updated December 2021
Routes For You To Get Lost in Amsterdam encapsulates the beginning of Amsterdive – the blog. Moving from Lisbon to Amsterdam in 2012 meant starting to host people on a frequent basis: family, friends, couchsurfers. So I came up with different routes in the city that I could pass on to my people, back then, on a handwritten piece of paper.
This blog was born out of my unwavering enthusiasm for the Dutch capital. Ten years after first landing here, people keep asking me for Amsterdam tips for their trip (it kinda rhymed!) so I keep updating this blog post. They cover the, for me, most interesting parts of the city: from the old town to newer, up-and-coming districts.
I organized these routes by theme:
- Route 1 – The Portal: Old Center & City Museum
- Route 2 – The Pleasure: Red Light District & Main Markets
- Route 3 – The Culture: Museums & Vondelpark
- Route 4 – The Spirit(s): The North Side & Genever
- Route 5 – The Tradition: Around De Jordaan & 9 Streets
- Route 6 – The Beyond: East Side
- Route 7 – The Now: NDSM
How each section works:
I’m giving you a starting point + endpoint for the route, but these are suggestions. If you want to keep exploring, you absolutely should. Should you find some other point of interest during your walks, go on and explore them. And let me know how it went in the comments down below 🙂 Some of these routes are ideal for walking, others will require an extra means of transport of your liking (I suggest biking or taking a tram/bus.) Take advantage of these itineraries and know that you can mix and match routes or you can also follow them from endpoint to start point. The magic of urban exploration usually lies in going off the path and discovering your own gems.
Each section includes recommendations of my favorite cafes, restaurants, and, sometimes, bars in the area. It’s good to know that in Amsterdam, and the Netherlands at large, hospitality and cultural venues are typically multi-purpose: you can have coffee, lunch, dinner, or just a drink in the same space. In some cases, they also have a space for movie screenings & shows, or they turn into a club until the late hours. Still, I usually recommend different places for different activities, especially because, then, you’ll have an extra opportunity for sightseeing while walking from one location to the other. The suggested restaurants in each section all offer vegetarian or vegan options.
The symbol »»» means “Move! And enjoy the ride.”
Now, go get lost! And, indeed, enjoy.
Route 1 (walking route)
THE PORTAL: OLD CENTER & CITY MUSEUM
Starting point: Dam Square
Endpoint: Leidseplein or Overtoom
Route highlights: Dam Square & Nieuwe Kerk »»» Kalverstraat & the Amsterdam City Museum »»» Begijnhof »»» Spui Square & American Book Center »»» Flower Market »»» Leidsestraat & Leidseplein
want to continue? go check out the buzz at Overtoom
Route description: You’re facing the Royal Palace at Dam Square. On the right side, you see a tall church – the New Church (Nieuwe Kerk.) On your back you’ll find a phallic-shaped monument – the National Memorial, in memory of soldiers and members of the resistance who died in World War II. Visit the Royal Palace if you have time, and don’t miss out on the Amsterdam City Museum – it’ll give you an overview of Amsterdam’s History and culture in an interactive and very informative way. If you want to check out the city’s main commercial area walk through crowded Kalverstraat, otherwise turn over to the Rokin, where you’ll find bookstore Scheltema and pretty canal views further down the road. Go check out the Begijnhof, the pretty courtyard where Catholic women lived in community back in the Middle Ages. Then walk all the way to Spui Square where you’ll find American Book Centre, a bookstore exclusively dedicated to books in the English language. The Flower Market is a three minute walk away for those wanting to see it (you won’t be missing out if you don’t.) Leidsestraat is a gorgeous shopping street (albeit crowded) that is worth to walk all the way to Leidseplein, where you’ll find the International Theatre Amsterdam (Stadsschouwburg) where you can see a play surtitled in English. Stay for a meal + drinks in the area.
For a drink: Cafe Belgique in the city center for a beer, Whisky Bar for a potion of youth at Leidseplein; Cafe Alto for a jazz evening in Leidseplein; Gollem for craft beer at the Overtoom.
