Top 14 Tourist Traps In Amsterdam (And Where To Go Instead)

Posted by at 16:02

On a first visit to a city, people always head straight for all the tourist highlights. In Amsterdam they queue en masse at Madame Tussauds, or walk through the red-light district, eyes popping out of their heads. But this city has so much more to offer than the overused paths around the centre’s hotspots. Below is a list of Amsterdam’s best-avoided tourist traps with plenty of alternatives to make you visit special.

1. Cheese

I do love a good bit of cheese. But I never go to the commercial shops with big, round hunks of cheese in the window. I always buy my cheese at Fromagerie Abraham Kef. This small cheese shop offers personal service and lets you taste its wares. And there are cheese tastings on Sunday afternoons!

fromagerie-kef-KLM

2. Clogs

Clogs should be avoided at all cost. Only farmers, roadmenders and gardeners wear clogs today, but never the kind sold to tourists. If you want to see the real Amsterdam, book a Street Art Tour through the neighbourhood Jordaan and learn a bit about its history.

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3. Tourist attractions

Judging by the queues, Madame Tussauds, Body World Amsterdam and the Amsterdam Dungeon are among tourists’ favourite destinations in the city. But if you’re only in town for a few days, the Hendrikje Museum of Bags & Purses or Foam photography museum are much finer options. Top tip: The handbag museum also serves delicious high teas in a period room overlooking the canal.

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4. Amsterdam squares

Amsterdam too busy? Well, it is if you go to Leidsesplein, Rembrandtplein or the Dam. These are squares locals prefer to avoid. You will find us at the Noordermarkt (especially on Mondays), Hugo de Grootplein or Beukenplein in the east. These are great little hotspots for a drink or bite to eat. A few that are really worth trying are RazmatazBukowski, Bar Brouw and Smokin’ Barrels.

Check out my blog on Amsterdam restaurants.

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5. Fancy a beer?

I would not advice you to hop on one of the beer bikes with your friends. The locals won’t appreciate it. You’ll be a nuisance to traffic and because getting drunk is actually the only thing you can do, you’ll miss all the beautiful details Amsterdam has to offer. Why not sipping beer on a terrace outside a small Amsterdam brewery? Oedipus Brewery and Brouwerij ’t IJ both serve excellent special beers and delicious bar snacks.

Brouwerij 't ij

 

6. Souvenirs

If you’re looking for good souvenirs, you cannot rock up at home with Delftware and tulips. Go for something truly original made by an Amsterdam manufacturer. The Local Goods Market is held once a fortnight at De Hallen, or look for items by local designers in Spuistraat.

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7. Canal Boat Tours

While you’re in Amsterdam, you must take a boat trip along the gorgeous canals. Skip the Canal Boat Tours and rent a boat yourself. Grab a picnic, sit back and enjoy! You could also take the free ferry across to Amsterdam North and let the wind blow away the cobwebs while you cross the river IJ.

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8. Red-Light District

People don’t just go to the red-light district, or “De Wallen”, to look at the women in the windows. There are plenty of other things to see. At the heart of the district is Amsterdam’s oldest building, the Oude Kerk (Old Church), which has a lively programme of contemporary art exhibitions. Two restaurants worth a visit are Matahari and Anna. And nearby you can find excellent Southeast Asian cuisine in the city’s small Chinatown around Nieuwmarkt and Zeedijk.

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9. Fake Museums

Are the Tulip Museum, Sex Museum or Vodka Museum on your list? Then let me save you the bother — these are simply shops you have to pay to go in to. Personally I prefer to go to real museums like the Rijksmuseum, Eye Film Institute, or Stedelijk Museum. Tip: If you go an hour after they open, you miss most of the queues! If you really want to drink vodka, why not go to a proper cocktail bar like Hiding in Plain Sight or Café Panache.

amsterdam-tulip-museum-KLM

10. Eating out in the centre

There are plenty of great restaurants in the centre of Amsterdam — a lot more than you’ll find in Lange Leidsedwars- and Korte Leidsedwarsstraat near Leidseplein. Try Café de Paris or Terpentijn in Rokin, or Choux near Central Station. Alternatively, stroll towards Rozengracht and try Salmuera, Kessens, or Pressroom.

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11. Markt

Albert Cuyp Market is perhaps Amsterdam’s most famous, but don’t forget all the other lovely markets! Shop for vintage items in the IJ-Hallen in the North, or buy quality food and delicatessen on the Neighbourhood Market at the Westergasterrein. Or browse for art, fashion and design at the Sunday Market.

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12. The wrong kind of pub

You’ll know what I mean… You’ve just arrived in town and simply want to sit down and have a drink. The only place you can find quickly is the wrong kind of brown tourist pub. My tip is, take just a little bit longer and don’t settle on the first terrace you come across. Go where the locals go — Friday evening drinks at Waterkant, Hannekes Boom or Pllek, for instance.

