Visiting Amsterdam: Tips From a Local

Yes, Amsterdam is famous for its Van Gogh Museum, Anne Frank House, Red Light District, and coffee shops… But I want to share some other Amsterdam tips with you. Places to visit and things to do that you won’t find in every guidebook.

With a population of just over 800,000 people, Mokum (as Amsterdam is lovingly referred to by its locals) is often described as a “large village,” with more than 160 canals splitting the city into 90 different islands.

Despite its relatively small size, visiting Amsterdam is about much more than weed, sex tourism, and late-night raves on the main tourist squares.

From canal tours to rooftop views, let me help you discover the other side to Amsterdam and make your trip an unforgettable experience!

Visiting Amsterdam: Travel Tips From a Local

Exploring Amsterdam’s Canals by Boat

1. Pannenkoekenboot

Pannenkoekenboot - Amsterdam tips from a local

After you’ve gotten lost for hours on end walking (or cycling) through the wonderful maze that is the narrow streets of the Canal Ring (which are on the UNESCO World Heritage List by the way), why not explore the city by boat?

Hop aboard the Pannenkoekenboot—Pancake Boat, literally—and travel down the iconic IJ river for 75 minutes. For just €19.50 a person, you can eat unlimited traditional Dutch pancakes while you cruise along the river.

Visiting Amsterdam with kids? Then this is the boat tour for you! There’s a playroom on the boat to keep the kids entertained so that you can enjoy the view!

2. Canal Ring Tours

a canal tour in Amsterdam

The reason I started this list of Amsterdam tips with canal tours is because the canal rings (Grachtengordel in Dutch) is something that makes our city unique, and a sight not to miss.

And, there’s no better way to explore the canals such as the Singel, Prinsengracht, or Keizersgracht than via a boat tour.

Float past our iconic 17th-century canal houses, pass by the Anne Frank House from the comfort of your boat seat. If the weather’s a bit fickle, bundle up and have some hot drinks. But if you’re traveling during the summer, enjoy Amsterdam at its best and watch how the Dutch soak up the sun on boats, on the side of the canal, and on lively terraces.

Tip: If you love trying local food check out this Amsterdam canal cruise and food tour!

Rooftop Views in Amsterdam

Best view of Amsterdam - tips from a local

While we may not have enormous skyscrapers like other metropolitan capitals, Amsterdam still has a fairly impressive selection of rooftops allowing you to gaze over the city skyline and relax after a long day of exploring our city. 

1. Volkshotel

checking the view from a rooftop while visiting Amsterdam
Credit: Volkshotel – Amsterdam tips from a local

Located in the east of the city, Volkshotel is a trendy boutique hotel with rooms designed by local artists.

A popular meeting spot where both tourists and locals mingle, this hotel also boasts a rooftop restaurant and bar called Canvas.

Catch some rays while sipping on their own house beer (the Volkspils, a delicious white ale), have a romantic dinner while the sun sets, or stop by for a late cocktail before the restaurant transforms into a club where you can dance the night away with glamorous views of the city. 

Also Read: 10 of the Coolest Hotels in Amsterdam

2. OBA Oosterdok (Central Library)

Best views of Amsterdam - the library
Picture taken by @superpre – visiting Amsterdam

That’s right, the library.

More than just your everyday library though, Amsterdam’s Central Library is spread out over 10 floors, and features exhibition rooms, auditoriums, radio stations, and much more.

Take the elevator all the way to the top for delicious refreshments at their Babel restaurant while enjoying stunning views of the city.

3. NEMO Science Museum

Nemo rooftop Amsterdam: travel tips

The NEMO Science Museum is the largest science museum in the Netherlands. If you are visiting Amsterdam with kids this is the perfect place for them to discover the intricacies of science and technology.

But in addition to that, there’s a freely accessible rooftop providing gorgeous views of the city center.

Along with an outdoor cafe, the summer months provide free concerts for those who are looking for an unforgettable panoramic vista of the city.

Best Places to Eat in Amsterdam

While I could write a dozen articles on the amazing cuisine Amsterdam has to offer, the following are some of my top picks you shouldn’t miss when you’re in town!

1. Coffee & Coconuts

Best places to eat when visiting Amsterdam: Coffee & Coconuts

Located in the bustling hipster area of De Pijp, a visit to Coffee & Coconuts is an absolute must.

Once a cinema back in the 1920s, this popular restaurant rocks a beachy vibe with bean bags, and also features fresh, healthy food (much of which incorporates coconuts, of course!).

With plenty of vegan and gluten-free options, there’s plenty of exciting combinations of food for anyone to enjoy!

Also Read: The Best Cafés With Good Wifi in Amsterdam 

2. Moak Pancakes

Amsterdam travel tips: eat pancakes at Moak

No trip to Amsterdam (or The Netherlands in general) is complete without pancakes. And if you’re looking for pancake heaven, you’ll find it at Moak Pancakes.

An absolute favorite among Amsterdammers, MOAK has two locations in the city where you can sink your teeth into delicious, fluffy goodness with loads of amazing toppings to choose from!

Note: Moak focusses on American pancakes, not the traditional Dutch pancakes.

3. ’t Gasthuys

Best cheap restaurant in Amsterdam: ’t Gasthuys
Credit: ’t Gasthuys – Amsterdam travel tips

For over 35 years, ’t Gasthuys has provided the denizens and tourists of Amsterdam with hearty (and extremely affordable!) homemade food.

Get a bottle of the monthly wine and two dishes of the day for under €30, right in the city center—it’s a deal you’ll be hard-pressed to match!

While the service may be a bit slow, it’s one of my go-to favorites for quality, filling food, and I’m sure you’ll like it as well!

Getting Around Amsterdam

Getting around Amsterdam - travel tips

Amsterdam has an extensive public transportation system comprised of trains, metros, trams, (free) ferries, and buses.

Use Google Maps or do as the Dutch and download the free 9292 public transport app to work out Amsterdam’s public transport.

That said, since Amsterdam is a very compact city, I recommend renting a bike once you’re in town to explore the city as the locals do–or sign up for a fun bike tour to immerse yourself into Dutch culture! 

Getting to Amsterdam From Schiphol Airport

Schiphol has a train station with direct trains to Amsterdam central station. But, to save yourself time or the hassle of having to take a train, then possibly a metro or a bus, with the likelihood of dragging your suitcases through the city, booking a taxi in advance is a good option.

As one of the top airport transfer providers in the Netherlands and worldwide, is an affordable, hassle-free and reliable option you can easily book online.

Their prices are usually shown upfront and you’ll have the possibility to choose from different types of vehicles. Plus, the drivers can pick you up at the arrival hall, which is a nice little extra!

I hope you found my Amsterdam travel tips useful and enjoy visiting Amsterdam!

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Mia Randrianaivo

Author: Mia Randrianaivo
Mia, who lives in Amsterdam, is an International Communication and Media student who minored in Journalism. She is also a content creator, blogger and an avid Twitter user who often writes about social issues, human rights, and politics.

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