Whether you stick to the tried-and-tested canal belt or venture deep into on-the-up districts like Amsterdam-Noord or the Indies Neighborhood in the eastern borough, Amsterdam never fails to reward you with a plethora of surprises. From the top tables to the best beds to book, Dutch journalist Chris Schalkx shares his favorite spots in Holland’s capital.
Where to Stay:
Taking over 28 monumental bridge keepers’ houses around town, Sweets is Amsterdam’s answer to Italy’s ‘Alberghi Diffusi’ (scattered hotels). Each cabin has a different look—from Bauhaus to retro—and could overlook anything from windmills to little-visited canals. The funnest part: some, like #206, are only accessible by boat.
With its plum position along the cobblestoned Herengracht canal, the homey Hoxton puts its guests just a stroll away from the canal belt’s highlights. But you’d hardly want to leave: all-day diner Lotti’s is top-notch, and the hotel’s vintage-studded suites are some of the city’s finest.
Where to Eat:
Don’t let the ‘hotel’ label — or location — fool you: set in a former garage on an unassuming industrial estate in Amsterdam-Noord, this industrial-chic restaurant books out almost nightly with the city’s creative in-crowd. The rotisserie chicken, served with an ever-changing selection of sides, is always a hit.
Spearheaded by chefs Richard van Oostenbrugge and Thomas Groot, this bistro is a low-key alternative to the duo’s fine-dining restaurant (the two Michelin-starred 212) around the corner. The menu is innovative and protein-heavy, with mains featuring bone marrow and veal kidneys, but the appetizers, such as the tomato salad with mustard ice cream, are just as delightful.
Where to Drink:
Oedipus’ craft beers, infused with experimental ingredients such as lemongrass, Sichuan peppercorn, or malts smoked in a local butchers’ oven, are brewed just 20 minutes north of this convivial gastropub. The offbeat location of the brand’s east Amsterdam outpost, a 1940s municipal bath house which later reincarnated as a Hindu temple, only adds to the freewheeling vibe.
Award-winning bartender Ryan Chetiyawardana (aka Mr. Lyan)’s first venture outside of London opened at Amsterdam’s Kimpton DeWitt in 2019 and instantly became a hit. The constantly changing cocktail list at this neon-lit drinking den ranges from classic espresso martinis jazzed up with kvass liqueur to experimental sidecars with Verjuice and daikon cress. Seats fill up fast, especially on weekends, so call ahead to reserve a table.
Where to Visit:
A 10-minute ferry-ride from the Central Station sits the NDSM Wharf, a former shipyard that has been revamped into a graffiti-clad creative hub. The largest hangar, IJ-Hallen, hosts the city’s best flea market on weekends, and is home to artist workshops and cafes such as Ijver. Nearby, riverside restaurant Noorderlicht and street art museum STRAAT are also worth a stop.
For a cultural hit, don’t miss the envelope-pushing Stedelijk in the bustling Museum Quarter. The imposing art collection spans everything from Matisse to Jeff Koons, but the exhibitions on furniture and homeware design are just as beguiling.
Whether you’re after vintage toys, kaleidoscopic kilim carpets, or quirky antique knick knacks, you’ll likely stumble upon a gem at the Noordermarkt. For almost 400 years, this lively market has popped up in front of the Noorderkerk on Saturday- and Monday mornings.
When the canal belt’s bustle gets a little too overwhelming, retreat to De Hortus, a peaceful slice of green in the east of town. This botanical garden dates back to the early 17th century, when it was founded as a medicinal herb garden. These days, you can ogle near-extinct plants and butterflies in the greenhouse.