Amsterdam like a Local: Embrace the Authentic Charm

Written by: Rachel Vogeleisen



Time to read 5 min

I went back to Amsterdam after a break of more than 20 years. How could I have been living so close and not set foot in the city earlier? It's the wonders of living too close even to notice. Anyway, I returned; wandering on the cobbled streets during the summer was even more delightful. Where everyone seems to live outdoors. The numerous cafés and restaurant terraces invite you to enjoy the sunshine while sipping an Aperol Spritz. 

In this post, I'm delving into the authentic side of Amsterdam. From charming markets to cosy cafes, this guide offers a glimpse into the city's local culture, allowing you to immerse yourself in the vibrant atmosphere.

Amsterdam has winding canals, majestic architecture, and a rich cultural history. But beyond the famous landmarks and well-trodden tourist paths lies a hidden world waiting to be discovered by those who yearn for an authentic experience. By embracing the authentic charm of Amsterdam, you can truly immerse yourself in the local culture and create unforgettable memories. 


Explore Local Markets

One of the best ways to truly experience Amsterdam like a local is by immersing yourself in the vibrant local markets that dot the city. These markets offer a glimpse into the daily lives of Amsterdammers and are filled with unique treasures waiting to be discovered.

Step into the bustling Albert Cuyp Market, a favourite among locals for over a century. As you wander through the colourful stalls, the air is filled with the enticing aromas of freshly baked stroopwafels, herring sandwiches, and Dutch cheese. With their friendly smiles, the vendors are always happy to share the stories behind their products, adding an extra layer of charm to the experience.

For a taste of Amsterdam's multiculturalism, head to the lively Dappermarkt. Here, you'll find an array of exotic fruits, aromatic spices, and speciality ingredients from around the world. As you browse through the stalls, you'll hear a symphony of languages and witness the diverse tapestry of cultures that call Amsterdam home.

If you're looking for a more curated experience, the Noordermarkt is the place to be. This market offers a mix of organic produce, vintage finds, and unique handicrafts every Saturday. At nearby cafes, take the chance to sample local delicacies such as freshly baked apple tarts or traditional Dutch pancakes.

The Sunday Market, held once a month, is a creative haven where local artists, designers, and artisans showcase their craft. From handmade jewellery to original artwork, this market is the perfect place to find one-of-a-kind souvenirs and support local talent.

Whether you're searching for fresh produce, unique trinkets or want to soak up the lively atmosphere, Amsterdam's local markets have something for everyone. So, grab a tote bag and let the colours, flavours, and stories of these markets bring you closer to the heart and soul of the city.



Indulge in Cozy Cafes

I love the cafés in Amsterdam. I didn't mention coffee shops, which are in another range. Amsterdam is known for its vibrant cafe culture, and no visit to the city would be complete without indulging in the warmth and charm of its cosy cafés. These hidden gems offer a sanctuary from the bustling streets, providing a tranquil space to relax, sip on a hot beverage, and soak in the unique atmosphere that makes Amsterdam special.

As you wander through the picturesque streets, you'll stumble upon quaint cafes tucked away in narrow alleyways and charming canal-side locations. Step inside, and you'll immediately feel a sense of comfort as if you've entered someone's living room. The aroma of freshly brewed coffee and the gentle hum of conversation create a welcoming ambience that invites you to linger for hours.

In addition to their inviting atmosphere, these cafes take great pride in their offerings of delectable treats. From freshly baked pastries to hearty sandwiches, there is something to satisfy every craving. Be sure to try the famous Dutch apple pie, a heavenly concoction of perfectly spiced apples nestled in a buttery crust, best enjoyed with a dollop of whipped cream.

While many tourists flock to the well-known cafes in the city centre, venturing off the beaten path will reward you with hidden gems that capture the essence of Amsterdam's local culture. Stroll through the Jordaan district or the hip De Pijp neighbourhood, and you'll discover charming cafes that the locals love. These off-the-radar spots offer a more authentic experience and provide a glimpse into the daily lives of the Amsterdam inhabitants. 

Looking for a place to have lunch, I came across this area by walking from the Rijksmuseum. I was looking for a place with healthy, ideally gluten-free food and came across the Factory Girl Café. I loved the area as it was more stepping into a local area rather than a tourist hot spot. You could spot bikes everywhere and trees and bushes growing in the middle of the streets. There were a lot of restaurants and cafés to pick from, and it felt like being part of the city rather than just being a passive wanderer. 

A culinary experience

What is the food speciality in Amsterdam? Although Dutch cuisine is well-known for its herring, French fries, and pancakes, the food speciality in Amsterdam holds a hidden surprise. For those looking to explore the city's exotic culture, a true adventure lies in Indonesian cuisine.

Indonesian food stands out from other local offerings and introduces visitors to unique flavours. For locals, Indonesian cuisine is commonly known as "rijsttafel," which translates to "rice table" in Dutch. The plate includes an eclectic mix of traditional dishes, usually featuring a small portion of rice and various accompanying sauces and ingredients. These dishes combine sweet, salty, and tangy flavours harmoniously.

Here are some of my Indonesian Restaurants recommendations that I tried and tested on the spot.

One is more like a café called Cafe Kadjik. I sat outside for dinner. The restaurant has a relaxed atmosphere and serves tasty food. Service was quick and friendly.

The other restaurant, Indrapura, was a different experience with wooden floor interiors and high ceilings. The food was fabulous, with various size rijsttafel options, the most expensive one with lobster on the menu.

Of course, I recommend having a taste of French Fries at the numerous fast food shops serving fries to go with a choice of up to 20 different sauce combinations. I also indulged in Dutch pancakes at one of the pancakes restaurants. I chose Pancake Amsterdam, close to the hotel, where I could see people patiently queueing outside for their pancake fix.

But the journey doesn't end here. There is still so much more to discover in Amsterdam, waiting to be explored. So step away from the well-trodden path and continue your adventure through the vibrant neighbourhoods, uncovering the unique experiences that await you.

As you embark on this exploration, remember the words of Marcel Proust: "The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes." Open yourself to the possibilities and embrace the authentic charm that Amsterdam has to offer.

Uncover the hidden gems, indulge in local traditions, and create unforgettable stories in this enchanting city.

Amsterdam is calling, and it's time for you to answer.