Amsterdam offers so much more to see and do than the big-hitting attractions and famous museums. Venture into the neighbourhoods surrounding the city centre to find hidden gems such as inspiring art museums, gardens, historic breweries and unique dining concepts.
- Discover the smaller museums dedicated to Amsterdam’s art and architecture.
- Get to know Amsterdam’s neighbourhoods and their unique characteristics.
- Dine at restaurants that experiment with new culinary concepts.
Lesser-known highlights of Amsterdam
Away from the bustling city centre, an abundance of exciting hotspots awaits in neighbourhoods all around Amsterdam. Centuries-old breweries that remain true to ancient brewing traditions, factories repurposed as event venues and forward-thinking restaurant concepts give you a glimpse of authentic Amsterdam.
Explore Amsterdam’s art and museums
Amsterdam’s rich history and artistic prowess means there’s no shortage of museums and cultural venues. If you’ve already seen the Rijksmuseum (or even if you haven’t) pay a visit to the Moco Museum ,which showcases a privately-owned collection of contemporary art by Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein and Banksy. Amsterdam also has a strong tradition in architecture, and the city’s distinctive style known as the Amsterdam School can be explored in more depth at Museum het Schip. The iconic brick building was originally constructed a highly regarded social housing initiative, which provided 102 homes to working-class residents. The museum explains the characteristics of Amsterdam-School style as well as the social ideology behind it.
Music, film and events
One of the city’s top-rated venues for live music is the Tolhuistuin in Amsterdam Noord. A free ferry runs across the IJ River, transporting passengers from Amsterdam Central Station to the Tolhuistuin’s doorstep. The venue presents a varied programme of music and club nights organised by Paradiso – another popular venue in central Amsterdam. Music, art and culture also come together at Westergasfabriek, the city’s former gasworks in Westerpark. This atmospheric space hosts a variety of events, from food festivals to exhibitions and fashion shows. Another cultural space with a fascinating history is De Hallen: known for the Filmhallen, a boutique cinema, and the Foodhallen, an upmarket food hall serving culinary delights from every corner of the world. The group of spacious buildings, which also include shops, galleries, a hotel and apartments, used to be one of the city’s tram depots.
Hidden hotspots in outer neighbourhoods
Dating back to 1638, Amsterdam’s botanical gardens, Hortus Botanicus Amsterdam, is a sanctuary for rare and exotic plants, many of which were collected on Dutch voyages to far-flung countries. Visitors can wander through the garden, exploring the greenhouses filled with palms and butterflies and the medicinal herb gardens. In the east of Amsterdam, you’ll also find one of the city’s oldest markets, the Dappermarkt, held from Monday to Sunday. Vendors sell everything from fresh vegetables and flowers to clothing and home furnishings. Another opportunity to immerse yourself in Amsterdam’s authentic culture is to visit the NDSM neighbourhood across the River IJ. The former shipyard has been completely renovated. Emblazoned with colourful graffiti, it’s now home to a community of artists. In summer, locals flock to the beachy bar and cafe Pllek (meaning ‘place’) for performances, parties, open-air film screenings and to sunbathe on the sandy riverbank.
Traditional Dutch cuisine
When it comes to dining, Amsterdam offers some exceptional food spots, especially if you know where to go. Many of the most interesting restaurants and bars are tucked away in neighbourhoods outside the city centre. Fries are something of a national treasure in Holland, and Frietboutique in the Oud Zuid neighbourhood is considered one of the best suppliers of the iconic friet cones slathered in mayonnaise – it even supplies fries to top culinary spots like Ron Gastrobar. Next door, IJsboutique satisfies everyone’s sweet tooth with locally-made ice cream flavoured with a variety of real fruit.
Part of what makes Amsterdam’s food scene so interesting is the city’s diversity. The flavours of Indonesia, Surinam, Africa, India and more come together at World of Food, an expansive food court in Amsterdam Zuidoost. Delicacies to try in Amsterdam are Indonesian rijsttafel (a dish almost unique to Holland) and Surinamese roti. Cheese is another Dutch culinary tradition and no trip to Amsterdam is complete without sampling the local products. Taste some of Holland’s proudest exports at Fromagerie Abraham Kef, a cheese shop and tasting room that provides insider knowledge of the cheesemaking process.
Inspired dining concepts
The Vegan Junk Food Bar fills a gap in the market for plant-based food that’s wickedly indulgent, serving burgers, a version of the much-loved deep-fried bitterballen and loaded fries that you’d never guess were vegan. Unsurprisingly, the restaurant is in hot demand, with three locations across the city that are usually busy. With a pared-down menu focusing on mussels and numerous gin-and-tonic variations, the aptly-named Mossel & Gin does what it does exceptionally well. The restaurant even produces its own brand of gin-infused mayonnaise that diners can purchase to take home. And for a dining experience that’s a little different, animal lovers can enjoy coffee and cake at Kattencafé Kopjes, Holland’s first cat café that allows visitors to mingle with fluffy felines.
Sample local beer and spirits
Amsterdam’s historic breweries have kept traditional beer-brewing methods alive for generations. While brands like Heineken have the most international acclaim, the city is also home to a number of niche microbreweries that fuse time-honoured techniques with modern innovations. Brouwerij ’t IJ is a brewery and tasting room in a photogenic location next to Amsterdam largest windmill, De Gooyer. Guided tours offer a glimpse into the brewing process and there’s a spacious terrace outside. Poesiat & Kater brew a variety of beers in their 19th-century building in Amsterdam Oost. This brewery has a strong knowledge of food pairings and offers an extensive menu of gourmet snacks with a beer recommended to accompany each one. Another brewery with an interesting backstory is Brouwerij Kleiburg. It is connected to the Kleiklooster monastery, home to a spiritual community who brew the beer according to traditional monastic techniques – historically developed as a solution to poor-quality drinking water. Its adjoining tasting room, De Proefzaak, offers a selection of dishes along with its signature beers. For an alternative to beer, taste the variety of jenevers and liqueurs available at Distilleerderij ’t Nieuwe Diep, a distillery hidden away in a tranquil corner of Flevopark.
We recommend: Even more hidden gems exist on the outskirts of the city. Visit the reconstructed historic windmill Molen van Sloten or take a day trip to explore the Zaanse Schans, Zandvoort or Haarlem.