Amsterdam is a culturally diverse and quirky European capital, that has plenty of activities and sights for your days and nights! The city attracts savvy backpackers from all over the globe with its architecture, culture and the famous grachten (canals) that give the city its picturesque charm.
Here, you can spend days exploring impressive galleries and historically important museums, lush green parks, some of the best vintage shops and markets and amazing food. Oh, and did you know that there’s such thing as Dutch fries? Enjoy the vibrant coffee shop scene to get your caffeine levels up, while snacking on some tasty Dutch panecooken. You could also indulge in the smokable and legal herb – we know that you know what we’re talking about! Amsterdam is a backpacker’s favourite: go sightseeing for days or just relax by the water while enjoying the city’s laid-back vibes watching the world go by.
Smaller than other European capitals, you can explore Amsterdam by foot, or – the Dutch way – on two wheels. Although it seems pretty compact and doable in a short space of time, there are lots of different neighbourhoods all waiting to be explored. This guide will give you a taste of what to expect in each area, so you can pick your favourite. There are SO many great hostels in Amsterdam, you’ll be spoilt for choice when deciding where to stay.
Whichever area you choose to stay in, you will probably explore the main iconic bits during your trip. So check out the city centre (Amsterdam Centrum), but also wander further to experience Amsterdam off the beaten path. Whatever type of traveller you are, you will find Amsterdam bends to suit you: whether you prefer going with a rough plan, a full itinerary, or just to wander aimlessly through the amazing streets, over the canals.
Amsterdam’s neighbourhoods span all compass directions, and they are well connected too. Starting with Amsterdam Centrum – the city’s busy cultural hub; Amsterdam-Noord – the laid-back and alternative neighbourhood with industrial charm reached by ferry; Amsterdam-Zuid – the idyllic area for museum-lovers: the quirky Amsterdam-West with its cool venues and some of the local’s favourite spots and the diverse up and coming area Amsterdam-Oost with some amazing architecture, hidden gems and the city’s beach. Every part of town has its own vibe and you can expect to stumble upon amazing boutiques, cute restaurants, plenty of sights, coffee shops and highly rated markets. So whether it’s fry-tasting, herb-smoking, canal-hopping or vintage shopping, we got your Amsterdam adventure covered. It’s time to find out which area is best for you to get your trip started.
Jump straight to:
- What to do in Amsterdam Centrum
- Places to eat in Amsterdam Centrum
- Best hostels in Amsterdam Centrum
- What to do in Amsterdam-Zuidoost
- Places to eat in Amsterdam-Zuidoost
- Best hostels in Amsterdam-Zuidoost
The old and historical Amsterdam Centrum: the best area for being right in the heart of the city
Canals in central Amsterdam @sarahheu
Amsterdam is a Jack-of-all-trades. However, if you had to pin down one area where you can find most of the famous sights, the historic areas and the city’s charm, it would definitely be its quirky centrum – or most likely the ‘dam you know from the ‘gram. Most backpackers will start their adventure in Amsterdam Centrum, as that’s where the central station Amsterdam Centraal is located.
In Amsterdam Centrum, you can find the most popular museums, the famous and picturesque canals and squares, endless shops from commercial to niche, plenty of restaurants, bars and coffee shops. Or simply explore and take in the iconic houses and architecture that makes up Amsterdam’s special charm. The red-light district and other vibrant areas like Binnenstad, the main Canal District and the hip and alternative Jordaan are all part of Centrum and just a stone’s throw apart from each other.
Amsterdam Centrum is the perfect choice if you are visiting the city for the first time and want to stay right in the buzz. It’s a great place for your base if you only have a few days (see what we did there?) or simply fancy exploring most of the city by walking, making your trip both relaxing and adventurous. Staying in Amsterdam Centrum, you can squeeze in a beautiful breakfast, a museum visit, shopping, some main sights, coffee shops and a good night. Everything from pancakes to pints are available as soon as you step out the door. If you are more of a chilled traveller, you can go with the centrum’s flow and you will stumble upon hidden gems and famous spots, getting a feel for Amsterdam’s vibe. The good news is that if the walking gets too much, just hop into a canal boat and explore central’s main spots from the water.
What to do in Amsterdam Centrum
First things first, central Amsterdam is probably what’s made you consider this city as awesome place to visit, and most backpackers spend at least one or two days here. There are many little neighbourhoods to explore, but don’t feel stressed – it’s compact and walkable! The Grachtengordel (Canal Belt) goes through central Amsterdam and is truly stunning. Constructed in the 16th century, it was used to transport goods and today it’s one of the most iconic things about Amsterdam. Kaizergracht, Herengracht and Prinsengracht are the most famous canals and have been awarded with UNESCO heritage status. You can explore the city by strolling along the canals or on a boat tour to catch a glimpse of the famous sights and beautiful houses, learning all about the city’s history, while relaxing on the water. Some popular boat tours are hosted by Lovers, Blue Boat and Rederij Kooij.
Canal boat ride @sarahheu
Your adventure may start at Amsterdam Centraal station’s medieval centre, but even if you’re not coming to Amsterdam by train you should check this area out. The station is a beautiful building inside and out, located in Binnenstad, Nearby streets worth checking out are Haarlemmerstraat and Haarlemmerdijk, both have independent shops and boutiques.
