How to live like a local in Amsterdam
On holiday, more and more people want to immerse themselves in the culture and heritage of their destination. They don’t just want to escape, but they also seek an experience.
Amsterdam isn’t the stereotype that many people believe it to be. It is a destination that is truly best experienced and understood through local traditions and insider tips. Here are some of the Amsterdam essentials to stand you in good stead for your journey.
We all know the saying, “When in Rome, do as the Romans do” – the same principle applies to the wonderful city of Amsterdam. One of the main things Amsterdam locals do is cycle, and absolutely everywhere!
Cycling is fun, efficient and the easiest way of getting around in the city. Even if you only pedal around for a few hours, riding a bike is an essential Amsterdam experience.
Biking in Amsterdam is safe and easy thanks to the flat landscape and multitude of wide bike paths. Bike companies will often give tourists coloured bikes so they stand out, so to travel like a local, find companies that rent out classic Dutch bikes that blend in seamlessly with the locals.
Biking along the canals is one of the most beautiful ways to take in Amsterdam’s historic waterways, and you will always feel a part of the city and its people when you’re atop your trusty machine.
The bicycle is by far the best way to get around, however, you shouldn’t miss out on boating around the canals. It’s very easy to “hitchhike” on the canals with the locals, especially if you are carrying a couple of beers.
What to eat
Amsterdam offers the hungry traveller plenty of unique culinary experiences. Don’t go home without trying at least one of these local favourites:
Ontbijkoek – this delicious ginger cake comes in loaves, and is stodgy enough to ensure that one slice is always enough. The name literally translates to breakfast cake. With notes of cinnamon, ginger and cloves, it’s a spicy and sweet kind of loaf that is meant to be eaten with a coating of butter. Not a bad way to start your day when you think about it.
Kroketten and frikandellen – imagine putting a pig and a cow into a food processor, then rolling the resulting mess into a sausage shape, covering it in breadcrumbs and deep-frying it. These are the result and can be eaten on their own, in a sandwich, or drenched in mayonnaise. A classic Dutch snack, this is easily found on the streets of Amsterdam.
Gouda cheese – you really should taste Gouda from a cheese shop while you’re in Amsterdam, but be aware that from then on you’ll never be able to buy it at home again. Gouda in ‘Dam is the equivalent of drinking a pint of Guinness in Dublin or eating Bagels in New York.
Home exchange – there’s nothing like strolling through an outdoor market in the quiet of the morning and collecting fresh eggs, handcrafted local cheese and volkoren bread, then carrying home your cave, cooking and enjoying a homemade breakfast on your patio.
If you become a swapper you will discover your whole world view will open up in a very unexpected way. You will see how people in Amsterdam, Rome or New York really live, as you will be living in their house and sleeping in their bed.
Places to visit
Vondelpark – with the main entrance just next to Leidseplein, it is no wonder that Het Vondelpark is the most popular park in Amsterdam. It is named after Joost Van Vondel, who was a Dutch poet and playwright. A staple destination for locals, all ages come here to relax, sunbathe, play guitar and sports or do their homework.
De Pijp – this is a favourite neighbourhood for locals, and the name translates to “The Pipe” – and no one really knows why. The young, the old, students, artists, and families have all chosen to make De Pijp their home. Far removed from the hustle and bustle of central Amsterdam, this homely alternative is appealing. Today, De Pijp is so popular that house prices are amongst the highest in Amsterdam.
Like the district Jordaan, de Pijp is brimming with fantastic cafés, restaurants, coffee shops and bars. A visit to Amsterdam wouldn’t be the same without a trip to the Albert Cuypmarket, surrounded by over 100 shops.
Understand the locals
The Dutch are proud of their infamous directness and their very unique tell-it-how-it-is mentality. They often consider the English forms of politeness a sign of weakness and almost fake. So don’t expect a sorry if someone bumps into you on a bicycle.
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