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Beyond the tourist trail: A local's guide to discovering Amsterdam's charms

Beyond the tourist trail: A local's guide to discovering Amsterdam's charms
PHOTO: City Nomads

Amsterdam draws nearly 20 million visitors each year, thanks to its picturesque canals, iconic museums, and cobbled streets whispering history and culture. The city's true essence, however, lies in the corners, secret alleys, and lesser-trodden paths cherished by locals and off from the usual tourist trails.

In this exploration of the Netherlands' capital, catch a glimpse of local life through arts hubs, dining gems, and charming neighbourhood markets. Read on for a side of Amsterdam rarely seen on the postcards.

Activities that transcend the ordinary

STRAAT Museum

A vibrant celebration of urban culture and artistry, the STRAAT Museum is housed in a vast former raw shipbuilding warehouse at the NDSM wharf. Spanning across 86,000 square feet, the unique museum showcases an impressive collection of more than 180 street art pieces, by 170+ artists, each painted on-site and ranging from towering wall-sized murals to intricate smaller works.

STRAAT stands out by not only showcasing established names, but also allowing visitors to immerse themselves in the dynamic world of graffiti and street art, exploring artworks from emerging talents. If you've got time to spare, don't miss out on the STRAAT Street Art & Graffiti Workshops every Saturday (March-October), to create your own art piece and leave your mark on the city streets.?

STRAAT Museum is located at NDSM-Plein 1, 1033 WC, Amsterdam 1071 XE Netherlands. Tickets are priced at €19.50 (S$28.40) per adult, and €9.50 (S$13.80) for ages 13-18 years old. Children under 13 enter for free.

Electric Ladyland - Museum of Fluorescent Art

Embark on a psychedelic journey at the world's first and only museum devoted to fluorescent art. Just minutes from the "Anne Frank House" and the Westerkerk ("Wester Church"), Electric Ladyland is where art, science, and luminescence converge in a breathtaking display of vivid colours and ethereal glows.

In the "Participatory Art" exhibit, step into the artwork and become part of the creative process, whilst rocks and natural minerals shine through a kaleidoscope of colours in Fluorescent Minerals.

The Bernadeth Grotto sculpture under the black light is breathtaking, containing tiny marble statues from India, pieces of fluorescent minerals, and a Bonsai branch. Can we say otherworldly experience?

Electric Ladyland - Museum of Fluorescent Art is located at Tweede Leliedwarsstraat 5, 1015 TB Amsterdam. Tickets are priced at €5 (S$7.30) per adult. Children under 12 enter for free.

ARTIS Amsterdam

For a little fun with the little ones, ARTIS Amsterdam is the place to be. A planetarium, and a botanical haven in one, the destination offers a quick getaway from the urban city life.

Founded in 1838, it stands as one of oldest establishments in the city, boasting a rich history and an unwavering commitment to nature conservation and education. The multi-faceted space features historical architecture, botanical gardens with more than 700 trees of more than 200 different species, and even an aquarium.

Needless to say the best part is the planetarium, ready to take you to an adventure in space with breath-taking 360-degree images, seamlessly creating an immersive experience for all ages. Keep a lookout on their social media pages for more information on live events and performances.

ARTIS Amsterdam is located at Plantage Kerklaan 38-40, 1018 CZ Amsterdam, Netherlands. Tickets are priced from €25 (S$36.40) per adult, and €21 (S$30.60) for ages three to 12 years old. Other discounted rates available.?

Vintage shopping and?local finds

(IM)MATERIAL

Fashion pulses through the veins of Amsterdam, making it a prime destination for a shopping adventure. (IM)MATERIAL Vintage Store is a haven for fashion enthusiasts and vintage collectors alike.

Situated in the vibrant heart of the city, this boutique showcases an eclectic mix of pre-loved vintage clothing, accessories, and curiosities from various decades. Each piece is meticulously selected to offer a glimpse into the past while seamlessly integrating into today's fashion scene.

Venture to the basement for bargain finds, or explore the main floor for designer treasures from brands like Fendi, Gucci, and Miu Miu. The top floor doubles as a social and music space, hosting live DJ sessions weekly.

Whether you're on the hunt for a timeless leather jacket, a charming retro dress, or distinctive jewellery, (IM)MATERIAL provides a unique shopping experience that celebrates the beauty and history of vintage fashion.

(IM)MATERIAL is located at Haarlemmerdijk 171, 1013 KH Amsterdam, Netherlands. Open Mon-Sat 12pm-6pm, Sun 12pm-5pm.

