27 Jun What to do in Amsterdam: cool, fun and off the beaten path ideas
You are visiting Amsterdam and you want to see more than the super famous spots? Then check out this article and experience the city like a local with me! I lived in Amsterdam for 2 years, and I am happy to share with you some activities that are underrated and not the obvious touristy things. So, if you are wondering what to do in Amsterdam, here are some cool, fun and off the beaten path ideas!
What to do in Amsterdam – here is an off the beaten path idea: exploring NDSM Wharf! NDSM Wharf used to be one of the biggest shipyards in the world. It’s located in the borough of Amsterdam-Noord. NDSM comes from the Nederlandsche Dok en Scheepsbouw Maatschappij (I know it’s hard to pronounce if you are not Dutch 😉 ), the shipbuilding company building and repairing ships at this place from the 1920s until 1984. In the 1990s the shipyard was mostly occupied by squatters, and in the 2000s it became a cultural incubator center. Since them, this area is very trendy, cool, edgy and artsy.
Things to do in NDSM
There are many cool things to do in NDSM! Here are some ideas:
- Wander inside the huge industrial building of NDSM loods, the creative space of around 400 artists, designers, architects and designers. Address: NDSM-Plein 85, 1033 WC Amsterdam.
- Grab a drink and something to eat at Pllek and enjoy the views on the sand in front of the IJ river. The menu is made with great quality organic products and offers some vegan options. There are often bands playing music and artists being exhibited. Address: T.T. Neveritaweg 59, 1033 WB Amsterdam.
- Grab a drink and something to eat at Noorderlicht Café, a greenhouse with boho vibes and enjoy the views on the grass in front of the IJ river. The menu is healthy and responsible with vegan options. Musicians and artists are often performing here. Address: NDSM-Plein 102, 1033 WB Amsterdam.
- Admire the cool street art everywhere (there is a giant mural of Anne Frank for example!).
- Hunt for treasures in the biggest and most unique flea market in Europe. It happens once a month in the IJ-hallen. Address: T.T. Neveritaweg 15, 1033 WB Amsterdam.
- Stay in a 5-star suite on top of a crane: check out Faralda Crane Hotel. Address: NDSM-Plein 78, 1033 WB Amsterdam.
- Stay in a 3-star hotel room aboard a boat: check out Botel. Address: NDSM-Pier 3, 1033 RG Amsterdam.
How to go to NDSM
Location: NDSM is located at the North of Amsterdam behind Central Station, across the IJ River.
To get there you can take the free GVB ferry behind Central Station. You will find it on the left-hand side, follow “NDSM” (line 906). It runs every 15 minutes at peak hours, and every 30 minutes otherwise. It takes around 15 minutes and you can enjoy the view. You can check out the timing of the boat on google map (check NDSM-werf in English, or here GVB Ferry line 906 Central Station – NDSM.
My secret tip: You can go on the boat with your bike if you have one. It will make this area easier to explore and you will be able to see more stuff! The area is quite big.
Stroll in the trendy De Pijp
What to do in Amsterdam – here is a fun idea: strolling in De Pijp! De Pijp is a trendy neighborhood located at the south of downtown on the other side of the canal belt (but still very close to the city center). The ambiance there is lively and welcoming! I actually used to live in De Pijp and I absolutely loved it!
There are many things to do in the area, so you can easily spend half a day there. My secret tip: let me give you my best insider tips below for shopping and food!
What to do in De Pijp
Here are some fun activities to do in De Pijp:
- Discover Albert Kuypmarkt, the most popular market of Amsterdam. It’s the perfect place to try some local food and buy some souvenirs. It’s open from Monday to Saturday. More info in my article: 15 Best Things to do in Amsterdam.
- Visit Heineken Experience: the Heineken beer museum. It’s an immersive brand experience that will make you know everything about the story of the brand, visit a 150 years old brewery, and of course taste some beers! More info: Heineken Experience.
