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Your essential guide to where to stay in Amsterdam

After a tip-top place to stay in the Dutch capital? Browse our guide to the best neighbourhoods in Amsterdam and take your pick

Photograph: Courtesy CC/Flickr/Anas Balushi
By Derek Robertson and Huw Oliver |
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Pinning down the best place to stay in a given city is always an issue – especially if you’ve never been before. And despite its compact, walkable size, Amsterdam is no exception, boasting as it does several distinct neighbourhoods, each with their own charm, personality and quirks. 

So which is the one for you? You may prefer the old-world elegance of Jordaan and Oud-West, the youthful shabby chic of De Pijp, the somewhat seedy (but fascinating) centre, or up-and-coming Oost, a trendy area that’s undergone huge regeneration over the past few years. But whether you’re more into your restaurants, bars or nightlife, each of these neighbourhoods can hold its own. Here are some highlights.

RECOMMENDED: Full guide to the best hotels in Amsterdam

Where to stay in Amsterdam

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Jordaan canal houses in Amsterdam
Photograph: Guilhem Vellut / Flickr

Jordaan

Originally built in the 17th century to house immigrants and the working class, this area has since been transformed into the city’s most expensive neighbourhood. Jordaan brims with elegant townhouses and spacious apartments, and is dotted with art galleries, expensive boutiques and classy restaurants. But it’s not all extravagance and luxury; there are plenty of charming little stores and restaurants that attract younger crowds who live a little further west. If a sedate pace and upscale lifestyle is what you crave, this is the place to be.

EAT

Stamppot is the closest thing the Dutch have to a national dish, and Moeders, a quirky restaurant adorned with photos of customers’ actual mothers, is the place to try it. The combination of mashed potato, cabbage, bacon and sausage makes for quite a plateful, and while there’s plenty of other hearty, traditional grub on offer here, all portions are huge, so make sure you bring an appetite.

DRINK

A multi-storey car park might not seem the best spot for a bar, but Waterkant proves otherwise. Best enjoyed in warmer weather, they have a glorious, spacious terrace that’s lit up with fairy lights. By day, it’s the perfect place to watch canal traffic sail serenely by, but it gets fairly boisterous at night as a hip young crowd come to party.

DO

The Anne Frank Museum is a moving yet sombre testament to both the horrors of the Second World War and the indomitable human instinct for survival. The 17th-century canal house where her family lived and worked – and later hid – has been beautifully preserved, and alongside the ‘secret annexe’ that Anne called home for two years there’s now an informative museum and educational centre. Tickets can only be bought online and in advance. 

STAY

Few hotels in Amsterdam can match the glitz and prestige of the Pulitzer. Spread across an intricate maze of 25 canal houses, the luxurious rooms and suites are both ultra-modern and comfy. The on-site restaurant, Jansz, is one of the city’s best, but if you want to get out and about, make use of their concierge or book a tour in the hotel’s very own classic wooden boat from 1909. 

If you only do one thing…

Winkel 43, a lively café at the top of Jordaan, is famous for one thing – its divine apple pie. The chefs have perfected the contrast between the rich, crumbly crust and chunks of succulent apple, and with hefty slices served with a dollop of cream, there’s nowhere better to sample this decadent Dutch delight.

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Vondelpark
Photograph: Shutterstock

Oud-West

Looking for somewhere that combines genteel Amsterdammer sophistication with a touch of urban chaos? Lush, leafy – yet fast-changing – Oud-West is the area for you. With the vast expanse that is Vondelpark, a smattering of hip bars and boutiques, and some first-rate restaurants, there’s no end of excellent things to see and do here. Overtoom and the bustling De Clercqstraat, in particular, are now home to a vibrant community of chefs, creatives and entrepreneurs; Oud-West as a whole has become second only to Oost for those looking to explore the city’s food and drink scene. So take a day or two, hire a bike, and soak up all this wonderful neighbourhood has to offer.

EAT

There are many brilliant new restaurants in Oud-West serving all types of cuisine, but Café Panache is one of the best. This cavernous space in an old warehouse now serves up chargrilled seafood and meat alongside classics such as jerk chicken, its dark woods and leather banquets the very definition of modern industrial chic. Killer cocktails and a young, stylish crowd make this a great place to spend a few hours watching modern Amsterdam wine and dine.

DRINK

Craft beer and classy cocktails are not hard to find around here, but the cosy vibe and easy-going style of The Golden Brown Bar, a popular hangout for locals and expats alike that’s named after a Stranglers’ song, set it apart. Ignore the Thai food (though it’s decent), and instead work your way through their impressive range of beers, wines and inventive mixed drinks. For the best people-watching, head upstairs to the small balcony and a grab a pew against the wall.

