I always knew I was going to live either abroad or in Amsterdam. I ended up doing both. Even though I’m super happy living in Amsterdam at the moment, I can imagine myself moving to a major city in another country or maybe to a remote island somewhere exotic. For now, Amsterdam is my world. I go for a run through one of the many parks in the morning and find myself cycling by the canals that mark this city when I go to work. But the vibrant city center is nowhere to be heard when I wake up late in my quiet neighborhood Watergraafsmeer after a night of clubbing. My love for this city keeps growing with each new fun coffee house (not to be mistaken for the Dutch coffee shops!) or vegetarian restaurants that keep spreading out over the city. My selection of Amsterdam gems takes you away from the regular tourist hotspots and shows you what the locals enjoy. It has a strong emphasis on the east side of the city, not only because that’s where I live, but also because Oost is buzzing with exciting new places to go.
This one of the first ever English posts on my blog. It is based on a Dutch version I first posted in 2014 and recently updated. I hope you enjoy it. Please feel free to leave a comment if you like it or have any questions.
Coffee & Lunch
Beter & Leuk – Eerste Oosterparkstraat 91
Hanneke started Beter & Leuk a couple of years ago with a mission to make people enjoy real food and I believe she succeeded. She serves things like lentil salad, green pea hummus sandwiches and homemade falafel with rainbow salad. The eco-friendly coffees with almond milk are also a real treat.
Coffee Company Oost – Javaplein 14
Oost, Indische Buurt
Coffee Company is the Dutch answer to Starbucks and started out even before Starbucks reached Amsterdam. They all vary in style and atmosphere and this particular one served as one of my workplaces while I was working on my book. It has a lively caffeine infused work vibe going on. The music is usually nice and the huge terrace out front is always sun drenched.
Scandinavian Embassy – Sarphatipark 34
Zuid, De Pijp
How come I never noticed this place before? I must have walked by it a dozen times before giving it a try but when I did I was instantly hooked. They make a heck of a ‘flat white’ with almond / spelt milk. Everything about this place looks like someone picked it up in Stockholm and dropped it in Amsterdam, including the English speaking, mostly Scandinavian waiters. Enjoy the excellent salmon on Danish rye bread, perfectly poached eggs or oat meal.
Berry – Bilderdijkkade 27
West, Da Costabuurt
Berry is very nice! This relatively new coffee place is well worth the 20 minute bike ride (not so much for Dutch standards) from my home. Is has a Berlin-esque style and it’s nice and light. They use unsweetened soy milk for their coffees and they make fresh juices. One of the things I like about this place is that they don’t have wifi, which makes it perfect to escape the blue lit faces glued to laptops you see in so many other coffee places. A nice place to sit down to read, or to meet up to go to the Foodhallen or Filmhallen next door for a bite or a movie.
Bagels & Beans – Oranje Vrijstaatkade 68
This coffee and bagel joint is another one of my favorite places to go and get some work done and they even serve a vegan bagel from a recipe I created. Bagels and Beans is a franchise but this one is by far my favorite. It had a nice calming view on a canal, the waiters are super friendly, a huge outside terrace and did I mention it’s just around the corner from my house?
Rum Baba – Pretoriusstraat 33
I’m not sure what Rum Baba is or means but it sounds warm and friendly and that makes it a fitting name. They serve tasty cakes, good coffee and have a elaborate selection of teas. It’s a nice place hidden in a street that’s recently embarked on a bit of a make-over from no-go-area to future hotspot. Mark my words.
Dophert – Spaarndammerstraat 49
This lunchroom serves plantbased food only. They have things like delicious sourdough sandwiches, spicy bean soup and seitan salad. They also have take-away options available after 5.00 pm.
Rein – Rijnstraat 58
This is the first place I know that serves oathies. These glutenfree rolls are pretty amazing and that’s probably why other lunchrooms now have them as well (like the aforementioned Bagels & Beans). They also have a good breakfast or brunch selection with things like chia seed pudding, oatmeal and smoothies. Rein just opened a second place, in Oost on the Wibaustraat.
Cottoncake – 1e Van der Helststraat 76
Zuid, De Pijp
They make the best almond milk latte in town and while you’re there don’t forget to check out the vegan and glutenfree bananabread or oat cookie. They also sell pretty clothes in their words: from edgy festival outfits, to super soft knits.
SLA – Ceintuurbaan 149 / Westerstraat 34 / Utrechtsestraat 10 / Middenweg 55
Zuid / De Pijp / Centrum/ Oost
The chain of saladbars named SLA (Dutch for lettuce) is growing with a Starbucks-like speed and I love it. They look light and fresh, have great soups, healthy snacks and – obviously – salads. Many glutenfree and vegan options. I’m not a big fan of mock meat, but they use mock meat and chicken by De Vegetarische Slager (the vegetarian butcher) which is great! This is one of my favorite places for a quick lunch. They also have take-away.