- Wander in Sarphatipark: this is a lovely park located right in the middle of De Pijp. It’s very pleasant to have a little walk here around the pound or seat on the grass when the weather is nice.
- Shopping: there are many cool stores in the neighborhood. Some of my favorite ones are Anna + Nina, All the Luck in the World, Circle of Trust, and Blond.
- Eat and drink: De Pijp is filled with lovely great cafes, restaurants and bars. As I used to live here, I had time to try many of them and I am giving you my favorite below.
Where to eat in De Pijp
Here are some of the best places to eat in De Pijp: all of those restaurants are amongst my very favorite in Amsterdam! Many of them are in my article the Best Breakfast and Brunch in Amsterdam. Check it out if you want more info!
- Bakers and Roasters: one of the very best brunch in town. The food is inspired by both New Zealand and Brazil. It’s really good! Address: First Jacob van Campenstraat 54, 1072 BH Amsterdam.
- Rainbowls: for all the smoothie bowl and acai bowl lovers! They are delish! Address: Frans Halsstraat 40, 1072 BS Amsterdam.
- CT Coffee and Coconuts: a restaurant inside a former cinema from the 20’s. An amazing place to eat from breakfast to dinner! Address: Ceintuurbaan 282 – 284, 1072GK Amsterdam.
- Hearth: a vegan/veggie restaurant serving amazing food and more! You will find displayed here some art, some streetwear, and also music performances. The owners are 2 friendly Italians – Marco and Valentino -that will make you feel at home right away! Address: Albert Cuypstraat 208 H, 1073 BM Amsterdam.
- Little Collins: a Melbourne style restaurant serving tasty food from brunch to dinner. It’s very popular for a good reason! Address: Eerste Sweelinckstraat 19F, 1073 CL Amsterdam.
- The Avocado Show: serving brunch and lunch for the avocado lovers! Address: Daniël Stalpertstraat 61, 1072 XB Amsterdam.
Visit Hortus Botanical Garden
What to do in Amsterdam – here is an amazing idea: visit Hortus Botanical Garden! Hortus is the botanical garden of Amsterdam. It’s actually one of the oldest botanical gardens in Europe! Wandering inside Hortus is like wandering in a tropical jungle! If you spend some time here, you will feel like inside a green oasis, and you will even forget that you are in Amsterdam! It counts 4,000 types of plants from all over the world.
It’s composed of a garden and 3 greenhouses.
- The garden features a medicinal herb garden, a large pond, and much more.
- The palm greenhouse houses a collection of palms, palm ferns (Cycads) and tub plants. There is a giant palm at the entrance which is very impressive!
- In the butterfly greenhouse, you will find many tropical butterflies and tropical plants. It’s a magical place!
- The Three Climate Greenhouse is truly stunning! You will travel in three different climate zones: the subtropics, the desert and the tropics. And the architecture of the greenhouse is quite amazing!
It’s open from 10:00 to 17:00 and for longer hours in the evening in summer. More info: Hortus.
Location: Hortus Botanicus Plantage Middenlaan 2A, 1018DD Amsterdam
My secret tip: Dignita Hoftuin, one of the best places to eat in Amsterdam (and one of my personal favorites) is located right close by. You can have a drink and something to eat there before or after your visit! Address: Nieuwe Herengracht 18a, 1018 DP Amsterdam.
Have a drink at the rooftop of the W Hotel
What to do in Amsterdam – here is a cool idea: how does having a drink at the rooftop of an amazing hotel, enjoying a superb view over Amsterdam sound to you? A nice way to end a day of sightseeing, right?!
The W Lounge is a fancy and trendy cocktail bar located at the 6th floor of the 5 stars W Hotel. You will find it in the heart of the city center, near Dam Square. The bar offers a unique panoramic view of Amsterdam. You will be really close to the Royal Palace, quite impressive! There is even a swimming pool on this rooftop! The interior is design and chic.
On the menu you will find many cocktails that will be prepared by a team of mixologists, and also food if you are hungry. There are a few events organized, especially at the end of the week like DJ sessions or Social Sunday’s.
