City Breaks

Secret Amsterdam

Amsterdam is a hotspot for travellers who wish to check out the local art scene and enjoy unique architecture. Here are some secret spots to look out for.

Famous for its arts and culture scene, Amsterdam attracts visitors throughout the year, who come to enjoy the bustling nightlife and charming architecture. Whilst the city is a fun, busy hub of activity, some little known places still exist, and these can be enjoyed away from the crowds.

Places to unwind

Hofje van Brienen

Amsterdam is full of beautiful spots that serve as wonderful places to simply sit and enjoy the scenery. When strolling through the city streets, you might pass by one without realising, as they are often hidden behind large doors. When opened, these doors lead you into wonderful, quiet courtyards. One of the best districts to find these secret courtyards is Jordaan, which is home to Hofje van Brienen.

Found on Prinsengracht, just north of Prinsenstraat bridge, this peaceful courtyard, or hofje, dates back to 1806 when it was inaugurated. Hofjes are enclosed by almshouses, which were originally built to house elderly people who, often widowed, did not have the financial means to look after themselves. Take a stroll through this district and look out for other hidden gardens, however remember that many of them are privately owned, so noise should be kept to a minimum.

Amsterdam's hofje's are full of flowers and are a peaceful place to unwind
Amsterdam's hofje's are full of flowers and are a peaceful place to unwind

Amsterdam is dotted with pleasant green spaces, but particularly in the warmer months, the city parks can become a little crowded. In Amsterdam Noord you'll find Schellingwouderpark, a wide open stretch of land that has been dedicated to preserving the local ecosystem. A former industrial waste site, the park is the city's newest green space, opened in 2010.

This park is a great place to visit when it's hot, as it's quieter than Amsterdam's other parks and the IJ lake gives off a cooling presence. Earlier in the year is still a wonderful time to visit, as you can walk along the riverbank and see wildflowers, and even take a swim. No shops or amenities are in the area, so remember to bring a picnic!

Farmer's Market on Noordermarkt

The street markets in Amsterdam are a fantastic place to meet locals and pick up some holiday treats. The most renowned market in the city, and perhaps the Netherlands, is Albert Cuypmarkt, but there are others that attract fewer tourists, and offer a more authentic experience. One such place is the Farmer's Market on Noordermarkt, which runs every Saturday from 9am until 3pm.

This is a small and vibrant market, specialising in natural and healthy goods, like cheeses, honey, bread and homemade cakes. It's a great place to go if you want to use local produce in your cooking. Other notable markets include the Art Plein Spui Market, which sells lovely small prints and canvases every Sunday, and the Flower Market, which floats on houseboats along the Singel canal.

The floating flower market is the only one in Europe of its kind
The floating flower market is the only one in Europe of its kind

Secret Culture

The Movies

If you're a movie buff, you'll love Amsterdam for its great selection of cinemas, and one of the most famous buildings in the city for film is the EYE institute. However, for something a little more low-key, head to The Movies Art House Cinema (simply known as The Movies).

With a focus on niche art-house films, rather than international hits, The Movies is Amsterdam's oldest working cinema, having been open since 1912. The inside of the building is decorated with a beautiful art deco style throughout, with old film posters and an in-house bar and restaurant. Check their schedule, as they show Hollywood box office hits from time to time.

Geelvinck Museum

Amsterdam is bursting with great museums, from the famous Rijksmuseum to the iconic Anne Frank Museum, but there are other interesting places to learn about the city's history. Created during the 17th century, when Amsterdam was a thriving trading hub, the Geelvinck Museum can be found along the Herengracht canal, and is a living memory of life for the wealthy bourgeois of the time.

Inside the building you'll see beautiful period furniture, and detailing like bespoke flooring and glasswork. The main rooms include the reception room, coach house and the museum even has its own stunning gardens, perfect for a stroll on a sunny day.

Amsterdam's famous Rijksmuseum
Amsterdam's famous Rijksmuseum
Cobra Museum of Modern Art

Art fans amongst you may know of Amsterdam's thriving arts district in Jordaan, which is the Netherland's most famous creative neighbourhood, and the city is famous for the Van Gogh Museum. However, we encourage you to dig a little deeper into Amsterdam's artistic past, to discover the CoBrA movement. The movement was created in the late 1940s with members from three cities (Copenhagen, Brussels and Amsterdam) and produced some inspiring avant-garde works of art.

Inspired by primitivism, outsider art and children's drawings, the paintings at the Cobra Museum are colourful and full of movement. The museum is a great place to learn about the movement, and they hold fantastic educational activities for kids, as well as cultural workshops.

Underground Restaurants

De Stadskantine

Foodies will love Amsterdam for its cosy restaurants, which serve high quality, interesting food. However, if you visit the city having done little or no planning, these gastronomic gems can be a little hard to find. One restaurant that we love for its reasonable prices and healthy options is De Stadskantine.

The daily changing menu provides one fish, one meat, and one vegetarian course, and it's a really great alternative to some of Amsterdam's more expensive restaurants. Sit at long, wooden, canteen-style tables and try these delicious variations of traditional Dutch dishes for yourself, in a local laidback atmosphere.

Secret Sleeping

Misc Eatdrinksleep

Amsterdam is home to some truly grand hotels, but when visiting a city, we like to sleep somewhere a little more intimate. If you're keen to experience the city's nightlife, and want to get your teeth into what life is like in the city centre, try staying at Misc Eatdrinksleep.

Sitting on the edge of Amsterdam's red light district, this sweet little hotel offers a cosy hideaway from the bustling streets. The building is a 17th century canal house, and has just six rooms. The owners are friendly and helpful, and give your stay a personal touch that isn't available at some of the larger hotels.

Getting there and around

Amsterdam is under five hours in the car from Calais, so it's a wonderful place to visit time and time again. With the journey from Folkestone to Calais taking just 35 minutes with LeShuttle you have lots of time to check out our secret guide to Amsterdam!

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