Amsterdam's culinary landscape is as vibrant as the tulip fields that surround it; thanks to its diverse population, creative local food purveyors and ambitious chefs who are constantly pushing the envelope.

When I first moved here in 2009, it was hard to find hot sauce but now there's something to suit every palette. If you're visiting Amsterdam, these are the places I would take you to.

Australian-style brunch at Box Sociaal
The all-day brunch at Box Sociaal will set you up for the day, no matter what time you wake up at © Box Sociaal


In 2018, two food-loving friends from Sydney opened Box Sociaal to serve tasty Australian-style boozy brunch and cocktails – I like their new location along the Bloemgracht, one of Amsterdam's most adorable canals. I start with a flat white while chatting with the cheerful staff and then enjoy a plate of Kims Tacos, handcrafted tortillas with fried chicken, sweet and spicy Korean sauce and kimchi slaw, plus a glass of homemade passionfruit-peach-mango kombucha . Reservations are recommended, especially on weekends.

G’s is the "very nice place" that most likely sparked Amsterdam’s brunch awakening more than a decade ago. Today they serve brunch... on a boat! It’s one of my favorite places to take my friends when they visit. Rain or shine, Miss G’s departs from the Herengracht for a 90-minute ride through scenic canals while passengers enjoy chicken and waffles or a vegetarian breakfast burrito, plus unlimited tipsy drinks. If you'd rather skip the booze for the most part, you can opt for a regular option that includes one dish and one drink; either way, advance reservations are a must for this one-of-a-kind experience.

If you're in the mood to sample Dutch fare, visit De Ysbreaker, an eatery housed in a charming historic building on the Amstel River. They’re known to serve locally grown white asparagus when it's in season, a Dutch treat called "white gold." It’s best eaten with poached eggs, salmon and Hollandaise sauce.

Matcha lattes and cakes from a coffee shop and bakery in Amsterdam
Matcha lattes and a cinnamon roll loaf from Back to Black © Back to Black


Caffeine addicts will be thrilled by the wide range of specialty roasters, quaint cafes and carb-loaded bakeries that view coffee as an art. To try something typically Dutch, order a koffie verkeerd, similar to a latte. The signature of Dutch coffee culture is a small treat, usually a cookie or mini stroopwafel (waffle cookie), and you can pick up a warm, fresh one gooey with caramel at Rudi's famous stand at the Albert Cuyp Market in De Pijp. Tip: Don't confuse cafes serving coffee with the city's cannabis coffee shops. 

Back To Black is a specialty coffee bar and roaster tucked away on a quiet side street in the Spiegelkwartier. With bright corner windows and a cozy interior, it’s welcomed coffee lovers since 2013 and is the perfect spot for a morning caffeine boost before visiting the Rijksmuseum across the street. I enjoy a coconut milk iced latte paired with their apple pie or another of the many sweet treats baked in-house with organic and local ingredients. 

Over in the Jordaan, Saint Jean is a wildly popular plant-based bakery serving French-inspired pastries, matcha and a rotating selection of specialty coffee, and don't miss the Saint Jean Deli across the street that focuses on savory snacks. My go-to order is a flat white with almond milk and a double-baked almond croissant. These places draw crowds for a reason – it’s hard to choose only one crispy, buttery treat (or notice that they’re indeed vegan) – and either option is great for an afternoon pick-me-up while strolling through this famous historic neighborhood. Prepare to wait in line or eat on-the-go, as Saint Jean has very limited seating and no reservations.

Focaccias stuffed with vegetables
Genovese-style focaccia made in-house at Focacceria © Focacceria


Focacceria bakes large slices of traditional Genovese-style focaccias topped with Italian olives or tomatoes or seasonal flavors like fennel with buffalo gorgonzola. Enjoy your choice with a coffee, Italian soda or beer. This circular bakery follows a no-waste philosophy, turning leftovers into desserts like a focaccia-misu or vegan bread pudding. Eat inside or on the terrace, or head down the street to picnic in Vondelpark. I love The Veg panini filled with homemade red pesto, arugula and roasted veggies. Valeria, the owner, recommended adding soft stracchino cheese and now that’s in my order too. 