DO

Culturally, Oud-West is as rich as any other neighbourhood, and not simply in terms of high-flown art galleries and museums. Some of the city’s coolest institutions can be found here: there’s LAB111, a cinema and exhibition space that’s home to various collectives and showcases quirky independent films and documentaries; OT301, a legal squat that’s now a live music venue, cultural centre and pay-what-you-can vegan restaurant (staffed by volunteers); and De Nieuwe Anita, a retro living-room-cum-bar-cum-basement-venue that hosts everything from live music to taco tasting.

STAY

Many places in Amsterdam claim to be big on sustainability but The Tire Station, a 112-room eco-designer hotel, really does practise what it preaches. Energy from renewable sources, an eco-garden on the roof with beehives, tables made from recycled yoghurt pots: their credentials are impeccable. And none of this impinges on style or comfort (the rooms are hip and funky) – making this a great base to explore West and beyond.

If you only do one thing…

Vondelpark is almost as synonymous with Amsterdam as tulips and weed. This is a sprawling city-centre destresser, a place where Amsterdammers head to run, cycle, rollerblade, barbecue, picnic... or just kick back and relax. Kids can explore various play parks, and there’s even an open-air theatre if you want to indulge in some culture. Put simply, a few hours here is an unmissable treat.

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Tropenmuseum ethnographic museum in Amsterdam
Photograph: Alexander Svensson / Flickr

Oost

The eastern side of Amsterdam has rich industrial and working-class heritage. The docks around Zeeburg once attracted tradesmen, warehouses, and everything needed to support them – in turn drawing a large number of immigrants. Such ethnic diversity continues to this day; despite extensive regeneration over the past 10 years, the area remains a heady mix of old and new, with achingly hips bars and boutiques brushing shoulders with Turkish greengrocers and spit ’n’ sawdust shawarma joints. New developments and businesses spring up almost weekly, adding vibrancy to Amsterdam’s new epicentre of cool.

EAT

Though there are many superb restaurants in Oost, no trend sums up the area better than gourmet comfort food, and Smokin’ Barrels does it better than most. Ribs and chicken are their specialities, but really, it’s all about the burgers; they do the best in the city. Go for the Surf ’n’ Turf, a burger that comes with half a lobster on the side, and wash it down with one of their signature G&Ts.

DRINK

Charles Bukowski loved his booze. ‘There is always a reason to drink!’ was his ethos, and Bar Bukowski, a hip corner hangout, celebrates his love of alcohol, literature and partying. It’s not the biggest space, but at night it draws a stylish crowd intent on having a good time, with DJs ramping up the atmosphere most evenings. Definitely a place to be seen.

DO

It seems fitting that the Tropenmuseum, a huge ethnographic museum, should be located in multicultural Oost. The Tropen – housed in one of the city’s most beautiful and impressive buildings – has eight permanent exhibitions and hosts a multitude of smaller, temporary displays of visual and contemporary art. 

STAY

Billed as an ‘unconventional hotel’, the Lloyd is certainly out of the ordinary. This historic building has served as a shelter for Jewish refugees, a prison and a juvenile detention centre – and is now a 117-room boutique hotel where no two rooms are alike. From budget twins to suites with beds that sleep seven, this is a unique place that’s the perfect base for the well-travelled and style-conscious.

If you only do one thing…

Have a wander along Javastraat – no street sums up the character and personality of Oost quite like it. Cocktail bars and cool boutiques jostle for space with greengrocers, Turkish bakeries and bargain stores selling all manner of household goods and bric-à-brac. It’s where modern meets traditional, and a fascinating sight to behold.

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Albert Cuyp Market
Photograph: Franklin Heijnen / Flickr

De Pijp

Known as the Latin Quarter, this bustling area stretching south of the centre has long been home to students, creatives and bohemian types of all stripes. ‘Beatnik flair’ comes up in many guides, and they’re not wrong; there’s an air of going against the grain here, as De Pijp likes to make its own rules. It’s trendy without being too cool for school, and smart without being stuck-up. Some of Amsterdam’s best eating, drinking and shopping can be found within its sprawling streets, and a night out here is never dull. If you live for the buzz, De Pijp won’t let you down.

EAT

Meat lovers rejoice, for Cannibale Royale, tucked away at the bottom of De Pijp, is a mecca for all things chargrilled. Impeccable burgers – try the house speciality, with added pulled pork – jerk-style roast chicken and the best ribs in town are just some of the delights on offer. Steak lover and hungry? Their 1kg Absurde, which must be ordered 24 hours in advance, has you covered.

