In our Go Local Guides, we’ve teamed up with local insiders from popular travel destinations; giving you their money-saving tips on how to get a taste of the places they call home, without breaking the bank.
Amsterdam expat Neil Siner shares the best ways to live life up while bringing costs down in his home city.
It’s a little sad that the sleazier end of the city still occupies the central bit of people’s imagination. There’s so much more to Amsterdam than coffee shops and the red light district. In fact, if you look closely it’s Amsterdam’s colonial legacy that makes it a truly fascinating city.
The main thing about the Dutch is their pragmatism and open mindedness. And they love a money saving tip. This means they are really good at offering discounts. There are various pre-paid card schemes that give you free or cut-price entrance to Amsterdam’s attractions. The Holland Pass starts at €45 (£42.44), or alternatively the I amsterdam City Card is specifically focused on the city itself. This starts at €60 (£56.59) but includes unlimited access to the public transport. To cash in on these cards you have to book museum visits and other attractions in advance.
Holland’s 300 years of colonial history has meant that Indonesian food’s greatest hits made their way back to Amsterdam from South East Asia. You’ll find Indonesian ingredients like sambal and galangal in most Dutch grocery stores. A favourite street food is patat met satesaus, chips garnished in delicious creamy peanut sauce. They’re a couple of euros on most corners of the city. A little more upmarket but still down to earth and great is Café Amoi. Walls here are painted deep, comforting greens and yellows and ochres - and these hues are offset with bright design accents. Delicious starters are from €6-8 (£5.66 - £6.60) and mains are really great value from €10-13 (£9.43 - £ 12.26). The satay here is perfect.
The Van Gogh Museum (€19/£17.92 on the door) is the classic collection of Van Gogh’s work - and it is worth braving the crowds to see the world’s most significant collection of Vincent’s paintings, sketchbooks and collectables. But check out the Tropenmuseum (€16/£15.09 on the door). The recent Cool Japan collection was spectacular - and it’s on the top end of the Oosterpark, which is a beautiful green and watery space teeming with bird life and fascinating human traffic, especially in the summer months. Remember, book in advance to get your free ticket.
The Plantage area of the city, where you can find the zoo (€24/£22.64 or free with I amsterdam card) and the botanical gardens (€9/£8.49 or free with I amsterdam) is yet another legacy of the colonial heritage of the Netherlands. Both are set in ornate colonial buildings, surrounded by lush gardens and greenhouses filled with monkeys, tropical birds and colourful plant life. The Dapper Market is on the edge of the Plantage area. This is my favourite spot to pick up great deals on everything from deli food to sunglasses and vintage fashion. Dapper is much cheaper than other more ‘craft’ markets in other parts of the town and refreshingly free of tourists.
Carrying on the exotic theme, go to the beautiful, leafy and airy tropical style Bar Botanique on Javastraat for a decently priced cocktail (€8-12/£7.55-£11.32) with a lively local crowd or head up the road to the hip local spot Basquiat, for a great selection of beers (€5-6/£4.72-£5.66) and cocktails (€8-12/£8.48-£12.42). There’s also a bunch of great restaurants in this area, from Indonesian and Surinamese to pizza places and gourmet burger joints in this area.
Just to the north of Javastraat there’s the amazing Brouwerij ’t IJ, the famous bath-house turned craft brewery (beers from €6-€12/£5.66-£11.32). This must-see spot is situated right next to the De Gooyer, Holland’s tallest wooden windmill, which is a perfect beer-sipping backdrop. The brewery is at the junction of three canals. Get that Dutch courage in you and you’ll be able to pronounce the name of the place!
FOAM Photography Museum
Keizersgracht 609, 1017 DS, Amsterdam, +31 (0)20 5516 500, firstname.lastname@example.org
€12.50/£11.79 (free with IAMSTERDAM card and others)
The Columbus Craft Beer
Three courses of exotic fusion food for no more than €20 per head. (£18.86)
Tram & Bus
96 cents (91p)for a single ride + 16 cents (15p) per km (free with various discount cards)
Tip 5-10% for good service
Our insider city guides - packed with tips from locals in the know.