Damrak, Amsterdam Centrum @theardventure
Close to Centraal Station is the OBA library of Amsterdam, where you can go right to the top, visit the café and get a beautiful view over the city – for free! You can also find the iconic Nemo Science Museum by Damrak (an important harbour of the past) next to the library, which has impressive stairs and sun terraces to relax on and an interesting, ship-like shape. Damrak is not only your gate to the north of Amsterdam but also an amazing spot to get a picture of the cute gingerbread houses.
The view from OBA library of Amsterdam @nomad11.1
From Damrak, you can also walk into east Amsterdam – formerly known as the Oudezijde (old side) – along the Warmoestraat, Amsterdam’s oldest street, which will lead you all the way to De Wallen (also known as the Red-light district). Going west (formerly known as – guess what – Nieuwezijde, the new side) will lead you to the very Instagram-famous Dam Square. Here you’ll find the Niewe Kerk (new church) and the impressive Koninklijk Paleis (royal palace). If you have time, it’s worth having a look inside as well. They will teach you a lot about Amsterdam’s first centuries and how the palace used to be a prison. From here, you can quickly get to Niewmarkt where you’ll find the oldest secular building of the city, de Waag. Niewmarkt is another one of Amsterdam’s amazing squares with great places to eat and enjoy a good coffee. There’s even a small Chinatown. If you’re after even more culture than you can find on the streets, check out Amsterdam Museum at Kalverstraad to hear all about this stunning city’s history or head to the Jewish Historical Museum.
Chinatown area @sarahheu
You wouldn’t be in Amsterdam if you couldn’t also find a Hash, Marihuana and Hemp Museum as well as the Sex Museum – which are both located in De Wallen and worth a visit! If you’d also like to experience Amsterdam’s ‘green gold’ in one of the many coffeeshops, we recommend heading over to one of Bulldogs’ famous stores you can find nestled in the city centre, Barney’s or the quirky Grey Area Coffeeshop close to Dam square where every little thing is gonna be alright!
Fancy some shopping? Walk along the Canal District and head to Centraal’s southern canal belt, right up to Leidsetraat, the square with plenty of shops, fast food, cheese stores and souvenir stalls. The most popular shopping mile is along the street Kalverstraat, that goes all the way from Dam Square to Muntplein Square. Stop right here, because you can have a gaze at the Munttoren – a very instagrammable building – that is a coin (as well as an Insta-like) factory. Not far from here, by the pretty Amstel River on the southern canal belt is the Bloemenmarkt, the city’s popular floating flower market. It’s one of the main attractions, so expect it to be busy. But, if you go early enough you might have the photo spot all to yourself. Check out the surrounding buildings for gorgeous roof terrace views!
Making your way through Amsterdam’s commercial centre, you will probably find Voorburgwal, a beautiful street and home to the impressive old post office. It’s now Magna Plaza – a Renaissance inspired shopping Mall, and part of the top 100 Dutch heritage sites.
Calling all vintage and retro lovers: Amsterdam’s shopping mile is great, but when it comes to vintage hunts and market shopping, you’ll be spoilt for choice. Go bargain-hunting in one of Episodes amazing vintage stores in Amsterdam’s centre. Browse affordable vintage pieces in Bij Ons Vintage, close to De Wallen or pop into Kilo Shop where you pay by weight. Most stores are around Waterlooplein, including the historic Waterlooplein flea market that is on every day except Sundays. It’s a big market with lots of vintage and trinket stalls, so make sure you bring some time and money! When you’re strolling around Waterlooplein, you should catch a glimpse of Zuiderkerk, one of Centraal’s beautiful churches. You’ll get the best view from Groenburgwal where the canal points straight at the church for the extra bit of perfect symmetry. And after all the shopping and snapping, you can find plenty of great cafes around Waterlooplein for a little break, too.
Zuiderkerk – Symmetrical, right!? @genon2
It’s time to talk in more detail about Amsterdam’s red light district, in the previously mentioned neighbourhood De Wallen, that’s easily reachable from Binnenstad. It’s the medieval city centre and a pretty funky area. De Wallen is iconic for gloomy narrow streets, old-school pubs and bars and – of course – the shiny neon red-light district with the world-famous ‘windows’ as well as the previously mentioned sex and weed museums (ahem). Or perhaps you’re here for Oude Kirk, a church with a Gothic and Renaissance façade. When visiting De Wallen, we recommend just going with the area’s flow, exploring the narrow side streets and interesting bars, visiting coffee shops and just watching the hustle and bustle. Always remember to respect the sex workers, like you would any other humans just doing their job. For a cool place to have a drink, visit Bar Tonton, which is also an arcade. Or to catch a play, the Frascati Theatre, which shows some amazing large and small productions.
If you walk to the western side of Central and the canal belt, you will arrive in Jordaan. Jordaan is probably Central’s (or even Amsterdam’s) most famous neighbourhood. It’s one of the most picturesque areas with narrow streets and canals, alternative cafés, cool food places, street art and music, galleries as well as plenty of hip, vintage boutiques and markets. One of them is the Noordermarkt square market: it will give you serious indie-vibes with its jewellery, clothes, books, antiques and organic food (a millennial heaven open on Saturdays). If local fresh food (or some freebies) is what you’re after, head over to Lindengracht on the Saturday to visit the vendors on the marketplace. One of Jordaan’s biggest streets is Westerstraat with no less than 200 stalls, where you can find everything.
