Amsterdam is a fantastic city filled with some lovely museums, beautiful architecture, hundreds of bridges and canals… It’s no wonder so many tourists are visiting it each year. Many of them tend to go to the same, must-see-places in Amsterdam. And that’s why they are often very crowded. However, since I lived and worked in Amsterdam for seven years, I created here an alternative travel guide for you, with things to do in Amsterdam like a local.
Things to do in Amsterdam like a local
There are so many exciting things you can do in Amsterdam. From visiting some great, but not so well-known museums, to exploring its street art and charming cafes only locals know about in Amsterdam. Here are fifteen of my favourite things to do in Amsterdam like a local.
1/ Private boat tour in Amsterdam
Canals are one of the most recognisable symbols of Amsterdam. And although you may think how taking a canal cruise is one of the most touristy things you could do in Amsterdam, the truth is many locals enjoys them, too. So why not enjoy in Amsterdam canals like a local? Get some snacks, warm chocolate or a bottle of wine and take a private boat tour in Amsterdam. Enjoy the canals at a slower pace and act as a true Amsterdammer.
2/ Visit some of Amsterdam’s not so well-know museums
Amsterdam is famous for its world-known museums such as the Rijksmuseum, Van Gogh Museum or Anne Frank’s House. However, there are so many smaller museums and galleries that are equally interesting, but not as packed with tourists.
Amsterdam Museum located right in the city centre is one of them. This is where you’ll get an excellent overview of Amsterdam’s history and life in the Dutch capital. Stedelijk Museum is must-see for anyone interested in contemporary art. While the Rembrandthuis Museum is housed in a former home of Rembrandt van Rijn. It’s so hard to choose the best museums in the Dutch capital. So, take a look at the list of Amsterdam museum and pick some that are interesting to you.
3/ Explore some markets in Amsterdam
Markets are some of the best places to experience local life. And visiting Dutch markets should absolutely be on your list of the things to do in Amsterdam like a local. Located in the charming De Pijp neighbourhood, Albert Cuyp Market is the biggest one in Amsterdam. You’ll find some typical Dutch food there, like many different kinds of cheese, stroopwafels or fried seafood.
Another great market in Amsterdam is Waterlooplein Flea Market, where, besides some vintage clothes, antiquities and old vinyl records, you’ll find some nice street food, too.
4/ Stay in the houseboat
Amsterdam always suffered from a housing shortage. To overcome that problem, people in Amsterdam started to live in houseboats. And there are around 2,500 houseboats in Amsterdam today.
Staying in some of them is one of the most local things you could do in Amsterdam. Here is a nice one, located in a quiet area, just at the outskirts of the city centre you can rent – check it out on a link here.
TIP: One of the traditional houseboats in Amsterdam is turned into a Houseboat Museum. You can visit it, see how the typical houseboat and life on it looks like. It’s located on the address Prinsengracht 296 K, very close to the Anne Frank House.
5/ Buy some Dutch snacks at the supermarket
Food is one of the best ways to feel the life of locals during your travels. The most popular supermarket in the Netherlands is called Albert Heijn, and you can find some very typical Dutch food in it.
They usually have a large and quite nice selection of Dutch cheese. You can also try some local chocolates like Tony’s Chocolonely. Stroopwafels and Speculoos cookies are also popular in the Netherlands. If you like beers, you can also look for some local ones there.
6/ Get outside the city centre
You’ll feel much more like a local in Amsterdam if you’ll get outside the city centre. Get on a ferry behind the Central train station (it’s free of charge) and go to Amsterdam-Noord. Especially if you’d like to enjoy some street art and a new upcoming neighbourhood.
For some more elegant traditional houses, go to the Oud-Zuid neighbourhood, south of the Museumplein. This is where you’ll find some of the most beautiful examples of architectural style from the beginning of the 20th century – the Amsterdam School. De Pijp area is quiet hipster and urban, filled with some cosy cafes and great restaurants.
