Where To Eat & Stay In Amsterdam guide image

photo credit: Laila Lopes

AMSTGuide

Where To Eat & Stay In Amsterdam

Our 26 favorite places in Amsterdam for stroopwafels, "headbutts," and Surinamese food.

You’re probably not going to hear “culinary destination” and “Amsterdam” used in the same sentence. The capital of the Netherlands may have built a reputation around red lights, “herb”-focused coffee shops (not to be confused with bean-focused cafés), and an endless sense of debauchery. But amidst picturesque canals, a bikeable city, and an optimal blend of cosmopolitan energy, Amsterdam does have a diverse and exciting restaurant scene. In a country only slightly larger than Maryland, the Netherlands is actually the second largest agricultural exporter in the world and has a strong culture that prizes gezelligheid (roughly translated as a “cozy togetherness”) at mealtimes. And the actual food? You’d be missing out if you thought bitterballen, fries, churros, and Argentinian steaks were all the city had to offer. 

Whether you want an intro to Dutch drinking snacks known as borrelhapjes at a bruin café, get together with a crew on the restaurant terraces lining the canals, or explore the many Indonesian and Surinamese warungs, you’ll want to bike all over town and get your fill beyond broodjes and poffertjes. Just keep in mind that with a rapidly growing population, the Dutch penchant for planning ahead, and the fact that dinners start as early as 5pm and don’t last til the wee hours of the morning (restaurant staff want a bit of gezelligheid too), reservations are a must. Eet smakelijk!


DUTCH CLASSICS


photo credit: Laila Lopes

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Rudi's Stroop

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180 Albert Cuypstraat, Amsterdam
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Aside from friets, the stroopwafel is an inescapable Dutch eating to-do. Many a stroopwafel slinger will claim theirs as the best, but for the actual best, head to Rudi’s. The thin wafel comes out softer (use both hands to hold it vertically) with a slight crunch compared to other doughier, shatter-prone versions, and the syrup is freshly made with more warming spices, like cinnamon, that most industrial ones skimp on. They’re located in Albert Cuyp Markt, one of the largest markets in Europe, where you can also find other local specialties like cured herring, fried cod, and poffertjes. There are plenty of other stalls that have fancier digs and toppings, but Rudi's is where you should buy stroopwafels to bring back home with you.


A visit to Mokum, a local nickname for Amsterdam, wouldn’t be complete without stopping by a bruin café. These watering holes are named after the plentiful use of dark brown wood inside and are where residents gather for a biertje or a kopstootje, a “headbutt” that consists of a tulip glass of jenever and a side of beer. While you can’t really go wrong choosing any bruin café, a visit to Café Hoppe ticks off a lot of boxes. They’re located on Spuistraat near many other fantastic pubs and cocktail bars in nearby Negen Straatjes or Leidseplein, and the place itself is part national monument that’s been open since the 1600s. The place should be one of your first stops in the city to wind down or warm up—just make sure you head there before 6pm, especially on weekends, to avoid the crowds.


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For a restaurant that calls itself a culinary museum, d’Vijff Vlieghen’s seems to cater to out-of-towners looking to experience something both Dutch but also safely familiar menu-wise: there are delicious but recognizable things like pan-fried fish, soup, roasted vegetables, and a duck breast. Depending on which of the individually-themed, 17th-century dining rooms you’re in, you might find original etchings by Rembrandt, chairs stamped with the names of famous celebrities who’ve sat in them, or antique suits of armor and Delft blue tiles adorning the walls. Choose as many dishes that contain Dutch ingredients as you can handle—there’s herring, gray shrimp, and ossenworst—and if you’re here with a crowd for dinner on a cool, autumn night, you’ll feel like you’re in your own private house at Hogwarts.


If you’re in town with your mom, you’re going to want to get a reservation at Moeders. The place is a shrine to mothers (complete with all kinds of photos of them on the walls) and a necessary intro to traditional Dutch comfort food, like stampot, the Netherlands’ national dish. Theirs features a mound of potatoes mashed with other vegetables like sauerkraut or kale, then ringed by sausage, bacon, and a meatball, before a swimming pool of gravy is finally poured into the center. You’ll want to wait for a chilly day to eat this (you won’t be waiting long), and if your mom happens to be with you on her birthday or on Mother’s Day, you might even get something special for the table.


