Alternative Amsterdam: Off the beaten tourist track
Amsterdam is renowned for its beautiful architecture, canals, world class museums, coffee shops and red light district. There is so much to see and to do and then still after spending a couple of days exploring Amsterdam you have a feeling you didn’t have enough time to see it all! And guess what? You are right! Amsterdam, despite being a small city, compared to for instance Paris, London or Berlin, has so much more to offer than the regular tourist experience! Don’t get me wrong, I love the classic Amsterdam probably just as much as you do, but let’s be honest you truly get to know the city in its full glory, once you get off the beaten tourist track! Hopefully this article will help you to make your trip to Amsterdam more unique, diverse, interesting and local!
NDSM is a former wharf on the other side of the IJ, the big river behind the central station. To get there is already a small adventure by itself. There are free ferries connecting the centre of the city with different parts of Amsterdam North. The one you need to get to NDSM is the one all the way on the left if you get out of back entrance of the station. In about 10 minutes you will be on the other side and able to see the iconic NDSM crane and old submarine laying in the water. NDSM is thriving and getting more interesting every day. Ever since the wharf went bankrupt in 1984, free spirits and creative souls have taken over the area and given it its unique character that makes NDSM so different than other parts of the city. Visitors can expect to see a lot of beautiful street art, especially around the old wharf area, the unique NDSM breeding place full of small workshops and galleries and cool bars and restaurants such Noorderlicht, Plekk and KEBEC.
Ruigoord is a small artistic village a bit outside the city, about an 8km bike ride away from the hotel. This former village and island was taken over by squatters in 1973 and became a free haven for artists. Here they can work in peace, not being distracted by the ever developing and fast city environment, being surrounded by lots of green and tranquillity. Very often the whole village works together on big art projects that characterize the place. In this unique place, living as a community and integrating art in their daily life has become a communal experiment. Ruigoord is also known for all the parties, festivals and other events that take place there. The best part about it all is that they usually take place in the beautiful old church that this artist community is famous for.
This old factory, in the Westerpark, has become a very popular hot spot of the city amongst locals. This former late 19th century gas factory closed its doors in 1967. Luckily, instead of taking the buildings down the area slowly developed into a place where innovation and creativity became the beating heart and energy of the renewed Westergasfabriek. It is difficult to describe what this place is like since there is so much to see and to do. The best thing to do is to hop on your bike or hike from the hotel, since its only 3km away and experience it yourself. If you decide to do so make sure you grab a coffee at the Espressofabriek, buy a fairtrade candybar at the Tony Chocolonely store, have a sandwich at the Bakkerswinkel, try a local draft beer at Brouwerij Troost, dance, eat with locals at the Pacific Parc and play old school arcade games at the TonTon club.
Not many tourists are aware of the fact Amsterdam has a beautiful forest that offers a great getaway from the busy city. Here locals love to walk their dog, swim during summer, enjoy open air concerts and plays, attend festivals, have their morning run or just simply enjoy the changing seasons and nature throughout the year. If you are planning to go here you should first go to the beautiful visitors’ centre that explains everything about the forest, where you can buy maps with all the different trails on them and that has a great educational centre for kids as well on the second floor.
Other local gems
After describing four great places where you can experience the true Amsterdam spirit and where you probably will meet way more locals than tourists, there is few true gems left that are totally worth mentioning. Even though the summer has long passed it’s never too cold or rainy for a drink at Hanneke’s Boom, Café Sound Garden or Waterkant.
Another great way of spending your day is by visiting one of Amsterdam’s local markets at the Albert Cuypstraat, Dapperstraat and Noordermarkt to try some of the delicious local delicacies like stroopwafel or herring. For the ones that even the above experiences are not local enough should have a look at DinewithDutch, a super cool platform where you can arrange an at home dinner with a true Dutch family! It doesn’t get any more local than that! :)