Before you think this is another “Best Places to Eat in Amsterdam” or “Best Restaurants in Amsterdam” post, let me warn you…it really isn’t. Instead, it is our very thought out advice on WHAT you should eat if you are visiting this hip and yet historic city, and often, yes, WHERE you should eat it. After spending three separate trips there, one with a wonderful guide, Anne, courtesy of Monograms, we feel like we can offer you some helpful guidance just in case you don’t want to have to do all of the dining legwork yourself.
To me, food is one of the very best things about traveling. As you know, we spend over half the year on the road, be it crossing the US, trekking around Europe, on camels in the Sahara, or living in our tiny Thai apartment. Food is one of the brilliant things that stand out no matter where we are. What I found so incredible about Amsterdam, however, is that nothing really screamed “Netherlands” – no unique recipe, really, and yet, if it WAS unique, they weren’t really keen on touting it as such.
Humble. I like that.
So, what should you eat in Amsterdam? There is no shortage of food, especially in the historic ring area. You’ll breeze past scads of pubs, pizzerias, delis, Argentinian steakhouses and more. If you want to taste the true Amsterdam, however, these are our suggestions to make it a memorable trip in a truly lovely city.
Stroopwaffels are a given if you are visiting Amsterdam. Think two flat sugar cones, sandwiching a gooey layer of caramel in between. The fancy shops will usually dip half in a robe of chocolate, then add things like coconut, sprinkles, candies, or more caramel. Be warned – you only THINK you can eat a giant one. The small will do, I promise. The sweetness is beyond the sugary cookies we have here, and a large stroopwaffel can be way more than you bargained for. You can find them just about anywhere, but do yourself a favor and try them out at one of the fussy shops that sell ONLY stroopwaffels. It may cost a little more but it’s definitely worth it.
I may oversell this here, but I can’t help it. Since my very first bite of poffertjes, I have become obsessed. Not a pancake, not a crepe, not a doughnut. Instead, these are unique little round pillows of light, airy, pancakey goodness. They are made on a special iron (really fun to watch!) and then dusted with powdered sugar. The brave will add fresh fruit or Nutella, and die happy campers. My favorite place to grab a plate is at De Carrousel (full of old carousel parts), followed closely by De Vier Pilaren, only a brisk walk away.
Yes, I know. It says right there in the header – Belgian. But Amsterdam has laid claim to fries and they make no bones about it. One such fry shop, Vleminckx Sausmeester, has been declared The Best in the World, and offers more toppings for fries than you knew existed. Mayonaise, mustard, ketchup, cheeses, even peanut butter are on the bizarre sauces list, and people line up in queues just to get them here. It’s a fun shopping area of the city, so join the crowd in between vintage Louis Vuitton sales and souvenier shops to try them for yourself.
Yes, pancakes. Sweet or savory, you need to experience Dutch Pancakes. Don’t worry, they are everywhere, but here are a couple of fun ways to get them. One, the Upstairs Pannenkoeken. Have your concierge or guide make you a reservation in advance…this place is TINY (like 4 tables), up the steepest set of indoor stairs you’ll ever climb, and the place is always full. You’d walk past a million times and never notice it, but the experience is so unique and just – DUTCH – you need it in your life. Two – The Pancake Cruise. Yes, you can cruise around the canals of Amsterdam and eat pancakes to your hearts content. A great way to see the city and dine at the same time.
Dutch Dining at Haesje Claes
While we were on our 10 day tour of Europe with Monograms, we spent 3 nights with them in Amsterdam. One of the excursions they helped us with was a “Dutch Dinner” – something I really didn’t know much about. Thanks to the booking, we spent wonderful evening in a gorgeous old restaurant, called Haesje Claes, experiencing truly local foods and traditions. The lighting, the ambiance, the food – all perfection, and despite the walk in the rain, one of the most memorable meals we have had in all of Europe. That’s saying a lot!
Build Your Own Chocolate Bar
Tony Choco-Lonelys. Our Monograms Host, Anne, steered us to this fun chocolate shop in a city center basement. We must have spent 5 minutes walking past it before giving up, then realizing it was underneath us! Tony’s has lots of premade candy bars, all delicious of course, but just in case you need help choosing – ALL have unlimited free samples. A wall of mechanized delivery of samples and full sized candy bars lures you in, and then, you realize you can make your OWN. You choose the variety of chocolate, then what kinds of additions you want to make. Me, I added pop-rocks, caramel, and pretzels, and left emphatically happy.
I’m sorry, but this floating restaurant near Centraal Station has to be the best Chinese food I have ever eaten. We learned from our Monograms hosts that the restaurant, The Sea Palace, was actually built in Hong Kong, then brought to Amsterdam. There is a cute backstory to it as well. Apparantly, wile still in Hong Kong, they did an occupancy test to verify how many people it could hold without sinking too far. Well, the Dutch are much taller, and all together larger people, so the same test once in Amsterdam did not fare quite as well! No worries, the resturant is fabulous and hopping. The fried dumplings were delicious as was everything else we ordered.
When in Rome…errrr…Amsterdam. Space Cakes. Available at many coffeeshops (coffeeshops not coffee shops), space cakes will make your night a little less frazzled. Need to mellow out just a bit? Half of a muffin or piece of cake should do the trick. The most famous coffeeshop in Amsterdam at the moment is DaKampring, made famous in the movie Oceans 12. Remember the “Lost in Translation” bit? Yep, all filmed inside here. It’s a funky, otherworldy environment, but so much fun. Just ask the bartender for your cake of choice (choose the rainbow cake if they have it, but the Banana Nutella Muffin is great, too!), hand over your eight euros, and be on your way. Sure, you can consume it there if you want, or take it to go, the choice is yours. Do note – no hats or beanies inside…they have facial recognition software running in there. No joke.
Again, no matter where you choose to eat while in Amsterdam, you’ll find a great meal or snack, and you’ll enjoy the people just as much. Remember, relax, enjoy, and take it all in! Also, if you are curious about how to get to Amsterdam, and how to book, fly, stay, and explore…look into the Monograms company! Monograms is the helping hand to make your trip one to last a lifetime! Not a group tour, but all of the wonderful benefits one would expect from having a tour company do the leg work…from greeting you at the airport, getting you delivered to your perfectly located hotel, to helping you choose excursions or restaurants and more! We traveled with them a couple of months ago and loved it…read more about our London adventure here!
*Disclaimer – Part of this post was inspired by our travels with Monograms, though all thoughts and experiences are my own. All restaurants listed are from our own research and time spent dining there, and we think you will truly love them!