8 Best kept secrets in Amsterdam

Amsterdam bicycles

By Renate Engelbrecht

Thursday, May 11

There’s a good reason why Amsterdam is a city on so many people’s travel bucket list. Incredible architecture, beautiful canals, a bustling cultural scene and delicious food lure many a tourist to the Dutch capital annually. For some – like Wikus and myself – it even boasts an exciting first stop while on honeymoon!

Since KLM Royal Dutch Airlines has direct flights to Amsterdam from both Joburg and Cape Town, it’s only natural that the city has always been a popular tourist attraction for South Africans. Here are some of Amsterdam’s best kept secrets, as well as lesser known attractions. These bring in as much foot traffic as Dam Square, the Rijksmuseum or Vondelpark and they are definitely worth adding to your travel bucket list if you would like to fully experience the magic of Amsterdam.

Westergasfabriek

Amsterdam’s Westergasfabriek has fast become a beautiful cultural hub, rich in history. It was built inside of an expansive gasworks facility which dates back to the late 19th century. The area is known for its industrial façade and it is filled with restaurants, music venues, an art house cinema and the largest coin-op arcade in the city.

Amsterdam beautiful city views

The City Archives

If you’re a history boffin, a visit to Amsterdam’s city archives is bound to be an educational and eye-opening experience. Apart from the free entrance, the archives offer various other reasons for you to visit. Highlights include a police report given by Anne Frank concerning her stolen bicycle, as well as the document that banished Baruch Spinoza from Amsterdam’s Jewish community.

REM Island

If you’re looking for a unique dining experience, a booking at the underrated REM Island is a must. This unusual, waterborne restaurant is housed inside a renovated offshore platform that once stood about nine kilometres off the Netherlands’ coast. Interestingly, the platform was owned by a group of pirate radio broadcasters, who had to abandon it after the Dutch government raided their operation in 1964. However, a few decades later, the platform was towed to Amsterdam’s Houthaven harbour and was transformed into one of the classiest and most unusual restaurants in the country.

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Amsterdam KLM Royal Dutch Airlines

The Pancake Boat, Amsterdam

Yup, Amsterdam has its very own pancake boat where you not only get to enjoy beautiful views of the city, but one where you’re also presented with an unlimited supply of Dutch-style pancakes topped with syrup, fruit and powdered sugar. The boat tour takes 75 minutes and departs from NDSM-Werf several times a day.

Blijburg City Beach

While Amsterdam has some beautiful beaches that border the city’s lakes, canals or rivers, the Blijburg City Beach is truly a unique beach bum experience. This beach is famous for its seaside resorts, golden sand, clear water and its windsurfing school. Be sure to enjoy an afternoon snack or drink at a famous tiki hut-style restaurant nearby, which certainly adds to the beach’s laid-back atmosphere.

Best kept secrets in Amsterdam

Ons’ Lieve Heer op Solder, Amsterdam

Europe is rich in history and after the Reformation in the 16th century, the newly-established Calvinist Dutch government famously outlawed Catholicism in the country. However, despite severe punishments, many continued to worship in secret and some even built hidden churches. During this time, many churches were destroyed or demolished but this church, built on the top three floors of a canal house during the 1660s, survived the period unscathed. It has been preserved as a historic museum since 1888.

Amsterdam EYE Film Museum

If you’ve ever walked out of Amsterdam’s Centraal Station, you would have noticed the oddly shaped EYE Film Museum. A visit to this museum is a definite must. There are several facilities located inside the institute, including a gallery space that regularly hosts exhibitions related to film making. It also houses four modern cinemas and a multi-tiered restaurant that looks onto the river IJ. The venue also plays host to various events, including film festivals, concerts and movie screenings.

Boat on canal in Amsterdam

Poezenboot

If you’re a cat lover, the Poezenboot is the perfect activity for your next trip to Amsterdam. The Poezenboot is a floating cat sanctuary that has cared for stray or abandoned felines for over four decades. The boat welcomes visitors most days of the week and is located in the northern banks of Singel canal in central Amsterdam. It features a large, lower deck where cats are given the opportunity to roam free and interact with visitors.

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