7/ Shop like a local at the 9 Streets in Amsterdam
The 9 Streets (or De 9 Straatjes), as its name says, is an area of nine streets in Amsterdam centre. They are quite famous for being home to some of the best local shops, designer stores and typical Dutch cafes.
If you’d like to feel like a local in Amsterdam and buy something genuinely Dutch during your trip, pay a visit to that area and shop like a local in Amsterdam.
8/ Have a coffee at the terrace of a cosy cafe
The Netherlands is infamous for its bad weather. I read somewhere there are more than 250 rainy days in Amsterdam each year. That’s why the second the sun is up and shinning, you’ll see locals flunking out the cafe’s terraces and enjoying in some beautiful weather.
So, put this one among the things to do in Amsterdam like a local. Ignore the bad weather and enjoy in some cosy terraces of cafes in Amsterdam during your stay there.
9/ Go on a party boat
When talking about enjoying themselves, let’s just state – Amsterdammers love to party. And during the warm summer days, all the parties are moving to its famous canals.
If you’d like to act like a local in Amsterdam, get on one of those party boats in Amsterdam and enjoy in some fun time with your friends. Let someone else take care of driving the boat, so you can just relax and enjoy with your friends.
10/ Explore hofjes in Jordaan
Hofjes are small courtyards built behind those lovely canal houses in Amsterdam during the 17th century. They were usually filled with some exotic flowers, such as tulips during the Dutch Golden Age. People would invite friends into their secret gardens, showing off with them a bit. No wonder tulipmania, the first case of an economic bubble in history, happened in Amsterdam at that time.
Tulips are not as expensive as someone’s yearly salary anymore. However, you can still visit some of those gardens in Amsterdam today. And they are still secret places, because not even many locals know about them. Most of the hofjes are located in the Jordaan area. Some of the most fascinating are Hofje van Brienen (address: Prinsengracht 89 – 133) and Zon’s Hofje (address: Prinsengracht 159 – 171).
11/ Take a trip outside the city
Well, as is the case with many countries and their capitals, you won’t get the real feel of the Netherlands in Amsterdam. So, to get more of that local spirit, go on a day trip outside of Amsterdam. The Netherlands has an excellent train network, and you can easily travel pretty much anywhere in a country form Amsterdam.
12/ Have a photo shoot in Amsterdam
Hmmm… Do locals really take photo shoots in their cities? Well, in Amsterdam, they do!
Amsterdam is one of the most photogenic cities in the world. And its almost impossible to take a bad photo of it. That’s why hiring a professional photographer and having your own photo shoot, could be one of the most fun things to do in Amsterdam like a local.
13/ Enjoy the lunchtime concert
Each week on Wednesday (except in July and August), the Royal Concertgebouw holds free lunchtime concerts. They usually last for thirty minutes, and the music styles are very different.
It’s a lovely Amsterdam tradition you can enjoy in like a local during your trip to Amsterdam. For more info and the concert schedule, take a look at this link.
14/ Have a picnic at Museumplein or Vondelpark
Amsterdammers love their parks, and during the summer season, they’re packed with people having picnics, barbecuing or just sunbathing. If you’re wondering how to experience Amsterdam like a local, then here is your answer – have a picnic at some of its parks.
You can get to Hema (probably the most Dutch store), buy a picnic blanket, get some cheese, bread, stroopwafels and spend an afternoon like a local in Amsterdam.
15/ Have a brunch in Amsterdam
During the last few years, brunch became quite an essential part of Dutch culture. And to be honest, I’ve got quite addicted to it during my seven years in the Netherlands.
The thing is, Dutch lunch is basically a sandwich, and people usually have a proper meal, dinner, at home in the evening. But, don’t imagine sandwich as two pieces of bread and a slice of cheese between them. Amsterdammers created an art out of their sandwiches. Besides all the great toppings you could have, they often add a small soup, salad, even a nice smoothie to it, making it a delicious brunch.
With its incredible culture, history and urban vibe, Amsterdam is best experienced among the locals. Hope this guide with things to do in Amsterdam like local will make your stay in this great city even more exciting.