A Backpacker’s Guide on How to do Amsterdam Like a Local
Every backpacker understands how important it is to get a true local experience when visiting a new city. We want to eat where the locals eat, hangout where the locals hang out and visit the authentic non-touristy places that non-tourists go. Already done all the mainstream stuff in Amsterdam? Want to avoid the tourist traps and stay off-the-beaten track? We’re here to help you get a real local experience of the Dutch capital. Just follow our tips and you’ll get a proper feel for Amsterdam rather than just the main sights and attractions your guide book led you to…
Need a hostel in Amsterdam? Check out the Flying Pig
1 Get on a bike
To start with, you’re not doing Amsterdam right if you aren’t getting around on two wheels. The Dutch favour cycling over any other form of transportation so it’s no wonder the city has more bikes than cars. Get in with the locals and rent a bike from Black Bikes for the cheapest rate. Cycling is the easiest and fastest way to get around Amsterdam. Plus, it will cut down your carbon footprint by reducing carbon emissions completely. We’re all about saving the planet at the Flying Pig.
2 Try the favourite local summer hangouts
Amsterdam in summer is like a busy beehive. The city centre gets pretty crowded which is even more of a reason to explore more than just the tourist hangouts. In summer, all the cool young crowd from Amsterdam can be found at places like Pllek or Roest. Pllek an indoor and outdoor space located on the water at NDSM Werf where people come to relax by the sea, watch live music events and enjoy the views with their friends. Pack a picnic for the urban beach or better yet, eat at the vegetarian and vegan restaurant that’s all about saving the planet and caring for the environment (in fact, the building itself is made from recycled shipping containers.) You can even book a yoga class by the water here.
Roest is another cool spot in Amsterdam that has its very own urban beach too, perfect for summertime.
3 Drink local beer in a local’s pub
Get out of those tourist traps and head to Cafe Gollem; a proper Amsterdam beer bar. If you want to to sample some of the city’s best beer, Cafe Gollem is a favourite amongst locals. This cosy Dutch pub offers a fantastic range of local and international beers, over 300 to be precise that are affordable and delicious. There are even 15 beers on tap. If you’re not a beer drinker, this place has a really cool vibe, a nice ambience with great music so you will still enjoy it. Locals love it here and any beer lover will think the same. We recommend ordering the Dutch sausages to complement your beer. There are two of these bars dotted around Amsterdam, the closest one to the Flying Pig Uptown is in De Pijp is just a 15 minute walk away, and the closest one to Flying Pig Downtown is just a 12 minute walk away. So no excuses.
4 Where to get quality caffeine
Amsterdam has hundreds of coffee shops (we’re talking about the caffeine kind) - but only a few stand out above the rest. To find the best coffee in the city, you need to head where the locals (and hipsters) go. We’ve scoped out the coolest coffee bars that serve up the best brews using only the finest produce, the most knowledgeable baristas and the most sustainable methods. Help yourself to a classic Dutch appeltaart while you’re in one. Check them out…
5 Learn some local lingo
While most people in Amsterdam speak English, it doesn’t hurt to know some of the local phrases to really impress. The Dutch language is complex in the sense that pronunciations tend to be quite different to the spelling. So, you might want to make sure you’re saying these phrases right before you get conversational. Speak like the locals with these basics (and a few phrases that may or may not came in handy):
Yes / No Ja / Nee
I want a beer Doe maar een biertje
How much is it Hoe veel kost dat?
What’s your name? Hoe heet je?
Do you have a lighter? Heb je een vuurtje?
Please piss off Rot op!
I need directions Ik heb richtingen nodig
6 Explore lively local neighbourhoods, such as De Pijp
A common mistake that many tourists make when visiting to Amsterdam is only sticking to the centre of the city. These central areas include Amsterdam Centraal, Jordaan and the 9 Streets. Sometimes it’s simply because there aren’t enough days to fit everything in. If you have the time, don’t miss the opportunity to discover more of Amsterdam’s beautiful neighbourhoods that boast historic charm and character. De Pijp, for example is the lively and bustling Latin Quarter that flaunts a bohemian vibe, full of great restaurants, bars and shops. Then there’s Amsterdam Noord across the water which is full of beautiful architecture and cool coffee shops which can be reached by taking a free ferry from Centraal station. For a real local experience, it’s important to discover more of what Amsterdam has to offer other than just the centre.
7 Eat like a local
The Dutch have grown up eating traditional foods such raw herring, poffertjes and bitterballen from a young age. When you’re in the city, try and get a taste of these authentic Dutch foods. Not all places in the city will serve the most traditional grub; in Amsterdam you’ll find cuisines from all over the world meaning it can be harder to find a good old home cooked Zuurkool met worst (a sausage, potato and cabbage dish). The Dutch classics are mainly eaten at home which is why they’re less common on restaurant menus - but not if you go to a Huiskamerrestaurant (a living room restaurant that is in someone's house - yes this is a thing), then you’re in for a home cooked treat.
Albert Cuypmarkt and Foodhallen are great places to go for foodies looking for some of the best street food. Or, scope out the vegan scene and try out the best vegan restaurants in the city.
8 Make friends with locals
If you wanna do Amsterdam like a local, befriend a local. It’s as simple as that. They can show you around, introduce you to more locals, give you some great tips and recommendations (as well as what to avoid). Plus, the Dutch sure know how to party so your new found friends can show you and your friends a great night out at a local club. Making friends from all over the world really has its perks!
9 Keep up to date with what’s going on in the city
Some of the most fun, local things to do only come around as short events throughout the year. Keep up with what’s on in Amsterdam before you go, so you can work out an itinerary that’s a little different to the usual tourist timetable of museum, coffee shop, bar and so on. From music festivals and art fairs to pop-up ice rinks and annual city events, find out what’s going on in Amsterdam each month here.
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Article by Shereen Sagoo