THE ONE NICE DINNER


A restaurant that can straddle the line between comforting familiarity and buzzy newness is a rare find. If you want something interesting but aren’t necessarily willing to gamble on the hottest spot in town, 101 Gowrie is where you want to be. The two-person kitchen churns out culture-straddling dishes like tagliolini bolognese with ramen and North sea squid, Chinese pancakes doused in hollandaise, and crispy new potatoes floating on vanilla espuma that remind us of dipping McDonald's fries in ice cream. Come here when you’re looking for food that’ll surprise you, but know that the dining room atmosphere is more straightforward than the menu and the background hip-hop adds to the low-key feel.


Yamazato is one of the great Japanese restaurants in all of Europe. Visit its longstanding home in the Okura Hotel, ask for a window seat, and order the seasonal menu where their approach to kaiseki ryori really shines. Dishes like matcha somen in dashi, mackerel tempura, and mushroom rice with pickles work if you’re celebrating something big or just need an exceptional meal and happen to be staying at the Okura. Yamazato is also a solid choice if you want a break from the chaos of Centrum.


The Dutch certainly know a thing or two about greenhouses, so when you want to experience the best of the produce that grows in them, come to De Kas. You’ll dine inside one (De Kas literally means “the greenhouse” in Dutch), eating things that will make you say things like “so THIS is what a tomato should taste like.” It’s a perfect location for group dinners, and somewhere you should take your proudest vegetarian or vegan friend. Ask for a corner table and check out the actual working greenhouse and gardens in between courses.


Normally we wouldn’t recommend anything remotely near Station Centraal unless you have a particular taste for average churros and Argentinian steakhouses. But if you know you’ll be in the area and need something nice enough for yourself, a date, or your parents, Choux is your best bet. This place feels like a combination wine store and neighborhood bistro, and offers a couple of neatly composed tasting menus with dishes like pigeon leg confit on pickled roses, butter beans buried under edible flowers and apple leaf granita, and always appreciated in-between course bites like creamy tartelettes and spruce sorbets. Go for the three-course Theater Menu that’s €50 and makes for a decently early dinner before calling it a night or continuing on at the nearby Bimhuis for a jazz performance.


The theatrics of this self-proclaimed “theater of fish” in Jordaan may be more subdued than a Vegas clubstaurant, but they still know how to make their seafood the star of the show. You can’t go wrong with appetizers like oysters (French ones will do, the Dutch options even better) or whatever crudo or ceviche is on hand, but definitely check if they have soft shell crabs—on one of our past visits, they were so good that we had them as a starter and dessert. Select one or two of the gleaming fish laying on ice in the front of the restaurant for your main with a basic side of salad or fries. Then, you’ll walk over to a wall of wines and liquors so you can choose something to pair with your meal. Whether you’re just looking for a solid plate of fish to share or a celebration dinner in three acts, Pesca will keep you and your group entertained throughout.


GOOD FOR GROUPS


So you ignored us when we told you to make reservations ahead of time and are now wandering around aimlessly but not in the mood for a late-night kapsalon that comes with layers of fries, döner meat, and molten gouda cheese. You want an eetcafé, a Dutch bistro that caters to the neighbors and focuses on smaller menus, doesn’t take reservations, and in the case of Wijmpje Beukers, usually has ample space on a quiet, tree-lined street. Ease into their rotating menu with a cava or negroni, proceed to pretty appetizers like honey melon with fennel pollen and gazpacho, and get a main like a corvina fillet with bone marrow. Order an espresso martini nightcap and wilfully ignore our advice to plan ahead next time as an excuse to come back here.


It’s not easy to find many taco spots, let alone good ones, in Amsterdam. Case in point: Coba. You will have to venture out a bit further and cross the river Ij, but the oyster tostada and soft shell crab taco alone are worth the 10-minute subway ride from Station Centraal. The menu goes far beyond tinga de pollo and tacos al pastor, so you should come here with three to four other friends and order everything. Then, settle into the low stools and soak in the abundance of agave plants and groups sipping on small glasses of mezcal and beer. Follow suit and sample something from the extensive list of agave spirits that also includes things like sotol, bacanora, and raicillas before taking a short walk and hopping on the free ferry back instead of the train.


