Amsterdam is a beautiful city, a multi-cultural hive that hums with travellers, business people and residents throughout the year. With picturesque canals and deadly bicycles (when you hear a bell, run like hell), its spired churches and coffee shops, it may seem hard to know how to step beyond the tourist hotspots and into the lives of the locals. But once you start to see past the city’s more obvious enchantments, and get down to the heart of it, Amsterdam, and those who live there, are incredibly friendly, and will gladly let you into their hearts and bars alike.
There are two things to remember however: 1). It’s almost entirely acceptable to go ‘full tourist’ in Amsterdam, which is not something that’s often said. It really is that beautiful, and the history is that interesting. 2). If you do go full tourist, AVOID the the chain coffeeshops named after an English canine. They’re not worth the time or money as there is not a single part of Amsterdam in their souls. Again, AVOID.
Let’s go local in Amsterdam!
Rated as ‘THE BEST’ kebab shop in Amsterdam, this institution has been around for the last 20+ years, loyally serving locals and travellers alike. Not only does Leeman Döner offer a whopping ‘doner kebap’, they also serve traditional Turkish pizzas, falafel and breakfast pastries – the cheese and spinach borek is a go-to! And yes, apparently everyone loves Turkish food – even Amsterdammers.
Opening hours: 11:00 – 22:00, Saturday -Thursday; 09:00 – 00:00 Friday
If you’re looking for tasty food, quick service and low prices then Kam Yin is the place for you. This Surinaam Chinese Restaurant is so popular that is has two branches, one in the centre centre and one in the port. With prices generally staying under €10 and massive portions, this is a great find for those on a budget too. Little tip though, avoid the dinner time rush if you can and head in for a lunch that will last all day.
Opening hours: 12:00 – 00:00, Monday – Sunday
Aen’t Water, Cafe Bar
This delightful little venue sits in the redlight district, right along the canal and boasts an absolutely stunning view. Aen’t Water can be quite touristy on weekends, however it’s been included because of the generosity of the bartender, his staff and the locals that line the stools on a Thursday night. Prices are pretty average for Amsterdam, but the incredibly friendly service and welcoming Amsterdammers will make for a wit bier you won’t forget. It’s also just around the corner from Kam Yin.
Opening hours: 12:00 – 01:00, Sunday – Thursday; 12:00 – 03:00 Friday & Saturday
Just down the way from Centraal Station sits Hannekes Boom. Described by one Amsterdammer as “an awesome beachhouse kind of bar/eating place” there seems no better way to describe this relaxed little spot that sits on the water and makes you happy. With a massive terrace and a menu that changes every week, you can happily get lunch for just over €10 (including a beer), or head along on a Friday and Saturday where they open up the dancefloor. There’s often live music on too- we’d say Hannekes Boom is a must see whenever it’s sunny in the city.
Find it: Dijksgracht 4, 1019 BS (Google Maps)
Opening hours: 10:00 – 01:00, Sunday – Thursday; 10:00 – 03:00 Friday and Saturday
If you want to party with the locals and like live gigs and night clubs, Bitterzoet would be the one for you. A small venue just off the beaten track, this bar/nightclub has an eclectic taste in music – depending on the night you could hear anything from an alternative post punk rock band to soulful R&B. Service is friendly, the atmosphere intense (it can pretty packed on busy evenings) and the crowd mostly local – what more could you ask for?
Opening hours: 20:00 – 03:00, Sunday – Thursday; 20:00 – 04:00 Friday and Saturday
And one final note…
Favourite Chicken & Ribs
No, we’re not kidding. For late night dining in ‘Dam (we’re allowed to say it) this is definitely a top choice. With massive portions of food you would even enjoy sober- at low prices- this red light district fast food stop has everything you could want from a take out. If you’re thinking Domino’s, think again!
Opening hours: We’ve never seen it closed!
Now, head off, grab a beer and enjoy Amsterdam like the locals do – by laughing at everyone jumping away from raging cyclists.