After you’ve seen the Gingerbread Houses on Damrak, cycled along the canals of Jordaan, and admired the paintings from the Rijksmuseum, there’s a whole other part of off the beaten path Amsterdam that’s also worth exploring. Here’s your best guide to the best of great finds, unusual things to do, and secret spots in Amsterdam you won’t wish to miss on any visit to the Dutch capital!
#1 Shop on Nieuwe Spiegelstraat
Close to the Rijksmuseum, Nieuwe Spiegelstraat is home to all manner of boutiques and independent shops. From clock vendors to ceramic sellers, this antique lover’s heaven lies to the South of the historic city centre and it has been home to all sorts of stores for well over three centuries. Visit today, and you can be prepared to discover stores selling authentic Delft blue tiles, ceramic tulip vases, and even some cool vintage clothing shops.
#2 De Waag, the oldest remaining non-religious building in Amsterdam
Now a pleasant restaurant in the middle of a square that overlooks an especially pretty canal, you would never have guessed that De Waag used to be part of the historic city walls of Amsterdam. Dating completely back to the 15th-century, De Waag is the oldest non-religious building within the Dutch capital and it has since been used as a guildhall, museum, fire station and anatomical theatre.
#3 Drink a beer in In ‘t Aepjen
Drink beer inside a quintessentially Dutch brown bar where broke sailors once traded monkeys in return for drinks! In ‘t Aepjen are available on the fringes of the Red Light District close to Amsterdam Centraal Station and is among the oldest bars in Amsterdam.
Founded as soon as 1519, the name of this historic drinking establishment describes “Within the Monkeys,” paying homage to when sailors would return from abroad and purchase their drinks using monkeys. In time, the bar became so overrun, that regular customers would complain about the fleas!
#4 Amsterdam gable stones in the Begijnhof
Of course, at this point in time, the Amsterdam Begijnhof is not the kind of ‘secret’ it had been, simply not too long ago! This historic beguinage dates back to the Dark ages, but still many visitors miss the secret wall of gable stones in a dead-end alleyway close to among the courtyard’s entrances.
Historically the Amsterdam gable stones date back to some time when canalside numbers didn’t have numbers and also the general population couldn’t read. These colourful plaques might have indicated the trade from the resident of the home and photographs depicted what they are called of house owners and occupations. Today, a wide array of these pretty signs can now be spied in the Amsterdam beguinage.
#5 The House using the Graffiti
On the fringes from the Amstel Canal, there’s one residence that’s alleged to have centuries-old graffiti that was scrawled in blood. Once the home of a certain Coenraad van Beuningen, your building itself was constructed within the 1670s and could be found at 216 Amstel. The story goes that the six-time mayor of the city etched Kabbalistic signs around the front facade of the building, rumoured to be in his own blood.
Located within the ever-so-pretty Jordaan district from the city, one of the best hofjes of Amsterdam is the Kartuizerhofje, one of the larger Amsterdam hofjes that's actually open to the public. Free to visit, head here and you may expect to find a wealth of beautiful plants, a trickling fountain, and plenty of benches on which to sit down and relax.
#7 Westerstraat 54 Hidden Miniature Houses
If you’re looking for adorably cute canal houses in pint glass sizes, then you simply must visit No.54 Westerstraat. For, if you take a close look enough in the gap between numbers 54 and 70 Westerstraat, you’ll soon spot seven tiny houses.
Originally installed included in a nearby advertising agency promotion, the real-life full-sized numbered houses actually disappeared whenever a courtyard leading to the seven numbers was closed off, and the abodes were merged into the surrounding houses. Today, just be sure to look closely, the miniature canal houses are simple to miss when strolling along Westerstraat!
#8 Shop at the Waterlooplein Flea Market
One from the larger and local flea markets in the city, that of Waterlooplein may be the oldest available in the Netherlands. For 6 days a week, each week, some 300 vendors tout their wares within this 19th-century marketplace. Antiques, vintage clothing, and antiquarian books are found on the market here, causeing this to be a treasure trove of hidden gems and the type of place where you’ll don't know what you’ll come across next!