If you’re nearing the end of your trip and want a hearty meal where you won't have to do much choosing, head to The Cottage and get the Sunday Roast. You’ll definitely need a reservation for this small slice of England on Oost where you’ll often find families splitting English breakfasts and young kids playing with the crates of toys. The roast will be heavy with meat, grilled vegetables, Yorkshire pudding, horseradish cream, and a gravy designed to shield you from the windy and rainy Amsterdam days. If however, you happen to actually be British and swear that you won’t touch any roast that’s not mum or dad’s, they also have excellent scones, pies, and homemade baked beans.


No one comes to Amsterdam for the balmy weather and beaches, so if you find yourself in the city on the rare warm day, you’ll want to hop on the free ferry to the NDSM wharf across the Ij and claim any number of spots at the multi-purpose Pllek. There are plenty of communal tables,  but they also have bean bags strewn across the gravelly “beach,” a tent-covered dais, and beach chairs for sunbathers looking to store enough sunshine for a rainy day. The food is mostly plant-based and does the job: falafel, portobello mushroom burgers, and salads. The real draw is the real estate and the frequent happenings, including morning yoga, activities for kids, and even late-night clubbing. Just don’t forget to head back on the last ferry at 11:30pm if you’re not staying in Noord (buses and trains still run if you forget).


CLOSE TO CANALS & PARKS


If you’re gearing up for a heavy day of biking and need a good source of fuel, come to New Draver and order a plate. While you can still get the usual nasi, bami, and roti, the best stuff from the constantly-changing Surinamese menu are the Creole dishes they specialize in. The moksi alesi, or“mixed rice,” is a favorite with meat and sometimes beans, while the Surinamese national dish of pom is a slightly sweet casserole of grated pomtajer, a root crop, mixed with chunks of chicken. If this is actually the end of your bike route, get a shot of their liquors infused with a house blend of spices to help you digest.


Because of the centuries-long Dutch occupation of the islands, it’s pretty easy to find Indonesian food in the Netherlands. Popular dishes include nasi rames, loempia, and spekkoek, but to get an expansive intro to the Dutch-Indonesian table, order a rijstafel at Restaurant Blauw. Originally a Sumatran meal, rijstafels can only really be found in the Netherlands and the one at Blauw comes with the requisite rice and multiple shareable dishes. Bring at least one friend, order the meat and fish version, and you’ll get 14 dishes that come out all at once, from beef rendang and spicy shrimp belado to refreshing acar and their signature tahu peteh. Head here if you’re bringing a crowd hungry from biking around nearby Vondelpark or just want the variety of a tasting menu except all at once.


The latest scientific research shows that 9 out of 10 museum restaurants suck, but Rijks is the exception. Instead of pricey salads and poncho-covered tour groups, you’ll find fashionable locals going in on tasting menus at this modern Dutch restaurant. Despite the popularity of the set menu, our move here is to order a la carte. Order one of their platters, like their chicken dish that comes presented on a brass sculpture of chicken legs, and a few plates like beetroot millefeuille and BBQ leek to share while you wait. If you’re spending a high culture day in Museumkwartier, a meal at Rijks makes for the perfect break or ending.


The Dutch are some of the biggest consumers of cheese in the world, so you’d be mistaken if you thought all that’s available is a mild gouda that you might find at your local deli. You can sample Dutch cheese at the open-air markets, but for an experience where you can take your time and share with friends, Kaasbar offers a wide selection of local cheeses divided into white, red, hard, and blue types for a la carte sampling or as chef’s choice boards. Sprawl out on the outside terrace for prime people-watching or sit at the counter and choose off a conveyor belt. Each cheese comes with a paired garnish, so you could go with the Alphenaer with beef jerky and honey, Brabants Blauw with mejdool date and hazelnuts, or an aged option with cumin that’s paired with curry mayo and lemon zest. They also come with a suggested wine pairing and optional charcuterie add-ons, making Kaasbar perfect for the chronically indecisive or those who want to cap dinner elsewhere off with a proper cheese plate.


A QUICK BITE


This entire guide could be dedicated to Surinamese cuisine in the Netherlands and we’d easily run out of space. The typical menu blends influences from China, Africa, India, and Indonesia (among others), and is a mainstay of the Dutch culinary landscape given their colonial ties. If you’re new to the cuisine, you’ll be in good hands at Warung Mini. Order some of the thick, yellow-pea-filled roti, plus some chicken or lamb curry that you can pair it with. They have a few tables inside if you just want to quickly slurp on some saoto soup and snack on some banana or shrimp chips, but a better move is to get a full meal or to-go broodje and head to nearby Sarphatipark.