My secret tip: sunset is the best moment of the day to visit the W Lounge and enjoy the view. But do not come last minute if you do not want to stand! This bar is very popular especially at the end of the week!
Location: Spuistraat 172, 1012 VT Amsterdam.
Opening hours: Sun to Thu 07:00 to 01:00, and Fri-Sat 07:00 to 03:00.
Have a walk in the lovely Utrechtsestraat
What to do in Amsterdam – here is a very nice idea: have a walk in Utrechtsestraat!
Utrechtsestraat is a lovely shopping street in Amsterdam, located between Rembrandtplein and Frederiksplein. It crosses the 3 iconic canals: Herengracht, Keizersgracht and Prinsengracht, and is filled with pretty traditional houses which is adding to its charm! The street dates from 1658.
I used to love going shopping here, wandering around, or stopping for a drink and something to eat. I recommend you go up and down the street and also enjoy the banks of the 3 canals.
My secret tip: I am giving you my best addresses in the area below!
Where to go shopping in Utrechtsestraat:
Here are some of the best shops in Utrechtsestraat:
- Sissy Boy: this Dutch brand sells homeland and clothing for the whole family. It’s one of my favorite brands in Amsterdam: I always buy stuff here! Address: Utrechtsestraat 81-83, 1017 VM Amsterdam.
- We are Labels: a collection of independent fashion brands. You will find here some very cool clothes: stylish, authentic and affordable! Address: Utrechtsestraat 36 and 68, 1017 VM Amsterdam.
- Bellerose: a Belgium premium clothing company for the whole family. The items are casual and stylish. Address: Utrechtsestraat 72, 1017 VM Amsterdam.
- Essential Antwerp: this high-quality Belgium clothing brand for women and men is specialized in colorful pieces and luxurious accessories. Address: Utrechtsestraat 145, 1017 VM Amsterdam.
- Samsoe and Samsoe: this is a Danish clothing brand, with a minimalistic and fashionable design. It’s affordable and accessible. Address: Utrechtsestraat 34, 1017 VM Amsterdam.
Where to eat in Utrechtsestraat:
Here are some of the best places to eat in Utrechtsestraat:
- Cheesy Cakes: this is my very favorite cake shop in the whole city of Amsterdam! Spiros – the owner and the chef – is making some of the best cheesecakes in the world! No kidding!!! He is very creative and bakes the traditional cheesecakes recipes, as well as some very original and yummy versions! You can eat there or take away (vegan and GF options). Trust me you will love it! Address: Cheesy Cakes Utrechtsedwarsstraat 73, 1017 WD Amsterdam.
- Meat & Greek: this Greek restaurant is specialized in the traditional Gyros. Here everything is homemade with local fresh ingredients. They also have a Greek salad on the menu, as well as a vegetarian version of the Gyros. Address: Utrechtsestraat 113, 1017 VL Amsterdam.
- Patisserie Kuyt: this bakery is selling delicious cakes, chocolates and pastries. Some would say you can find here “the best apple pie in Amsterdam”. You can eat there or take away. Address: Utrechtsestraat 109-111, 1017 VL Amsterdam.
Admire the 7 Houses Zevenlandenhuizen
What to do in Amsterdam – here is an off the beaten path idea: admiring the beautiful Zevenlandenhuizen! The Zevenlandenhuizen are known in English as the Houses of Seven Countries. It is a row of 7 residential houses, each of them representing the architectural style of a different European country (England, France, Germany, Russia, Spain, Italy and Holland). They were built by the architect Tjeerd Kuipers in 1894. They are not so famous, but they are magnificent! You can find them close to Vondelpark and Museumplein.
- House number 20 is Germany, in a romantic style, characterized by its large gothic arched window and romantic tower.
- At number 22 you will find France, inspired by the Renaissance style of the Châteaux (castles) of the Loire Valley.
- Spain is represented by house number 24 and was influenced by the Islamic Moors style (like in Andalusia). This is my personal favorite!
