When we first started planning our journey around the world last December, the big question was: “Where should we start?” The answer was unanimous: Amsterdam.
We’d both been to this bustling-but-quaint city before and it seemed like the perfect place to dip into our new lives on the road. Whether it’s the friendly people, leaning houses, charming canals, or perfectly organized chaos swirling around the city … something about Amsterdam just feels like home.
These are the places we experienced and enjoyed while living like locals for a month in the city where there are more bikes than people. (Seriously. The only parking lot at central station consists of multi-level bike racks. Leave your car at home for this trip.)
Where to Stay
If you plan to spend more than a few weeks but less than three months in Amsterdam, Airbnb is your best bet.
With a plan to spend a month in each city, we started researching long-term expat rentals but found it challenging and expensive to book anything for less than three months. Due to high prices and limited amenities, hotels weren’t an option either. We wanted space to cook, work, and do yoga without blowing our savings in the first month.
Enter Airbnb: our golden ticket to budgeting one comfortable month in Amsterdam. We soon discovered many hosts offer discounts up to around 40% on long-term stays 28 nights or longer. We found this spacious Airbnb in Oud West for a total of $2,134 USD for 30 nights—roughly the same as our combined rents and utility costs back in California. If you’re new to Airbnb, you can use our link to get $40 off your first booking.
Depending on your preference and budget, Amsterdam has several great neighborhoods for extended visits. Central tends to be the priciest and most crowded with tourists (especially during summer months). These are our favorite areas for a more local and affordable experience:
Oud-West – Our favorite neighborhood—and where we’ve stayed during our last two visits—is Oud-West. Affordable Airbnbs are nestled into quiet, tree-lined streets, yet you can easily get to central by tram or bike within 10-20 minutes. Depending on your exact address, you’ll also find yourself close to the famous Vondelpark and plenty of restaurants on Overtoom.
De Pijp – This up-and-coming neighborhood has become a hotspot for Airbnbs. Plus, the people who hang out here are almost as hip as the bustling bar and restaurant scene. You’ll never have to walk far to find a place to kick back and grab a bite in hip De Pijp. (Lame pun intended.)
Jordaan – The most expensive of the three, but for good reason. Jordaan is situated along some of the city’s most picturesque canals lined with houseboats and heartthrob 16th-century architecture. Here, you can enjoy everything Amsterdam-centrum has to offer with fewer crowds and better restaurants.
Where to Work
We came here to work … sort of. If you must work while traveling, the best place to do it is a cafe or coworking space where you can experience the city’s everyday energy.
Unlike the cafe culture in California, we noticed not all Amsterdam cafes appreciate you whipping out your laptop and headphones. That said, it’s easy enough to take inventory of the vibe. If other people are on their laptops, you’re probably in the clear. Here’s a list of our favorite work-friendly spots in Amsterdam:
Lotti’s at The Hoxton – Located in The Hoxton hotel, Lotti’s Cafe is stylish AF and well-equipped with charging outlets. With two communal tables and plenty of lounge-like seating, finding a spot to hunker down is easy. Enter through the front door and hang a sharp left towards the bar. If you don’t find a spot on the first floor, follow the spiral staircase to the second level. The staff is attentive but not pushy. Order a drink or food and they’ll leave you to it.
Coffee Room – Marked by cheery, yellow-striped awnings, Coffee Room has that classic living-room-cozy cafe vibe. Laptop-fee tables are clearly marked with plenty of laptop-friendly spots upstairs. They also serve healthy breakfast and lunch bites and—my personal favorite—almond milk matcha lattes!
CT Coffee & Coconuts – It’s like stepping into a tropical vacation … in The Netherlands. We didn’t actually work here but we went twice for breakfast (as the name implies, they serve coffee and lots of coconut-flavored things) and saw plenty of people getting some emails signed and sealed over their morning cup ‘o joe. The vibe is funky and fresh. Oh! And it’s located inside a huge repurposed 20’s cinema, which makes it that much cooler. Choose from couches, tables, or a communal co-working table.
Monks Coffee Roasters – Friendly service, delightful coffee, and trendy modern decor make this spot feel like a home away from home. They have food options and tables reserved for laptops.