For a bite: Maoz Vegetarian for a quick falafel at Leidsestraat; De Balie for a meal (and perhaps a drink, or a movie session;) De Blauwe Hollander for a traditional Dutch meal at Leidseplein; One Dim Sum in Overtoom for dumplings; Abyssinia for an Ethiopian dinner at the Overtoom
For (specialty) coffee: Bocca Coffee in the Leidseplein area
Route 2 (walking + bike or tram)
THE PLEASURE: RED LIGHT DISTRICT & MAIN MARKETS
Starting point: Oude Kerk (Red Light District)
Endpoint: De Pijp
Route highlights: Red Light District & Oude Kerk »»» Nieuwmarkt »»» Waterlooplein market (flea market) »»» Albert Cuyp Market »»» De Pijp & Sarphatipark
Route description: If you’re standing in front of the Oudekerk’s entrance (Old Church) look first for the sculpture on the pavement (hint: hand caressing breast) and you’ll get the feel of the area right away. Also: look for the statue of Belle. Pay a visit to the church, which is also the oldest building in town. Definitely have coffee + cake at Koffie Schenkerij (for more on this area check my Red Light District tour video.) Walk to the bustling Nieuwmarkt, where the Weigh House (De Waag,) an old gate to the city, stands. You’ll find a food & crafts market at this square if you’re visiting on the last Friday of the month. Walk along the Sint Antoniesbreestraat all the way to the Waterlooplein market (where you’ll find a small flea market.) The Dutch Opera House stands right next to it, and the pier right in front of it is a wonderfully picturesque stop. From there, hop on a bike and cycle to the Albert Cuypmarket, the most well-known street market in town, where you can have a taste of the traditional marinated herring and home-made stroopwaffles, among other delicacies. This market is in the heart of De Pijp, a (once) working class neighborhood turned bohemian quarter. Go for a late afternoon walk at Sarphatipark before heading out to dinner.
For specialty coffee: Koffie Schenkerij next to the Old Church; Black Gold for coffee & vinyl
For a drink: Cafe Stevens at the Nieuwmarkt; Brouwerij t’Ij (also known as the windmill) for local craft beer (this brewery closes at 20.00;) Cafe Gollem in De Pijp
For a bite: Cafe Latei at the Zeedijk for coffee/cake + quick lunch; Cafe Stevens at the Nieuwmarkt for snacks + beer + quick lunch; Cafe Engelbewaarder for beer + vegetarian bitterballen; the stroopwaffles stall & the haring stall at the Albert Cuyp market; Sir Hummus in De Pijp for falafel and Middle-Eastern specialties
Route 3 (walking route)
THE CULTURE: MUSEUMS & VONDELPARK
Starting point: Museum of your choice
Endpoint: one of the suggested restaurants
Route highlights: Museumplein »»» Museums: Rijksmuseum, Stedelijk Museum or Van Gogh Museum »»» Vondelpark (you can’t really do all the museums in one day so read about the Rijks and the Stedelijk here, and more about Van Gogh Museum here to make your plan.)
Route description: Head over to Museum Square (Museumplein) and pick one of the museums above. Know that you’ll spend the good part of your day inside. Even if you decide not to see the Rijks, make sure to visit its gardens which are open to the public. Once you’re done with all the museuming, go for a long walk across the 47 hectar Vondelpark where, besides eating and drinking, you can admire the rosarium, have a picnic (weather permitting,) and spot a Picasso sculpture. The Blauwe Theehuis, in the park, is perfect for your pre-dinner beer + snack pitstop.
For (specialty) coffee: Back to Black at Weteringstraat 48; Bocca Coffee at Kerkstraat 96H
For a bite: Cafe Brecht in Weteringschans for a snack + hot beverage; Abyssinia in the Overtoom for an Ethiopian dinner; cafe-restaurant De Balie in Leidseplein for a simple lunch or dinner; The Blauwe Hollander for a Dutch meal in Leidseplein (my favorite Dutch restaurant, however, is Moeders in the Rozengracht, 20 minutes by tram from Vondelpark – well-worth the commute.)
