Many tourists who visit Amsterdam spend much of their time visiting tourist highlights like The Anne Frank House, the Van Gogh museum and the Rijksmuseum. That’s all much better than hanging around in a coffeeshop all day, doing the “Heineken experience” or visiting the Amsterdam Dungeon of course… But there’s so much more to Amsterdam!
With the help of our volunteer locals have created the Spotted by Locals Amsterdam blog & app to make you experience our city like we locals do. In this article we picked some of the most unique, local gems in Amsterdam, discovered by our very own team of Spotters.
A sustainable island
De Ceuvel in Amsterdam-Noord is actually a camp, a technological one, where research in urban sustainability and circular systems is done and implemented. The area that it is now home to was a former highly polluted industrial site, a “forbidden chemical garden”. Luckily, it was saved by De Metabolic Lab!
They host workshops, documentary screenings, music, clothing swaps, markets, festivals, and more. Afterward, you can take a break in their cafe, where you can find ingredients from their greenhouse on your plate. If you’re interested in sustainability, De Ceuvel is your amusement park in Amsterdam. But if you’re not, oh well, it’s just a place that will save the world! — Ana V. Martins
Amsterdam’s melting pot
Amsterdam East (Oost) has always been one of my favourite neighbourhoods for various reasons, and in recent years I’ve been enjoying it more and more. The Javastraat are has been subjected to the feared gentrification – the housing market exploded and lots of new, hip places have been popping up left and right – but I think it hasn’t lost its authenticity.
In this street you will find people from lots of different cultures co-existing. Here you find the best Turkish and Moroccan grocery shops, you can get the the best baklava, authentic Surinamese food and msemen that remind me of Marrakesh, but also hipster cocktails and bites! — Kara Lilley
A historical botanical garden
Living in a city can cause you to miss a little bit of green from time to time. That’s when I head for the Hortus Botanicus in the eastern part of Amsterdam! In this beautiful botanical garden, you can find a variety of exotic plants and trees divided per original habitat.
Exploring here will not take you longer than an hour, but it is perfect to combine with a nice lunch and some exploration of Amsterdam-East. Every once in while the garden organizes themed guided tours, and children can entertain themselves during a scavenger hunt! It’s a wonderful place to just get away from the hustle and bustle for a short while. — Felicia Peerenboom
Meet locals during ping-pong night!
Whenever I take frowned faces to a Ping-Pong night at OT301 in Amsterdam, their frowns turn into grins in a split second! Just imagine thirty people around a ping pong table, beers in hand, taking turns to strike the ball until someone misses or is unsuccessful at their shot, and leaves the circle until a winner emerges.
There is a bit of an underground vibe at OT301, a former squat that became a legalized cultural association. They also host a variety of other cool events like live concerts, cinema, clubbing nights, and workshops. Ping Pong Night, every Tuesday evening, will always remain a classic in my heart! — Ana V. Martins
A Dutch detox – nude in art deco!
If you want to experience Dutch culture all the way, you should consider going to a sauna. And if you want to go to a beautiful one, I recommend visiting Sauna Deco! You might have guessed it: this is an art-deco experience. Once you’re inside it will feel like you’re back in the 1920s.
The Dutch are not known for their puritanism and, historically, Amsterdam has been the place to break free. So, do not bring your swimming gear with you. Finally, it goes without saying that saunas are naked. Don’t worry, nobody cares! Take a dive or a cold shower afterward and you’ll feel completely recharged! — Ana V. Martins
Local art, food, and fashion
Every first Sunday of the month, on the grounds of the Westergasfabriek, you can visit the Sunday Market. Here, local designers, craftsmen, and artists show off their fashion, art, furniture and other oddities. Entrance is free and you can find the market stalls both inside and outside all around the Westergasfabriek.
