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Amsterdam is considered to be the 8th most popular city destination in Europe and 27th in the top 100 leading cities in the world for tourism. It’s hardly surprising as Amsterdam is a city that’s made for walking and cycling, with its top attractions all located within the city centre. There is absolutely no shortage of information on things to do and where to go in Amsterdam. So for this post, we created a list of top 6 secret spots in Amsterdam that not many of its 19 million visitors still know about:
When it comes to secret spots in Amsterdam, this venue, is probably the most unique. It is not your usual ‘secret spot’ because it’s not really hidden. In fact, the building is quite distinct and located in Amsterdam’s city centre, between Waterloo Square, river Amstel and Zwanenburgwal.
The building complex functions as a City Opera House, a stage for a music theatre (Muziektheater), and also the biggest city hall. It is the official residence of the Dutch National Opera, Dutch National Ballet, and the National Symphony Orchestra.
Now that we’ve established that this spot is not exactly a secret spot in Amsterdam, you may be wondering why it is first on our list. Well, it’s because not many know that it offers a half-hour free concert to the public every Tuesday between September to May (except during the Christmas period and public holidays), people can enjoy a free lunch concert every 12:30 pm in the foyer of Dutch National Opera and Ballet.
If you are out of ideas of what to do in Amsterdam, we recommend you enjoy a free 30-minute musical treat in the grandiose location of this venue, then have a late lunch afterwards. There are numerous bars in Amsterdam, but if you are wanting a quieter vibe and a piece of Dutch history including their drink and surrounds, this is surely one of the most memorable secret spots in Amsterdam.
In the year 1452, a great fire broke out in Amsterdam and destroyed almost all of the city. The old city was then rebuilt using brick, and only two wooden buildings survived the fire. One of these wooden building establishments was this location, which has been providing Amsterdam with ales, jenever (Dutch gin), food, and lodging since 1519. This makes it one of Amsterdam’s oldest bars. But that isn’t only what makes this secret spot in Amsterdam interesting and deserving of a spot in our list. The name, which translates to “In the Monkeys” and, is named such because back in the golden age of the Dutch Empire, sailors who returned from their long journeys from faraway Dutch colonies found themselves short of Dutch guilder (Dutch currency) but still determined to have a drink, lodging (and other comforts that they so missed during their long months or years from home), these sailors resorted to paying their bills with their pet monkeys.
It was said that the ‘monkey currency’ proliferated so much so soon, customers complained of fleas in the bar. Today, though the bar is filled with monkey décor and art, they no longer accept monkeys or any other pets as a form of payment. And yes, they also have long gotten rid of the fleas!
Whether you’re a first-timer or a frequent visitor of Amsterdam, you surely would have had a drink in one of its many bars in the city centre. But if you’re in the mood to get away from the crowded centre for a little bit and enjoy a spectacular view of Amsterdam from way up high, this 17th floor rooftop is the bar to go to.
This rooftop venue (Rooftop, Skybar and restaurant) stands at a height of 85 metres and is the ideal location to hold an event or just chill after an eventful day and watch the sun set on Amsterdam. And if those activities are not unique enough for you, there is also a roller skating rink on the rooftop. This is not just a secret spot but also one of the most unique things to do in Amsterdam!
We aim to be well-balanced in our selection of secret spots in Amsterdam, so 4th on our list, we veer away from drinks for a minute and make a bold suggestion to visit this unique space. Located at the Museum Square in the Amsterdam South borough (close to the Van Gogh museum), this space is dedicated to arts and history in Amsterdam.
Tucked away inside is the most extensive art history library in the Netherlands, the interior décor and architecture of this space will make everyone wish they were studying once again. It was built in 1885 in Renaissance and Gothic architectural styles by Pierre Cuypers, who also famously built the Amsterdam Central Station. From its wrought iron railings , swirling staircases and decorative embellishments, this is truly a place that is worth swooning about, whether you are a bibliophile or not.
Out of all our suggested things to do in Amsterdam that are pretty unknown, this is the one that is probably the least kept secret. Although it the its bakery opened only in 2014, it has quickly earned its reputation for serving the best cookies in all of Amsterdam. There is only one type of cookie that you can have here: a Valhrona dark chocolate base /dough with a soft white chocolate centre. The cookies have the perfect light crispiness outside and a not-too-gooey middle. We believe that sharing is caring so we are letting you in on our half- secret.
They make these cookies to order, so you are guaranteed to enjoy a warm batch out of the oven. People are known to travel from neighbouring European countries to Amsterdam just to get their cookie fix ( approximately 46 cookies are baked every 10 minutes), so it is best to go there mid-week, early in the day or at odd hours to avoid the long queue. This sugar-high fever is yet another reason to get to Amsterdam!
We began this list of secret spots in Amsterdam with a place that isn’t too hidden, and we are now capping it off with a spot that is so well-hidden that if you are not too observant, you can blink and miss it, even if you are inches away.
But if you’re not too observant, you may fail to notice that if you look very , very closely in between the gap, there are seven adorable canal houses. These pint-sized Dutch houses actually have numbers so each of them have a valid, actual address!
Amsterdam is a city definitely filled with many things to do. We hope our list has inspired you to explore Amsterdam beyond its popular tourist spots.