All glazed mosaic tiles and completely sea-themed, Beurspassage are available steps away from Damrak. The brainchild of Arno & Iris and Hans van Bentem, as the glass arched rooftop is included in fantastical and mythical sea creatures, the ground is all about the relationship between your town of Amsterdam and the water. After all, this is the city of canals!
#10 Secret Library in the Rijksmuseum (Cuypers Library)
You may well not know this (I certainly didn’t when I visited the Rijksmuseum a couple of years ago!), but there’s is a secret library in the Rijksmuseum. All wooden shelving and books stacked from floor to ceiling, wandering inside this hidden gem feels akin to stepping back in time, right into the 19th-century.
The Rijksmuseum Research Library is obtainable towards the public with and it’s the largest public art library available in the Netherlands. For more information on how to go to the Renaissance and Gothic Cuypers library, look into the library’s website. Otherwise, if you’re planning to benefit from the highlights and secrets of the Rijksmuseum, then book your skip-the-line ticket within advance.
#11 Be Amazed through the Muizenhuis (Mouse Mansion)
Off the beaten path and away from the crowds within the city centre, of all of the secret spots in Amsterdam, the Muizenhuis is easily certainly one of my favourites. The ‘mouse mansion’ is basically set of incredibly detailed doll-house-like rooms created by Karina Schaapman together with her children.
They’re so successful that the models have since spawned a set of hugely successful children’s books and even a Youtube series! Now, you can visit the studio and shop and even purchase some supplies to produce your own ‘mouse mansions’. The shop itself is liberated to visit and can be found at Eerste Tuindwarsstraat 1hs. Then, you’re free to admire a button mansion and get questions regarding the building of the miniature models!
#12 Drink a beer in Het Papeneiland
Often purported to be the oldest bar in the Netherlands, Het Papeneiland lies alongside the Prinsengracht and it is surrounded by the picturesque cobbled lanes which are so synonymous with Amsterdam. Founded as early as 1642, if you’re feeling just a little peckish and want to sample a nearby speciality alongside your beer, be sure to sample a slice of one of their citywide-famous apple pies!
#13 Claes Claez Hofje
A quite different from some of the other hofjes in Amsterdam due to the truth that this is really a set of merged courtyards, as opposed to the usual number of one, Claes Claez are available near the Muizenhuis. Pretty, secluded, and away from the tourists, just be sure to be quiet and respectful upon entering- this really is someone’s residence, after all!
#14 Hofje Van Brienen
Quiet, secluded, and the perfect off the beaten tourist path place to sit and relax for any little while, Hofje Van Brienen are available in the Jordaan district of the city. The history of this small courtyard traces its roots to 1797 whenever a local merchant, Arnaut van Brienen, bought a house, storehouse, and brewery named the star so as to demolish the complex and transform it into a hofje. Throughout the 19th-century the area was utilized to accommodate up to twenty couples and 6 men.
#15 Eat the best cookie in Amsterdam
Though not so much of an Amsterdam secret as even just last year, the cookies from Van Stapele in many cases are alleged to be some of the best the city has to offer. Located down a little cobbled alley off Spui and close to Amsterdam's main Begijnhof, you'll smell this nostalgic sweet shop even before you view it.
Often with a long line out of the door and decorated in traditional wooden furniture, this really is one bakery ensure miss off your Amsterdam bucket list. However, don’t make the Amsterdam mistake that people did by refusing to eat the cookies while they’re still warm! Though van Stapele cookies continue to be delicious the next day, they’re nowhere near as nice when they’re still fresh in the oven!
#16 Portuguese Synagogue
One from the oldest synagogues in Amsterdam is the Portuguese Synagogue, a place of worship that dates completely to the 17th-century. Also known as Esnoga, or Snoge, the Place of Worship are available in the very heart from the Jewish Cultural Quarter and it is characterised by its stunning treasure chambers and light-filled spaces. Book your Portuguese Synagogue tickets within advance.
