Updated: May 26
With tulip season in full swing, few cities blossom during spring like Amsterdam. As European travel roared back last year, the Dutch capital grabbed headlines with ambitious measures to keep crowds out of its tourist-thronged Canal Belt and give back the cobblestoned streets to the Amsterdammers who call them home. Local leaders announced plans to move the Red Light District to the city’s outskirts and placed a moratorium on new souvenir shops. Even the cannabis-vending coffee shops weren’t spared: New ordinances prohibit lighting up spliffs in city-center areas. Consider it a gentle nudge to venture off the tourist track into the corners of town that locals have largely kept to themselves. On your next visit to the city, hop a free, 20-minute ferry to NDSM Wharf in up-and-coming Noord, where artists’ workshops, riverfront hangouts, and spaces such as the STRAAT street-art museum blow new life into former shipyards. Or head west, where cultural hub De Hallen has revitalized an early 1900s tram depot with shops, galleries, a theater, restaurants and bars, and an expansive food hall.
“To avoid the city-center crowds, I take the five-minute ferry to Buiksloterweg in Amsterdam-Noord for the Eye Filmmuseum’s fun exhibits, architecture, and waterfront terrace for lunch, sunset drinks, or dinner. Another Noord favorite: casual Hotel de Goudfazant, which isn’t a hotel, but a lively restaurant in a former warehouse.”
On a tree-shaded corner in the heart of trendy Oud-West, Karavaan draws a crowd from breakfast to late-night bites. The all-day menu riffs on Middle Eastern and North African favorites such as shakshuka and chicken tagine, but the burgers with piccalilli mayo and sweet-onion chutney are equally delicious. After dark, laptops and coffees make way for mezze spreads, palomas, and espresso martinis.
Taking over a high-ceilinged former working-class coffeehouse from 1902, Nordic-tinged Foer is an excellent reason to venture out to Amsterdam’s little-visited Eastern Docklands. From his open kitchen stocked with jars of fermenting foraged herbs, chef-owner Steven Broere dishes out plant-forward and intricately plated arrangements of salsify, celeriac, and licorice, among other local ingredients.
Across the IJ River in Noord, the new Corner Store restaurant serves seasonal, Asian-influenced dishes such as mushroom karaage and cured halibut with yuzu-chili paste and fennel. With a design that nods to Tokyo’s postage-stamp-size listening bars, the counter doubles as a DJ booth and serves natural wines and sake to the sound of jazz and worldly beats.
Also in Noord, Oedipus Taproom serves its cheekily named beers – Polyamorie, Mannenliefde (which roughly translates to “male love”) – flavored with elements such as lemongrass and Sichuan pepper right next to the kettles they’re brewed in. This envelope-pushing brewery often experiments with rare hops and new brewing methods – ask for the specials on tap.
Arie in the De Pijp district channels a typical Dutch bruine kroeg (vintage pub) with a hint of Parisian bistro, serving local craft beers and an assortment of G&Ts.
For a coffee break, stop at Uncommon in Helmersbuurt, a roastery that sources beans from small-scale farmers from Ethiopia to Peru. Keep an eye out for its limited-edition roasts to take home.
As its name suggests, The Gathershop in cultural hub De Hallen stocks keepsakes from indie design studios and artisans spanning the globe, such as ceramic incense holders from Edinburgh, leather sandals made in Greece, and gold jewelry by Amsterdam-based Koi.
Van Dijk & Ko’s warehouse on a small Noord industrial estate is a cross-cultural trove of curios and antiques. Weekly deliveries from its partner in Hungary bring in everything from West German ceramics to vintage Eastern Bloc enamelware.
Haarlemmerstraat, a boutique-lined street just north of the Canal Belt, is one of the best places to pick up thoughtful gifts and quirky souvenirs. Stop by the white-and-wood showroom of homegrown clothing brand Sukha for breezy cotton shirts, dresses, and other slow fashion made by craftspeople at the store’s ateliers in Nepal.
No hotel conveys classic Canal Belt charm quite like the Waldorf Astoria Amsterdam, which melds rococo ceilings and grand spiral staircases with a Guerlain spa and 93 lofty guest rooms. Virtuoso travelers receive breakfast daily and a $100 hotel credit.
Sandwiched between the Prinsengracht and Keizersgracht canals, the art-studded Pulitzer Amsterdam combines 25 canal houses into a mazelike blend of tree-shaded nooks, a modern Dutch restaurant, and 225 rooms and suites. Come sunset, board the hotel’s polished teak- and brass-accented saloon boat for a Champagne cruise around the district. Virtuoso travelers receive breakfast daily and a $100 dining credit.