Let’s be honest - Amsterdam is an incredibly cool city. With some of the world’s most popular museums, famous canals, and a buzzing nightlife, there is always something going on in the Dutch capital. It would be more difficult trying to find nothing to do in Amsterdam. But what do the locals do in Amsterdam?
If you’re looking for something unique, more non touristy, and a little more off the beaten path in Amsterdam, then you’ve come to the right place. Because Amsterdam is the type of place you want to go back to time and time again. So we’ve compiled a list of unique activities to do while visiting the red-light city that is guaranteed to give you an incredible time.
You can also find all of these and more on our map.
1. Discover unique art at Electric Ladyland
Amsterdam is known for its museums. You can always count on learning something new about art, history, or interesting facts about The Netherlands. But if you’re looking for something different, and a little more quirky, you should definitely check out Electric Ladyland. Tucked away in a cute Dutch apartment building is this hidden gem of a museum in Amsterdam, dedicated completely to fluorescent lights. It’s unassuming from the outside, but once you step into the entrance you’ll be blown away by the technicoloured paintings and other crafted artwork.
If you think that’s impressive, just wait until you see the basement! Museum owner Nick Padlino has dedicated his life’s work to the bright and rainbow coloured fluorescent lights. He’s taught himself everything there is to know about the rocks where they come from, how to turn it into paint, and sculpting giant art pieces to decorate it. Lucky for you, Nick is the one always giving the daily tours, and he is nothing but passionate about Electric Ladyland! After visiting you will be too.
2. Moco Museum for modern and contemporary art lovers
If you’re still craving an art fix after experiencing the Van Gogh museum, head over to its less known neighbour—Moco Museum! This modern and contemporary art museum is located right in the centre of the Museumplein park. You’ll see incredible works of art in the permanent section from Andy Warhol, Jean-Michel Basquiat, and the infamous work of anonymous street artist Banksy. There’s even an outdoor sculpture garden!
Located in a classic Dutch mansion, this privately owned museum is dedicated to bringing you the best and most funky art from famous and local artists. They’ve got temporary exhibits as well, so make sure you stay up to date on what’s new and trending at the Moco. This place feels a lot more like a local spot rather than a busy touristy destination. Get your tickets here.
Where to Stay nearby
Talk about a non touristy place to stay - sleeping in this boat will give you a true Amsterdam experience!
Located in the heart of the Red Light District, you'll be in walking distance of the action in Amsterdam.
It's all about location, location, location - and with this accommodation you won't have to worry about transit as you can walk anywhere from here.
3. Enter the luscious green scenery of Hortus Botanicus
Is this Amsterdam, or the jungles or South America? You might be questioning this yourself upon entering Hortus Botanicus! When the locals want to venture away into another world, they enter the green oasis hidden right in the heart of Amsterdam. The outdoor botanical garden is a luscious green haven for any plant lover. Even if you’re not, you’ll probably end up leaving with a green thumb yourself.
One of the best parts of the Hortus is the three-climate greenhouse, where they focus on different plants that live in either the tropics, the subtropics, or the desert. Along with the permanent sections, they also have temporary exhibits to ensure there’s always something cool growing out of this place. Bring the little plant lovers along for a kid-friendly day out - they’ve got a scavenger hunt to keep them educated and entertained!
4. Prepare yourself for shocking anatomy at Museum Vrolik
There are few things stranger than conjoined twins -- if you disagree, we’d love to put our heads together to figure it out! This museum is about as unique as we can find. A Dutch scientist and his son wanted to start a medical collection of pathological samples, which has now been sold to the University of Amsterdam and is now a truly hair-raising museum for students and curious tourists to visit.
This is very clearly not your typical museum. Find out all about the human body and feast your eyes upon the somewhat shocking collection of bones, skulls, and siamese twins! Tip: Not for the faint of heart; we’d advise leaving the little ones at home for this one!
5. The purrrfect way to explore the Amsterdam canals on The Cat Boat (De Poezenboot)
Calling all feline friend lovers! Check out this pet and play sanctuary on a canal boat. It's perfect if you’re looking for an original and non-touristy Amsterdam canal experience.
