What's up with Amsterdam: 10 hidden gems to have a drink

What's up with Amsterdam: 10 hidden gems to have a drink

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This insider's guide lists the best of Amsterdam's cool, crazy and kitsch bars and restaurants off the beaten tourist track.

You know the problem: it's cold, you're tired. You feel like you've been walking up and down the streets of central Amsterdam forever and all the cafes and lunch rooms look touristy and bad. Where are the best bars and restaurants in Amsterdam where the locals go?

What you're looking for is a nice place, somewhere to hang and enjoy the ambiance, the view and the menu. Something special but not too expensive, right?

To help you out, here are 10 inexpensive, special cafés in the centre of Amsterdam where you can drop in for a coffee, juice, sandwich, cake or brownie any time of the day and be entertained.

1. Amsterdam Riding School

In the centre of Amsterdam lies a real hidden gem: a complete horse riding school.

In fact, De Hollandsche Manege is the oldest riding school in the Netherlands and one of the last remaining city riding schools in Europe. The building itself is a jewel, dating back to 1882.

De Hollandsche Manege is the design of Dutch architect AL van Gendt, who also constructed many factory halls in the Amsterdam Eastern Docklands and the Concert Building on Museum Square.

The upper classes of Amsterdam practised horse riding in the main hall and the Vondelpark next door. Nowadays, many children take classes and take care of the horses and ponies. The horses cannot run outside though.

In the back of the building, you're free to roam the stables and pet the 55 horses and ponies.

What's so special?

You can enjoy a coffee in the beautiful foyer upstairs and feel like 19th-century bourgeois while you watch children take riding classes.

Cost: Entrance is EUR 6 for adults and includes a drink; EUR 3.50 for children.

Open: From 10am till 5pm weekdays and until 6pm on Saturdays.

Riding school Amsterdam


2. Blue

Blue is a cafe/restaurant located on the top floor of shopping centre Kalvertoren. The interior is elegant and modern.

What's so special?

Floor-to-ceiling windows offer special 360-degree views of Amsterdam.

Menu and pricing:

  • Breakfast, lunch, coffee.
  • Sandwiches: approximately EUR 5 to EUR 10.
  • Small snacks: approximately EUR 4.50 to EUR 8. 
  • Spaghetti, salads, hamburger, steak, fish: approximately EUR 10 to EUR 20.


Open: From 10am to 6.30pm; Thursdays until 9pm.

3. Café Latei

The walls of this great little place on the Amsterdam Zeedijk are covered with all kinds of 60s and 70s stuff: lots of retro lamps dangling from the ceiling, cosy wallpaper, cheesy plates and romantic teacups that could be straight from your granny's place.

Cafe Latei Amsterdam
Shop while you're having a cuppa.

What's so special?

Guess what? Everything's for sale at Café Latei.

Menu and prices:

  • Homemade pie, cake, brownies and more: EUR 2.50 to EUR 3.50.
  • Vegetarian dinners: EUR 3 to EUR 8.
  • Thursday, Friday and Saturday it's gado gado night: EUR 9.00.


Open: Monday to Wednesday 8am until 6pm; Thursday 8am until 10pm, Friday 9am until 10pm and Saturday to Sunday 11am until 6pm.

4. In ‘t Aepjen

Café In 't Aepjen ('In the Monkey') is one of Amsterdam's oldest cafés. Café In ‘t Aepjen was mentioned in sailors' reports dating back to 1544. The café is one of only two remaining wooden houses in Amsterdam. The other is at Begijnhof.

Inside, the popular bar is decorated with an abundance of wood, like all bars used to be. The café feels more like a small museum, with old paintings, sculptures, barrels and more – too numerous to name.

Cafe In t'apjen amsterdam

What's so special?
Located on the north point of the Zeedijk, the place used to be frequented by sailors waiting for their VOC-ships to take them on long journeys to the Dutch East Indies and other places around the world. According to the website, some of the sailors brought back monkeys to pay for their bills, influencing the name 'In the Monkey'.

'To stay in the monkey' (In de aap gelogeerd) is a Dutch expression meaning you have been taken for a fool. This refers to the times when unemployed poor bastards, hanging around the city, were picked up by tradesmen who gave them food and paid for a room at guesthouse In ‘t Aepjen. In return, the tradesmen would sell the poor men to the VOC-ships. These tradesmen were called 'traders of the soul' because many of these newly employed sailors would not come back and spend the rest of their lives paying off their debts to the tradesmen by working on the ship.

Menu:

  • Coffee with Dutch apple pie.
  • Special Dutch gin (Jenever) from Amsterdam distiller Van Wees/de Ooievaar.


Open: from Sunday to Thursday, noon to 1am; Friday and Saturday until 3am.

5. Open

Open is located inside a former railway bridge. The bridge is always open, hence the name of this all-day restaurant. In summer, the windows open and you can sit outside.

What's so special?

The walls are made of glass and thanks to its position, you have an interesting view on the IJ-water, the new architecture on the Westerdok and trains going in and out Amsterdam Central Station.