Head from Noordermarkt to Brouwersgracht, one of the most beautiful streets in the city. For more good views of the canals and bridges, head over to Prinsengracht and the Negen Straatjes (Nine Streets) area, right on corner of Papiersmolenluis and Lekkeresluis. The Nine Streets are a must-visit micro-neighbourhood with quirky shops and boutiques, nice cafés and plenty to explore. From there, it’s only a short walk to the Walls Gallery with one of Instagram’s most famous Amsterdam spots – the Wake me up when I’m famous wall (can this area get any more instagrammable?). Further down Prinsengracht, you should put Westerkerk church tower on your list. You can buy tickets on the door and climb to the top to catch an amazing view over the nicely tilted roofs of Jordaan and the canal belt. But be aware that they only let six people in at a time, so you might have to wait a little before it’s your turn – but good things come to those who wait, don’t they? While walking down Prinsengracht, you should also check out the colourful coffeeshop Easy Times that has an awesome vibe to it and some tasty snacks too.
Besides its alternative and quirky vibe, Jordaan is home to one of the most important and cultural sights, Anne Frank House, the place where Anne Frank spent her days hiding from the Nazi regime. It’s now a museum dedicated to her and the victims of the Holocaust. It’s a popular spot and a definite must-visit, so we recommend booking your tickets in advance to skip the queue. But it’s not the only cultural place to see: Head over to the only houseboat museum in the world, Woonbootmuseum, and soak up some history on the water (while hopefully not getting soaked yourself).
When the sun is going down, it’s time to head south to another famous square called Leidseplein which is close to Amsterdam-Zuid, though still belongs to the central canal ring. It’s the centre’s busy nightlife hub with plenty of bars and is located at the southern end of Leidsestraat. Head here for a great night out, whether it’s just bar-hopping or dancing the night away and have a couple of drinks in the bars or coffeeshops which are dotted around the square.
Also, south of central and an amazing night-sight is Magere Brug, which can be translated into ‘skinny bridge’. While that sounds like a soft insult or a rather boring cocktail for dieters, it’s is far more exciting than that: Magere Brug is a narrow bridge that lights up at night and is one of the most beautiful viewpoints over Amstel. So, when you have your best outfit on and are ready for the night, take a slight detour to Magere Brug for the perfect pre-party snap!
Places to eat in Amsterdam Centrum
You’ve probably guessed it (and you were right) – some of Amsterdam’s nicest eateries can be found in Jordaan. You can find dozens of breakfast and brunch spots, cafes and restaurants here and they will all make your foodie dreams come true – no matter if you’re looking for a cheeky pancake or drink. If it’s brunch that you’re after, Westerstraat in Jordaan is the best place to go for a stroll (aka your food-hunt).
If you don’t know what you fancy but you want it NOW, head over to the restaurant Dalder. It’s great if you’re up for a surprise, as it doesn’t have a menu. How do you choose? Just tell the waiters the number of courses and leave the rest up to the chef.
Café Chris is Jordaans oldest bar with classic bar-must-haves, like a good choice of tap beer and a pool table. It dates back to 1624 and is a rustic and cosy place to enjoy some Amsterdam atmosphere.
A must-visit for every sweet tooth is Winkel 43, a nice and homely café with a cute inside and outside area just beside Noordermarkt. You probably won’t struggle finding amazing pastries in Amsterdam, but the rumour is that this café serves the best apple crumble pie of all times – perfect after a successful market shopping or a day full of exploring (because let’s be honest, you’ll deserve it).
Do you fancy some Dutch delicacies? Febo has got some awesome local snacks like Frikandel and Kassouffle at fairly cheap prices. It’s great for a quick snack and has shops dotted around the centre. Moeders in Joordaan also has some amazing Dutch cuisine (say hello to sausage and beef stew) and overall a homely atmosphere. If you’re up for a chic treat, you can also choose to go to the high-end traditional Dutch restaurant Van Speyk – you fancy traveller!
Don’t miss out on a visit to Lost in Amsterdam Lounge and Bar. It serves some of the biggest milkshakes and is one of the best after-smoke treats (you can also smoke inside). Furthermore, it has a chilled vibe and a pretty cool neon sign. We mean, who doesn’t want to get Lost in Amsterdam?
If you fancy a coffee in a bright space with nice plants, a healthy menu and a canal-side patio, head over to Café de Jaren. It’s close to Bloemenmarkt and was a bank before it became a vibrant spot for casual food and chilled time in the sun. For the extra bit of Dutch atmosphere, make your way to Brouwerij ‘t IJ. It’s an organic brewery and terrace bar with a great view of the typical Dutch windmills – perfect for some sightseeing while drinking beer. If you’re after some amazing lunch and dinner options, take a look at the Spanish restaurant Jottum or the casual Café Thijssen.
