Amsterdam attracts millions of tourists a year all flocking to the same attractions throughout the city. But after you have explored the canals, visited Dam Square, and admired the paintings inside the Rijksmuseum, you might be feeling like you want more. Although those attractions are all fantastic and beautiful, they are crowded with tourists, which affects the authenticity of the experience. That is why going off the beaten track, to the places to visit in Amsterdam secret spots of the city is something needed.
Secret off-beat places to visit in Amsterdam
The best part about these places to visit in Amsterdam is that they have many secrets. It is an old city that has a complicated past which has resulted in secret areas and secret rooms in buildings having been necessary for survival. These hidden spots have since turned into less secret places that people now adventure to and enjoy.
It is time to see a new side of the city and explore some sights and engage in some activities you never knew existed. I hope you find something that intrigues you.
Anyone who visits the city knows that brunch in Amsterdam is out of this world. What most people don’t know is that there are more options than they think. One of the best brunch options in the city remains a secret to most visitors. This brunch option is the Pancake Boat.
The Pancake Boat is precisely what it sounds like – a boat that serves pancakes. Except for passengers onboard are given unlimited Dutch pancakes with toppings such as syrup, fresh fruit, and powdered sugar. The Pancake Boat takes off from the Northern Docklands and makes its way through the cities main harbor. The whole tour takes around 75 minutes and allows the special people onboard to eat a delicious Dutch delicacy while admiring the beautiful architecture of the city.
Do read: Best Brunch in the city
In t Aepjen
In t Aepjen is one of the oldest bars in the city. Located in plain sight right in the heart of the Red Light district. All-day and night hundreds of tourists walk by this historic bar with no idea of what they are missing. But now, you will know.
The In t Aepjen bar was founded in 1519 in the time of Dutch East India Company. It was a hot spot for sailors returning from exotic journeys with money and monkeys. Back then, sailors would pay for their drink using these monkeys, and very soon, the sailors had no way to afford accommodation. By then the bar became overrun with hundreds of monkeys.
After a flea issue in the bar, the owner created the Zoo to home these animals. The bar now is free of monkeys and is a very cozy place to enjoy a beer.
Tiny Hidden Houses
One of the most fun and quirky secret spots of the capital city is the tiny hidden houses. If you are not looking closely enough, you will miss these houses all together! And although you cannot enter the houses and see what’s inside taking the time to spot them and snap a photo is worth the search.
The mini houses are not just random either; they are there for a reason and have a good story associated with them. On the street of the mini houses, you may notice that the house addresses go from 70 to 54 between two houses. To combat this, a local Amsterdam advertising agency decided this needed to be fixed. Therefore, they put the tiny houses in between the two buildings to make up for the missing addresses.
If you want to find this secret spot head to Noordermarkt and let the searching begin!
The Hortus Botanicas is a large greenhouse and botanical garden located in the Plantage district, slightly to the west of the city center. This garden was founded in 1638 and is one of the oldest botanical gardens in the world. In the 1600’s it was used for growing and harvesting medicinal plants for doctors! More so, Hortus Botanicas was used to discover medicines to fight the plague, but the VOC brought many exotic plants back to the city that was used.
The botanical gardens are one secret Dutch greenspace you should take the time to explore while visiting the Netherlands.
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The Begijnhof is one of the best kept secret places to visit in Amsterdam. This is quite literally hidden in plain sight. It is a very old and historic Hofje located in the heart of the city off a bustling street. This Hofje consists of a group of houses and a small courtyard. It was made for a group of women who vowed their life to chastity. It is a delightful secret spot that offers a welcome escape from the busy streets nearby.
Museum Van Loon
Many people who visit the city know it is a cultural hot spot that is full of museums. However, most people flock to Van Gogh and Rijksmuseum and are blind to all the other lesser-known ones throughout the city.
The Museum Van Loon is located on Keizersgracht right in the city center and is stunning both on the inside and out. It is a 19th century home that was lived in by the Van Loon family. This museum is open to any visitor and offers a more intimate and exclusive museum experience compared to that of the other famous museums in the city.
Museum Van Loon also has a secret garden in the back that is wonderful to walk around and soak in the unique and special museum experience.
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Every tourist who comes to the city heads to Vondelpark. Some go for a walk around the stunning park, and some sit on the green space for a picnic. But, Vondelpark holds some secrets that are just waiting to be discovered. One of these is the Vondelbunker!