#17 Bells on Taksteeg Street
When strolling around the city centre, there are many great finds and unusual sights worth noting down. Among these would be the bells at Taksteeg, i.e. that old town bells from the city. As a whole, you will find nine bells, which in turn are topped by a clock.
#18 Oudemanhuispoort Bookmarkt
Down a little covered street that’s barely visible from the side from the road, Oudemanhuispoort (literal translation: Old Man’s House Passage), this covered walkway being once frequented by Van Gogh. Today, this hidden gem of Amsterdam hosts a sizable selection of stalls selling second-hand books (a Boekenmarkt) and the perfect place to escape the rain on bad weather days.
#19 Sample Bitterballen in Cafe de Sluyswacht
For a nearby beer with a classic Dutch view and also the opportunity to sample some local Bitterballen snacks (they even serve vegan Bitterballen for that non-meat-eaters out there!). Housed inside a 17th-century former Lockkeeper’s cottage and steps from the world-famous Rembrandthuis, Cafe de Sluyswacht is easily among the best pubs in Amsterdam.
#20 Heritage Museum Courtyard
Though you’ll need to pay for entry in to the Heritage Museum, the courtyard hidden inside the building’s grounds is really liberated to visit. Filled with beautiful spring blooms throughout the Holland tulip season, this little oasis of calm hosts many benches and it is the perfect place to avoid the hustle and bustle from the busy city centre.
#21 Stay on a ship in Amsterdam!
Of all the quirky accommodations you can expect to find in the Dutch capital, staying on the boat in Amsterdam may be the quintessentially Dutch experience you never knew you needed. Imagine getting out of bed every day around the water, ready for any day of going through the canal-lined city. Check my favorite strategies for Amsterdam houseboats you are able to rent here.
#22 Stay in the tiniest hotel in Amsterdam!
And while we’re on the subject of finding a destination within the Dutch capital, it’s important to note that Hotel de Windketel is the smallest hotel in the city. Housed inside an 1897 octagonal brick tower which was once used by Amsterdam’s waterworks, the structure is now a luxury apartment for two people and can be based in the Westerpark district of the city. Check prices and availability here.
#23 Montelbaastoren Tower
Once upon a period, the Oude Schans (the widest canal in Amsterdam) would have been the gateway to inner Amsterdam. This would happen to be one of many importation routes in and out of the city, in addition the waterway would have also acted because the first line of defence in the event of invasion.
The original Montelbaanstoren would have been built during the 16th-century included in the city’s walls, which which you'll spot today was an extension from the 1516 tower and was completed in 1606. All brick in design and 48 metres in height, the tower can be spied from plenty of places around, including the historic pub, Cafe de Sluyswacht.
Close to one of the better fries shops within the city centre, the traditional archway of Rasphuispoort is all that’s left of the ancient Rasphuis (Grating House) and now marks the entrance way to a really modern shopping complex and Kalverpassage. Built from Bentheimer sandstone, the gate was designed by Henrick de Kayser.
#25 Oude Accijnhuis (Old Tax Collector’s Office) in the Red Light District
Dating completely to 1638 and found on the fringes from the Sore point district, the tax collector’s office was created to collect tax from merchants who have been exchanging beer, wine, grain, and tobacco. Now, the former office is between two archways crested with gilt-gold lions.
#26 H.H. Petrus en Pauluskerk Hidden Catholic Church
Blink and you might miss it, for this secret Catholic church is announced just by one simple poster along with a quintessentially Dutch doorway. Down a normally unassuming ever-so-modern shopping street, the H.H. Petrus en Pauluskerk is definitely an oasis of calm in the middle of the hustle and bustle of busy city life.
Situated in a pedestrianised shopping district, this ecclesiastical building is free to go in and dates back to 1848. Constructed in the Neo-Gothic style, the church continues to be nicknamed De Papegaai (the parrot) on account of the truth that a bird trader’s house once stood right in front of it, hiding the area of Worship in the roadside.
#27 Museum Willet-Holthuysen
Of all the small museums in Amsterdam, this 17th-century canalside house is easily one of my favourites. When the canalside home from the 17th-century Mayor of Amsterdam, Jonathan Hop, today three floors of the house happen to be transformed into a museum and give visitors a peek at what it must have been like to reside in the city all those centuries ago.