DRINK

It’s all about shabby chic around here, so ignore some of the flashier new bars and head instead to Kingfisher Café, a legendary drinking den on Ferdinand Bolstraat. There’s a lively atmosphere almost every night, with a diverse mix of locals getting stuck into seasonal brews and surprisingly cheap – and strong – cocktails. The traditional Dutch bar snacks are great if you’re in need of fortification, and don’t leave without one of their branded T-shirts – it’s the perfect alternative souvenir.

DO

Nothing is more ‘De Pijp’ than just chilling out, and the small but perfectly formed Sarphatipark is the perfect place to do it. Grab some food and coffee to go – try Scandinavian Embassy, CT Coffee & Coconuts or Little Collins – and bag a spot in this tranquil inner-city haven; on a nice day, there’s nothing finer. And while you’re here, have a wander around some of the cute little boutiques on the surrounding streets.

STAY

Housed in a former diamond factory, the 90-room Sir Albert oozes understated cool. ‘Modern aristocratic’ is the vibe, with light, airy rooms filled with quirky art and a handy goodie box stuffed with travel essentials. Try to get Deluxe Room 19 – it has huge windows overlooking the street – and pop into ground-floor restaurant Izakaya for some of the city’s best sushi.

If you only do one thing...

The Dutch love their markets, and Albert Cuyp is the city’s best. There’s nothing you can’t find here, but most come for the top-drawer fish, meat, and fruit and veg. It’s the perfect place to soak up the atmosphere, wander among genuine locals, and pick up some one-of-a-kind souvenirs.

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Red Light District
Photograph: Shutterstock

Centrum

Don’t be put off by the hordes of stag and hen dos and those seeking to lose themselves in debauchery – there’s plenty else to see and do in the heart of Amsterdam. Of course, a wander through the Red Light District may well appeal, but there’s also the historic Canal Ring, the Nine Streets, Spiegelkwartier (for art and antique lovers), and Nieuwmarkt, home to the oldest buildings in the city. Stay away from the tourist traps and tacky attractions and there’s a wealth of quaint back alleys and under-the-radar sights to explore.

EAT

Some the city’s best and grandest restaurants call the Canal Ring home, but for sheer opulence combined with cutting-edge cool, nothing beats The Duchess. Opened to much fanfare a few years ago, the sumptuous décor is more than matched by the food; gorge on the classic (Dover sole) and the wacky (foie gras doughnuts) under the huge stained-glass dome. Dinner isn’t cheap, but they also do breakfast, lunch, and bar snacks, all of which are lighter on the wallet but every bit as mouth-watering.

DRINK

Step back in time at De Engelse Reet, a bar that’s been run by the same family – and all first-born sons with the same name – for four generations. A traditional voorkamer, or parlour, drinks are dispensed in a small back room and served in a comfy, old-school wood-panelled room (the only bar like this left in Amsterdam). And in keeping with tradition, it’s all about the jenever (Dutch gin) here – try the tipple from local brewery De Ooievaar, which has been cranking out the spirit since 1782.

DO

Ignore the glitz of the trashy attractions around Dam Square and head instead to Oude Kerk, not just Amsterdam’s oldest church, but oldest building to boot. Founded around 1213, it stands in De Wallen, in the heart of the Red Light District. Marvel at the wooden roof (the largest in Europe) and the beautiful stained-glass windows.

STAY

It might be part of a global chain, but the W Hotel – the newest kid on the block when it comes to luxury accommodation in the centre – is well worth checking out. The rooms are as you’d expect – spacious, muted tones, an easy-going, comfy kind of chic – but the real treat is six floors up, on the roof. Their cocktail bar, lounge and restaurant offer striking views across the city, but best of all is the outdoor heated pool that runs the length of the building. It’s guests only too, meaning it’s never overrun by the selfie stick-wielding hoi polloi.

If you only do one thing...

Visit the A’dam Toren. OK, technically it’s not in the centre, but it’s close. Head to the back of Centraal, take the free ferry across the River IJ and head to the observation deck of the big tower that dominates the skyline for the best views in the entire city. And, if you’re brave enough, have a go on Over the Edge, Europe’s highest swing, that’ll have your feet dangling 100 metres up.

After more solid recommendations?

A canal with boats in Amsterdam
Photograph: Shutterstock
Things to do

The 23 best things to do in Amsterdam

Here’s a challenge – name a European city that’s more fun, diverse or simply eclectic than the Dutch capital. Difficult, right? However long you’re here for, a packed, personalised cultural schedule can be cobbled together in no time. Museums? Clubs? Outdoor sports? There’s no place better.

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