Bart van Poll is one of the founders of Spotted by Locals – a network of blogs and apps that offer up-to-date tips by locals in over 60 cities in Europe and North America. As part of his job, he travels the world for 6 months every year with his wife and co-founder Sanne.
So far this year, they’ve visited 37 cities in 22 countries. Bart may be a global traveller, but for him, there’s no place like his home city. Read on and find out his tops tips for exploring Amsterdam:
“I travel a lot, but every time I come back I love Amsterdam more. First of all, it’s beautiful. I can get tears in my eyes cycling around the canals after coming back from a long trip abroad.
Amsterdam is very small, but it can compete with many bigger cities for art and culture. The museums are top class, alternative culture is great, and good musicians regularly play here.
When a friend visits me in my city, the first place I take them to is the Vondelpark. Mostly because it’s the most beautiful park in the world. Also, it’s very close to our apartment, and I consider it to be my backyard.
I run here, play frisbee here with friends, cycle, read books and think. I’ve had my most memorable picnics here with friends.
Summer is the best time of the year to visit Amsterdam for sure. It’s rarely nice weather, but the locals go crazy when it is! Everyone will be out on the terraces drinking beer.
If you can find a free spot somewhere, you’re lucky. I would recommend heading to the Vondelpark, and go either to the Vondeltuin or de Blauwe Theehuis. Both have very large terraces and fast flowing beer.
I love my bicycle, but I think the best way to explore Amsterdam is on foot. On weekends, my wife and I often walk out of our house without any plans.
We go from neighbourhood to neighbourhood, have a few coffees here and there, see some art galleries, end up having a drink and food somewhere. By the end of the day we’ll have walked 15 to 20 miles, but we’ll have seen all five big neighbourhoods in the city.
Doing something like this is unimaginable in a big city like London, Paris or New York. You really have to plan well. I love it that you don’t need to plan much if you’re exploring Amsterdam.
De Wasserette in De Pijp (address: Eerste van der Helststraat 27) is my favourite place for breakfast in Amsterdam. It’s affordable, and the epicentre of hung-over students enjoying a healthy or greasy breakfast. It’s the perfect place to find out what’s going on in the city.
And if you’re lucky and the weather is good, they have a great terrace. A good local place to enjoy a coffee is White Label Coffee (address: Jan Evertsenstraat 136). These people are surely the most passionate coffee makers in Amsterdam, yet few people know about it still!
Staring at Jacob at Jacob van Lennepkade 215 is an excellent spot for lunch in Amsterdam. I always order The Rasco – a crazy mix of fried chicken and waffles.
Ethiopian restaurant Abyssinia at Jan Pieter Heijestraat 190 is my a great place for dinner in Amsterdam because it’s relaxed, you eat with your hands and the food is delicious.
The spices can’t be compared to spices they use in other cuisines and it’s run by very sweet Eritrean and Ethiopian refugees. Plus, it’s one of the most affordable places to eat in Amsterdam.
Before you explore Amsterdam you should read something about the law on soft drugs. People think Amsterdam is liberal but there’s actually laws for everything, and they’re strictly enforced.
You can still drink legally in public though – something I greatly value now that I’ve seen the crazy restrictions against it in many other cities.
The Haarlemmerstraat is a good street for shopping, here you’ll find cool designer shops, small specialty shops, a few international chains and lots of stops for good coffee in between.
The best thing to do for free while exploring Amsterdam – if you’re lucky enough to know somebody with a boat – is to get out on the canals.
Also, if you’re looking to capture some nice photos, it’s worth remembering that you get the best (free) view of Amsterdam from the public library close to Central Station. Not many people know this…
The touristy Leidseplein and Rembrandtplein area has the best nightlife because that’s where all the clubs are concentrated. Unfortunately it tends to get crowded.
For a tee-total night out with a difference, The Movies cinema is somewhere that not many visitors know about but they should go there because it’s one of the city’s hidden gems.
It’s not on the main tourist track and they don’t do any advertising, but it’s art deco in style and one of the oldest cinemas in Europe.”
Flights to Amsterdam
- Fiona Hilliard