Best of Amsterdam: Visit Like A Local

As an American living in Amsterdam, I am asked monthly, if not weekly, for Amsterdam recommendations... and I can't say I blame people for struggling with what to do here (I was in your shoes every time I visited before moving to the Netherlands). 

With that said, and admittedly biased as a now-resident, I think Amsterdam is the most beautiful city in Europe. Accordingly, I feel it is actually my duty to help people see the *real* Amsterdam - the one with which I have become enamored - and enjoy it in all of its glory, even if for just a weekend.

My goal in writing this list is to get people off the beaten path, not just walking around the riff-raffy Amsterdam you hear about in tales and guide books from decades ago. The city has become quite gentrified and is no longer the red light window-dominated scene that it used to be. It's interesting, modern, forward-thinking, and full of charm - if you know where to look.

Without further ado, these are my recommendations for this city I have grown to love so dearly. I think these locations give tourists at least a preliminary sense of Dutch culture, city life - but with a touch of hospitality since you are on vacation after all. Of course, these are just my recommendations, and I certainly have not tried everything - but I feel comfortable sending people to each and every one of these, and they have impressed me time and time again - enough that I just keep going back!


  • The Hoxton - super mod, posh, and a lobby / lounge scene enjoyed by even locals. You can never go wrong staying at a Hoxton and the rooms are super quirky, Amsterdammy, and many offer canal views.

  • The Pulitzer - a unique hotel, as it is made up of an intricate maze of 25 connecting Golden Age canal houses. They also offer a really unique wooden boat tour (far less touristy than the stretch limo Lover's Canal Cruise boats) of Amsterdam (cost not included), which can be arranged at the front desk.

  • The Weavery - for a real, authentic canal house experience. The owners are just lovely (tell Bettina and Driss that I sent you!) and it's a B&B type experience (but don't worry, they are hands-off and won't be in your space if you so choose.

  • Mr. Jordaan - slightly off the beaten path, in a good way - a fun opportunity to stay in one of the hip Amsterdam neighborhoods, the Jordaan district. Near weekend markets, fun shops, etc.



  • Buffet van Odette - you actually can't go wrong with anything on their menu - believe me, I've tried it all

  • Winkel 43 - this place has been around for decades. You only need to know two words when you go there: Apple Pie. I've never had a better one.

  • Omelegg - if you are a fan of omelettes and eggs, then head here. There are two locations: the Red Light District (tourist central) and one in De Pijp. I'd recommend the latter.


  • Cafe de Blaffende Vis - a rotating small menu of Dutch favorites and snacks - a great place to spend the night drinking Heineken after Heineken

  • La Perla - absolute best pizza in town - you can take away from across the street, if you prefer

  • Foodhallen - a large hall of food vendors, open 7 days a week - large variety of food/drinks to try and a fun scene!

  • Boca's - sharing platters of classic favorites with a local twist; get the fries sampler

  • Thrill Grill - great burger spot which has Beyond Meat on offer; lots of meatless options!

  • VEGAN OPTION: Meatless District - consistently voted one of the best vegan options in the Netherlands, but definitely not a sleeper option even for those who enjoy meat; every meal is divine.


  • Cafe de Tuin - quite a fun local scene, get the bitterballen - it makes all of the lists for being the best in town

  • Moeders - the most Dutch that you can get; the walls are adorned with photos of actual moms and antiques. A quirky place that can't be missed


  • Choux Restaurant - a less traditional menu which you choose by selecting ingredients which appeal, and are presented with surprising, unexpected dishes. An amazing wine selection as well.

  • Restaurant Vlaming - classic, extremely well prepared dishes in a fun neighborhood with cozy scene. Even Bill Clinton recently went here!

  • Repeat from above: Buffet van Odette - they can do no wrong.



  • Bitterballen

  • Stroopwafels

  • Fries with various mayos/ketchups/sauces

  • Herring sandwich

  • Tony's Chocolonely (buy a bunch and bring em home - they make great gifts! The orange flavor, salty chocolate, is the most popular and for good reason!)