In a city as relatively small as the Dutch capital, you might be tempted to think that its best kept secrets aren’t capable of staying hidden for long.
Alas, you would be mistaken.
From bathhouses-turned-breweries and centuries-old markets to cold war bunkers and clandestine courtyards, there are plenty of hidden places to visit in Amsterdam for those who choose to venture outside the well-worn comforts of De Wallen and Museum Square.
If, that is, one knows where to look.
To help you discover them, Spinlister has compiled a list of 5 of our favorites below, along with a mapped bike route to get you there in classic Dutch style. Take a few minutes to get to know more about these hidden Amsterdam treasures, then hop on your rental bike and get exploring!
BROUWERIJ ‘T IJ
Launched in 1985, Amsterdam’s most celebrated brewery somehow fails to find its way onto many a visitor’s to-see list. We think that’s a shame, as both the building and the beers are worthy of recognition. Situated next to the towering De Gooyer windmill in Amsterdam Oost (east), this former municipal bathhouse has been transformed into a classic tasting room and restaurant serving up flights of Brouwerij ‘t IJ’s most beloved Belgian-style brews. If iconic sights and delicious beers are your thing, you’ll be hard pressed to find a more appealing option in the city.
ALBERT CUYP MARKET
Stop by the Albert Cuyp Market and you’ll have the opportunity to stroll through a little piece of Dutch history. Started way back at the turn of the 20th century, these days this lively street in Amsterdam South boasts more than 300 stalls selling everything from electronics and souvenirs to fresh produce and some of the best stroopwafel you’ll find in the capital. Its hours are fairly generous: Monday-Saturday from 9:30 until around 5 pm. That said, you’ll definitely want tome early to avoid the crowds, particularly when the weather’s nice.
One of Amsterdam’s most unique and historic secrets is hidden right in plain sight, at the very heart of the city center. Dating back to the middle ages, the group of historic buildings that surround the Begijnhof courtyard once housed a group of lay religious women known as Beguines. Impressively, this small community continued to inhabit the space until the passing of the last Beguine, Sister Antonia, in 1971. Provided you can locate the diminutive opening, the courtyard is open to the public and is a truly tranquil respite from the bustle of central Amsterdam.
While you’ve most likely heard of Amsterdam’s most famous public park, Vondelpark, chances are you’ve never heard of the hidden countercultural meeting place tucked away under its Van Baerlestraat Bridge. Welcome to Vondelbunker. Originally conceived as a bomb shelter at the end of WWII, these days this quasi-subterranean hideout has gone from 60’s rock club to multi-purpose art house and activist hangout. Entrance to just about all of its events is free (donations welcome), but you’ll have to check the schedule if you want to see anything besides the exterior of a big metal door.
When a centuries-old plot of reclaimed pasture land in Westerpark was threatened by urban development in 2001, Dutch volunteers banded together to create the Buurtboerderij, or “Neighborhood Farm.” Since then, this peaceful reprieve and its adjacent St. Barbara Cemetery have become one of the most tranquil settings in Amsterdam, complete with a sheep farm, small restaurant, and even a completely free “take-and-give” thrift shop. Whether you’ve come for a snack, a yoga class, a free concert or just a chance to bask in glorious natural serenity, this is an singularly unique experience highly worth checking out.