Two situations where expectations don’t meet reality: 1) the canals of Amsterdam with tourists and cyclists getting in the way of your photos and 2) brunch with the frantic service that ends with poached eggs that have already coagulated. Dignita should be your all-day brunch move in Amsterdam, especially if you’re looking to be closer to calmer canals. The Hoftuin location by the Plantage in particular has a spacious lawn to stretch out on, a hefty buttermilk fried chicken sandwich called the Chook Norris, and sits a mere five-minute walk away from the Magere Brug. Another reason we love this place: all of the Dignita restaurants are non-profit social enterprises opened by Not for Sale, an organization fighting modern slavery and providing career opportunities for former victims.


Don’t let the communal table packed with laptop jockeys on Coffee & Coconuts’ first floor fool you into thinking this is your run-of-the-mill digital nomad hotspot. This renovated cinema is also great for breakfast or lunch any day you just need some quick nourishment that you can pair with the extensive drink menu. Sit at the calmer top floors if it’s raining outside and get the coffee that’s being roasted right below you or grab a table outside on a sunny day and order fresh juice. And if it happens to be that kind of brunch, get the whole young coconut and ask them to spike it.


Eating fries is pretty essential in Amsterdam, and while there is surprisingly little variation in town, the real spin is in the dozens of sauces. And yet the friethuisjes frequented by most usually list the same ones from the mayo-like frietssaus to the nutty oorlog. Not at Ter Marsch though, which has one that’s topped with black truffles, parmesan, dried sausage, and fried parsley. Get a portion to go at their Kalverstraat outpost or have a heavier sit-down meal at their Vijzelstraat location where the burgers are also worth a try.


THE HOTELS


photo credit: Sweets Hotel/Robert Mosterd

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Sweets Hotel

So you’ve decided you want to sleep right by the water after scrolling through photos of quaint canals and semi-luxurious houseboats. The only problem is that you don’t actually want to stay in a cramped, rocking houseboat you found on Airbnb that costs as much as a booze cruise. Check out the SWEETS hotel, which is actually a network of 28 bridge houses that were converted into one-bedroom suites for two. Formerly housing the city’s many bridge keepers who became redundant as bridge control was centralized, each bridge house features a unique design so you can actually stay in a different one each night and feel like you’re in an entirely different hotel. The spaces are compact but functional and built for those who travel light and appreciate a unique kind of stay.


Located between Albert Cuypmarkt and the many museums that comprise the Museumplein, SiR Albert is one of the many locations of the SiR Hotels. Aside from the high ceilings, large windows, and carefully selected amenities, SiR Albert is where you go if you want to be close to the cultural happenings and green spaces in the city without the tight squeeze of the city center. You can also book one-of-a-kind excursions with local guides who’ll take you to an urban winery or a DJ who’ll go vinyl hunting with you.


This aptly named hotel does indeed have students staying in its well-equipped premises with on-site laundry, gym, co-working spaces, and kitchens, but this is not your typical windowless dorm room. The Student Hotel has plenty of space for solo travelers, families needing extra bunk beds, and freelancers who need a longer stay to finally finish their website. The busy game and dining areas in both the City and West locations are perfect for making new friends. And while the decor is mostly functional shelves and desk lamps, there’s plenty of room and creative energy for you to actually get some writing done.


You’re likely reading this because you travel to eat, so let’s get the important details out first: this hotel has five great restaurants, two bars, and a private jetty where you can sail in to pick up your lobsters and champagne directly into your boat. Staying here means classically decorated rooms and suites (think: straight lines, solid colors, wood accents) that come with a few extras like a pillow menu and a Japanese toilet. But like we said, you’re likely reading this because you just need a place to sleep after eating at one of the five restaurants.


If you’re looking to maximize the number of canals and bridges you check out and/or are a fan of independent boutiques, you’ll want to head to the Negen Straatjes (“9 Streets”). The Dylan is smack dab in the middle of this collection of side streets full of cafes and bakeries, historic canal houses, and the three major canals of Amsterdam. Rooms are big enough for a dance party—a luxury in these otherwise slim canal houses—and offer scenic views of the canals and garden.


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