Dutch feeding habits revolve around having sandwiches for lunch, and getting yourself a substantial meal early in the evening. Amsterdam is an international city receiving millions of tourists per year so there is plenty to choose from, and opening hours are quite flexible. However, it may not always be easy to find decent food for a reasonable price.
A few recommended and affordable Dutch staples (and where you can find them in the places to eat section):
Appeltaart – Of course, every country has its own take on apple pie, but you should really try the Dutch variety, especially when they are home-made.
Uitsmijter – Fried eggs with cheese and optional ham on bread, typical lunch deal that will definitely see you through the afternoon.
Broodje kroket – Dutch croquettes on bread also go very well as a lunch option, and these days there are even vegan options.
Bitterballen – The best-known and common bar snack, these are fried balls with a roux-thickened meatstew inside, usually consumed with mustard. Again, vegan versions can be found.
Friet/patat – The Netherlands has its own fries tradition, coming from Belgium in the 19th c. In Amsterdam, the word patat is more common. The basic sauce is mayonnaise, but there are variants, with patatje speciaal or patatje oorlog the most typical. The first, ‘special’, has mayonnaise and ketchup, the second, ‘war’, has mayonnaise and a semi-sweet satay sauce topped with raw union cut in small bits (‘war’ referring to the mess on your plate/sack/whatever you eat it from).
Ossenworst – A raw beef sausage, originating from the 17th century as a Jewish specialty, usually eaten with Amsterdams zuur (the sweet and sour gherkins and such, as mentioned with the broodje haring) and mustard. The original version was smoked (gerookt) and aged, which is still available in various bars (for example in In de Wildeman).
Kibbeling – Deep-fried cod with ravigotte sauce.
Broodje haring – The famous Dutch raw herring on a bread roll, traditionally taken with chopped onions and gherkins (zuur); both kibbeling and herring are not usually sold in restaurants, but in fish shops or fish stalls on the street.
Pannenkoeken – Dutch pancakes are miraculously cheap and tasty and come with an endless array of toppings; some all-time favourites are apple-cinnamon or bacon and cheese. Adding syrup is optional, but very much recommended.
Poffertjes – Equally tasty are these small fluffy pancakes that are eaten with molten butter and powdered sugar.
Stroopwafels – Traditional Dutch cookie which is basically a small waffle with a spiced buttery caramel syrup. You can buy them everywhere, but for the real experience, head to the Albert Cuyp Market to get them freshly made (served hot). Don’t mix stroopwafels up with the Belgian style waffles sold in touristy shops in the center of the city, which are money traps plaguing Amsterdam since a couple of years. The Albert Cuyp Market is situated in the De Pijp neighbourhood, which is a nice area with lots of bars and restaurants, so you probably should be going there anyway.
Cheese – Making cheese is a good Dutch tradition, even if most of them are yellow and do not appear to show a lot of variety. Just try them. For buying good cheese go to the markets or local cheese shops, but not to the ‘Old Amsterdam’ cheese shops. What they sell is cheese of which the ripening process has been fastened (which is why it is called ‘old’ and not oude, which is the Dutch word for old and for cheese a protected term) and it does not come from Amsterdam 😉
Some recommendations for reasonably priced places to eat:
Kantjil & De Tijger – Decent Indonesian food, very fast service; just order a rijsttafel for two or more people and enjoy.
Thai restaurant Bird – A favourite with tourists and locals alike; it is said that their takeout counter on the other side of the street actually offers even better food.
New King – A very busy Chinese restaurant, but you can usually squeeze in quickly.
Skek – Cosy student-run restaurant and bar, with affordable and tasty shared dining, it may however fill up quickly.
Vegan Junk Food Bar – This has become a household name in Amsterdam, very tasty vegan takes on all kinds of fast food staples.
Vlaams Friteshuis Vleminckx – The best shop (just a takeout) in Amsterdam to enjoy Flemish-style fries.
Bruin cafe – Actually not a single place, but a genre of authentic and often old-fashioned bars with wooden furniture (bruin means brown). Many of these places serve a selection of typical Dutch pub-food (but check before sitting down): hamburgers, fries, chicken-satay, spareribs, deep-fried fish or pasta, and often have vegan options.
Bazaar – Situated in De Pijp, which is an area full with little bars and restaurants, this restaurant serves excellent Middle-Eastern food and mezze. This is an affordable place that can host larger groups.
