What to do in Amsterdam: tips from a local!

A list of to-does in Amsterdam. Not touristy things, just good ones!

I’ve been living in Amsterdam since 2018 and am loving this beautiful city. I have listed here all the things you should do in Amsterdam if you or your friends are visiting.

I usually share and use this list with friends or family, but I think you are a reader who deserves to get some good advice about what to do in Amsterdam outside of what touristic companies usually offer.

Sunset in Amsterdam

Again, this is my personal to-does and what I show friends when they come to do Amsterdam. You can also do whatever you feel like!

The must-do: the activities you should not skip in Amsterdam

1. Go for a boat tour on the canals

It sounds touristy and maybe is a little bit, but know that going on a boat tour in Amsterdam is an amazing experience and it will give you a totally different and relaxing view of the city.

You can go for:

A big touristy boat tourThey are totally fine to be honest:More affordable.Covered and heated in the winter.€25 – €45 per person.
A smaller group tourSome companies offer boat tours to smaller groups.
Sometimes they have a bar on the boat as well.
Depends on the size of the group.
A private tourYou hire a local driver to only take you and your friends.Around €350* for 2 h.
*Depends on the capacity needed for the boat. 
You are the driverYou can rent and sail on the canals. You can do it with the Mokumboat company.€95 for 2 h€120 for 3h€150 for 4h

Tip: if you are visiting in December or January, you might be able to attend the Amsterdam Light Festival. Every year, artists exhibit light sculptures all across the canals in the city center. You can see them with your bike, but the best way to enjoy it is on a boat.

2. Rent bikes to ride around the city

Amsterdam is THE city where you can and should travel by bike. The bike lanes (fietspad) are everywhere and it’s super safe to bike around the whole city.

A fun place to bike towards is NDSM in the North of Amsterdam.

A few tips if you want to bike in Amsterdam:

  • Make sure your bike has a bell (compulsory by law).
  • Use bike lights at night (compulsory): a whie one at the front and a red one at the back.
  • Make sure you have a strong lock because bikes get stolen pretty quickly here.

Price: you can rent a bike for your whole stay with a price of around €15 per day.

3. Enjoy a picnic in a park

If you visit Amsterdam during spring or summer, you will notice something about Dutch people. They will spend all their free time outside at the park. Winters are cold and long here, so whenever the sun is shining there is not time to waste inside!

The parks in Amsterdam are super clean and beautiful. However, it is now forbidden to bbq in them. So if the weather is good, I advise you to take your bike, a blanket, bring some food and drinks, and enjoy!

My favourite parks to chill in Amsterdam are:

  • Vondelpark (most central and popular)
  • Westerpark
  • Rembrandtpark
  • Amsterdamse Bos

If you do go for a picnic in a park in Amsterdam, please do not forget to clean before you leave and pick up everything you brought.

4. Attend a concert in Paradiso

If you are a music fan, check out the concerts happening during your stay in Amsterdam. The best concert halls are Melkweg and Paradiso.

Tip: check out if you come during the London Calling Festival. It’s a few days and gives you access to several concerts at Paradiso for a small price.

5. Bike down the Amstel river

This is probably my favourite thing to do in Amsterdam in spring/summer!

The name Amsterdam comes from the Amstel river which waters through the whole city! It is 31 km long and takes you from the business center of Amsterdam (Zuid) down to the countryside and super cutes Dutch villages.

Bring some water and snacks, and bike down the river to enjoy some typical Dutch sceneries! It’s a pretty quiet bike road and is super safe to use. 

6. Try local food

This one is pretty obvious, every time you visit a new country or region, you should indulge in its local gastronomy.

Well, for the Netherlands, I don’t know if we can call it gastronomy… but it’s still a must-do!

Here are some typical Dutch food you should try:

  • Breakfast
    • Hagelslag (chocolate sprinkles) on bread and butter for breakfast.
    • Pannenkoeken (pancakes)
  • Lunch/dinner
    • Stamppot (mash potatoes, kate and sausage)
    • Snert or erwtensoep (pea soup)
    • Hollandse nieuwe haring (pickled fish)
    • Kibbeling (fried white fish)
    • Indonesian Rijsttafel
  • Sweet snacks
    • Stroopwafel (caramel waffle)
    • Tompouce (cake)
    • Poffertjes (small pancakes)
    • Oliebollen (fried dough ball – can be with raisins – covered in sugar; usually eaten around Christmas)
    • Appeltaart (apple cake)
    • Liquorice
    • Kruidnoten/pepernoten (biscuits; usually eaten around December)
  • Borrel (bar food)
    • Bitterballen, kroket (fried food)
    • Frikandel (sausage)
    • Gouda (famous Dutch cheese)

7. Go for a brewery tour

Did you know that Dutchies love beer! 95% of the beers consumed are pilsner style (aka like Heineken beers, the most famous Dutch beer company).

