Amsterdam is the capital of the Netherlands and is also one of the largest tourist destinations in Europe. The city is very different from many others around the world with its iconic canals and architecture, but even with all the tourists who come every year to see the famous cafes and nightlife, there is more to the city than many people give credit for.
Amsterdam is one of the oldest settlements in the country with its modest origins from the 12th century when it was essentially nothing more than a fishing village. In the 17th century, however, the country became one of the largest and most important shopping centers in the world. The city is home to an incredible culture that can sometimes be overlooked in favor of the city’s most “popular” attractions and despite some of the city’s reputation, Amsterdam can also be a beautiful family destination. With beautiful canals, vibrant nightlife and plenty of history, Amsterdam is more than just lawful vices. Here are some of the most off the beaten path things to do in Amsterdam.
Hop on your bike and get to know the city
Amsteldamans love their bikes, and when we say they love their bikes, they really love their bikes. There are over 80,000 bikes in Amsterdam, which means there are as many bikes in the city as there are people. Cycling in Amsterdam is not only a way to get around, but is essentially a way of life. The city is quite dense and there are bike paths all over the city to accommodate a large number of cyclists, so traveling around the city by bike is a much better option than traveling by car. If you are the kind of person to be willing to consider with a group, there are plenty of options for those who prefer a guided tour of the city with a bike ride with a professional group tour, or you can simply rent a bike for a few hours or a day, and head on your own. Renting a bike costs you only a few euros a day, so it’s already much more affordable than paying for an Uber or Taxi. Bike ride through the tulip fields around Haarlem in spring, or if you really want to feel like a local, shout out to other people who are on the road as you pass.
Clear the map and explore the Jordaan
If there is a very good way to get acquainted with a new city, it is to simply empty the map and your plans and take a walk to explore it. Jordaan was originally a working class neighborhood and although it has been a bit renovated in recent years, the charm of the place still remains. Nestled among some of the oldest buildings in the city are now shops, boutiques, cafes and microbreweries. The neighborhood is artsy and cool with a bit of “chic-ness” to it. Jordaan is old Amsterdam at its best, so throw away the map, don’t look at Yelp and choose any place to pop up when you get away from the narrow streets of the Jordaan. The “Nine Streets” area is where most of the action takes place, so spend some money and hit some of the city’s trendiest boutiques, vintage boutiques and quirky cafes.
Let your inner child go out to the Ton Ton Club
If you tell people that you are going to a club in Amsterdam, they probably don’t imagine places like this. The de Ton Ton Club basically put the word “kidulting” in the dictionary. In a world where we have to pay the bills on time and do our taxes, sometimes you want them to be a child again. Now you can be a child again, but this time you are a child with money! The Ton Ton Club is a kind of playground for matures to play arcade games with your friends like Mario Kart or Mortal Kombat, go to pool tables or pinball machines, or if you are ready, dive straight into their mature ball pit. What sets this place apart from any other arcade is that it is matures only and you can drink alcohol while playing. Grab a beer, snack and jump into the ball pit as if you were Scrooge McDuck.
Grab a snack at Foodhallen
Amsterdam is a gourmet city. There are many different cultures that call Amsterdam “home” all with their unique cuisines. Foodhallen is the place to go if you are not sure on what you want, but you know you want something to eat. Foodhallen is located in a former tram stop in the Oud-West district of the city. There are over 30 different food destinations and that doesn’t even take into account the beer and bar options that are also available here. If you’re in the mood for something small and snackable, try dim sum or tacos, or if you’re looking to satisfy that sweet tooth, the donuts are flawless. Walk through the stalls and shops and sit outside and enjoy your food or head to one of the many other shops in Foodhallen. Take some money and a bag, because you’re probably going to end up here with stuff.
Have fun at Boom Chicago
For expats and locals en route to Boom, Chicago is actually a right of way for Amsterdam’s English-speaking community. Amsterdam’s comedy scene is, sorry for the pun, thriving with comedy shows and upgraded theaters popping up here and there. One of the originals is Boom Chicago. Boom Chicago has been the laughing stock for over 25 years and even counts well-known names like Seth Meyers and Jason Sudeikis as former members.
Founded by two Americans, Pep Rosenfield and Andrew Moskos, they applied to the Dutch government for a grant to start their own theater. The government basically told them that tourists “don’t want to watch shows “and locals” don’t want to watch shows in English,” but that didn’t stop Rosenfield and Moskos from getting the money elsewhere and starting Boom Chicago. So it turns out that the government was wrong, and Boom Chicago has been mocking the city of Amsterdam almost at night for more than two decades.
See All Museums
While it’s not necessarily an “off the beaten path” suggestion, you’d still be wrong if you didn’t visit at least some of Amsterdam’s most iconic museums. The Oud-Zuid area is a museum lover’s paradise and like the museum Island in Berlin, the Museumplein is a small area dedicated to museums in a green and picturesque 19th century neighborhood. Not only is the area full of the city’s largest museums, but it is also home to many other festivals and gatherings throughout the year in the open-air square that separates the museums. Free outdoor exhibitions and markets are common in summer and winter, the area becomes a large skating rink. For guests who want to check out, a few museums buy the “I Amsterdam City Card” and have access to all museums, free bike rental, free public transport pass and even a boat trip. The card pays for itself.