Summer already seems like a long time ago, what with the dreadful autumn weather we’re having, but we still want to share our amazing August trip to Amsterdam with you. The weather was perfect (30 degrees!), and we were shown around by two lovely ‘Amsterdammers’. Here are some tips for when you want to do Amsterdam, the locals’ way.
Get a boat
Most Amsterdammers know at least someone with a boat, so try and befriend a local. We were in for a treat when our hosts arranged to take us for a three-hour trip on the canals, drinks included. What a wonderful way to get to know the city!
If your Dutch friends don’t have a boat – or you don’t have Dutch friends – try to rent one instead. We saw a few Boaty’s passing by, but canoes and pedalos are also an option. Try to avoid the big tourist boats that take you along the same route every foreigner before you has taken, and navigate the canals yourself.
We couldn’t possibly remember the exact route we followed, but it’s fair to say we pretty much saw all of it. (Of course not, Amsterdam has 165 canals.) Here are a few things to include:
** The Brouwersgracht: according to locals the most beautiful street of Amsterdam
** The Magere Brug (or ‘Skinny Bridge’): a wooden drawbridge and one of the most famous bridges in the city, also very popular with lovers and photographers
** The Amstelsluizen: a 17th century set of locks between the Prinsengracht and Singelgracht
** The Central Station
** The Amstel: dare to cross the busy river that gave Amsterdam its name
For specific routes: this website gives you inspiration for a foodie, rainbow, architecture or Red Light District tour on the water.
Feeling peckish? Get a drive-in pizza at San Marco’s on the Amstelkade, delivered straight to your boat! Or navigate down the Amstel and moor at the Korte Ouderkerkerdijk in the south of the city. We sat on the quay and enjoyed the sunset with a delicious homemade salad, but tHUIS aan de AMSTEL, in a characteristic building and with an amazing view over the water, is another lovely option.
Take a ferry across the IJ
The north of Amsterdam, across the lake IJ, is booming. Take one of the free (!) ferries behind the Central Station to NDSM, a former shipyard and now Hipster Central. Most tourists don’t know about this place, let alone actually cross the IJ, so you’ll be surrounded by very relaxed Amsterdammers.
It is hard to explain what NDSM actually is, but let’s say it’s a hot spot for creative people, with art exhibitions, festivals, parties, markets and much more. They even have a Botel next to a Russian submarine, and a hotel in a crane! We have a place similar to NDSM called DOK in our hometown Ghent, and it’s just as difficult to stick a label on that, too.
We highly recommend you stop by Pllek, a café and restaurant with the best view of Amsterdam. Relaxing in a deckchair on their beach terrace was one of the highlights of our summer!
Apart from sipping coffees in seats made out of boats, Pllek also offers movie nights on the beach on Tuesdays, afternoon drinks on Fridays, yoga sessions and live music in the weekend, and free children’s entertainment.
Relax in a park
Amsterdam is a very green city, so enjoy its parks and gardens while you’re here. The Vondelpark is the most popular one, and also one of Amsterdam’s biggest parks, but we discovered a little gem in the De Pijp area. The Sarphatipark is just around the corner of the busy Albert Cuyp market, and has a very English air about it. It’s a rather small park, but very cosy and perfect for a picnic.
The Westerpark is in the north west of the city, and is part of the Westergasfabriek complex. Amsterdam’s industrial past peeks around the corner again, as it does at NDSM, because this used to be a gasworks that supplied the city with coal gas. In the early 2000s, the complex was completely renovated, and is now also one of Amsterdam’s creative hubs.
Enjoy a museum
The city has an astonishing 75 museums, and they’re top-notch too. The most famous one – where you will also meet most tourists – is the Rijksmuseum. This is the Netherlands’ national museum, which houses some of the Dutch national treasures. You can’t miss Rembrandt’s ‘The Night Watch’. The museum has a gallery built to specifically house this masterpiece! You will also find Vermeer’s ‘The Milkmaid’ here.
The Rijksmuseum reopened in 2013 after renovation works that took ten years, and the result is stunning. So ignore any selfies-taking tourists and explore. Bit of a warning, though: you’ll need a few hours.
When we visited, the ‘Rijks’, as the Dutch fondly call it, had a free exhibition in the garden of Joan Miró’s sculptures. It’s on until 11 October, so don’t miss it!
Is there anything we’ve missed? What would you recommend to do Amsterdam, the locals’ way?