One of the best places for Dutch pancakes is Pancakes Amsterdam and we highly, HIGHLY recommend you try it at least once! It has plenty of locations in the centre, for example next to the Anne Frank Museum as well as Centraal Station. They have more than 30 pancake variations which all come freshly made straight out of heaven (… the kitchen).
When you want to go for a meal and then straight out for the night, you can check out the surrounding streets of Leidseplein, like Korte Leidsewarsstraat, with plenty of cuisine from all over the world – but expect it to be busy. For a good night out on Leidesplein, some good venues are Bourbon Street for live music, NJOY, the fun bar Het Feest Van Joop, Café Bubbles or Club Up. But one thing’s for certain: you’ll also end up somewhere cool when you don’t plan to go somewhere in particular, just go with the flow and enjoy the buzz of the night.
Last but not least: We promised Dutch fries, we give you Dutch fries! Their main characteristic is their big shape and thick texture while being fried to perfection. You can get them with many sauces, but we think the best one is a very special Dutch sauce called Joopiesaus. It’s a yellow, savoury, fruity, curry sauce with onions and words can’t describe its taste (the Dutch really know how to own fries). The best places to try fries in Centrum are Vlaams Friteshuis Vleminckx, Vlaamse Frites Snackland and Manneken Pis close to Centraal Station.
Best hostels in Amsterdam Centrum
A good stay needs a good rest and in Amsterdam you get spoiled with choice when it comes to hostels. You can meet other travellers, enjoy some drinks and stay right beside all the sights, as many of the hostels are located right in the centre. From buzzing beer gardens to alternative eco stays with swings and teepee-tents, check out Centrum’s vibrant hostel scene and some of our favourites below.
The Bulldog Hostel is an amazing hostel in Binnenstad which also makes it a convenient place to quickly reach the other parts of the city. The rooms are quiet, so you won’t have a problem getting a good rest. Then when you’re ready to mingle, head to the lounge on the first floor, filled with travel-savvy adventurers that you can spend your days and evenings with. It serves a big and delicious breakfast and if you still need more tips for Amsterdam, the staff are always happy to help you out.
Flying Pig Downtown is the place to go to have a great time from check-in until check-out. It’s perfectly located right in the centre close to Amsterdam Centraal and offers you an amazing breakfast to fuel up for a long day. After exploring, you can head straight to the bar to meet some fellow travellers. The staff are friendly, helpful and will make sure you have an unforgettable time, not least with regular events, competitions (like Beer pong, pool and Flip Cup), Karaoke and more. Make sure to book far in advanced as it can get fully booked very quickly.
St Christopher’s at the Winston Hostel has a feature that makes a backpacker’s heart beat faster – a beautiful beer garden and bar – buzzing atmosphere guaranteed! Even locals like to pick the Winston as a place to enjoy a beer or two. And if you want to head out to explore beautiful Amsterdam, you’ll have Binnenstad and the Red-light district right on your doorstep.
Ecomama Amsterdam has a calm environment and is a great base, especially for female solo travellers or couples. It’s located in the heart of Amsterdam and has a lot of communal space to mingle with others – they’ve even got swinging chairs and a teepee-tent where you can get cosy after a long day out.
Anna Houseboat is the perfect accommodation if you’re REALLY in love with the beautiful houseboats and the waters of Amsterdam, as that’s where you’ll stay. It’s an unusual way to sleep right in downtown Amsterdam and is very popular amongst travellers. Overlooking the harbour, it’s a convenient location to explore and a great experience.
Amsterdam-Zuid: the best area for culture-nerds and nature-fans
Amsterdam-Zuid is not far from Central at all. Back in the days, it was a developing area and an extension to Central’s Canal district. Starting off with Museumkwartier, the gate to Amsterdam’s central canal belt (hint: there are many museums waiting to be explored). It’s popular amongst travellers as it’s close to the central and offers great food, shopping, plenty of beautiful squares, dreamy houses and the city’s main park – Vondelpark. In Zuid you can explore cool areas like De Pijp in Zuid’s main part Oud-Zuid (old South) as well as some amazing modern architecture in Nieuw-Zuid (new south).
Amsterdam-Zuid is a bit more relaxed with beautiful walks and parks and close enough to the centre to still get the full experience (while probably saving some money, too). Furthermore, it’s the closest area to Shiphol airport and therefore a convenient stay if you travel to Amsterdam by plane or if you want to go on daytrips from Amsterdam.
What to do in Amsterdam-Zuid
Start your day roaming around South in Museumkwartier and visit the main square Museumplein (museum square) – one of Amsterdam’s cultural hotspots. It’s very picturesque and has seasonal attractions, like a big ice-skating rink in winter, live music and market stalls in summer, as well as a skate ramp. The famous I AM AMSTERDAM letters used to be here, but bad news in case you start looking for them: they have been moved to Shiphol Airport. But don’t worry; the whole square is beautiful enough for a nice Amsterdam-Snap anyway! And of course, Museumplein has a lot of museums to explore, as some of the main ones in the whole city are located right here. The biggest and most important one is the famous Rijksmuseum that showcases art from the Dutch Golden Age and is super impressive from the outside, too. The most famous piece of art and the museum’s highlight is Rembrandt’s ‘Night Watch’. But other big names aren’t far, as you can also marvel at masterpieces of artists like Vermeer and Monet. Still hungry for art? Head to the Van Gogh Museum, another highlight of Museumplein, and view the largest collection of Van Gogh’s art worldwide. You can also find art in the Stedelijk Museum which features Contemporary art and design. Besides museums, you can also find the concert hall Concertgebouw at Museumplein. It offers free lunch concerts from September to the end of June – culture and free stuff, a backpacker’s favourite combination? We’d give it a yes.