6. Café t' Mandje

Café t' Mandje was the first gay and lesbian bar of Amsterdam.

‘T Mandje was opened in 1927 by the eccentric and openly lesbian Bet van Beeren. A remarkable mix of whores, pimps, sailors, artists and, because Bet was lesbian, homosexuals, frequented the place. Though not allowed to kiss in public, the homosexuals felt at home at Bet's place. Bet soon became an icon in the Amsterdam gay scene. She was called Queen of the Zeedijk.

From 1983 till 2008, during the heroine years on the Amsterdam Chinatown, the bar was closed.

What's so special?

Though the bar was closed for a long time, the owners (family members of Bet) left the interior unchanged throughout all the years. The many items, photos and other memories in the busy, kitsch interior have now been moved to the Amsterdam History Museum and Amsterdam archives.

Today, ‘t Mandje is a complete replica of Bet's old bar. Bet's old bedroom upstairs has also been restored and can be visited by appointment.

Menu: Drinks only.

Cafe T' mandje

7. Pannenkoekenboot

The pancake boat (Pannenkoekenboot) is tasty and fun, especially for kids. While the ship is sailing on the IJ, you can eat an unlimited amount of pancakes. You can choose a boat ride of 1.2 or 2.5 hours. The boat runs from Amsterdam North. First, you take the ferry from behind central station to the NDSM.

What's so special?

Eating pancakes on a boat! Why not?

Menu and prices: A boat ride including all you can eat pancakes — with apple, bacon, cheese, fruit, jam, chocolate and more — costs around EUR 18.50 for adults.

Open: Saturday and Sunday during cruises starting at 12.30 pm, 2.15 pm, 4pm and 5.45pm.

Pannekoekenboot Amsterdam


9. Gartine

Gartine's interior design — from lamps to cutlery to plates — is all antique, giving the café a cosy, elegant and warm ambiance. It's been bamed in the New York TimesTime OutLiving, Dutch Elle and many more.

What's so special?
Gartine serves fruit and vegetables from their own garden.

Menu and prices:

  • Breakfast: EUR 8.00 to EUR 13.00.
  • Lunch, soups, bread, sandwiches: EUR 6.00 to EUR 10.00.
  • High tea: EUR 12.00 to EUR 25.00.


Open: Wednesday to Sunday from 6am until 6pm.

8. Café Americain

The bar of the hotel Americain located at Leidseplein is not your typical hotel bar. Also known as the ‘living room of Amsterdam', locals, artsy types, tourists and celebrities pop round for a drink.

Just the stunning art deco interior is worth a visit. The hotel dates back to 1904, which makes the bar of the Americain hotel one of the oldest grand cafés of Amsterdam.

What's so special?
It's a cool place where you can encounter real celebrities. Proof that this is true hangs on the wall of the bar. Stay for a while and read newspapers from around the world.

Menu and prices:

  • Breakfast, lunch, dinner.
  • High tea: EUR 29.50 per person.
  • Sunday jazz brunch: EUR 29.50.


Open: from 6.30am till 10.30pm.

Cafe Americain

10. Café Brecht

Café Brecht feels like you've stepped in a time machine set 50 years back: Flowered wall paper, vintage couches, kitsch lamps, knitted tablecloths and games decorate the cafe. Tea and coffee are served in — here they are again — gran's tea cups.

The crowd that hangs here matches the scenery: creative, retro and alternative.

What's so special?
The interior of Brecht is based on the 'Berlin living room café', so it says on the website.

Menu:

  • Lunch, pies and small bites.
  • Budweiser and Tjech beer (?!).


Open: from noon to 1am.

 

Reprinted with permission of What's up with Amsterdam.

What's up with AmsterdamWhat's up with Amsterdam guides tourists and expats towards the hidden gems of Amsterdam. Find budget friendly things to do and see, check up on upcoming events or get closer to the underground scene of Amsterdam: What's up with Amsterdam keeps you posted. Published 2013; updated by Expatica 2015.

 

 

 

 

Photo Credits: L (Riding school), Marco Raaphorst (Latei), Jean-Pierre Dalbera (In t' Aepjen), Kotomi (T' Mandje), S.J. de Waard (Pannekoekenboot), ECHAdam (Americain).

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1 Comment To This Article

  • melloncoli

    on 8th April 2013, 06:33:41 - Reply

    Hmmm, some interesting places to visit indeed. Those in search of quirky spot for a drink (and a bite or borrel) should try De Pastorie at the Radisson Blu on Rusland, smack in the heart of old Amsterdam. You enter the hotel through what seems to be a normal entrance into a secluded courtyard lined with a higgledy-piggledy array of buildings, all which form part of the hotel. One of these is an old chapel situated up a short flight of stairs and thus overlooks the courtyard and the hotel reception area. The chapels facade has been opened up to expose the interior which is now a comfartable, stylish pub. A further interesting feature of this hotel (complex) is a tunnel which runs underneath the street to a further extension of the hotel on the opposite side. The tunnel is now an art gallery but in its former years served to connect the two buildings on either side of the street which was (I think) the Brand and Proost brewery.