Venkel – Albert Cuypstraat 22
Zuid, De Pijp
Another great salad bar and it looks wonderful. The crates full of fresh veggies and fruit immediately catch your eye when you enter. It’s located in the same street as the famous Albert Cuyp market, the biggest market in Amsterdam. They have things like grilled egg plant, oven baked peppers, lentils, quinoa and great dressings. If you’re going for a juice, consider the one with watermelon, cucumber and vennel (Venkel in Dutch).
Vinnie’s Deli – Haarlemmerstraat 46 & Nieuwezijds Kolk 33
Located in the great Haarlemmerstraat in the Jordaan neighborhood. They have vegan options, oatmeal for breakfast, great atmosphere and good services. Need I say more?
Jay’s Juices – Haarlemmerstraat 14
There are not many dedicated juice bars in Amsterdam unfortunately, but Jay has everything you can imagine and serves it with charm. He even serves an infamous durian smoothie, for thrillseekers or fans of the Indonesian fruit that smells so bad you can’t take it with you in Asian planes. Jay is extravagantly nice and flirty and eager to make your Amsterdam city stroll a tad bit sunnier.
Golden Temple – Utrechtsestraat 126
This is my favorite restaurant in de the city. By far. I’ll tell you why. The waiters are the friendliest in town, they only serve vegetarian food, have plenty of vegan en gluten free options, the restaurant looks amazing with it’s (partly) cushions-on-0n-the-floor seating and wonderful wall paintings but first and foremost: the lime pie is to die for. We always book the window seat, with its royalty like stage view.
CousCousClub – Ceintuurbaan 346
Zuid, De Pijp
The CousCousClub is simple and charming in a French setting. The menu serves three options of couscous, the cheapest being vegetarian. The others typically include sausages or lambstew and are still pretty cheap. Order a glass of red wine and slowly have your senses drift of to Paris. CousCousClub is ideal if you’re going to catch a movie in Rialto, the movie theater a few doors down the street.
An – Weteringschans 76
Excellent Japanese food. This cosy restaurant has many vegetarian options and possibly the best sushi in town.
Bird – Zeedijk 72
Bird serves authentic Thai food that will take you back to that beautiful Thai beach you once visited (or will visit one day). Bird is located in China Town not far from central station, and is actually two places. One is a proper restaurant, the other more of a snackbar. I prefer the latter because is has nice window seats overlooking the chaotic street Zeedijk and because they amaze me every time by how fast they whip up the best Thai dishes. They open at 1 pm so you can also hop in for lunch during a stroll through the nearby red light district. Especially in the weekend it is not uncommon to have to wait outside to be seated, but it’s never too long and definitely worth it. The service is very fast and efficient.
Camping Zeeburg – Zuider IJdijk 20
One of two campings in Amsterdam (the other is far away in Noord, so I’m going to ignore that one) is beautifully located on a little island in the IJ river and only 15 minutes from the city center. It is next to a swimming pool and a park. I must admit I’ve never slept there, but that’s only because it’s so close to my house it would be ridiculous.
Volkshotel – Wibautstraat 150
There are not too many tall buildings in Amsterdam and this hotel knows it. They have a decent restaurant that does a better job as a bar and nightclub at the top floor that offers a magnificent view over the city. But guest of this hotels can get something even better: a dip in one of the Jacuzzis on the roof. The hotel itself is reasonably priced and known for its minimalistic design. The bar in the basement occasionaly turns into a semi-secret nightclub.
Conscious Hotel – Overtoom 519
A trendy and sustainable hotel located on the edge of the famous Vondelpark. Each room comes with its own unique nature themed wallpaper. They serve a 100 percent organic breakfast.
All through the city
Probably the best way to explore the city is based from the house of a local. Amsterdam is swarmed with interesting options ranging from apartments like mine to entire mansions. Amsterdam is one of the few places to legalize AirBnB, although there are strict rules and both the visitors and the homeowners have to pay taxes.
Trouw – Wibautstraat 127
Now it may be a bit of a bummer to start out with something that actually closed up permanently, but I’m gonna mention Trouw anyway as a tribute. Trouw used to be a bit of a hangout of ours and it was truly a legendary club. People happily waited over 8 hours in a cold line to experience Trouw in it’s closing days last December. I’m just saying all this to emphasize what Amsterdam has to offer. Fortunately the Trouw-owners are working on a new club. When it opens, whenever that is, I’ll be there to see if it can aspire to fill Trouws shoes.
The Walter Woodbury Bar – Javastraat 42
Oost, Indische Buurt
This place is still relatively new but already one of the pillars of the rejuvenated Javastreet mixture of ethnic grocery shops and hipster hangouts. It’s opened for breakfast but usually gets going after lunch time. They serve things like a salad with falafel that’s pretty good. Just too bad they’re not as cheap as they were when they started but it’s still good value for money. But forget about lunch, because we were talking about going out. They have an elaborate menu of g&t’s and serve many different kinds of local beers.
