From its charming canals to trendy boutiques and restaurants, Amsterdam channels a sophisticated spirit even amid its well-known vices. From standby sights to brand new attractions, here’s how to explore the Netherlands capital.
Where to go:
The easiest way to see Amsterdam is the same way locals do: on a bike. The ubiquitous Yellow Bike (multiple locations, yellowbike.nl) rentals are tried and true, though for a hipper bike rental, Adam Local (Westerstraat 3, adamlocal.nl) offers a more nondescript, all-black cruiser. Another classic approach to seeing the city is a cruise through the iconic canals on a small open-air boat or larger, covered boat. Operators like Gray Line (multiple locations; grayline.com) offer a range of tours, as well as a cruise beyond the canals to the Port of Amsterdam.
Take the free public ferry across the harbor to North Amsterdam for A’DAM Lookout (regular admission 12.50 euros/about $14 for adults, 6.50 euros/about $7 for ages 4-12; Overhoeksplein 5, adamlookout.com), a brand-new attraction that offers a 360-degree view of the city from 20 floors up.
Dutch design is on display — and for sale — at boutiques such as the just-opened Spiegel (Nieuwe Spiegelstraat 2a-hs, spiegelamsterdam.nl), which sells knickknacks made exclusively by Netherlands-based designers.
Amsterdam’s roster of impressive museums include standards like the Van Gogh Museum (admission 17 euros/about $19; Museumplein 6, vangoghmuseum.nl), which showcases the largest collection of the Dutch painter’s work, as well as the brand new Moco Museum (admission 12.50 euros/about $14, 10 euros/about $11 for students, 7.50 euros/about $8 for ages 6-16; Honthorststraat 20, mocomuseum.com), which exhibits modern and contemporary names, from Warhol to Banksy. Also of note, the Anne Frank House (admission 9 euros/about $10, 4.50 euros/about $5 ages 10-17, FREE for 9 and under; Prinsengracht 267, annefrank.org) now offers online tickets with designated time slots to curb the massive queues waiting to see the museum and hidden room where Anne Frank sought refuge during World War II.
Where to eat:
In the past, Dutch cuisine rarely ranked among fellow European powerhouses — raw herring wasn’t something to write home about. But the city’s increasingly global infusion now draws a bevy of world-class chefs and kitchens.
An intimate Guts & Glory (Utrechtsestraat 6, gutsglory.nl) creates monthly menus starring one special ingredient or theme (Italy and pork were recent examples), while Balthazar’s Keuken (Elandsgracht 108, balthazarskeuken.nl) creates a different three-course menu each week inspired by the particular week’s freshest ingredients. And the newish Jansz. (Reestraat 8, janszamsterdam.com) works a mix of international flavors into updated traditional dishes and is helmed by a former New York chef.
For more casual fare, Foodhallen (Bellamyplein 51, foodhallen.nl) is similar to NYC’s Gotham West Market, housing a curated selection of specialty vendors. Among them, Le Big Fish serves Asian-style buns with fried fish instead of pork, while De BallenBar serves Dutch croquettes — bitterballen — with flavors like truffle and peanut satay.
Among Amsterdam’s sweeter classics, the crepe-like Dutch pancakes are worth seeking out. Wait in line at Pancakes! (multiple locations, pancakesamsterdam.nl) for savory versions — bacon is available, of course. Also dig in to a plate of Dutch apple pie, with a heavy dollop of cream, at Winkel 43 (Noordermarkt 43, winkel43.nl).
Where to stay:
The new hostel, Generator Amsterdam (Mauritskade 57, generatorhostels.com), opened inside a former zoological university, turning library halls and lecture halls into bars and lounges. Along the canals, the recently renovated Hotel Pulitzer Amsterdam (Prinsengracht 315-331, pulitzeramsterdam.com) refreshed its classic rooms inside a series of 17th- and 18th-century homes with contemporary vibes and bohemian accents. For an upscale stay, the luxe Conservatorium (Van Baerlestraat 27, conservatoriumhotel.com) weaves clean and contemporary lines throughout a former music conservatory.