I recently traveled to Amsterdam for the fourth time in my life. It’s one of my personal favorites. I love the culture, oddities and all the experiences that the capital of Holland has to offer. These are some of the less known, hidden gems of Amsterdam that you need to know.
In my opinion, Amsterdam is one of those cities that everyone needs to explore at some point in their lifetime. If you plan out your time wisely, you can see and do it all in just a matter of a few days.
That isn’t all though.
There is a certain level of mystique with this city that will always keep you asking for more.
Consider getting one of these best travel credit cards to get to your destination and book lodging.
I’ll highlight a few locations and underrated things to do that the locals like to experience.
There are several things that you can do that are relatively secret and unknown, including:
- Hidden restaurants
- Underrated experiences
- Hidden gem day trips
- Things to do to act like a local
Rather than using a site to book tours, you can use this list of hidden gems to create your own mini-tour of experiences.
Find the experiences in Amsterdam that will complete your experiences and open your mind to Dutch culture and history.
Table of Contents
- List of the Best Hidden, Underrated Experiences in Amsterdam
- 1. Go “Antiek-ing” in Amsterdam
- 2. Visit the Hortus Botanicus Amsterdam
- 3. Spend a Day in Naarden
- 4. Go Market Hopping Around the City
- 5. Unwind at the Beach – Take a Trip to Bloemendaal
- 6. Dine at Historic, Charming Dutch Restaurants
- 7. Find These Secret Speakeasy Bars
- 8. Explore The Many Boutique, Unique Hotel Experiences
- 9. Climb the Top of Westerkerk
- 10. Ice Skate on a Canal
- 11. Drink a Beer at ‘t Blauw Theehuis in Vondelpark
- 12. Snap a Photo with Van Gogh Street Art on the Prinsengracht
- 13. Drink a Beer at Cafe Hoppe
- 14. Visit the Embassy of the Free Mind
- Conclusion on Hidden Gems of Amsterdam
List of the Best Hidden, Underrated Experiences in Amsterdam
Here are some of my personal favorite underrated, unknown experiences to consider during your stay in Amsterdam.
1. Go “Antiek-ing” in Amsterdam
Holland has some of the best antiques in the world. The old history of Holland dating back to the 1600s is a gem for any person looking to bring back precious jewelry, art, Dutch tiles and more.
The collection of antiques and fine art dates back to the Dutch’s early economic boom from shipping and trade around the world.
Additionally, Delft-style Dutch tiles are prized collections for Dutch homes. In Amsterdam, I’m always amazed by the overall interior design, passion for art, and style of the citizens. You can buy Delft-style Dutch tiling from pre-1700.
Buying anything like that in America is tough to come by. I’m amazed by this level of history.
Check out the Antiek district just north of the Rijksmuseum on Nieuw Spigelstraat.
I picked up this Dutch tile from 1650. I’m in love with it.
The simple things in life like owning a piece of tiling from pre-17th century is definitely a hidden gem.
2. Visit the Hortus Botanicus Amsterdam
You may think that all botanical gardens are created equal. That’s not true. The Hortus Botanicus of Amsterdam is a true gem.
It’s a bit out of the beaten path, but it’s a worthy stopover if you are making the trip to the windmill of De Gooyer.
The Hortus Botanicus is less than 10 euro to explore and see. There is a canal alongside the garden that makes for a great walk and stroll on a calm morning. The Hortus Botanicus is a great option for extremely rainy days as well.
3. Spend a Day in Naarden
Naarden is a city in North Holland that offers a very interesting landscape for aerial photography.
Naarden is a star-shaped town that is filled with history. It used to be a stopover for British bomber brigades heading towards Germany.
Naarden is a bit harder to get to by train than a car. If you want to take the train it’s about a 35 minute ride from Centraal station and you’ll likely need to transfer.
Then, there isn’t much of a bus system when you get there, so you will have to walk quite a bit to get into the central town.
A better alternative might be to rent a car, which makes the trip only a 25 minute drive from Amsterdam city center.