Though definitely accepted after i last visited just a couple years ago, this small museum still remains a fantastic option towards the much more popular Van Loon museum. Fancy visiting? Purchase your ticket here in advance.
#28 Hortus Botanicus
One of the oldest botanical gardens on the planet can be found in the Plantage district, towards the West of Amsterdam’s city centre. Founded through the Town of Amsterdam in 1638 to grow both medicinal and herbal plants, this really is one Dutch green space you definitely shouldn’t miss whilst in the Netherlands.
Of particular note is the early 20th-century palm house and the 17th-century hexagonal house. It’s also important to note that the Hortus Botanicus is part of the I Amsterdam city card, which grants free access/ discounts to in excess of forty Amsterdam attractions, as well as the utilization of public transit. Purchase your I Amsterdam card here in advance.
#29 De Otter Windmill
A little way to avoid it of the city centre, De Otter windmill is in the non-touristy ‘windmill district’ towards the North of Jordaan. Once upon a time, just under fifty windmills graced the landscape here. Predominantly used as sawmills, only one 17th-century windmill continues to be in existence today, De Otter Windmill.
Constructed as early as 1631, this wind-powered mill is sadly closed to the public, but could still be admired in the exterior! Nearby, the district is much more residential than a few of the other Amsterdam districts and it is full of parks, houses, and fewer shops than in Centraal.
#30 Amsterdam’s City Archives
Away from the hustle and bustle of the historic city centre, Amsterdam’s City Archives are available close to the Kattenkabinet alongside the Herengracht (that is regarded as the most important of the Amsterdam canals).
Free to visit and enter, the City Archives is housed inside the historic De Bazel building. Though the permanent exhibition is solely in Dutch, the displays are still great to look at. Also inside the Archives, you’ll soon discover a wonderful bookshop which stocks all kinds of books about the history and culture of Amsterdam (including plenty of books in English!)
#31 Ons Lieve Heer op Solder
Of all the unique things you can do in Amsterdam, one of the better attractions is easily that of the church of Ons Lieve Heer op Solder. Literally translated as ‘Our Lord within the Attic,’ this clandestine church turned museum dates back towards the 17th-century.
Today, the old canalside houses have since been changed into a museum where you can learn what life would have been like several those centuries ago. Head up to the top floor and you’ll soon discover the stunning hidden church. Purchase your Our Lord in the Attic tickets within advance.
#32 Eat unlimited pancakes around the pancake boat!
Want to see Amsterdam from the water and eat a limitless amount of pancakes simultaneously? Well, on the Pannenkoekenboot you are able to! Lasting for a amount of 2.5 hours, eat as numerous from the sweet treats as you can while admiring the most beautiful and weird attractions of Amsterdam. Check prices and availability here.
#33 Wake Me Up When I’m Famous bench
Located a little way outside of the historic city centre, as you may think of the ‘Wake Me Up When I’m Famous’ bench has gained in popularity with the ever-increasing interest in Social Media, most notably Instagram.
Located to the North of Central Amsterdam, the precise address for that bench is: Frans Halsstraat 64, 1072 BT Amsterdam, Netherlands. Otherwise, you should know that the surrounding neighbourhood is fairly and excellent for photos.
#34 Kattenkabinet (Cat Museum)
For lovers of furry felines, the Kattenkabinet is definitely an absolute must. Easily probably the most unusual small museums that Amsterdam provides, this quirky cultural space provides the chance to enjoy all kinds of cat-related prints, objects, and furniture.
Located alongside one of Amsterdam’s main canals, Kattenkabinet isn't just full of cat-art, but live cats themselves! The small museum doesn’t take long to visit and only needs an hour or two to fully explore…
#35 Search for The Fault within our Stars filming locations
If there’s one movie that’s perhaps one of the most iconic and famous to possess been filmed within the Dutch capital, it’s those of The Fault within our Stars. Filmed across Amsterdam, here’s your ultimate guide to The Fault within our Stars filming locations.