Pllek – TT Neveritaweg 59
Taking the ferry for free from behind Centraal Station to NDSM is actually a nice free experience in itself. On the far end of the IJ canal is another rather big part of Amsterdam that is now starting to blossom, especially on the water front. Pllek is on of these places. Crawl into one of the sofa’s or find a free spot on the beach (no swimming!) when the sun is out and be very patient with the service. Pllek hosts a lot of activities as well like yoga, (live) music events and outdoor movies.
EYE – IJpromenade 1
This is one of my preferred places for watching movies – because of the super comfortable seats, but it’s also a restaurant, bar and gateway to many other interesting places on the north side of the water. The futuristic building has a spectacular view over the water opposite the Centraal Station.
Hanneke’s Boom – Dijksgracht 4
Hidden in plain sight and within walking distance of the Centraal Station is this vibrant bar with huge outside terrace and inside fireplace cosiness. Hanneke’s Boom regularly schedules live music of nice parties. This is a great place to meet up with friends or make new ones.
Shops & Markets
Noordermarkt – Noordermarkt
In the heart of Amsterdams premier canal neighborhood the Jordaan is this eco-friendly / vintage market surrounded by nice bars and overlooked by an old church. It doesn’t get much more picturesque than this. It’s open every Saturday between 9 am and 5 pm. Just try not to overeat yourself on all the raw food, seasonal veggies and fresh sour dough bread and don’t forget to browse the vintage clothes stalls.
Zeeburgermarkt – C.J. van Eesterenlaan
This eco market is much, much smaller than the one downtown but it offers a great excuse to head out to the Zeeburg neighborhood and check out the amazing new architecture. If you’re based in the eastside of Amsterdam, like I am, than this is a great place to do your shopping. The handful of stalls gather weekly at Wednesdays. Try the hummus at the Turkish stall.
Le Sud – Haarlemmerdijk 118 / Spaarndammerstraat 143
Both in Centrum
Speaking of hummus. If you decide not to make it yourself from my recipe, this place in the busy always worth checking out shopping street Haarlemmerstraat has the best in town, along with many other delicious vegetarian and vegan spreads. Try one of the wraps with falafel, hummus and grilled veggies, mmm!
Delicious Food – Westerstraat 24
This is a bio supermarket with a very personal touch. It still breathes the friendly village atmosphere the Jordaan was known for. It had several help-yourself containers with fresh (optionally glutenfree) pasta, nuts, tea and grains. It’s also worth checking out their selection of eco wines, juices and bread.
Oriental – Nieuwmarkt 27
A truly exotic supermarket reminiscent of those Asian travels where you had to shuffle through cramped aisles to get to those fruits you never heard before but taste so damn good. I go there to get everything I need to make my own sushi. I usually stock up on coconut milk and get some soy beans to bowl as a snack.
De Peperbol – Albert Cuypstraat 150
Zuid, De Pijp
Herbs, spices, tea, cute little bowls and tea cups or any kind of kitchen wear, you’ll find them all here. This place is tucked in behind the facade of the busy Albert Cuyp market. Seriously, everything you can imagine that has anything even remotly to do with cooking can be found here! Bring cash, because they don’t take cards.
Project Suitcase – Gerard Douplein 17
Zuid, De Pijp
The owner of this little shop travels all around the world to find nice and unique clothes and accessories. She sells earrings, bracelets and shoes. I’m a fan!
Sunset by the waterfront – Veemkade
You come here to stroll, but you might as well make it into a picknick. This former dock is in the middle of the city but somehow undiscovered by the crowds. It is a watery walkway between Centraal Station, Zeeburg and KNSM Eiland. If you’re into architecture it’s great to see the former warehouses that have been transformed to luxurious apartments next to modern structures but I usually watch the other way and stare into the setting sun.
Centrum – Noord
A free boatride in Amsterdam, sounds good right? Join the commuters and gaze over the IJ river for fifteen minutes. And when you’re there you could check out some of the listings in Noord, like Pllek and Eye.
Nesting storks, hidden nature gems and tranquility. Not every park in Amsterdam is a wild as the Vondelpark. It seems as though only neighborhood locals know this place exists and they all join here every last Sunday of each month to eat and drink at the Pure Markt, a nice little food market. If you go for the Pure Markt you simply cannot miss out on the vegetarian gyros (Greek kebab). The gardens near House Merkelbach are also worth checking out.
‘t Nieuwe Diep – Flevopark
Oost, Indische Buurt
One of the most beautiful hidden places of Amsterdam. Walk into the serenity of the quiet Flevopark (next to Camping Zeeburg) and try to locate the building in the middle. It has a wonderful terrace overlooking a pond. The food and drinks are hardly worth mentioning, unless you wanna get drunk on jenever (they make all sorts and flavors themselves), but it’s still very much worth mentioning.