For a drink: Cafe Brecht for a cup of tea or Glüwein (in the winter); Proeflokaal ‘t Blauwe Theehuis in Vondelpark for local craft beer; Whiskey Bar at Leidseplein for obvious reasons; Het Grote Melkhuis in Vondelpark for veggie bitterballen & glüwein.
Route 4 (ferry+walking route)
THE SPIRIT(S): THE NORTH SIDE & GENEVER
Starting point: ferry-dock behind Central Station (the ferries are free of charge)
Endpoint: one of the tasting pubs (proeflokaal) in the Zeedijk
Route highlights: Ferry-ride across the Ij »»» The EYE – Amsterdam’s Film Museum »»» OBA – Amsterdam’s Central Library (library & rooftop view over the city) »»» Genever proeflokaal
Route description: Take the ferry that goes in the direction of Buiksloterweg and you’ll be in the north side of Amsterdam in four minutes. Head over to the EYE Film Museum to catch a movie, visit the exhibition space or simply for a cup of tea + snacks / lunch with a view. Are you doubting if you should go up the A’dam Tower? Well, do if you like crowds. If you don’t, take the ferry back and walk eight minutes along the stunning waterfront area Oosterdokstraat to the modern building of the OBA, the central library, which is free to visit. Go all the way to the sixth floor, climb an extra flight of stairs, and you’ll find the rooftop where you can have a drink (or a meal) with a spectacular view over the city. From here, if the weather’s sweet, go grab refreshments at Hanneke’s Boom. Or head over to brown bar Wijnand Focking to taste a local aperitive: pick an old genever or a sweet liqueur (ask for the bartender’s advice.) De Ooievaar and ‘t Aepjen are traditional bar brown bars that serve genevers too.
For a drink: Tolhuistuin terrace for beers; Hanneke’s Boom for a beer at sunset that turns into dinner; Proeflokaal Wijnand Fockin (closes at 21:00,) De Ooievaar, or ‘t Aepjen for local genevers + liquers
For a bite: restaurant|bar of the EYE film museum or Tolhuistuin restaurant for lunch or dinner; Hanneke’s Boom for snacks or a beer at sunset; snack-bar Bird at Zeedijk for authentic Thai food; De Bekeerde Zuster at the Nieuwmarkt for gourmet burgers & beer; ‘t Blaauwhooft for a cheese fondue dinner
Route 5 (walking route)
THE TRADITION: AROUND DE JORDAAN & THE 9 STREETS
Starting point: Central Station or Dam Square
Endpoint: Westerpark or Checkpoint Charlie
Route highlights: Dam Square & Royal Palace »»» Western tower + Western church (Westertoren + Westerkerk) »»» Nine Streets & canal belt (Negen Straatjes + Grachtengordel) »»» Noordermarkt [on Saturday mornings] »»» Jordaan »»» Brouwersgracht »»» Haarlemmerdijk »»»
want to continue? Checkpoint Charlie is great for a more underground feel of Amsterdam
Route description: Coming from the Dam? Perhaps you just visited the royal palace and now you’re walking along the Raadhuistraat all the way to the Western Church (Westerkerk.) Climb up to the Westerkerk’s tower: the view from above is incredible. Stop for lunch at Pancakes Amsterdam in the Nine Streets and stroll around this lively neighborhood of quaint canal views, eateries and all types of boutique-shopping opportunities. Once you’re ready for your apple pie fix walk 11 minutes along the gorgeous Prinsengracht canal and you’ll find cafe Winkel 43 in a corner building. If it’s Saturday you’ll find a food + flea market in the area too. The atmosphere is great but the line for apple pie can be long. Patience is required. Walk around De Jordaan in the direction of Brouwergracht for some of the most picturesque canal views of Amsterdam. Make sure to check out The Movies in the Haarlemmerdijk too, the oldest running cinema in Amsterdam, in art-deco style. Their restaurant is commendable too.
