Amsterdam has a special vibe all its own. It doesn’t have the glitz and glamour of bigger European cities like London or Paris, its draw is more understated. When you visit Amsterdam make sure that after you’ve visited the museums, coffee shops and the red light district, you get a chance to discover the city from a local’s point of view – after all, those of us who live here don’t spend all our free time in museums and coffee shops!
The gezelligheid (coziness) of the city is what makes it special. Though to many people coziness is associated with finding warmth from the cold, the Dutch sense of coziness is equal to that relaxed feeling you have when you have great company and great surroundings. And that’s the feeling you should have on your visit to Amsterdam.
Want to reach gezellig zen yourself? Look no further for things to do in Amsterdam. Check out these tips from Amsterdam locals below so you can experience the city as the locals do!
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Local Things to do in Amsterdam: Drink like a local at Waterside Bars
Tendelle from Travel a la Tendelle
My absolute favorite thing to do in the summer is to hang out at one of Amsterdam’s gorgeous waterside bars! So grab your shades, put on your summer clothes, and go for a drink or some bitterballen sitting by Amsterdam’s waterways. Bonus: If you want to enter the bar in style, roll up to it on a boat.
My favorite waterside bars:
– Hanneke’s Boom: A bar built under a huge tree, that is walking distance to Central Station and close to the NEMO museum, yet tucked away and hidden from tourist areas.
– Amsterdam Roest: Hippie waterside bar by the Amstel with an urban beach. Try their frozen cocktails (warning, they’re strong). Many people take a swim in the Amstel river here. Oh, and they also throw parties!
– Café de Ceuvel: Whimsical, sustainable ship-wharf bar in Amsterdam North. A bit harder to get to and I’m not even vegan but it’s still one of my personal favorites.
– Pllek: Another bar on the North (NDSM-wharf), just a short 10-minute free boat ride away from Central Station. They have a beach and even play movies outdoor in the summertime.
For a full itinerary, check out this guide to Amsterdam in three days
Local Things to do in Amsterdam: Find some peace in Vondelpark
Ellis Veen from Backpack Adventures
I am born and raised in Hilversum, only 20 minutes from Amsterdam. I love Amsterdam and I am a frequent visitor of the city. There are always things to see and do. Since I am a travel blogger I only appreciate Amsterdam more. It always felt more like home and I took many things for granted. Now that I blog I try to see Amsterdam from a tourists perspective and I realize how unique and beautiful the canals actually are. Every time I am in Amsterdam I am discovering new places, some of them recommended on blogs from travellers passing by.
Still my absolute favorite place in Amsterdam has always been the Vondelpark. A space of green peace and quiet in the middle of the hectic city center. It is where I retreat with my friends with a thermos full of tea to discuss whatever is on our minds. I keep finding my way back there. On a sunny day it is the perfect place to sit down and watch people or read a book. Just bring some snacks and relax. The Vondelpark will recharge your inner battery.
Looking for more places like Vondelpark that your family will enjoy? Check out 5 things to do in Amsterdam with kids
Local Things to do in Amsterdam: Rent a boat and Explore the Amsterdam Canals like a local
Maartje from Quokka Travel
Amsterdam has so much to offer, it’s hard to pick my very best number 1 tip. What I think a visitor in Amsterdam should not miss are the Amsterdam canals. The world famous highlight of the city is listed on UNESCO’s World Heritage list. The 17th century Canal District is unique and the facades of the houses are stunning!
The best way to explore the canals is by boat. Being in a boat on the canals is relaxing, good fun and gives you a unique view of the city! Of course, you can join one of many boat tours, but I would recommend renting a boat with a group of fellow travellers.
Bring some food and drinks and spend the day navigating your way over the Singel, Keizersgracht, Prinsengracht and Herengracht. Check out the impressive Amstel Hotel, have a drink at Hanneke’s Boom and admire the many monumental buildings. Especially in summer time, it’s the best activity of the city!
How to budget for a trip to Amsterdam: Read more
Local things to do in Amsterdam: Relax by the water
Karen from Wanderlustingk
In the summer, my favorite thing to do is to sit out on the canals of Amsterdam on the docks. Around the city, you’ll find many gorgeous look-out points (although you’ll need to hunt for some good ones) where you can bring a bottle of wine, a beer, or a picnic to enjoy the scenic setting. With the good weather, there is nothing more relaxing than watching the sunset reflected in the water with your feet hanging off the dock! It’s far less expensive than a bar although there are quite a few cafes, including Hanneke’s Boom, that have fantastic views of the water.
Although Amsterdam has a reputation for partying, I find that Amsterdam is a very relaxing city if you’re want to take it easier! My favorite place to sit while in Centre is in front of the Hermitage museum where you’ll find a small dock with a view over the Amstel river.
Local Things to do in Amsterdam: Explore non-touristy neighborhoods
My local tip!
Sometimes my friends who visit Amsterdam ask me “how can you deal with all the tourists in the city? It’s so busy!” The short answer is: I rarely face the tourist crowds, I’m usually in De Pijp or Amsterdam Zuid! Living outside of the center I may arguably miss out on having the canals at my doorstep, but I love the neighborhoods outside of the center. To experience Amsterdam, visit De Pijp (The Pipe), a hip young neighborhood with loads of outdoors terraces, restaurants from cheap to chic, and beautiful Sarphatipark.
Another favorite of mine is Amsterdam Zuid – ok, ok, it is where I live! But Zuid is much quieter than the center of the city, and only a stone’s throw from the center, and LITERALLY a stone’s throw from Vondelpark. Wander through the Old South area of the city that lines the side of Vondelpark and admire the beautiful architecture in this area of the city.
Where to stay in Amsterdam
There are countless great places to stay in Amsterdam. Here are a few picks for each budget:
CityHub is the ideal place to stay if you are on a budget but don’t want to stay in a hostel. The prices are nearly as low as a hostel, but you’ll still get your own modern, private pod. Toilets and showers are shared, but you won’t have the hostel vibe as this hotel caters to those looking for a step up from the hostel experience. City Hub is also located just around the corner from the Food Hallen, Amsterdam’s huge food stall hall complete with a cinema and local boutiques.
This design hotel located in Amsterdam East (still within the ring and just 10 minutes walk from the city center) was founded as a global community to unite students, professionals, travelers and creative nomads. The Student Hotel has hotel rooms, co-living and co-working spaces.
The Hoxton is a famous boutique hotel chain known for its both its accommodations and for its restaurants. The Hoxton breathes hip-ness and is the must visit for those who like to be recognized for their taste.
What to bring to Amsterdam
Which of these have you visited? What was your favorite?
Looking for more Amsterdam tips? Check out these posts:
Gabby is a native (Northern) Californian who spent the majority of her 20’s living the expat life in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, exploring Europe and beyond. 27 countries later, she’s relocated back to her home base in California where she explores her passions for the travel and the outdoors.