There’s no need to beat around the bush – Amsterdam is one of Europe’s most fantastic cities and its reputation as a liberal city is well justified. Sure you may know it for the bikes, legalised marijuana and the Red Light District but Amsterdam is actually home to some of the most incredible museums, clubs, flea markets, and architecture I’ve ever seen.
The reason why I know Amsterdam well is the Erasmus exchange program which enabled me to spend a whole year riding my bike up and down the narrow streets, eating stroopwafels, and making some of the best memories of my life. If you’re going to Amsterdam to study at UvA, VU or some other school and you’re wondering how the whole experience is going to look like you can read an article on my experience here. This article will instead focus on one of my all time favorite things to do in Berlin from thrift stores and flea markets to some unique museums, bars/clubs and things to experience.
So let’s start with the most common tourist thing to visit – Amsterdam museums. As you probably read elsewhere the most famous museums would have to be Rijksmuseum, Van Gogh, and Stedelijk Museum on Museumplein where you’ll have the chance to take a picture in front of the famous Iamsterdam sign. These are all objectively great museums (although I must admit that I didn’t care too much about Rijks), but I want to tell you about those that don’t get mentioned as often but are worth visiting just as the Museumplein’s ones.
My two absolute favorite museums that I kept on visiting over and over again are Foam (photography museum), and the EYE Film Museum. They both update and change their exhibitions monthly, featuring different artist and themes. If you’re photography freak like me you’ll be happy to know that Foam also publishes 4 magazines yearly also available online and if you’d like to showcase your work they also have that an open call for new photographers every February/March. The EYE Film museum is located in Amsterdam north and it’s accessible by a free-of-charge ferry on the north side of the Amsterdam Central station. The building itself is already a sight to see as it is shaped as an eye and located right on the river Ij. Besides visiting the museum, you can also go there to see a movie, or just to hang out in their restaurant and enjoy the nice view.
For those of you that enjoy learning about different cultures, I would definitely recommend the Tropenmuseum, a splendid anthropological museum. As the Dutch used to be great colonizers, this museum really has some incredible exhibitions about societies in Africa, Asia, and Latin America on subjects ranging from celebration and praying to mourning and conflict. If you’re traveling with children, this museum has a whole part of the museum dedicated to juniors.
Quite close to Tropenmuseum you’ll find the Brouwerij‘t IJ, a fantastic little brewery located right by a big Dutch windmill that offers a great variety of beers. They’re truly unique in their taste, design, and overall experience. Note that they’re open daily but only from 2 pm – 8 pm. Another place relatively close by especially with a bike (a must-have in Amsterdam) that deserves your attention is Roest, one-of-a-kind bar by the water that has a sandy beach area outside, cool art installations inside, and regularly hosts some incredible concerts and flea markets.
Now let’s talk about Amsterdam night scene. Coming from a small city of Ljubljana, I was in awe when I noticed the amount of incredible concerts and unique clubs Amsterdam has to offer! The best bar and club areas in Amsterdam are Leidseplein, Rembrandtplein and Amsterdam Noord. If live concerts are your thing I’d recommend checking Paradiso (a church converted into a concert hall) and Melkweg (a former milk factory) for their upcoming events. Besides the two, I’d say probably the most famous clubs are also the Sugar Factory, Jimmy Woo or AIR Amsterdam. My absolute recommendation would be to go to Amsterdam Noord. This area is the most up-and-coming neighborhood in Amsterdam and is known for its creative cafés, cultural centers and clubbing warehouses like Tolhuistuin, Undercurrent and Café de Ceuvel. If you’re more into squaded and underground places, there’s plenty of those as well but do google them beforehand as they’re constantly changing (one of my favorites used to be Op de Valreep and which now unfortunately no longer exists).
If you’re into second-hand vintage clothing, nick-nacks or you really want to find a unique gift, you’ll be happy to see how many cool looking little shops there are around the city. One of the best areas to explore is the Nine Streets (Negen Straatjes) where you should keep an eye out for shops like Spiegelbeeld, Episode, Laura Dols and others.
I would also really recommend visiting Waterlooplein where they have everything you can ever imagine, a flea market with bikes and bike gear, clothes (old and new), accessories, vinyl records and more! They’re opened every day except Sundays, but because the market is outside, they usually close it down on a really rainy day.
Another really special thing to do in Amsterdam is going to the cinema. At this point, you might be wondering what’s so special about going to the cinema… Amsterdam has many old refurbished cinemas that will take you back in time! Check out places like Pathé Tuschinski, Het Ketelhuis (at Westergasfabriek), and Kriterion. You’ll be happy to know that they’re usually quite chill concerning food and drinks in the cinema, in Kriterion for instance we were able to get in with nachos and martinis that we bought at the bar!
I truly believe Amsterdam is one of the best cities you could ever visit or if you’re lucky enough, live in and so I hope that this piece gave you a bit of inspiration!
Let me know about your favourite spots!