Apart from specific staples, dishes and restaurants, a special mention deserve the numerous small Surinamese eating places that litter the city. Surinam, as a former Dutch colony in South America, developed a unique cuisine with local, African, Indian, Indonesian, Chinese and Jewish influences. This can be tasted in usually small restaurants with a few tables, very reasonable prices, that serve quality dishes and usually quite some vegetarian options. Try out stuff like roti (flatbread with curry potatoes, eggs and usually braised lamb or chicken, but many variants exist, such as with fish or vegetables), pom (originally a Jewish dish, adapted with local ingredients, basically baked arrowleaf elephant ear root and chicken), moksi meti (mixed meat: pieces of Cantonese grilled chicken, and slices of pork sausage (lap cheong), pork belly (siu yuk) and roasted pork (cha siu), often served on egg noodles that have been stir-fried with bean sprouts, garlic and soy sauce), bakkeljauw (salted and dried fish, the Portuguese bacalhau, softened and baked with onions and tomatoes) or pick up a broodje zoutvlees (salted beef, softened and braised in a tomatoe based sauce) for a quick lunch.
If you like beer, you will not be disappointed in Amsterdam, there is so much more than Heineken. You can explore a large number of independent breweries as well as specialized beer cafés where you can explore the wonders of hops and yeast. Less well known is the Dutch gin or jenever, which is experiencing a bit of revival recently.
Traditionally Amsterdam had loads of small cafés, but these are experiencing a hard time. There are still a few around where you can go for a quick drink and watch the locals.
A few recommendations for watering holes:
Brouwerij de Prael – Brewery in the middle of the Red Light District, with a large seating area; they do food as well.
Brouwerij ‘t IJ – The oldest independent brewery in town, located in a windmill, that has an excellent range of beers, with the IJwit as one of its most popular ones (wit means white, which is old Dutch for wheat, which is used for this type of beer; the IJwit has coriander and lemon added to it). Warning: closes early as it is formally just a tasting locale. If you want to try ossenworst, this is a good place, and also the Skeapsrond cheese, which is a sheep-milk white-mold cheese, is highly recommended.
Brouwerij Poesiat & Kater – Again, a brewery with a good range of beers, and excellent pub food.
Proeflokaal Wynand Fockink – A bit touristy, but still a nice place to taste a few Dutch liquors and gins; standing place only, and they close early.
Gollem – There are several Gollem locations in Amsterdam, but probably the oldest and smallest Gollem special beer café in Amsterdam can be found in the Raamsteeg, still going strong with 14 taps and more than 200 different beers on bottle. Larger Gollem bars are for example at the Overtoom.
In De Wildeman – Also a long-standing favourite of beer lovers, offering a mix of traditional and more experimental flavours, which is also reflected in the crowd. Beer comes from 18 taps, and they have around 250 different bottled ones.
De Pilsner Club – An old cafe, one of the few where there is no music, a traditional bartender, and boardgames to be played. People from Amsterdam usually only know the bar by its unofficial name, De Engelse Reet (‘The English Arse’).
Hesp – Bar and restaurant next to the Amstel, with its own excellent Blonde Ale, called Hesp Blond.
De Zotte – Flemish beers and beer-infused cuisine, excellent place.
Ruk en Pluk – One of the most eccentric bars in Amsterdam, local Bruin Cafe with a long history, good place for a basic draft-beer (pilsje).
Amsterdam is the major cultural hub of the Netherlands with an amazing array of museums, theatres and clubs. Check the I Amsterdam website for what is currently on offer, but be aware that many places have struggled during Covid, so not everything may be up to pre-Covid levels yet.
A major exhibition during the conference is the Vermeer exhibition at the Rijksmuseum, where you can see most of Vermeer’s paintings together from all over the world.
A few recommendations away from the beaten path:
Museum Het Schip – for architecture aficionados, this is a really wonderful example of the Amsterdam School; take the guided tour to be shown around the complex
Ons’ Lieve Heer op Solder – a hidden Roman Catholic church on the upper floor of a stately canal mansion in the middle of the Red Light District, dating from the time when Catholics were forbidden to openly practice their religion
Eye Filmmuseum – this eye-catching museum on the IJ waterfront has amazing exhibitions and a huge film archive; it doubles as a cinema, and has a restaurant with great views over the water
Huis Marseille – very nice photography museum
Lastly, Amsterdam has a certain fame for its relaxed policies on recreational use of marijuana. You are welcome to buy and smoke in so-called coffee shops, the majority of which are found in the Red Light District. If you want to have a better understanding of what is happening in the Red Light District, you can visit the Prostitution Information Centre.
Did we already mention tulips? You will be in Amsterdam during the tulip season, so if you have the opportunity, then take the chance to see them – but you will have to go outside town for this. The easiest option is to visit the Keukenhof gardens – it will be very busy during the season, but it is still worth it. Buses will depart directly from Amsterdam to take you there.
And just for the sake of completeness: the quickest way to see windmills is to visit the open-air museum Zaanse Schans in Zaandam (entrance free, but you have to pay to go inside a windmill). It is an easy 20-minute train ride plus 15-minute walk from Amsterdam Centraal Station. Be prepared for lots of visitors, though.
We provide an optional city walk for those interested at the social events page of this site.