I crave sandwiches with layers, like the ones made at Small World Catering, a local favorite in the heart of the Jordaan run by a kind staff who will make you feel like a regular, even on your first visit. The turkey and bacon sandwich is a popular choice and I’m always down for a slice of pecan pie; plus, there’s a variety of salads, soups and baked goods for dine-in or takeaway.

Mexican-style dishes and beers at Two Chefs Brewing
Craft beers and casual small plates at Two Chefs Brewing © Two Chefs Brewing


Italians have aperitivo and the Dutch love borrel, casual drinks and snacks at a bar, at a picnic or on a boat. Dutch cuisine shines at borreltijd (drink time), when beer is paired with finger foods like kaasstengels (fried cheese sticks) or bitterballen (fried ragout).

Amsterdam's brewing history dates back centuries, and today you'll find everything from pilsners to white beers, IPAs and alcohol-free options. One venue that stands out for its lively atmosphere is Two Chefs Brewing with its vibrant taproom and restaurant perched on a terrace at the Hugo de Grootplein. Launched by two friends (professional chefs) who turned a passion for flavor into bold beers, this spot serves mouthwatering dishes to complement 16 craft beers on draft, delivered daily from the brewery nearby. My favorite combo is Sunset Suzy, an orange sour, with a side of fries and chipotle mayo. 

If you're lucky to experience Amsterdam on a sunny day, there's no better place to be than on a terrace like at Waterkant. The refreshing cocktails and Surinamese-inspired menu create a distinct vibe that transports you somewhere warmer than Amsterdam usually feels.

Natural wine and Levantine-style small plates
Natural wine and small plates, including a spicy roasted whole cauliflower with tahini sauce at Fabus © Fabus / Jakob van Vliet


Traditionally, the Dutch eat at 6pm sharp. The rest of us don't have to follow this rule, but it’s tricky to find full meal service past 10pm, so plan accordingly.

Fabus is a ''small but fabulous'' women-led natural wine bar and restaurant that's worth a visit. This gem along the De Clercqstraat showcases a rotation of natural wines from underrepresented regions and has a relaxed ambiance, like dining at a friend's candlelit home. Their resident chef, Monsieur Bou, serves Leventine-inspired shared plates with plenty of herbs and spices, like zaatar halloumi sticks with honey mustard sauce and vegan options too. During a recent date night, we enjoyed sparkling Portuguese rosé with hints of rhubarb and devoured the roasted cauliflower with a tahini sauce that delivered a spicy, umami punch. 

A visit to Amsterdam should definitely include Indonesian cuisine with flavors of lemongrass, ginger and chili. Warna Baru is a family-owned restaurant serving some of the most authentic Indonesian food in town, and there are vegan options so everyone can indulge together. I appreciate their alcohol-free botanical sodas , but if cocktails are your thing, try their twist on a Dark and Stormy made with pandan-infused rum, which has a subtle grassy-vanilla-coconut flavor. Meals are served family style, and we like to share plates of jackfruit rendang with spicy coconut sauce and chicken skewers doused in peanut sauce, with a side of veggie fried rice.

Cocktails and the ornate interior of a bar in Amsterdam
End the night with a dressed-up cocktail at Tales & Spirits © Tales & Spirits


Amsterdam’s bar scene caters to every type of vibe, from elevated cocktail and wine bars to bruin cafes replete with Dutch gezelligheid (coziness), the traditional pubs lovingly named for their old wooden interiors. 

Hidden in an alleyway near the Spuistraat, Tales & Spirits is a contemporary cocktail bar with a vintage feel that shines thanks to innovative specials. The Zombie is so potent it comes with a warning, and it blew me away with a powerful blend of four rums, tropical juices and a dash of cinnamon. Balance out the booze with bar snacks like jalapeño poppers. This little bar is first come, first served, but it's worth taking the chance because the drinks do not disappoint. 

Inside Cafe Thijssen, you’ll feel the historic charm of the Jordaan. The spacious terrace at the corner of Brouwersgracht has a view of the canals and iconic warehouses. Prepare to encounter authentic Dutch service, which is to say, far more relaxed than what most Americans expect. They're open all day until late and I recommend visiting for an after-dinner drink. Try jenever, a juniper-derived spirit served in a tulip-shaped glass filled to the brim – think of it as gin's Dutch cousin. It’s a perfect spot to wrap up the evening before heading home along the canals.

This article was first published Jun 19, 2024 and updated Jun 19, 2024.

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