By far the most visited city in the Netherlands by both local and foreign tourists, is the capital city of Amsterdam. The historic city with its extensive network of canals, cozy streets and narrow facade houses is visited by about 20 million people annually. I can call the city my hometown for almost 30 years. During these years, I have lived in various places and have seen the city change tremendously in various ways. So I have also had plenty of time to get to know the city through and through to find the best non-tourist activities in Amsterdam!
Best non-touristic activities in Amsterdam
There are quite a few markets in Amsterdam every week, but my favorite Saturday market is the Noordermarkt. The market is located on the square in front of the Noorderkerk and continues on the Lindengracht. It is the perfect place for a nice lunch, for buying fresh produce for dinner, and even scoring a new outfit.
For example, for enthusiasts, the fresh oysters at the Good Fishermen from Lauwersoog are highly recommended. I regularly eat my favorite crispy porkbelly sandwich and juicy ribs at Mr. Brasa’s food truck. View a complete listings of organic vendors at the Noordermarkt.
The Noordermarkt is weekly on Saturdays from 9 am – 4 pm and on Mondays from 9 am – 1 pm.
Another cool market in Amsterdam is the IJ-hallen on the NDSM grounds in the North of Amsterdam. The self-proclaimed largest flea market of Europe hosts hundreds of stalls every month. If you’re looking for a new wardrobe for a bargain, this market is for you. It’s also a great place for second-hand household goods.
In my experience, prices can vary big time from seller to seller. For example, private sellers will charge you just a few euros for fine garments, while some seasoned traders unabashedly ask a few tens of dollars for second-hand clothes of mediocre quality. That makes a great find all the more satisfying!
Entrance to the market is €6 per person. With nice weather the market is outside and in the colder months the market moves inside the large sheds. Here you can view the agenda of the IJ-hallen.
3. Arcades in Amsterdam
If you love a night of gaming with a drink on the side, then Blast Galaxy at NDSM Wharf is the way to go! This cool arcade is located on the popular NDSM site in the north of the city. Play the classics like Donkey Kong and Pacman or have a game of air field hockey. But the hall also features the craziest Japanese games and various fighting games.
With a €15 entrance ticket, you can have unlimited use of all the machines for as long as you want. Blast Galaxy is open Wednesday through Sunday.
At the TonTon club in Westerpark you can also have a great evening. Instead of an entrance ticket, at this arcade you pay for the machines themselves. In between playing, I can definitely recommend trying out the delicious food. The kitchen offers Asian specialties as well as delicious greasy snacks. Reservations for groups are recommended!
4. Amsterdamse bos
Everyone has a favorite spot in the summer. For me it is the Amsterdam forest in the South on the border with Amstelveen. There is plenty to do but it is also suitable for just doing nothing at all and lying on one of the large lawns.
The Amsterdam forest is typified by the 2200 meter long Bosbaan where rowing competitions are held from time to time. At the end of this rowing course is the pancake restaurant Boerderij Meerzicht where you can eat proper delicious Dutch pancakes.
In spring, the blossom park is full of beautiful flowering cherry trees. On summer days I can often be found in the woods for a picnic or to pet the goats at the Ridammerhoeve goat farm. At the canoe rental on the big pond you can rent different boats and canoes, which I can really recommend!
But the Amsterdam forest is also worth a visit on rainy days. For example, you can play an active tennis match on the outdoor and indoor courts of the Amstelpark Tennis Club, and Hotel & Welness Zuiver with saunas is located on the same grounds.
5. Vintage Kilosale
On your way by bike to the Amsterdam forest, I can recommend a visit to the Vintage kilosale located in one of the warehouses. The kilosale has become a real trend in Amsterdam and the surrounding area. For an amount per weight, you can pick out as many vintage garments as you want, also known as “fashion by the gram.”
Who knows, you might find some gems of outfits! The store is open daily from 10:00 – 18:00.
The north of Amsterdam used to be a place to avoid; the other side of the ij canal where there was nothing to do. Nowadays things are completely different. Especially the NDSM shipyard has become a hip place with trendy restaurants, street art and monthly events.
Also Pllek is one of those hip restaurants with its own “beach” on the quay for a real beach vibe. You can eat all day and there is regularly live music.
I have lived in several places in the west of Amsterdam, and the Sloterpark with Sloterplas was always a stone’s throw away. There are plenty of activities to do in this park in Amsterdam west. During summertime it’s great to picnic or barbecue on the big fields. For runners, walkers and cyclists, there is the 7 kilometer “Sloterplas loop” with sports equipment on the route and plenty of benches to rest. Would you like to get out on the water? At the Watersports Center you can rent sailboats, canoes and windsurf boards, or take a lesson.
You can also swim in the Sloterplas! In fact, it has several banks with stairs and a beach on the north side where you can relax during nice weather. Please note that these are not actually official swimming locations because the water quality is not regularly checked. So swimming is at your own risk.
Indoor swimming is also possible, in the Sloterparkbad. Across President Allendelaan, there is also a nice nature playground, café and a small petting zoo.
One of the most fun activities in Amsterdam in the evening is Mezrab. In this cozy bar all kinds of stories are told every Wednesday and Friday night. On other nights, stories are combined with things as dance, visual art, poetry and more.
Get a cheap beer and a delicious bowl of fresh lentil soup and be surprised by the evening’s stories. On Wednesday nights it’s open-mic so if you have your own cool stories to share, sign up with one of the volunteers at the bar!
9. Jaap Edenbaan
In winter, skating at the Jaap Edenbaan in Amsterdam East is surely one of the most fun activities to do. Put on your skates (or rent them there) and show off your finest tricks! Before you venture onto the 400-meter rink, you can get in on the scrabble rink first.
All that skating will make you hungry, so the fresh Dutch pea soup and meatball sandwich go down well.
10. Karaoke at Duke of Tokyo
Downtown, you can put your vocal cords to the test at the Duke of Tokyo. Entirely in Japanese colorful decor and even Japanese toilets, you will feel like you are on the other side of the world. It’s a perfect way to unabashedly sing your lungs out.
With rooms from 4 to 25 people, this activity is suitable for any group size.