This unique canal experience in Amsterdam is actually a safe haven for stray cats. Since 1966, the owners have been helping out cats and their nine lives by giving them shelter on a canal boat. Now you’re able to climb aboard, cuddle all of the cats you desire, and make a donation to help keep the boat afloat—after all, cats do hate water! Make a lasting bond? A certain number of the cats on board are eligible for adoption! A fun day out on the Amsterdam canals turning into a lifelong pet.
6. Feast on sweets for a good cause at Tony’s Chocolonely
Life is like a box of chocolates, and luckily for you the best chocolate in the world is right in the heart of Amsterdam! If you haven’t heard of Tony’s Chocolonely, get ready to be amazed. This is the tastiest hidden gem on our list. Believe it or not--this globally loved chocolate company started as a lawsuit! That’s right, a very determined Dutch lawyer was fed up with how unethical the big chocolate corporations ran, and believed if you can’t stop them, beat them in sales!
Tony’s Chocolonely is a fully ethical company where the main goal is to get rid of all slave labor in the chocolate business. Not only is this a good cause, but it’s some seriously good chocolate! You can find their cafe in the centre of Amsterdam, kept in one of the original trading buildings where cacao was first brought over back in the day. You can visit their cafe upstairs and try out tasty chocolate cakes, milkshakes, and other goodies. Or if you go downstairs you’ll reach the museum part of Tony’s Super Store. The workers will give you all the helpful info on the background and history of the company. Did we mention it comes with a giant chocolate vending machine where you can try all the different chocolate bar flavours?
Where to Stay nearby
Here, you can sleep in a room with Pulp Fiction, American Beauty or Kill Bill designs!
Double bonus of staying here: This hotel also includes a café and the Next Door restaurant which specialises in yummy traditional Dutch dishes!
You'll be within walking distance to Amsterdam's hippest neighbourhood, De Pijp.
7. Dive into the literary world of the Oudemanshuismarkt hidden book market
Here is one of Amsterdam’s literal hidden gems! Oudemanshuismarkt is a bookworm’s ideal day out. Find a cute, hidden passageway leading to a cozy market filled with books, cds, and art! It’s pretty unassuming from the outside, aside from a lonesome sign that reads “Book Market.” If you follow the sign you’ll end up in the secret“The Old Man’s House Gate” which is an outdoor hallway transformed into a local bookmarket.
From Monday through Saturday you can shop your way through hundreds of second hand books, Dutch drawings, posters, and even sheet music. Locals love to come here as a way to start their weekend morning and find a new book to read. Once you’ve found your new favourite read, you can head into the quiet green courtyard. It’s owned by the University of Amsterdam and is the perfect place to stop for a peaceful read.
8. De Hallen is the hall that has it all
The hardest part of going out to dinner is deciding on where to go. In a city as vibrant as Amsterdam, it’s easy to imagine how many great food options are located around the city. But if you want all the options laid at your feet, you’ve gotta check out De Hallen. Why choose just one place when you can walk between 20?
The massive building used to be the industrial spot for tram building. After years of renovation and repurposing, it’s been completely redone into a library, local goods weekend market, boutique hotel, and of course an insanely good food hall. Looking for a perfect, but easy date night? Pair your dinner and drinks with a movie at their cozy cinema Filmhallen! A delicious gem of a place you definitely need to try.
9. Make NXT the next museum on your list
Interested in the NXT best museum in Amsterdam? Located in the northern neighbourhoods of Amsterdam is the visually pleasing museum called NXT. What’s unique about NXT? You won’t find any paintings or historical figures to examine. Their whole thing is focused on new media art, combining technology and innovation to create an immersive and futuristic world.
You’ll enter 12 different rooms with different themes on technology, moving shapes, and sounds. Two of the highlights are the rooms appearing like a bunch of security cameras, and a room full of mirrors - giving off real outer space vibes! After you’re finished you can stop in the museum bar for delicious fruity drinks, to chat with friends and reflect on everything witnessed in the exhibits. Get your tickets here.
10. Challenge friends in the ultimate gaming experience at Tonton Arcade
Who doesn’t love a good barcade? Bring out your competitive side for the half bar, half arcade with all the cool 80s vibes you could need. This place is perfect for a first date or a night out with friends. They’ve got the classic coin-opted games like foosball, air hockey, and pinball. If you want something more modern, try out the racing games, or have a dance off on the Dance, Dance Revolution mat! It’s become a beloved spot for locals—so much so that they’ve just opened up a new location!