Where to Eat
If you go to Amsterdam for the food, prepare to be slightly disappointed. While the culinary scene isn’t the most exciting thing about this city, we managed to find a few gems worth visiting:
Pancakes! Amsterdam – With four locations scattered around the city, you won’t have to travel far to get your fix of this traditional Dutch dish. Choose from traditional flavors (Matt ordered the bacon + cheese pancake) or savory flavors (I had the bacon, banana, + chili pepper pancake). You can also order American-style pancakes … but, really, why would you? Just get the Dutch ones. They’re delicious. Gluten-free, lactose-free, and vegan options are also available—hooray!
Coffee & Juices – Conveniently close to our Airbnb, Coffee & Juices serves … well, good coffee and good juices. They also have light breakfast pastries, fresh acai and pitaya bowls, and sandwiches that can be enjoyed streetside overlooking canal Schinkel in Oud-West.
CT Coffee & Coconuts – “Wait, didn’t you guys already mention this place?” Yes, we did. It’s that rad. As mentioned before, Coffee & Coconuts offers tasty breakfast options with a side of bangin’ atmosphere. The breakfast burrito and avocado toast were our favs. Located in De Pijp.
Salmuera – This vibey Argentinian restaurant offers asado grilled meats, a dedicated ceviche counter, and a mezcal bar set among a rustic-chic dining room and romantic courtyard terrace. Make a reservation and plan to linger over the cocktails for a while. Located in Jordaan.
Bar Fisk – Named after the Scandinavian word for fish, Bar Fisk serves mouth-watering seafood dishes among other tapas-style dishes inspired by Tel Aviv markets. We rendezvoused with friends from California and ordered plates to share. Located in De Pijp.
Bar Mash – So good we took those same friends from California back for our second round. Flavorful Thai dishes and friendly service on a large terrace nestled among a bustling square in De Pijp. Tables are first come, first serve.
La Perla – Nestled in the center of Jordaan’s “Little Italy” you’ll find some of the best traditional pizza the city has to offer (okay, the only traditional pizza we had in this city … but it was damn good). Sit inside or streetside or order take-away.
For any time in between
Hendrix – We went because it was next door to my yoga studio. We went back because the beet falafel was to die for. A laid-back lunch spot with fresh juices and picnic tables bordering Westelijk Marktkanaal.
De Vondeltuin – If it’s summer and you find yourself in Amsterdam, head to this open-air biergarten and find yourself some beer and nachos hidden away in Vondelpark.
Foodhallen – Honestly, in the time it took me to get around to writing this post, I lost count of how many times we visited Foodhallen. Imagine a fancy, permanent food truck installation inside a repurposed tram station. Foodhallen has it all—from a craft beer bar to gin and tonic bar, street tacos to dim sum, mouthwatering yuzu tarts, vegan options for all, and much, much more. Watch our video tour here.
Pizzabakkers – For a month, we were regulars at the Overtoom location. Although we never physically ate there, we strapped many a-take-away pizzas to our bikes. How do you say “comfort food” in Dutch?
Where to Drink
By the time you reach our age, “drinking” consists primarily of sitting in the warm sun with a cold beer. These were our favorite places to do that:
Brouwerij’t IJ – Located below a 16th-century Dutch windmill, IJ Brewery boasts a great beer selection along with plenty of outdoor seating.
Oedipus – A visit to this quirky, colorful tasting room is well worth the trek across the Amstel River. The free ferry runs 24/7 and you can bring your bike (hell, you can even bring your scooter) aboard. So no excuses. The Thai Thai beer was our favorite. Bonus: Go after 5:00 PM Thursday-Sunday to get your hands on some tasty snacks from the resident Beef Chief.
Waterkant – Waterkant? More like WaterCAN. Okay, okay. While on the rowdier side, this canal-side bar is an experience where locals dangle their feet over the water’s edge while boats pull up to join the party. It caught our eye from across the street and begged further investigation.
Madam – You can’t drink cold beer in the sun here because it’s at the top of A’DAM tower with sweeping views of Amsterdam Central. Zing! The bar is first come, first serve from 9:30 PM until late. Show up early to grab a spot with a view.
Where to Shop
Considering we’re living out of two 80-liter backpacks, we didn’t do any “shopping” per se. However, we did plenty of grocery shopping and found these places both convenient and foreigner-friendly:
Jumbo – A small chain market stocked with fresh produce, freezer and pantry items, grab-and-go meals (including vegan options), wine and beer, and a small selection of toiletries. We did most of our shopping here because there for no other reason than convenience. They accept cash, Visa, and Apple Pay.