On average a Dutch person will consume 77 litres of beer per year, ranking the Netherlands 14th in the world for beer consumption!!! Not bad :).

There are dozens of breweries in Amsterdam that make their own craft beer. If you like a good and local drink, I suggest you visit them!

  • Brouwerij De 7 Deugden: this one is actually in Sloten (not Amsterdam), but it’s super close with the bike. They only make special beers and work for people with disabilities. You can do a tour of the brewery with tasting (in Dutch) for €10 -€15; or go for workshops.
  • Brouwerij ‘t IJ: right under a Dutch windmill, it is one of the oldest breweries in the Netherlands (1985). You can do a 20-min tour of the place for €6.5 per person.
  • Brouwerij Troost: with three locations in Amsterdam (De Pijp, Oud West and Westergas), you can’t miss it. Since 2011, this brewery is delighting Amsterdamians and visitors with versatile beer taste. You can do a tour for €8 – €25 per person.
  • Gebrouwen door vrouwen: started in 2013 by two sisters, this brewery is known for producing delicious beers. Just like the name says it, the beers are made by women! They do not offer tours, but the bar is super fun to visit!
  • Oedipus Brewing: this very colorful brewery is unique. They don’t do tours, but going to this location is like going to a funky art museum. It’s a lot of fun!

8. Walk in the Jordaan and De Pijp

You probably checked up some pictures about Amsterdam and are expecting very long, gorgeous, red-bricked and full of windows houses! It’s true, it looks like that, but the best spots to admire typical Dutch architecture are in Jordaan and De Pijp.



De Pijp

De Pijp

These are beautiful neighbourhoods where you can get lost and wander around with a melting ice-cream.

9. Do some funky shopping in the Negen straatjes (nine streets)

Right outside of the Jordaan area are the Negen straatjes. These are tiny shopping alleys with funky, artisanal and unique shops.

10. Play Geocache to discover unique spots in Amsterdam

Okay, now this is nerdy me talking! Do you know the app Geocaching? It’s a free app I use when I travel. 

The concept is simple: Geocaching is like treasure-hunting. The app uses your location to show you hidden geocaches (treasures) closeby. The goal is to find the little treasures and log them into the app. Don’t get it wrong, you will look for actual treasures (not digital) like a little box with a paper sheet on which you can write your pseudo.

Why is it nice to geocache when visiting a new place?

Well, it’s pretty simple! The geocaches are placed by locals in areas of interest. By treasure-hunting the geocaches, you will walk (or bike) through neighbourhoods that tourists usually don’t go to but where locals live. Every geocache has a story (usually related to its location) and that story is described in the app.

It’s a super nice activity to do if you just want to get lost or walk around, or if you are with children in need of an outdoor activity!

 (and yes, I placed a geocache in my neighborhood – Bluebanddorp! – go find it)

11. Smoke weed and/or have a space cake at the Bulldog coffee shop (+18)

If you are under 18 or visiting with young children, skip this!

This is probably not everyone’s cup of tea, but if you are coming to Amsterdam for the first time you should know that marijuana is legal in the Netherlands and for many people it is a must-try.

 When my friends do visit, I like taking them for a smoke or a space cake just for fun. 

12. Walk through the Red Light District at night (+18)

Again, if you are under 18 or visiting with young children, skip this!

You should also know that prostitution is legal in the Netherlands. However, I have never seen much of it in the Netherlands outside of Amsterdam in the Red Light District.

If you are visiting Amsterdam for the first time, it is kind of an area you will probably like to see just because it is so unique. Also, the architecture in this area is super beautiful and the streets are really cute.

When walking in this part of town, you will be surrounded by sex shops promoting the newest toys, coffee shops selling pot, lightly-dressed sex workers trying to attract customers from their window, colorful lights reflecting on the canals’ water… it’s a unique scenery!

Tips: do not bike through this part of town, it’s super crowded and the streets are tiny. You should also know that is is forbidden to take pictures of the sex workers at the windows, so please respect this.

13. Go fruit picking in Amsterdam

This one is for nature lovers! If you are spending quite some time in Amsterdam and are getting tired of the city, know that you can escape and meet ‘real’ Dutch people!

In Amsterdam, you can go fruit picking directly from the farmer’s field. The Fruit Tuin van West is a farm open from Tuesday to Sunday (10:30am-6pm) in the West of Amsterdam (you can easily go there by bike).