13. Tourist discos

Fancy a dance? Avoid the tourist discos and clubs around Rembrandtplein and Leidseplein and go to a festival! The old shipyard NDSM is always a great venu. I recommend you keep 27 August and 3 September free for Vollt and Valtifest. The Amsterdam Woods Festival in the Amsterdamse Bos in the weekend of 26 August is also definitely worth checking out.

14. Volendam

Why would you go to Volendam, when a bike ride through Amsterdam North and Broek en Waterland takes you past picturesque houses and wonderful waterways. Another major plus: you won’t have to dress up in traditional costume and eat haring;).

 

Sounds familiar?

It’s quite possible you’ve read this before. We’ve posted this blog in August 2015. So this actually is a repost. But let’s be honest: you can never have enough cool touristy tips, right? ;-)

31 Responses to Top 14 Tourist Traps In Amsterdam (And Where To Go Instead)

  1. Stefan

    I think number 14 needs a bit of editing (Volendam, Broek in Waterland). Also if your going to bike to Waterland (the area to the north of Amsterdam) do go to the small towns of Zunderdory, Holysloot, Durgerdam and especially Marken. If you want to see a picturesque old fishing town with original wooden houses, Marken has more to offer then Volendam. Also Marken (and Volendam/Edam/Monnickendam) have excellent public transport connections from Amsterdam Central station.

  2. Harrie

    Regarding the clogs. It says that the farmers do not wear the type sold to the tourist (I guess like the ones in the picture). However this is nog true for the north, where the shown clog is still very popular and actually has been tested to comply with safety shoe regulations. You also can buy them much cheaper in the north. Another big tip. Take the train the Haarlem, this city is at least as nice , so not nicer than Amsterdam and a lot less tourists.

  3. Walter Fokkens

    Kijk, Anne, daar hebben die Nederlanders die ergens buiten NL wonen echt wat aan. Proficiat! Wat een leuk stukkie!

    Dear Anne, how truly handy for cloggies living abroad. Nice work! Thanks for some good advice!

    Walter, Geneva

  4. Luuk

    About the woodenshoes. They are one of the best preserved traditional Dutch items. There are less than 10 real woodenshoe factories left in the Netherlands and while they used to produce them for farmers and roadworkers, 80% now goes to tourism. These are the exact same woodenshoes, produced in the exact same way. The woodenshoe is healthy for your feet because you can move your feet freely inside the shoe, also you don’t sweat in a woodenshoe because the wood breaths. Small Woodenshoe souvenirs is a whole different story, but they also have their functionality in life.

  5. Suzana Falkone

    GREAT PICKS why dont amsterdams comes to work to sweden ?

  6. Saskia Janse

    Edam, a beautiful little town and bike rides around the IJsselmeer.
    An excellent place to stay is http://www.countryandlake.nl to make bike and hiking trips and to go to Amsterdam.

  7. Erik B.

    If U Locals avoid the Tourists Hot Spot Traps, why not then keep the nice and quiet places secret and hidden to yourself to enjoy. Else U have to find new spots to avoid the crowd again !

    • Gaby

      My thoughts exactly! Why spoil our hidden gems with annoying tourists?!

      • Clark Kent

        Because your little blacbook is a commercial blog that wants to make money and sold her bes ttips to multinational KLM-Air France :(
        Thanks Anne for directing thousands of tourists to a few of my favourite spots in my hometown…

  8. Cas

    Dear KLM, this blog entry is so completely right… but please don’t spoil all our secrets to the tourists… the places you mention are so nice because they’re not overrun by tourists and don’t have tourist prices… we’d like to keep it that way:)

  9. DGR

    I would add the Amsterdam Museum, the one with the history on the , instead of the fake museums you mention. It is not over-run with tourists and is very interesting, especially for a tourist who wants to understand how Amsterdam got to be the way it is. This can be entered from Kalverstraat 92, a bit of pain because of the ugly (to me shopping street), but also through a passage from the back side off Niewzijds Voorburgwal. Also, combine the free ferry across the IJ from behind Central Station with a short walk to the Eye film museum.

  10. Natasja

    Mooi is dat! Onlangs aankondigen dat Heineken TAP bier binnenkort op KLM vluchten verkrijgbaar is en dan vervolgens je partner afschilderen als “tourist trap”. Met partners als KLM heeft Heineken geen concurrenten meer nodig!

  11. James Van Leuven

    haha – I have never been to any of these locations. I am Dutch and living in Canada, and not once, no matter where I’ve travelled has there been an interest to go to any tourist locations. It’s much easier to just associate with the natives and live as one, then to spend money to see what one can do on the internet more efficiently.

    Now I have travelled to the various castles to follow Willem of Oranje because history is more interesting than clogs, or tulips.

