Amsterdam is a city renowned for debauchery, ladies of the night and, for the more cultured: museums, art, and Anne Franks house – but once those attractions are ticked off your list where do you go from there?
I am not one to follow the crowd, but I do think a good mix of tourist attraction and exploring off the beaten track are the best holiday combination. So, here are my top ten alternative things to do when visiting Amsterdam;
1) Don’t Follow The Central Station Crowds
On exiting the grand station it is tempting to follow the heard into Central Amsterdam. Though this busy area has its own charm I prefer to take a left out of the main exit. This route takes you to riverside hangout Hannekes Boom where you can sit riverside whilst sipping a beer and taking in the grand Nemo Museum. If you feel even more adventurous you can hop on a tram and continue onto another one of my favourite hangouts: Amsterdam Roest, a huge bar space with craft beer, food stalls and a beach. These places are just off the tourist trail and offer a local experience of Amsterdam’s social life.
2) Check out the Park
Amsterdam has many beautiful parks with Vondelpark being it’s largest. This is a great place to relax and watch locals getting on with their daily business, especially in summer when they host a number of open air events.
3 ) Get A Tattoo
I know that a holiday tattoo may seem like a spontaneous (and often regrettable) decision but Amsterdam is home to some incredible tattoo shops such as Salon Serpant, Hanky Panky’s and Tattoo Peter’s. I can only speak for the latter because that is the only tattoo parlour I have personally been inked in but Tattoo Peter’s is the oldest tattoo shop in the Netherlands and are experts in old school traditional tattooing. I have been tattooed by both Bill Loika and Frank Paradiso from the shop and was incredibly happy with their work. As always with tattooing, do your research before going under the needle but if you are looking for a permanent holiday souvenir there are plenty of quality artists to choose from.
4) Rent a Boat
You could hop on one of the many canal tours, but after being hugely disappointed by the pricey wine and cheese cruise I would opt for hiring you own smaller vessel and exploring the many canals at you own pace. There are plenty of companies who offer this service and the cost is pretty reasonable, averaging at between €79 – €250 depending on how long you want to sail and what size of boat you require.
5) Rent a House Boat
Keeping things nautical I would highly recommend using Airbnb or a similar service to stay in a house boat. In Amsterdam house boats are not quaint little barges like we have in the UK but huge spaces with modern interiors. We stayed in a beautiful contemporary houseboat on our last trip and though it came with a few spiders it was an amazingly unique way to spend the weekend.
6) Get Your High to Takeaway
If you want to get high in Amsterdam why not get a pre-rolled joint or baked goods to go instead of being cooped up in a hot box café with other tourists. Relaxing beside the canals or chilling in one of the beautiful parks is a much better way to enjoy the buzz in my opinion.
7 ) Amsterdam Noord
This is by far my favourite area in Amsterdam (which is why it has its very own posts). Only a short free ferry ride from Amsterdam Central you are taken into a derelict area filled with art and colour. There are also a couple of amazing independent places such as Pllek and Noorderlicht to grab a bite or drink. If you want to stay a little longer there are plenty of quirky options to bed down for the night including a Botel, the Clink hostel, and Faralda – a 3 roomed hotel within a crane.
8) Go Camping
When we had our crappy campervan we drove to Amsterdam for my birthday and spent a couple of nights at Camping Amsterdam Gaasper a quiet and clean campsite which was only a twenty minute train journey outside of the city centre. If you are on budget (or just like to get away from the busy city life) why not think about camping as an alternative option.
9) Escape Central
I know this is kind of a repeat of the above but I cannot stress enough that Amsterdam has so much more to offer than just the standard tourist trail. The city is filled with amazing bars, restaurant, shops and museums so don’t be afraid to hop on a tram or grab a bike and escape the bustle of central.
Some of my favourite places in Amsterdam I found from exploring further afield are: The Nine Streets for independent shopping, Westerpark, Amsterdam Noord, Wittenburg, Eastern Docklands and Haarlemmerbuurt for cool cafés, hotspots and art.
10 ) Try some different food
Amsterdam is a multicultural city and though pancakes, waffles, fries with mayonnaise, croquettes from vending machines and cheese are amazing – the city has such a vast range of high quality food on offer.
Just some of this diverse cuisine can be sampled at World of Food; housed inside an old garage it offers over 25 food stalls. O,r if you are looking for something really different, I Am Amsterdam has a great list of unusual dining experiences to check out.
Want More? Check Out These Websites
I am all about taking a local’s advice and, when I am looking for something alternative to do in Amsterdam, these are my go to websites:
Your Little Black Book A blog that started in Amsterdam, and now spans the world; this site has a wealth of local knowledge to suit every travel style
Amsterdam Alternative a collective project between non-profit venues in Amsterdam and a great way to find out what is going on in the city’s art scene.
I Am Amsterdam – Though this is the official tourist website of Amsterdam it offers up plenty of alternative options
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Thank you for this! I love Amsterdam, I would also recommend seeing what artists are playing in Amsterdam, the Paradiso is a lovely venue, earlier this year I went to see City and Colour there and it was an amazing experience.
That sounds awesome I will have to check it out on my next visit
Hey thanks! I’ll be moving to The Netherlands next fall and will definitely try some of the things on your list! 🙂
I am so jealous the Netherlands is amazing!