Go there and pick up some fruits directly from the field!!! You can check up what’s up for pick here and will pay per weight.

You can also go there to enjoy a nice coffee, relax and have a look at their organic shop on-site.

14. Bike to Lisse to see the tulip fields (April-May)

This tip is time-sensitive! Unfortunately, the famous Dutch tulips are not blooming all year long (Daaaa!). You can only admire them in April-May.

Instead of going to Keukenhof (which is super expensive), know that you can go there by bike. It’s quite a ride from Amsterdam to Lisse (33 km), but if you are a rider and  brought your race bike with you it’s the place to go. 

You can freely bike by the tulip fields and it’s just gorgeous. 

If you are not much of a biker, you can easily take the train from Amsterdam Centraal Station to Lisse.

15. Take the train to Haarlem

If you are staying a full week in Amsterdam and are a bit tired of the city vibe (and weed smell depending on where you are staying), I advise you to go visit another cute Dutch city!

The closest one is Haarlem. It’s only a 15 min train ride from Amsterdam Centraal station. The city has a very cute Dutch vibe and the historic center is gorgeous.

A must-do is to go to Jopenkerk, a bar in a church. It’s a bit touristy, but the beer is really good and the vibe is unique.

The Museums worth visiting in Amsterdam

Know that the main museums in Amsterdam are located at Museumplein (make sense right?). Even if you are not a huge museum fan, go there! The architecture is beautiful and there is a big park where you can chill.

  1. Van Gogh Museum: do I need to explain this?!
  2. Rijksmuseum: this is probably one of the most famous museums in Amsterdam. You can not miss the building. It is about art, crafts and Dutch history – mainly about paintings!
  3. Stedelijk Museum: this one has a funny look. It’s in the shape of a bathtub (yes!) and is about modern art.

Other cool ones:

  1. Hermitage museum: this one is about Russian history.
  2. Scheepvaart museum: it’s a museum about maritime history.


A little extra for you: every year there is Museumnacht (museum night). 

To me, it’s one of the best nights of the year and usually happens the first week of November (Nov 7th 2020). 

You just need to buy a ticket and that night you will be able to visit all the museums in Amsterdam (from 7pm to 2am). 

Wait, the best part is this: it’s not just about visiting a quiet museum at night, NO! It’s having a PARTY in a museum at night!!! All the museums will have activities, special decorations, live music, DJs … and they will offer food and drinks to consume on-site!!! If you are in Amsterdam at that time, get a ticket (and do it early because every year it’s sold out).

Markets to visit in Amsterdam

If you like local food and activities, go to a market! It’s much cheaper than going to a restaurant for lunch in the city.

Here are some I highly recommend:

  • Sunday market: every first sunday of the month from 12pm to 6pm. Check the location on their website.
  • Pure markt: every sunday from 11am to 5pm at different locations.
  • Ten katemarkt: Monday to Saturday from 9am to 6pm at Ten Katestraat, Stadsdeel Oud – West in Amsterdam.
  • IJ-Hallen: This Flea market in the North of Amsterdam is a must-see. Check out their calendar for more info.
  • Albert Cuypmarkt: from Monday to Saturday from 9am to 5pm (always at the same location – Albert Cuypstraat, 1073BD Amsterdam).

Delicious takeaways in Amsterdam

Here are some personal tips for takeaways: 

  • Toko sinar mas (indo, good to bring to Vondelpark)
  • Pizza heart
  • Food halen

My go-to restaurants in Amsterdam

A nice place to try out first is Foodhalen, it’s located in an old train station and features many food booths!

  • Genki (Sushi)
  • Tonton (Bar food)
  • Puri mas (Indonesian)
  • De Kas (fancy)
  • Madam (Fancy, with a nice view of the city)
  • Febo (Fast food)
  • Fou fow (Ramen)
  • Ramen ya (Ramen)
  • Restaurant De Waaghals (high end vege in (De Pijp)
  • Norling (Nepalese food)
  • Mayur (Indian food)
  • Mana Mana (Israeli food)

Brunch time

Favourite bars in Amsterdam

  • Bar 74 (secret bar)
  • Troost
  • Paulus (wine bar)
  • Waterkant (outdoor bar by the water)
  • Hopp (rooftop)
  • Wynand Fockink Proeflokaal en Slijterij (Gin bar)
  • Tales & Spirits (funky cocktails bar)
  • Madam in the Amsterdam Tower (cocktails with a view)

Best patisserie place in Amsterdam

The best patisserie place in Amsterdam is definitely Linnik!!! I am French and can tell you they offer THE BEST patisserie, chocolates and macaron here. The place is located close to the West entrance of Vondelpark and the owners are super nice.