It is a great place if you like unique designs and like to support local artists and merchants. walk around from stand to stand to see what catches your eye and maybe walk away with some unique items! Also, there is food. Which is very important to me. To me, the personal story of the items I buy is important, which is why I love going here! — Sentia van der Mark
In the past few years vintage clothing has experienced quite the revival. My experience is that the nicest pieces are mostly women’s clothing, and therefore I’m sharing Tommy Page with you! It has the most distinct and well-curated selection of vintage menswear in town.
His wide range of suits, accessories and other fashion-related items make it worth the visit every single time. Since I discovered his shop I have bought several unique items, including a French pilot’s jacket from the 60s. Tommy knows his classics and has a proper feel for historic context, which makes the experience even greater.
Going to Tommy’s? Tell him I said hi. — Gerben van der Zwaard
Listen to monkeys sing
Okay, I know what you’re thinking, what does that mean? Well, when I come down the Nijlpaardenbrug at 8:00 in the morning I hear the monkeys and birds from the Artis Zoo wake up. It’s such a nice thing to hear yet strange in a place like Amsterdam.
I pass the Nijlpaardenbrug, which literally translates to Hippo bridge, every day on my way to work. It’s not the most comfortable bridge because it’s quite steep, but somehow, with the sounds of the animals in the background, it makes my commute worthwhile. If you walk by the water starting from the bridge you will see zebras and giraffes grazing. The area surrounding the bridge is a nice place to explore for an afternoon after an early morning listening to the animals sing! — Bart van Grevenhof
The only Dutch funeral museum
Once a while ago, on a particularly sunny day, I took out my bike for a ride. This is when I remembered a museum my friend told me about, Tot Zover (So Long), a one-of-a-kind funeral museum. It’s a rather unique place, located in De Nieuwe Ooster, the Dutch cemetery, in the former house of the funeral warden.
I visited an exhibition about Coffin Product Photography. The open conversation about mortality might not be for everyone (or is it?) but I very much appreciated the light -and sometimes even respectfully humorist-tone of the exhibition. There is nothing like it. Literally, as this is the only Dutch funeral museum in existence. — Sentia van der Mark
Europe’s first air hockey bar
When I heard that the owner of one of my favorite spots, was opening up a new concept, I couldn’t wait to go. The new spot, called Puck, is a bar with multiple air hockey tables, this coincidentally is my favorite game! The place is really spacious with high ceilings, lots of tables, a cool and colorful interior, and an old-school hip hop playlist.
the main attraction – a game room with 16 different kinds of air hockey tables. Curved edges, multiplayer, different kinds of pucks – they seem to have it all. You can get your tokens at the bar for €1 each or six for €5, pretty simple right. They serve snacks and drinks as well to relax in between games. All in all, Puck has everything you need for a fun night out with friends! — Kara Lilley
An artist colony & cultural center in the outskirts
Ruigoord is a former island and artists’ colony in the outskirts of Amsterdam. In the 1970 artists squatted these vacant homes in the 1970s. Nowadays it’s legalized, but the squatters vibe is still there. Lots of workshops and cultural activities are organized around the former church building. Everything depends on the effort and commitment of the devoted volunteers.
When walking around the area you feel a bit of an alien atmosphere, with gardens full of mannequins and some antisemitic graffiti. However, the people you meet while visiting markets or other events that are being organized year round are very nice and down to earth. It’s definitely a step outside the comfort zone (and city) but it’s absolutely worthwhile! Come here also for full moon parties and festivals. — Felicia Peerenboom
Not-so-busy Amsterdam charm
One of the best features of Amsterdam is definitely its unique architecture. Unfortunately, all the beautiful places in town are always crowded. Luckily, there are some places, like the Westelijke Eilanden (the Western Islands) are still undiscovered and can still be explored without the mass of people.
They are situated within walking distance from the Central Station but are very peaceful and they might have the most beautiful old warehouses you’ll see around. You can go for a quick peek and a snapshot, but could also get lost in its small streets if you want. There are lots of benches so you can just relax and enjoy the weather for a while (If it allows it). Here you can enjoy the glory of Amsterdam’s architecture in peace and quiet! — Gerben van der Zwaard