For (specialty) coffee: Toki at the Binnen Dommersstraat
For a bite: street stalls at Noordermarkt for finger food; Winkel 43 for their famous apple pie; Cafe Thyssen for Dutch snacks; Pancakes Amsterdam in the Nine Streets (Negen Straatjes) for scrumptious pancakes;) Restaurant Tavenu (restaurant of cinema ‘The Movies’) for a proper meal; Pizzabakkers at the Haarlemmerdijk for good pizza
For a drink: Cafe Thijssen for beers (and snacks;) Checkpoint Charlie for a more underground feel of the city; Vesper near Haarlemmerdijk for cocktails; Cafe Chris in the Jordaan for an authentic brown bar experience
Route 6 (walking +bike route)
THE BEYOND: EAST SIDE
Starting point: Hortus Botanicus
Endpoint: Flevopark or Studio K
Route highlights: Botanical Garden (Hortus Botanicus) »»» Skinny Bridge & Amstel river »»» Troppenmuseum (Ethnographic Museum) »»» Javastraat & Dappermarket (Indische Buurt) »»» Flevopark
Route description: More than 4,000 plant species live in the Hortus, a Botanical Garden that dates back to the 17 century. It will make for a perfect start of your day. From there, walk to the skinny bridge and along the Amstel riverbank in the direction of Weesperzijde and take in all the Amsterdamness: houseboats, elegant arquitecture, bridges and cruise vessels. Depending on where on the Amstel you are, trams 1, 3 or 19 will take you from the Amstel to the Troppenmuseum (a bike will too) which is truly a museum that celebrates cultural diversity. The up and coming area of the Dappermarkt and the Javastraat do too, being the melting pot that they are (think Turkish supermarkets, Surinamese restaurants, bakeries, greengrocers and hip shops + cafes thrown in the mix.) If the weather allows walk all the way to the expansive Flevopark for a genever or liquor aperitive before heading to dinner.
For a bite: Bar Lempicka by the Amstel is good for snacks + lunch; Cafe Restaurant De Ysbreeker at Weesperzijde is good for everything; stroopwafels & juice stalls at the Dappermarket are a fun pitstop; Bar Botanique near Javastraat for drinks + meals; Studio K for a meals + drinks & an art-house movie
For a drink: all of the above, and proeflokaal ‘t Nieuwe Diep in the Flevopark for local spirits (genevers and liquers)
Route 7 (ferry + walking)
THE NOW: NDSM
Starting point: ferry dock behind central station (the ferries are free of charge)
Endpoint: Pllek, Norderlicht or De Ceuvel
Route highlights: Ferry ride across the Ij river »»» Anne Frank mural + street-art in and around the Docklands + Container Arch »»» STRAAT Museum »»» NDSM Art City »»» Ij Hallen flea market * »»» dinner + drinks at Pllek or Norderlicht or De Ceuvel
* The Ijhallen takes place once a month, during the weekend – admission price: 5 euros (2021)
Route description: Embark on the ferry that takes off in the direction of NDSM – Wharf (NDSM – Werf). Enjoy the gorgeous views from the 14 minute ferry trip across the river Ij. Take in the mix of modern and industrial architecture upon arrival. Walk to the Anne Frank mural (by Brazilian artist Kobra) and stroll around the Docklands building for an array of street-art pieces (including the famous Container Arch, which serves as the entrance to many festivals.) Visit the STRAAT – Street Art Museum and the Art City (Kunststad) next door. Both are located in the former premises of the Dutch Shipbuilding Company. Get lost in the Ij-Hallen, the largest flea market in Europe, where you can find literally anything. Or attend any other festival that may going in NDSM grounds. Check out the Crane – or maybe book a night there, since the crane is home to a (luxury) hotel – and the huge slipway that led the tankers to the water back in the day. Whenever you’re hungry or thirsty, head over to Norderlicht or Pllek. I’d do snacks + drinks at the first and dinner at the second. Pllek may also have concerts / a DJ set going on. If you’re into sustainability, walk over to Café De Ceuvel.
For a bite + drinks: Pllek or Noderlicht for a drink, good food, or snacks in a hip environment (Pllek has a more urban feel, Noorderlicht, a bit of a modern hippie vibe.) De Ceuvel is a sustainability hub with a restaurant/bar.
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