A picture of Museumkwartier @sarahheu
Fancy treating yourself (or pretending it’s an option)? Then head further to P.C. Hoofstraat, which is Amsterdam’s most inclusive shopping street and a nice place for a stroll and (at least) some window-shopping. If you visit Amsterdam in summer (or any time the weather is dry), you should put a stroll through Vondelpark on your bucket-list! It’s Amsterdam’s largest city park, famous amongst travellers and locals alike, and a beautiful area to hang out, go for a relaxed walk or a little bike ride, have a picnic or just simply wander and explore. With gazebos and lakes, it has some picturesque spots for an Insta-shot too. Vondelpark is not far from the museum square either and is a great spot to hang out for a few hours, have a break from sightseeing or even listen to some free live music in summer.
From Vondelpark you can head straight over to a special architectural gem, Zevenlandenhuizen (houses of seven countries). These houses were designed in the 19th century and look both classical and exotic. They were built to represent the diversity of European styles, from Renaissance in the French house to Spain’s Moorish style and even a neo-classical Italian influence. Other houses represent Russia, England and of course their neighbour Germany.
Another cool Zuid neighbourhood is De Pijp. It’s a residential area as well as a buzzing hangout spot with lots of cafés, restaurants, bars and vibrant nightlife – go to Quartier de Latin and soak up the lively atmosphere in this area. Another spot to explore is Albert Cuypmarkt, a busy market that opens Mondays to Saturdays and touts a wide range of fresh fruit, cool clothes and trinkets. It’s well worth a visit and one of the most authentic markets in town – you can also buy Stroopwaffles and Dutch cheese here, which are two pretty good reasons to go (if you don’t know what Stroopwaffles are, google it now and thank us later). De Pijp is not only home to locals but also the famous Dutch beer Heineken. You can book a Heineken experience and get a taste of Amsterdam’s (beer) culture.
Head further south in Zuid to visit the area Zuidas. It’s Amsterdam’s financial and business district and consists of pretty fancy skyscrapers and modern buildings. Zuidas is between Amsterdam’s centre and the airport Shiphol and is therefore a convenient location for visitors. It has some cool eateries and places to explore, one of them is Market 33 where you can grab some nibbles from local food stalls.
If you go to Schiphol airport, you can finally find the Insta-famous I AM AMSTERDAM letters. But that’s not the only reason to go. From here, you can take the transport to Keukenhof Tulip Fields, a super famous destination amongst travellers. Every year from March till May, endless tulips will bloom here and give you impressive scenery and an opportunity for a million nice shots that definitely upgrade your feed!
Places to eat in Amsterdam-Zuid
De Pijp is not only the place to be but also the best place to enjoy awesome cuisines and great coffee. With hundreds of different nationalities living here, you can expect some great tasty treats from all over the globe – from Mediterranean food to Asian delicacies! It’s fun to go with the flow and stroll along searching for whatever you might fancy, but we recommend checking out Café and Coconuts, a Hawaiian inspired café with amazing coffee and smoothies (and some serious surfer vibes) as well as Omelegg for a decent breakfast. Bakers and Roasters is another great, trendy café close to Albert Cuypmarkt. The same area turns into a buzzing place for a good night out as soon as the sun goes down. Head over to Badcuyp for some live Jazz music or enjoy cocktails in the Chocolate Bar as well as Blackboard Canteen.
Between Museumkwartier and De Pijp is Café Loetje, a nice café with Dutch food and a cool terrace. You can also find amazing eateries and hangout places close to Vondelpark, like The Seafood Bar or Craft & Draft for some fresh local beer. If you want to challenge your travel buddies for a cheeky game of ping pong, check out PARCK aka Ping Pong Bar for good fun and good food.
You’re hunting for fries again? Look no further than Frietboutique Amsterdam, THE place to get your Dutch fries in Zuid.
Best hostels in Amsterdam-Zuid
Hostels in Amsterdam-Zuid are perfect for a quieter stay, while still enjoying the backpacker-fun, meeting other traveller’s, being close to public transport and the main sights. Most hostels are located close to the Museumplein as well as Vondelpark and you can find some true gems for an amazing stay, for example these ones:
Stayokay Vondelpark is a quiet and clean hostel and a nice base for a rest. It’s close to the museums as well as Leidesplein in Central so you’ll get the best of both worlds with this perfect location. On top of that, you have a nice view over Vondelpark, the perks of nice evening activities like movie-nights and a big Dutch breakfast with everything you wish for from cheese to eggs – yum!
Flying Pig Uptown is another one of the popular Flying Pig hostel-family and is best described as a cosy place that rather feels like ‘hanging out in a friend’s house than a hostel’. The homely and friendly atmosphere makes it easy to bond with fellow travellers and get a good rest for eventful days and nights. It’s close to the museums and Vondelpark and has an own bar and the staff are always up for a chat, whether it’s about the best tips or travelling.
