I am trying to write this post for quite some time now. It is about what I would recommend you to see while in Amsterdam, depending on the area you choose to explore.
In what comes next, I am going to let you know the name of those places where I like to go and eat or have a coffee, but, what I care of most, I am going to share with you my favourite walks in the city, that is where to go before you get yourself in that café to have your cup of coffee. As, while I do remember some places where I dined or had a drink while traveling, the memories I cherish the most are those of the walks I had down the streets of the city I was visiting. I hope this goes for you as well. 🙂
To start with, Amsterdam is divided into seven districts: Centrum, West, Zuid (South), Oost (East), Noord, Nieuw-West, Zuid-Oost and Westerpoort (which is not considered a district from the administrative point of view). My recommendations will cover the first four districts.
* * *
1. Amsterdam Centrum
Amsterdam Centrum means the Old Centre (Old Side & New Side), Nieuwmarkt & Lastage, Canal Belt West, Canal Belt South, Haarlemmerbuurt & Western Islands, Jordaan, Weteringschans, Plantage and Eastern Islands.
Extremely crowded in some areas (Old Centre, Jordaan) and very slow paced in others (Eastern Islands, Western Islands, Plantage), with touristic attractions coexisting with places frequented by locals, the Centre of Amsterdam has something to please everyone`s taste.
When in the Centre, I like to go for a walk in peaceful areas, such as: Entrepotdok, Prinseneiland, Lastage, Nieuwe Prinsengracht, Nieuwe Keizersgracht, Sarphatistraat. I sometimes ignore the crowds and go to the most picturesque (and busy) part of Amsterdam – the Jordaan. My favourite walks in Jordaan include the Brouwersgracht, Egelantiersgracht, Bloemgracht and Noordermarkt.
For shopping (that is, for spending money on photobooks), my favourite shops are located on the 9 Streets, Utrechtsestraat and Haarlemmerstraat / Haarlemmerdijk. Talking about photobooks, I simply go “mental” when I step inside at Mendo! Is there anything in that shop I wouldn`t want to bring home? Hardly.
My favourite cafés, bars and places to have a bite in the Centre are Bloem (because it`s at the beautiful and quiet Entrepotdok and because they are 100% organic and tasty), Orloff (the right terrace to enjoy a glass of beer in the sun in the company of a delicious Lebanese pizza), Hannekes Boom (because it is by the water and you can sit on the grass, watching the boats passing by), Brecht (hard to find a seat in this Berlin-style living room, even on a Tuesday evening, but it is definitely worth trying!), Kriterion (because it`s low-key and they also have movies), Small World Catering (healthy and delicious sandwiches and juices) and Winkel (touristy, busy, but definitely the best apple tart in Amsterdam and the best view towards the Noordermarkt).
For a nice, flawless dinner, I recommend De Belhamel (probably the most romantic restaurant in Amsterdam) and Levant (Oriental cuisine in an elegant décor). I heard god things about Cinema Paradiso, Mazzo and Nomads, but I still haven`t tried them yet.
2. Amsterdam West
It is a cultural diverse district, with interesting places to hang out which in some cases are hidden along quiet residential streets.
When in the West, I like to walk along the Bilderdijkstraat, Da Costakade and Overtoom. The typical Amsterdam houses flanking these streets, the non-pretentious air, the lack of tourists and the sense of genuine – all these have always attracted me in this part of the city. And if I`m not on any of these streets, then you can find me in Westerpark, the cultural playground of Amsterdam.
For brunch in the West I recommend Dish Global Kitchen (you have to try their scones!), Staring at Jacob and De Bakkerswinkel (the one located in Westerpark is my favourite). Have a beer in the sun on the terrace at Westergasterras (also in Westerpark) and a glass of wine plus some really delicious bites at my favourite neighbourhood bar in Amsterdam: Oslo, in Surinameplein area.
If in need of a more elaborated meal, pass by Peperwortel for a takeaway or stop for dinner at Addis Ababa, a family run restaurant serving genuine Ethiopian cuisine in a cosy, non-pretentious surrounding and at a very good price, too.
Lastly but not least, if hungry, not in the mood to eat out and not knowing what to cook at home, just pay a visit to Bilder & De Clercq and they will tell you what to cook, how to do it and will even provide you with all necessary ingredients plus the matching bottle of wine!
3. Amsterdam Zuid
While Museumkwartier and De Pijp are more touristy areas, the other ones are extremely quiet. Amsterdam Zuid (with few exceptions) is considered a posh area to live in and the shops will reflect this. De Pijp remains however a youth hotspot, a mix of cultures, one of the most vibrant neighbourhoods in Amsterdam and definitely not posh.
I can`t say I have a favourite street to walk on while in Amsterdam Zuid, but I just love to “get lost” in the labyrinth formed by the narrow, cosy streets in De Pijp, definitely my favourite area in the South. The Vondelpark is also beautiful, but far too crowded for my taste. So instead of walking in the park, I like to admire its surroundings, especially those areas with big, elegant mansions.
I don`t remember ever going for a coffee in the South – although I am sure there are plenty of options! – but I have definitely had some good experiences when it comes to food. I still remember the nice brunch at Bakers & Roasters, the big, healthy and tasty salad I had at SLA (which literally means “salad” in Dutch) and the absolutely amazing dinners at Mamouche, the North African restaurant. For the latter, I have to warn you that sometimes you need to have a lot of patience, as the service is not among the fastest. But the food is definitely worth the waiting.
For a (very) good glass of wine, stop at the WijnBar, right in the heart of De Pijp!
4. Amsterdam East
East has always been my escape. Even when I was living in the West, I remember I wanted to go to see Oosterpark, Flevopark, IJburg… East is loved by Amserdammers and almost completely ignored by the average tourist. It might not be as attractive as other places in the city, but it surely has its treasures and I am always happy to enjoy them.
My favourite place to explore is the East? The Eastern Docklands! The first time I set foot in the Eastern Docklands, I completely fell in love with this modern area of Amsterdam and it still is the place where I insist to take my friends when they come to visit. It`s peaceful, residential and it`s special.
For good coffee and brunch, Bar Bukowski is on top of the list and I cannot wait to go again as the menu looked very interesting! Still on the to do list: Beter & Leuk and Coffee Bru. I`ll probably try one of them this weekend.
My favourite places to hang out in the East are, for quite some time, Roest (a beach bar, very popular among Amsterdammers, especially on warm Summer days), Studio K (a former school in Indische Buurt, now a cinema, club, bar and restaurant, where you can have the best veggie burger in Amsterdam) and Zouthaven (buying a beer or glass of wine from Zouthaven and enjoy it on the wooden steps in front of the restaurant, right by the water, preferably at sunset).
* * *
These are for now my favourite places in Amsterdam, with a lot more to be discovered. This is where I like to go and this is where I take my friends when they come to visit. It is also what I am recommending to you. Enjoy!