The Vondelbunker is a secret bunker that is hidden under a bridge right in the hub and excitement of Vondelpark. This bunker hosts various events and activities too, such as cinema nights, concerts, dinners, and art exhibits. More so, there is a microbrewery located down here called Bunkerbier.
This secret spot one of the secret places to visit in Amsterdam is an actual bomb shelter built for the Cold War. There are quite a few of these scattered around the city that will transport you back in time and give you a unique perspective.
Ons’ Lieve Heer op Solder
Ons’ Lieve Heer op Solder – Our Lord in the Attic – is a secret museum that is full of surprises. The best surprise is the hidden church in the attic. Very few know about this, and you can not even tell from the street. The church is hidden in an attic for an important reason, and the story behind it is quite impressive.
In the 16th century, after the Reformation, the Calvinist Dutch government outlawed Catholicism. Therefore, Catholic worship was strictly prohibited. However, many followers of the Catholic faith continued their religion in secret and built hidden churches for this, despite the severe punishments. This museum holds one of these secret churches that, since 1888, has been preserved as a historic site and museum.
In addition to the two-story church, the building is full of decorations and furniture from the Golden Age. This museum is never crowded, and here you will learn about history, architecture, and religion, all under one roof.
The Poezenboot is the world’s only floating cat sanctuary. This unique attraction was established in the ’60s and is home to various stray cats who now live on this houseboat as it sits along the cities canals. It is open for free to the public for a few hours each day where people are welcome to come aboard and play with the cats.
If you or anyone you know is a cat lover, this secret spot is a must. There is nothing like hanging out with cats on a mysterious houseboat to make your day.
De Otter Windmill
Almost all visitors of the Netherlands are lusting to see a Dutch windmill, but the capital city is not home to many, only the surrounding cities are. However, there is one windmill in the city that will allow you to experience a windmill without leaving the city.
De Otter Windmill dates back to 1631 and is a Rijksmonument windmill. This windmill is a great secret as it is the last remaining sawmill in Amsterdam. It is not possible to visit and enter the site, but you can view it from the sidewalk and snap a few fresh photos of it.
One of the best-kept secrets of the Rijksmuseum is the secret library inside of it. The library is complete with dark wood shelving and is packed with essential books from floor to ceiling. This hidden gem feels like you’ve suddenly time traveled right into the 19th-century!
The Cuypers Library is a Renaissance and Gothic library that is hidden in plain sight. A visit here will be a welcome break from the busy and crowded ‘normal’ Rijksmuseum, into a hidden haven that will shock and awe you.
If you are an art or literature lover, this secret spot is calling for you. Oudemanhusiport – Old Man’s House Passage – is a little hidden walkway that is full of stalls selling second-hand books and unique art pieces. Although this secret spot is located in the heart of the city, it is barely visible from the street and easily missed by people.
This walkway was once frequented by Vincent Van Gogh and is now home to a part of the University of Amsterdam Campus. Oudemanhuispoort Bookmarkt is the perfect secret hideaway to escape the rainy days and to pick up a unique book or piece of art.
It is a rainy city; therefore, having some activities planned that are indoor based is a good idea. One idea for an indoor event is going to the movies. Many people think you can go to the cinema anywhere in the world, so why would you go on vacation. But in the city, the movie experience is more than what is on the screen.
The movie theatre Tuschinski is a stunning theatre with a lush and unscaled interior that dates back to 1921. The whole theatre is a masterpiece, and you will find yourself looking at the architecture more than the screen.
In case you were wondering the Netherlands does, in fact, show English movies too! If you want to plan a cute date night that is intimate and explores a secret hidden gem of the city, this is the place to do so.
Places to visit in Amsterdam are way more than just the touristy spots that everyone flocks to around the city. It is full of history, charm, and culture. Taking some time during your adventures, to discover the secrets of the city will leave you with a new appreciation of the beautiful capital of the Netherlands.
Guest Post Author
Samantha Karen is the founder of the travel bog Sam Sees World. She is a millennial traveler on a mission to seek the new and unknown so she can document her experiences and inspire others to explore this wondrous world. Her objective is to provide valuable information on the best things to do, see, eat, and experience while traveling and getting some good Instagram photos along the way.