Hostel Van Gogh, not far from the Van Gogh Museum, is great for comfort and location. Its clean, offers a big delicious breakfast for as little as 5 € and is overall a quiet and pleasant stay.
Amsterdam-Noord: the alternative urban neighbourhood
Amsterdam Noord shows you a totally different side of Amsterdam while only being across the water. It’s an edgy and very urban neighbourhood north of the river IJ. The good news is that it’s off most travellers’ radars, and an amazing area to explore once you’ve done the centre’s main bits and are hungry for some alternative vibes. You get here by taking the ferry from Binnenstad to Noord’s NDSM Wharf. If you’re a fan of street art, an artsy atmosphere, alternative shops, markets and a laid-back vibe, you should check out Amsterdam-Noord.
While being quite a big sub-area itself, it’s a great base as its still close to central Amsterdam with its fast ferry connection (which is as fast as 15 minutes). It’s more laid-back than the buzzing centre while still having some awesome things and activities you can fill your days and nights with. Alternatively, you can always come for a nice daytrip to explore a different, cool and picturesque side of Amsterdam (but once you’re there, we’re sure you’d love to stay).
What to do in Amsterdam-Noord
The NDSM Wharf is not only the connection point with central Amsterdam but also one of the coolest hangouts in this area. It’s a former Shipyard that became a cultural meeting point for Amsterdam’s creative artist community. Now, the Wharf is a cool place full of colourful street art, bars and restaurants. No matter where you look, you will discover some art – so get your cameras ready! There is also a great spot called Pllek, a popular place for a relaxed evening by the IJ with a little beach, a lot of outdoor seating and quirky ship containers. The atmosphere is lively and laid-back, especially in summer, and you can enjoy a great time with new hostel mates and some live music.
Classical for Amsterdam, Noord also has some good shopping and bargaining opportunities. One of the best is the Flea market IJ-Hallen, a massive market located in an industrial setting where you can find everything from trinkets, to furniture, to some really good vintage while enjoying the artsy and alternative atmosphere of this area. Pekmarkt is another great market, it changes every day so you could stop by several times and always see something different.
Close to Pekmartk is the EYE Film Museum. It’s very EYE-catching due to its futuristic architecture and has different theatres, various exhibition areas and even a film library to learn all about the art of motion picture.
Noorderpark is an older area of Amsterdam-Noord and is best explored by bike. While riding around on two wheels, you should also gaze at the cute small storybook buildings of Nieuwendammerdijk. If that’s too calm for you and you’re up for a thrill, the A’dam tower is Amsterdam’s highest viewing deck – with Europe’s highest swing! There’s definitely more than one way to get high in Amsterdam, and this one even has a nice view.
Throwing one more Dutch thing in the mix that belongs on your Noord-Bucket-List: The pretty Windmill D’Admiraal. It’s a beautiful Windmill right by a canal in a quiet area, so grab your bike and go for a scenic ride!
Places to eat in Amsterdam-Noord
Pllek is the perfect spot for some food and drinks by the water. Noorderlicht café is close by, it’s an alternative greenhouse café and restaurant. Go there by day and night, as it will be beautifully lit up with fairy lights and also serves delicious drinks in the evening.
When visiting an alternative and hip area, it’s almost guaranteed to find some amazing vegan food too. One of the best places for a plant-based treat is Café de Ceuvel, which even grows its own ingredients in an on-site greenhouse. If you’re up for some nice craft beer in a courtyard, check out Oedipus Brewing. Last but not least, Clink Noord hostel has a nice restaurant and bar and is an ideal spot to mingle with travellers while enjoying some nice soul food, which leads us to the next point…
Best hostels in Amsterdam-Noord
Amsterdam-Noord has only one hostel, but it’s a good one! Backpackers choose it to enjoy the alternative vibe as this is exactly what you can find in Clink Noord while still being close enough to the centre. It’s not only a place for nice food and drinks but also an amazing base to stay in and totally represents the North’s laid-back and friendly atmosphere. Being just out of the centre, it also has the advantage of a bigger space while having nice and modern facilities and an own restaurant and bar. They host events almost every day, including free walking tours to discover Amsterdam with other backpackers. Popular amongst solo travellers, you won’t struggle to meet people and new potential travel buddies here!
Amsterdam- West: the best area for young, vibrant and artsy vibes.
Ever heard of Amsterdam School Style? This interesting architecture is a fairly modern (well compared to many of the city’s buildings) way to build houses in the Netherlands, as the trend started in 1910. Its special characteristics are symmetry and oddly shaped windows, as well as special in-built features and can be classified as Expressionism. Why are we giving you an art lecture, you ask? Well, if you’re interested in architecture and feel curious now, Amsterdam-West belongs on your list with its quirky buildings and streets to explore!
West is another extension of the city due to the rising popularity of Amsterdam and is easily reachable from the central station. The main station of west is Sloterdijk and you might end up there when travelling to Amsterdam by bus or train. It’s a popular neighbourhood for young people and students and great if you want to catch a glimpse of the local life beyond central Amsterdam.