    This was a good read :)

  12. TJHIN FAT SEN

    Amsterdam is good destination , I will be there , thanks

  13. Ellen

    Hugo’s bar en kitchen doesn’t exist anymore, but still Hugo de Grootplein is a beautiful and lovely square.

  14. Tom

    Volendam? Visit Urk, I love that place.
    Cheese? Just go to a supermarket.

  15. Niels

    Most of what is said up here is complete and utter total bullshit. The shops mentioned are only for the very, very, very rich people who are willing to pay four times normal price because the products are so called “eko”. The festivals, bars and venues mentioned are for the incrowd. If you don’t know anybody there, you will likely be removed as soon as you enter.

  16. Karen

    i think some of the negative messages about tourists are very unfair & rude, I was hoping to come later this summer – its a shame the locals think we are annoying…

    • Craig

      That’s not it at all Karen. Some people come to Amsterdam to see the city, others come to line up at the same tourist traps and chain restaurants they have at home. So what’s the point in that?

      For those who really want to experience all the Amsterdam (and all of the Netherlands) have to offer, the first step it to get away from the crowds and go local.

      There really is a difference between a traveler and a tourist.

  17. Karen

    Hi,
    Great piece but I’d expect better English from a company that considers itself to be international like KLM.
    There are spelling mistakes galore! Grammar is terrible and the translation is in general, awful.
    I’m only trying to help guys – this sort of stuff can damage your image.
    Please, please get either professional translators or native speakers to write on your otherwise really nice blog.

    • Lol

      You are the kind of person I will avoind in parties. Always negative about things :). Did u drink vinegar for breakfast?

      • Lmfao

        You’re such an ignorant troll. Grow up :p what does:did u drink vinegar for breakfast meanan? Ignorant Dutch bully

  18. Erica

    My friend and I went to the Hendrijke Tassen Museum of Handbags & Purses in February and it was one of the highlights of our time in Amsterdam! The museum itself is very interesting (we both love handbags and have worked in retail handbag shops in the US, so we’re even more interested than a casual visitor), the building itself is remarkable, and the neighborhood setting where the museum is located is fantastic. We planned to spend maybe an hour at the museum and had to tear ourselves away after almost 3 hours! I wish we would’ve had more time to enjoy high tea in the on-site cafe. I will definitely go back again! Ik houd van Amsterdam! :)

  19. Hugo van Vliet

    Every tp is true, bu please do try an HARING…. They are lovely…..

  20. Andrew

    The one tourist trap that I avoided for the first couple of visits was the canal boat tour. When I did finally do it I wished I had done it earlier. The layout of the city and the canals finally made sense to me. Otherwise this post is spot on.

  21. Andrew

    After the 10 Must See sights, I like the flower market, the book sale at the university, the indoor swimming hall, the used article (flea) market, that grassy inclined area near the van Gogh museum, and China town. Walking is best, since every shoppe and food stand can be perused, but if in a hurry, bike is a good option. Streetcars I take to get to major areas, like Rikjmuseem.

  22. Jan O

    I would always recommend a canal boat tour to any first time visitors, possibly as the first thing to do, then go places.

  23. Enzo

    Or even better: avoid Amsterdam at all! I personally don’t get it why alle these tourists want to visit Amsterdam: too crowded, too conceited, too commercial. It might have been the place to be in the sixties, but these days, there are much better places in the Netherlands to visit. Try Rotterdam for a change: much ‘hipper’, better bars and restaurants, museums, beautiful parks and hey, it even has it’s own airport. (and no, I don”t live in Rotterdam myself)

  24. Linda Goldsmith

    Thank you we have rented a houseboat for 5 days Sept.16 through 20th.

  25. keetje jordaan

    Anne woon je in de stad?? denk het niet.
    Dat gaat me wat worden nog een paar duizend meer mensen in ons kleine stadje wat we zo koesteren.
    Fietsen worden verhuurd dat is o.k. maar kijk eerst even of iemand al eens gefietst heeft en leer ze op de grachten niet tegen het verkeer in te rijden. Zie vele “close calls” or” near missers ” .
    Zal blij zijn als het einde september is.
    Amsterdam in de uitverkoop is een mooie slogan.

  26. Jorunn Ekre

    I have been to Amsterdam three times and I like the city a lot. It’s beautiful with the canals and old buildings.I’ve visited the Anne Frank Hause which should be a must for everyone who is interested in history and WWII. I’ve been on a canal boat trip, visited the Rijksmuseum and the Van Gogh museum. In addiiton I’ve been to Vollendam, Boxmeer and Maastricht in addition to Valkenburg, so I’ve been to several other places in the Netherlands, too. Shouldn’ ‘t forget Schagen and Eemnes where I have friends All lovely places and I hope to go back soon

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