of our trip indoors but the view across the waterway is just as impressive!
We decided to explore Amsterdam Noord on bikes, so that we could get a good look at the ‘reclaimed’ industrial area of NDSM Wharf, and also ride a little further out to the city limits, and see some of the old towns – a little of more rural Holland. Having hired bikes at Amsterdam station we took the free ferry from right outside, across the water to Amsterdam Noord. We started off riding to the old town of Buiksloterdijk to marvel at the tiny rows of beautiful houses, and passed an original mill, D’Admiraal. We hit the city limits and doubled back to NDSM Wharf. I know that this area, particularly Pllek etc are must-visits for some – we did enjoy a drink on the ‘beach’ and also explored the area around De Ceuvel, but I wouldn’t necessarily add it to must-see list – we much preferred the tiny towns further up the way and the peaceful villages.
After a long day cycling most of Amsterdam Noord we headed out to Westergasfabriek to spend an evening wandering in the sunshine. A converted gasworks, complete with gardens, market, independent businesses and restaurants, this place is perfect for mooching. We ate at Westergasterras, a super casual restaurant/bar with great tapas-esque dishes that we loved and would recommend. After a wander through the gardens you can dip your feet in the pond, or if the weather isn’t as nice – challenge your friends to old arcade games at bar/restaurant/arcade Ton Ton Club. A Sunday farmers market is hosted here once a month which we sadly missed, but would be a great way to spend a lazy Sunday.
One of the main reasons we headed to De Pjip was Coffee and Coconuts – the uber cool, California inspired, surf shack brunch spot of dreams. This is one of those places that truly is as good, and tastes even better than it looks on the ‘Gram. I loved the casual atmosphere, and the fact that despite its reputation it wasn’t crammed busy, nor did it have ridiculous brunch queues. We wandered in and right to a great table, one of their suspended bench tables – that I desperately want to recreate at home. The scrambled eggs and NYC deli sandwiches we had were delicious, but the iced coffee was practically otherworldly and I am not one to say that, as I’m not a coffee snob, as long as it’s caffeinated I will usually drink it.
Things I Like Things I Love was a cute boutique we popped into right across the street from Coffee and Coconuts – we headed back towards Central on foot from De Pijp, passing tonnes of lovely antique stores with even lovelier owners. If you love looking at treasure and walking though stores as if they’re museums themselves, head towards Museumplein via De Pjip and there are so many great ones. If you’re into skate garb, there are some great independent skate shops here too, stocking well-loved and more under-the-radar brands.
One of my number one things I wanted to do in ‘Dam was visit Foodhallen, having heard so many things about the range of food on offer. I’ll reluctantly admit that I can be a bit of a picky eater – and this kind of place just takes all the annoyance out of picking a place to eat that everyone will like. A massive shed, basically, or hall, filled with every kind of food stall you can imagine, complete with live band and buzzy bar – what’s not to love? (If you’re London based it’s basically like Mercato Metropolitano). We got cocktails from the bar and then went for a huge platter of sharing tacos from Taqueria Lima – the best choice ever. Like I said, I seek out Mexican food wherever I go…their sharing platter is a great choice so you can try every type of taco they do – like Russian Roulette, but way tastier. The store Maker Market in De Hallen is also great for a browse pre or post eating, and is loaded with gifts and non-tacky souvenirs your friends will actually want.
Jordaan is a hive of independent shops, cafes and little stalls – and it’s hard to pinpoint one particular place to visit. Pick a street and just have a wander around all the boutiques until you need a pick-me-up from a little restaurant or cafe along the way. Special mentions go to the super Wes Anderson store that is Concrete Matter, Koffiehuis De Hoek for their incredible (and huge) apple pancakes, Laura Dols for pure sugary, honest-to-God, straight-out-of-Betty-Draper’s-wardrobe vintage, Juffrouw Splinter if you love clutter and are always collecting unique home pieces, and Begijnhof for the history and to spot the oldest house in Amsterdam.
That’s it for my Amsterdam guide and must-see spots. In my next post we’ll be heading out of Amsterdam into more of rural Holland, and I’ll be chatting about where we stayed further out of town, with a great Airbnb recommendation! Stay tuned. If you want to keep up to date with adventures, and see more from the trip, I’m always updating Instagram and Insta Stories / Highlights with even more – follow me there @sheheartsthehighstreet.
Until next time…