What to do in Amsterdam-West
The Het Schip Museum is one of the best examples of the Amsterdam School Style architecture. Besides that, West has some great green spaces for a relaxed afternoon. Rembrandtpark is even bigger than Vondelpark and usually less busy if you want to go off the beaten path.
Close to the park is the area Oud-West (or Kinkerbuurt), a quirky neighbourhood and community with a lot going on. You can explore trinket markets, relax in hip bars and cafés, browse in alternative shops, find some cool vintage gear and try lots of different cuisines. The main streets are Kinkerstraat and Clercstraat. Probably the top spot to visit in Oud-West is De Hallen, a massive indoor food-market and one of the up and coming places in Amsterdam. There are also regular film festivals in the enclosed Film Hallen. A great outdoor market in the West is Ten Katemarkt where you can find a lot of fresh local food – perfect to cook up in the hostel kitchen later on!
Westergasfabriek is a big industrial building and a cultural and vibrant hub in Amsterdam-West. Whether it’s galleries, alternative shops, bars and restaurants, markets or events, there is always something going on inside and you can easily spend a few hours there. The Westerpark neighbourhood is generally a vibrant hangout spot for artists, young people and students – meaning that you can find a lot of cultural activities and events going on here as well as some good nightlife. There are several festivals taking place in summer, one of them is the Milkshake festival.
Going even more West than Oud-West, you will find yourself in an up and coming area called De Baarsjes which is close to Rembrandtpark as well as Amsterdam-Zuid’s Vondelpark. It offers some interesting art centres, like Meneer de Wit and Het Sieraard, but as De Baarsjes is a popular area amongst artists, so you can find art almost everywhere.
Talking about up and coming districts, Bos and Lommer is also a hip area with rising popularity amongst young people, artists (and soon backpackers?). It’s multicultural and has a lot of green spaces, so grab your hostel friends and go for an adventure full of exploring that might end in a random, quirky bar or even a gig.
As for the other areas, we have some windmills to recommend (again). De Otter Windmill is one of them and you can see it when heading to the street Ledenberghstraat, but there are even more Windmills to explore, for example De 1200 Roe or De Bloem which u can see from the canal.
Places to eat in Amsterdam-West
There are many extravagant, different and interesting places for good food in Amsterdam-West. Almost as quirky as its name is Happyhappyjoyjoy, a colourful and modern restaurant that claims you’ll find everything that makes you happy in Asia on the menu – including all the sizzling, hustle and bustle of Asian markets. Another cool and alternative spot to eat is Kanarie Club, a creative space that turns into a buzzing bar at night. Café Panache is another buzzing restaurant serving fresh food from an open kitchen and is a popular spot amongst locals. And after a day full of exploring, you deserve a sweet treat – namely in the eco-patisserie Sticky Fingers.
Pacific Park is a vibrant restaurant located by Westergasfabriek. Every Thursday and Friday, they host a Rock’n’Roll club with DJs or live music, so get on your dancing shoes when heading down there for some cool tunes. Club 8 is an alternative venue, with wall art and table tennis in De Baarsjes. It’s very popular with young locals and students and a cool place to spend the night. TonTon Club West (you can also find one in Centrum’s De Wallen) is also worth a visit and a bit less busy than its central location. It’s located in the Westerpark area and is not only a bar but also an arcade, representing a fusion of American and Japanese culture with the best (funky) bits of both worlds. But even if you just stroll around Westerpark, you will most likely end up in a great and unusual spot to drink and dine.
Best hostel in Amsterdam-West
There is an amazing hostel right in the heart of West’s area Kinkerbuurt: The CityHub Amsterdam. If you want to explore Amsterdam’s Westside and venture off the beaten path, it’s the place for you. It’s super futuristic with white, capsule styled beds so even if you stay in a dorm, you will have the feeling of your own private space(ship). This way, you can have some privacy and rest in your cabin before stepping out into the sociable hostel-atmosphere. Each cabin comes with a big comfy double bed, app controlled lighting and even a personal audio streaming system – it’s as fancy as it gets. The CityHub Hostel is located right next to the hotspot De Hallen so you will be in the area’s buzz in no time.
Amsterdam-Oost: the best area for getting off the beaten track
Amsterdam-Oost is a borough between the IJ and the Amstel and is a place for everyone who loves to explore cities off the beaten track. It has a lot of sub-neighbourhoods, so keep exploring to uncover Amsterdam-Oost’s many sides . When you head into this area you will find modern architecture, also an industrial vibe, various cultures, markets, the pretty Dockland area and a beachside spot for chilled-out afternoons. Oost is a great place to explore Amsterdam like a local.
You can use it as a base if you already visited most of the centrum or just come here for a day of exploring. It’s easy to get to Oost via public transport, just hop into a tram from Amsterdam’s Centraal Station and ride roughly half an hour until you reach Amsterdam-Oost.
What to do in Amsterdam-Oost
Eastern Docklands, Steigereiland and IJburg are vibrant areas with modern architecture that show a different side of Amsterdam. They are lively spots – both with their own character. The Docklands were an important port back in the day and were made into a fancy living area with both modern and industrial architecture – nice to walk around, have a look and take some cool snaps.