- Number 26 represents Italy: it’s like a palazzo in a neo-classic style.
- House number 28 for Russia will remind you of the buildings in the Red Square in Moscow: check out its onion shaped dome!
- Number 30 stands for the Netherlands with a Dutch Renaissance style (dark red bricks and white ornamentation above the windows).
- Lastly at number 30A, you will find a house looking like an English cottage: this is the English one.
You will anyway recognize them quickly as the names of the countries are written on the houses!
My secret tip: The cool thing is that you can even stay in one of them for the night! The English house is a charming 2 stars hotel. More info: Quentin England
Location: Roemer Visscherstraat nr 20 – 30, 1054 EZ Amsterdam.
Enjoy the views from the Rooftop of NEMO Science Museum
What to do in Amsterdam – here is a fun idea: enjoying the views from the rooftop of NEMO! NEMO Science Museum located close by Central Station offers a really cool panorama terrace! NEMO is the largest science and technology center in the Netherlands. You will recognize it immediately as it looks like a giant copper-green boat.
Perched at the top of this 22m high ship hull, you will find the highest city square in the Netherlands!
From up there you get to enjoy breathtaking views of Amsterdam, but also a restaurant and the open-air exhibition Energetica. This exhibition highlights the interplay between man and the elements. You can find out about the sun, wind and sustainable energy in a very interactive way! This is really cool for kids, but also for adults 🙂 .
To access the terrace simply climb up the steps on the eastern edge of the building.
My secret tip: I recommend you this place in summer when it’s warm outside. As there is a cascade and some water, it’s very pleasant!
Location: Oosterdok 2, 1011 VX Amsterdam.
Opening hours: every day from 10:00 to 17.30. As long as corona measures apply, it’s accessible free of charge to museum visitors, but if you do not have a museum ticket you must pay a €3.50 entrance fee. It’s closed when the weather is bad.
More info: NEMO rooftop.
Wander in the hip Haarlemmerbuurt
What to do in Amsterdam – here is a cool idea: wandering in Haarlemmerbuurt! Haarlemmerbuurt is the neighborhood located on the West side of Central Station. This quirky area is incredibly hip! It’s a great place to go shopping, have a drink or get something to eat.
The big street composed of Haarlemmerstraat and Haarlemmerdijk has been voted as “Best shopping street in the Netherlands” a few years ago. Would you be looking for clothes, accessories, decoration, jewelry, gifts or more you will for sure find something that you will love! You will find here around 235 shops, a lot of them being independent businesses.
Where to eat in Haarlemmerbuurt
Here are some of the best places to eat in Haarlemmerbuurt: there are many affordable options in the area.
- Vinnies: a cozy cafe serving healthy food. Here you will find all day breakfast and lunch. Address: Haarlemmerstraat 46 HS, 1013 ES Amsterdam.
- Petit Gateau: this is a real French patisserie in Amsterdam! There specialty are Miniminis, little cakes coming in a lot of flavors and colors. As a Frenchie and as a foodie I can tell you there are delicious! Address: Haarlemmerstraat 80, 1013 EV Amsterdam.
- STACH Food: a store selling healthy and yummy food, that is also a traiteur and an eatery. Address: Haarlemmerstraat 150, 1013 EZ Amsterdam.
- SLA: an organic salad bar (sla means lettuce in Dutch). The menu proposes salads and bowls in a lot of different options. They are super tasty! Address: Haarlemmerdijk 50-h, 1013 JE Amsterdam.
Stroll in Westerdok in Haarlemmerbuurt
This is my secret tip: Haarlemmerbuurt is quite lively, but there is also a part of that area that is quieter and perfect for a walk far from the crowd. Go to Westerdok, and you will find many traditional houses along the canal. It’s very photogenic and peaceful!
Those were my local tips for cool, fun and off the beaten path ideas of things to do in Amsterdam! With this list I am sure you won’t get bored visiting Amsterdam!
Do not hesitate to reach out to me if you have any questions and enjoy your trip!