Just look at how cool the outline of this city is…
Go out and spend a day exploring this amazing star-shaped city. See our list of the best weekend trips from Amsterdam for other ideas on road trips.
See Related: Best Beers in Amsterdam
4. Go Market Hopping Around the City
I never knew how many different markets Amsterdam offered until my most recent visit. I was amazed. Like antiques, you can find some amazing modern and old art as well as great produce, cheese.
This is a great way to opt out of falling for tourist traps to get some goods. Market hopping will always be one of my favorite hidden gems of Amsterdam.
It’s a great way to meet the locals while bringing back some unique, prized possessions that come with a story.
List of Amazing Markets in Amsterdam
Here are some amazing markets in Amsterdam:
- Albert Cuyp Market
- Waterlooplein Market
- Westerstraat Market
See Related: Most Beautiful Villages in the Netherlands
5. Unwind at the Beach – Take a Trip to Bloemendaal
This is obviously weather contingent. The Netherlands has some of the most unpredictable weather out there, so you will likely need to make a judgment call during your trip there.
If you get some certainty that the weather will be sunny and nice, then Bloemendaal can be a nice getaway to see a new perspective on Holland.
If you like to unwind during the day and experience nightlife at night, Bloemendaal has it both.
There are a handful of restaurants and bars that live concerts or sunset sessions that can picturesque views while dancing the night away.
See Related: Best Travel Totes
6. Dine at Historic, Charming Dutch Restaurants
Dutch dining is a hidden gem in itself.
Who doesn’t love cheese, fries, or traditional comfort food?
While the food is great, there are plenty of locations to enjoy Dutch cuisine while in an old, historic building to make the experience that much better.
See Related: Best Ways to Get to Amsterdam from London
Charming Traditional Dutch Restaurants in Amsterdam
Here are a few charming, historic restaurants that offer great dining options for traditional Dutch fare:
- Restaurant d’Vijff Vlieghen: Restaurant d’Vijff Vlieghen is called “The Five Flies’ in English. The restaurant sets in an old canal house and features several Rembrandt paintings hung on the wall. You will want to get a tour of the entire house to get the full experience.
- de Silveren Spiegel
- Haesje Claes Restaurant
- Restaurant Moeders
Any of these restaurants makes for a great opportunity for a date night and is one of the more romantic things to do in Amsterdam.
See Related: Best Travel Backpacks
7. Find These Secret Speakeasy Bars
I love finding a good cocktail speakeasy. Nothing is more comfortable than having a cocktail in an awesome setting.
Particularly after a long day of exploring and adventuring.
Here are several secret bars to consider in Amsterdam:
- Wynand Fockink: This is a genuine jenever bar. Jenever is a Dutch gin and considered to be the national liquor of the Netherlands. Tying some jenever should be on everyone’s list while visiting Holland, not just Amsterdam.
- Bar Oldenhof
- The Butcher: The Butcher Amsterdam is a pretty well-known burger joint that features a modern secret bar to get into. They have multiple locations, so you should be able to find one that is nearby your hotel. Grab one of these amazing Amsterdam beers while you are there.
See Related: How to Find Cheap Vacations to Amsterdam
8. Explore The Many Boutique, Unique Hotel Experiences
Amsterdam has some of the most unique hotels in the world. There are many different landscapes and perspectives that you can see.
Most of these hotels offer outstanding eating and drinking options to go along with a great view, outstanding architecture and design.
Here are a few hotels that have some awesome design, food and drinks:
- Pulitzer Hotel Amsterdam (read about our stay in our Hotel Pulitzer review)
- Soho House
- Canal House
- The Hoxton
- Pillows Ana Van Den Vondel
- The Dylan
The list goes on. You can get lost in these hotels just by walking and exploring the design.
See Related: Where Should You Travel for Your Birthday?
9. Climb the Top of Westerkerk
Westerkerk is the tall church located right next to Anne Frank’s house.
She wrote about the church in her diary and there is a lot of history with this church. It’s also a piece of beautiful architecture.