IJburg is an area made of several different islands, Steigereiland and Haveneiland-Oost, connected by bridges and it has some alternative shops, good eateries and an amazing architecture. The houses there are mostly little masterpieces and you can even find some floating homes in between – so get your phone ready for some inspiration and a million Insta-Shots (#housegoals)! There is also a nice and cosy beach, called Blijburg beach, for a relaxed afternoon. Keep an eye open for the sign inspired by the fabulous Las Vegas Sign and get excited for pretty huts and fairy lights.
Oosterparkbuurt is another up and coming area as well as the main area of Oost. The big Park Osterpark is located here as well as the popular Tropenmuseum, which has some very exciting cultural exhibitions. Oosterbarbuurt has a lot of different markets too. One of them is Dappermarkt, which is representative of the neighbourhood’s multiculturalism. You can find stalls with all sorts of different cuisines, from the locals that reside here, for example Turkish, Moroccan and Dutch stalls. This market often wins prizes for being the best market in the Netherlands – so the food must be delicious!
Talking culture, we have one more recommendation: Indische Buurt. This is a trending dockside area and super multicultural with a street market along the street Javastraat. You can also come here to relax in Flevopark or to visit a little festival, as there is much going on in summer.
Places to eat in Amsterdam-Oost
If you’re not absolutely full from all the amazing street market food, you should treat yourself to some food at the beach. The Lighthouse is a nice restaurant with a cool bar for some summerly vibes. When in IJburg, you should also have a stroll to check out the food and deli shops, like De Keuken van Tante Til and the restaurant and beer garden Biertuin. As Oost is off the beaten track, most of these restaurants and shops are most popular amongst locals.
There’s also some good nightlife in Oost, we recommend Odessa or for a dance. If you want more of Amsterdam’s alternative vibes (whilst dying to show off your new gems from the boutiques and vintage stores), head to Canvas. This edgy bar and club was a newspaper office and plays alternative music, funk or jazz and is a secret tip as most travellers won’t come here.
Best hostels in Amsterdam-Oost
Generator Amsterdam’s interior is just too beautiful. It’s big and bright, with modern and colourful décor as well as a super creative and artsy vibe – it’s one of the city’s most instagrammable hostels. You can choose a room with a big glass front, quirky wall art (or both) or gaze at the quirky common area. The hostel also has a bar, a library and a terrace and it’s in the perfect location right in Osterpark and close to Tropenmuseum as well as a fast connection to Amsterdam-Zuid’s cool area De Pijp. Rent a bicycle and head out to explore Amsterdam from here, no matter if you stay Oost or head over to the other areas.
Stayokay Amsterdam Oost (Zeeburg) is popular for many reasons. Here comes the list: It’s spacious and clean. It also has a very good access to public transport, so you can reach the centre within 10 minutes. It provides your own reading light and is clean with modern décor. But most of all, it has an amazing highly rated breakfast which is an oasis of eggs, cheese, ham and freshly pressed juice. Are we in food heaven yet? Make sure you visit their own restaurant too. Free walking tours, beer tasting, movie nights and Fri-yas with DJs and Cocktails will make your stay fun.
Amsterdam-Zuidoost: the best area for venues, venues, venues
Zuidoost consists of Gaasperdam, Venserpolder, Diemen-Zuid and the main area Bijlmermeer, also known as Bijlmer amongst locals. This part of Zuid is multicultural and interesting and offers a lot of variety. It mainly consists of apartment blocks and little parks, and was built with the vision to create the ideal modern area to live in. While it had some troubles and a rather bad reputation in the past, the areas of Zuid – especially Bijlmer – have enjoyed a rise in popularity.
What to do in Amsterdam-Zuidoost
The main highlight of Zuid and Bijlmer is the ArenA football stadium (where Ajax play) is where games as well as concerts take place. You can find other impressive venues in Zuid, like the Heineken Music Hall and the Pathé multiplex cinema that offers a whopping number of 14 screens. If the weather is bad but you still want to go for a commercial stroll, you can find Amsterdam’s biggest shopping centre here, called Amsterdamse Poort.
Places to eat in Amsterdam-Zuidoost
Being a multicultural area, you can also find all sorts of different cuisines in Zuidoost, especially in Bijlmer. Do you fancy Asian food? Then check out the Chinese restaurant East Harbour or enjoy some sushi inside Ichi-E. You will also find plenty of Turkish and Lebanese delights around this area. Bijlmer is a great place to eat if you’re off to see a concert or a game and want some nice food nearby.
Best hostels in Amsterdam-Zuidoost
Calling all female travellers: there is a special place in Zuidoost’s Bijlmerplein called Hostelle. The special thing about it? It is a female-only hostel and highly rated by all the great and adventurous ladies out there! Aiming to create a safe space for females from all over the world, it is also a place to exchange, bond and make new friends. It’s definitely hassle-free, because both the centre and Shiphol are only 15 minutes’ ride by public transport, making it a great, homely base not far from the main sights.
Feeling ready and excited for Amsterdam? We bet you are! Whether you venture around central or go out to explore the hidden corners and local’s favourites, we hope you will find the perfect neighbourhood for your Amster-venture! The good thing is that public transport is fast and all the areas are well connected, so with all these tips at hand, you can have the best of them all!
Do you have a favourite area or even more insider tips? Let us know in the comments below.