Mokum Vintage

Mokum Vintage Store is a favourite destination for those who appreciate retro styles and sustainable fashion. The store offers a curated selection of high-quality authentic vintage clothing, accessories, and footwear from big brands like Stüssy, Acne and Bape, as well as local-loved brands like Patta.

Each item is handpicked for its uniqueness and fashion relevance, ensuring shoppers find pieces that are both timeless and authentic. Mokum Vintage not only appeals to those looking for statement pieces but also caters to eco-conscious consumers aiming to make more responsible fashion choices.?

Mokum Vintage is located at Rozengracht 25, 1016 LR Amsterdam, Netherlands. Open Mon 1pm-7pm, Tue-Fri 11am-7pm, Sun 12pm-6pm. Closed on Sat.

Nieuwe Spiegelstraat

No holiday is complete without a shopping spree. Wander through the streets of Nieuwe Spiegelstraat, a captivating thoroughfare known for its mix of antique shops, art galleries, and boutiques.

Find everything from vintage furniture to ornate jewellery, collectibles and curios that will leave you dumbfounded in the historic buildings. Operating for the past 60 years, Kramer Arts & Antiques is the place for folks looking for stunning tableware whilst Vincent Nelis Antiques cures dark curiosities with vintage medical and scientific instruments and devices.

Nieuwe Spiegelstraat is located within the city centre of Amsterdam.?

LJ Hallen Flea Market

Situated in Amsterdam's trendy Jordaan district, dive into Europe's largest organised flea market at LJ Hallen. Every weekend, this sprawling market springs to life, offering a kaleidoscope of unique finds for treasure hunters and vintage enthusiasts alike.

Home to over 500 stalls, look forward to a lively chatter of striking bargains and the aroma of some delicious street food. Whether seeking a rare vinyl record, a pre-loved fashion item, or simply soaking in the vibrant ambiance, LJ Hallen Flea Market promises the spirit of Amsterdam's artistic and cultural flair all in one stop.

LJ Hallen Flea Market is located at T.T. Neveritaweg 15, 2012 ZM Amsterdam. Full calendar available on the website.?

Dining and indulging?

The De Pijp Neighbourhood

An up-and-coming neighbourhood amidst the vibrant tapestry of Amsterdam, De Pijp beckons with its bohemian allure and eclectic charm. This district boasts a character of its own, inviting visitors to immerse themselves in its bustling youthful energy, colourful buildings, eclectic cafes, and unique boutiques.

De Pijp's beating heart lies within the Albert Cuyp Market, a bustling hub with artisan foods, fresh produce, souvenirs, clothing, and other mementos to bring home. Venture into international cuisines like Surya's selection of Indian and Nepalese curries, The Butcher for some juicy burgers or one of the cafes for a hot cuppa. Take a walk around the Amstel River to round off the experience.?

The De Pijp Neighbourhood is located five minutes away from the city centre.?

Cafe de Sluyswacht

Those looking for a hearty meal with a view to remember, Cafe de Sluyswacht is one of the local go-tos. Housed within a picturesque lock guard's cottage built in 1692 overlooking the enchanting Oudeschans canal, step inside to be greeted by inviting nautical memorabilia and vintage decor, or dine alfresco to make the most of the visit.

Embrace the local culture by savouring some Bitterballen (fried meat coquettes, €6 ≈ S$8.70), best paired with a pint of Hertog Jan beer (from €3.40 ≈ S$5).?

Cafe de Sluyswacht is located at Jodenbreestraat 1, 1011 NG Amsterdam. Open Mon-Thurs 1pm-12am, Fri-Sat 1pm-1am, Sun 1pm-8pm.?

The Brewery Windmill (Brouwerij 't IJ)

Everybody visits the Heineken brewery, but if you really want to step into the shoes of a local Brouwerij 't IJ is the place to be. Housed in a former bathhouse, the brewery blends tradition with innovation to produce an array of flavorful artisanal beers.

With an assortment of distinct brews ranging from refreshing blondes to robust dark ales and IPAs, each sip tells a story of craftsmanship and dedication. The sprawling outdoor terrace, surrounded by the windmill's impressive silhouette is also the perfect Instagram spot.

Brouwerij 't IJ is located at Funenkade 7, 1018 AL Amsterdam. Free brewery tours are conducted every Fri-Sun at 3.30pm. Taproom opens Mon-Fri 2pm-10pm, Sat-Sun 12pm-10pm.

ALSO READ:?Morocco at a glimpse: A family-friendly itinerary of the mesmerising country

This article was first published in City Nomads.

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