The church has one of the tallest towers in all of Amsterdam.
A lot of people would suggest that you should go to the SkyLounge or the A’Dam Lookout. That’s too easy to take an elevator.
Why not climb the inside of a church through history?
The cost is only 9 euro and will give you some of the best views of the city being in the center of the iconic Prinsengracht.
I think this is one of the best-kept secrets to seeing a panoramic shot of Amsterdam.
Look at the view from the top of Westerkerk!
See Related: 12 Best Travel Apps for Europe
10. Ice Skate on a Canal
Ice skating on a canal is a true experience filled with photographic moments. Cold winter nights don’t seem pleasing to everyone, but there is something about ice skating that keeps you warm and alive.
This is an experience you won’t want to miss while traveling to Amsterdam in winter.
See Related: Things Amsterdam is Famous For
11. Drink a Beer at ‘t Blauw Theehuis in Vondelpark
I ended up at ‘t Blauw Theehuis in Vondelpark twice because I liked it so much. It’s a nice terrace in the direct center of Amsterdam’s Vondelpark.
The ‘t Blauw Theehuis is similar to a tea house, but they don’t serve tea. Actually, it’s now run by Breuwirj ‘t Ij, which is a phenomenal local Dutch brewery.
I’m a bit of a beer snob and I was very impressed by the beer. I’d recommend the Session IPA. It’s light enough that you won’t feel too “surly” from having a couple in the afternoon.
With it being lighter in weight, you won’t be losing any flavor that a typical IPA offers. Enjoy this experience on a nice summer afternoon.
See Related: 12 Best Amsterdam Tours
12. Snap a Photo with Van Gogh Street Art on the Prinsengracht
There is a pre-made Van Gogh on the street of Prinsengracht. Go shake hands with Van Gogh himself and immerse yourself.
This painting is a street art made self-portrait of Vincent Van Gogh.
13. Drink a Beer at Cafe Hoppe
Cafe Hoppe is a staple and pretty well-known. I loved the architecture so much that it stood out to me as an iconic memory of Amsterdam.
I’d never actually gone in there. It was always too busy on the outside with people sprawling into the street enjoying the weather and some Dutch beer.
I finally made the leap and went into Cafe Hoppe. The inside is just as beautiful as the facade.
The place is rich in history and uniqueness. After looking around, I realized I was one of the only non-locals in the bar.
Cafe Hoppe is located in the somewhat touristy area of Spui, but it seems that it scares off tourists with the vast amount of locals overtaking the bar.
Soak in a beer with the locals at this secret gem.
See Related: 12 Best Amsterdam Tours
14. Visit the Embassy of the Free Mind
The Embassy of the Free Mind isn’t for everyone. It’s more of a library than a museum. I love the concept, however. The museum was founded in 2017 by Worldheart Foundation.
Dan Brown performed the opening of the museum. Yes, the famous Dan Brown writer of The Da Vinci Code, Inferno, and many others.
The concept is amazing it touches on the history of the Amsterdam and Dutch mindset of free-thinking and includes over 2,000 years of accumulated wisdom.
Beyond this, they explore the text of various books to find out the following questions:
- Who am I?
- Where am I from?
- Where am I going?
Be prepared to spend an extended period of time here as there is a lot of dense reading.
Check out this canal view of Amsterdam from our rent a car.
Enjoy your trip to Amsterdam. Now go out and explore!
See Related: Best Travel Gifts for Backpackers
Conclusion on Hidden Gems of Amsterdam
There is no shortage of things to do in Amsterdam.
On my fourth stopover in this majestic city, I had to spend an entire week here to explore and immerse myself in the Dutch metropolitan capital of Amsterdam.
It was a wonderful experience and one where I didn’t need to spend much time in tourist areas to enjoy my experience.
There is truly an option for any type of weather condition. Start exploring Amsterdam in a different way by visiting one of these underrated things to do.
What is your favorite hidden gem of Amsterdam? Let us know in the comments below. We’d love to hear from you.
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