If all the gaming excitement works up your appetite, check out their Japanese inspired menu with ramen, boozy milkshakes with Japanese liquor, and even a ramen burger! Dinner and a date just stepped up a level.
11. Find out about all the local art and music performances at OT301
Amsterdam is known for its intense night life. There are tons of cool places to hangout and party all night. But if you want something a little more local, and a little less crowded, OT301 is the place for you. What used to be the Netherlands Film Academy has been revamped into a cultural hotspot.
It's got four main spaces: a film house cinema the Damn’d, an underground music venue and dance hall , anart gallery for up and coming artists, and a trendy vegan cafe. OT301 is like its own subcity of art, culture, and nonstop entertainment where you can spend any night of the week for a good time. It’s perfect if you are looking for a non-touristy nightlife option in Amsterdam.
Where to Stay Nearby
Chic, well designed and superbly located, you'll feel like you're staying in the best of both worlds between a hostel and hotel here.
Located in a historic building just 300 metres away from Amsterdam Central Station, breakfast is offered in the restaurant. In the evening you can enjoy traditional Dutch dishes here too.
This fabulously designed hotel is equal parts comfort and photo-worthy of a stay!
12. Canal SUP your way down the Amsterdam canals
Everyone goes down the canals in a typical canal boat. But if you want a different perspective of the UNESCO site in Amsterdam, why not try it standing up? Yup, you should try SUP! Also known as “stand up paddleboarding.”
If you’ve never tried paddleboarding before, this is your chance to give the watersport a go. Don’t worry, there’s no lessons required. You get a giant surfboard to stand on, a paddle, and you’re good to go! It’s a calming and peaceful way to go down the waters and take in all the beauty of Amsterdam.
Book the activity here.
13. Don’t wait all 9 lives the explore the Cat Cabinet museum
Are the cat lovers not quite satisfied? Just wait, there’s more! Jump paw-first into this hidden gem of a museum, designed for every crazy cat lady (or man!) This Dutch house has been completely filled with cat decor from head to toe.
The founder Bob Meijer wanted to honour his late cat and best friend Garfield. (Great cat name, by the way!) What started as a sweet memorial has turned into a deep dive into everything cat friendly! Check out Garfield’s painted portraits, bronze sculptures, and even his own book filled with limericks! A super fun off the beaten path museum experience that animal lovers of all ages can enjoy.
14. Discover the impressive local art work at Street Art Museum (SAMA)
This is one of our hidden gem must dos in Amsterdam for art lovers! The story goes: a digital production director felt like her Amsterdam neighbourhood needed a little pzazz. Where she lived was a super international area, mainly with social and immigrant housing.
She had a dream of brightening up the streets - and the lives of everyone who lived there! From there she set out to find graffiti artists all around the city, and now there are over 300 pieces of insanely beautiful street art in the Nieuw-West neighbourhood. You can walk, cycle, or take a guided tour through all the different graffiti spots in the area. This is a cultural and creative hub you’ll have to see to believe.
15. Jump head first into the creative and cool world of NDSM
Imagine an old industrial area, but WAY cooler. In fact, this massive industrial scrap ground has been completely repurposed into an arty haven. If you’re looking for cool and trendy, you’ve found the right place. There’s a reason this is #1 on our list of favourite hidden gems in Amsterdam.
NDSM has cafes, restaurants, bars, art galleries, working spaces, and huge outdoor areas that are perfect for weekend markets. All of the hip and trendy locals migrate to the wharf for a fun filled day out. They’ve always got something going on at the Wharf—try the second hand market on a Saturday morning, or check out their beloved beach bar Pllek. It's just quick (& free!) ferry ride from Amsterdam Central! If you are looking to get off the beaten path in Amsterdam definitely check out NDSM.
Curious about more non-touristy Amsterdam things to do?
Discover even more non-touristy activities in Amsterdam here. Looking to explore more of the Netherlands best hidden gems? Check out our "17 secret spots in Amsterdam only locals know: the best places to escape the tourists" blog post!