Since DutchPHP is coming up and I’ve noticed a few people asking for tips, I thought I’d lay out some Amsterdam do’s and don’ts. The city’s traffic can be pretty overwhelming and, like everywhere, there’s a few quirks and unwritten behavioral rules you might want to know about. Also I’ve made a few recommendations for places to visit 🙂 Let’s go!
- Venture out of the city center. The entire city is relatively safe, and the city center will be busy and full of tourist traps. Other areas have a much more authentic character (imo), typical for that specific neighborhood. You can find really great spots around Noord, Oost, Westerpark, and other areas. Contact me or leave a comment for my favorites!
- Try Dutch fastfood. Our traditional cuisine is… not much to write home about, but we’re pretty good at fried shit. Try fries with mayonnaise, kroket, frikandel speciaal, kaassoufflé. If you want to experience colonial fall-out fusion fastfood, try a bami-bal.
Identify bike lanes. And look both ways when stepping onto them. Bike lanes are part of the road, so stepping onto them is stepping into traffic. They’re usually red, but not always. If there’s no visually separated lane, just assume the very right side of the road will be for bikes.
Go on a canal cruise. This is one of the few popular tourist activities I recommend. It’s very pretty and it gives you a lot of historical context about the city, its canals and its buildings.
Ride a bike if you’re inexperienced. Bike traffic in Amsterdam is actual traffic. And it’s very busy and overwhelming. If you’re not comfortable riding a bike, it can be dangerous for you and frustrating for commuters.
Take photos of sex workers in the Red Light District. This is considered extremely disrespectful, and something they still have to berate people for daily. Please just don’t do it.
Feel bad if a cyclist yells at you for crossing at a zebra crossing. They’re wrong. There are cyclist that will act like you’re the idiot tourist who should’ve known better. Not true. Cyclist must give way to pedestrians at zebra crossings, even in Amsterdam.
Veer off into the road without looking. I tend to have to dodge people for wandering off the sidewalk and into the bike lane, suddenly, without looking, and with no apparent purpose. This is dangerous! When in doubt, always look over your shoulder when you change direction.
Buy drugs from street dealers. You’re likely to either be ripped off or endanger yourself. There’s plenty of other ways to find what you’re looking for.
Also, here’s some places I’d recommend to visit. I’ve left out the obvious ones that you’ll probably have heard of for two reasons:
- Things like the Heineken Experience are not my jam, and I genuinely think these places are better.
- Whenever I go to a different city myself I like to hear about the hidden gems and not so much about the crowded places everyone’s already seen.
Het Stedelijk is one that I somehow haven’t even gone to myself but I’ve been meaning to go for years. Its focus is on modern and contemporary art and they always have super interesting looking exhibits on.
Eye film museum is an amazing arthouse cinema that doubles as a film museum. It’s worth a visit for the building and the view from the bar area alone. Also, the museum shop is probably my favorite ever. It’s filled with quirky pop culture items.
NEMO science museum is a big, green building in the shape of a ship that juts out of the water. You can’t miss it. Loads of interactive sciencey things. Great for kids but also super entertaining for adults.
Ton Ton club West if you want to sit down, have a beer and some food, but also play arcade games! This place is small but packed to the brim with mostly Japanese arcade games. Bishi Bashi is one of my favorites. They also have that weird table flipping game.
Skatecafe in Noord is a bar that features a mini ramp that people actually use while the bar is operational. You can eat there too (never done it), and by night time the space is cleared for DJs and dancing. It’s often home to weird party concepts. One of my favorite places.
Cafe de Ceuvel is a temporary bar that’s built on soil that’s still unfit for construction. It’s a creative hub with lots of events and workshops. On a sunny day it’s a really good place to swim and have a few drinks in the sun.
Hidden in plain sight is a really good speakeasy style cocktail bar. It’s not a hidden one (which there are a few of as well. DM me if you want info), but it’s as the name says: hidden in plain sight. It looks like a regular traditional Amsterdam “bruin cafe”. The cocktails are pricey, but they’re culinary wonders that smell as good as they taste. You get water and popcorn to keep you sober(ish) between drinks.
Ruk & Pluk is a traditional Amsterdam cafe except for the fact that it’s covered wall to wall in weird decorations. Cheap beer, cash only. I feel like you need to feel the atmosphere here to fully appreciate Dutch culture in all its weirdness and not-giving-a-fuckness. Can’t quite explain it.
Pendergast if you’re a fan of slow-cooked meat. They start cooking their brisket at 5AM and serve it over dinner, making it so soft a butter knife slides right through it.
Drover’s Dog is a great place for Aussie-style brunch (poached eggs, whoo!). I’m a real fan of this one, as I used to live in Australia and haven’t found coffee like they brew in Melbourne anywhere else but here.
La Bella Storia is a really good place for real Italian pizza with great ingredients.
Flora is a really cute little restaurant. It was formed after a group of chefs did pop-up restaurants in different places around town. They do specials like fried chicken day and kimchi kapsalon (a famous fried snack from Rotterdam, but with a kimchi twist).
There’s looooads more. Feel free to ask!
Last modified: April 26, 2019