Albert Heijn – A larger chain market similar to any other large chain market you’re used to. You’ll find them all over the city. The also accept cash, Visa, and Apple Pay.
Ten Katemarket – Tucked away in a residential neighborhood of Amsterdam West near Foodhallen, this lively street market has fresh produce, meats and cheeses, flowers (an Amsterdam staple), and even used bikes. Vendors also serve up tasty (and cheap) street food including fried fish, fresh chips, Vietnamese snacks, and pastrami sandwiches. Come for groceries, stay for lunch. Open every day except Sunday. Bring cash.
*A note on Marqt: After a 2-week long search for kombucha, I was excited to find it stocked at Marqt. To my dismay, we were rejected at the register. Be warned, while it’s an enticingly beautiful grocery store reminiscent of Whole Foods, they don’t accept Visa OR cash. It seems the only way to shop here is with a local bank card.
What to Do
Van Gogh Museum – Home to the world’s largest collection of Van Gogh’s work, the museum artfully tells his life story as you wind your way up four floors. Unlike any reprint, you can see the emotion in his original brushstrokes. Buy your tickets online and plan two hours to take it all in. While you’re in the neighborhood, walk across the lawn for an obligatory tourist shot in front of the iAmsterdam sign and Rijksmuseum.
Anne Frank House – Walk through the annex where Anne Frank wrote her diary during WWII. Tickets are currently only available online and sell out weeks in advance. If you fail to plan ahead (like we did), get online around 9:00-9:30 AM the day you want to go. They release 80% of tickets two months in advance and the remaining 20% the day of. You can also check the Introductory Program for extra tickets. Bring tissues.
Vondelpark – Bring a blanket and picnic in Amsterdam’s famous Vondelpark, where you’ll find winding bike and footpaths, bridges, restaurants, a rose garden, and even an open-air theatre hosting free shows all summer.
Amsterdamse Bos – Not too far outside the city, you’ll find people swimming, biking, and kayaking around Amsterdam Forest. The Forest is home to an amphitheater, petting zoo, several cafes, and many other recreational activities.
Take a yoga class – Yoga is my home base so, naturally, the first thing I did when I got to Amsterdam was ask around for studios with English-led classes. A friend pointed me to Delight Yoga, which has several locations around the city. I signed up for the intro offer (€50 for 10 classes your first month) at the De Clercqstraat location in Amsterdam West. The studio is clean, bright, and airy with gentle and restorative classes, as well as Ashtanga and Mysore. They even provide free mats if you’re traveling without yours.
Canal ride – No trip to Amsterdam is complete without a canal ride. Book a boat near central station or check Airbnb Experiences.
Visit a coffeeshop – And by “coffeeshop,” Amsterdam means “weed shop”—and there are many. If you’re curious, the ones outside immediate central seem to be more laid back. I enjoyed La Tertulia and Katsu for their artsy and female-friendly vibes. Typically, you’re expected to buy a beverage if you plan to stay. You’re welcome to grab and go, too, but use common sense before you light up in public. Weed isn’t technically legal in Amsterdam, but is tolerated.
How to Get Around
Bike – Bicycling is THE way to get around Amsterdam. There are rental shops everywhere but, since we needed wheels for an entire month, we went with Instabike. For €16.50/month with a minimum of three months, it was the best deal—even returning them two months early. Plus, they offer quick repairs if anything goes wrong—which, for me it did. Within a week, I got a glass-induced flat but they had me rollin’ again within 24 hours. Contact them through WhatsApp to arrange pickup at a partner shop.
Tram – Get a reloadable tram card at central station when you first arrive. This will allow you to hop on any tram or bus.
Walk – Amsterdam is a relatively walkable city, as long as you keep your wits about you and don’t get too caught up staring at the gorgeous 16th-century architecture. Be mindful of which lane you walk in. The bike lanes and sidewalks look alike and bikers WILL ring their bells at you if you step in their lane. Bikes are king here … so just ride the damn bike.
Is Amsterdam a good place for digital nomads: 8/10 (-2 for the number of distractions)
Budget needed to live in Amsterdam for a month: $4,000 USD for two people, including split rent, city transit, groceries, entertainment, and eating out
P.S. If you visit any of the places mentioned in this guide, leave a comment and let us know. We’d love to see your travel stories!