Amsterdam is one of my favorite cities on Earth, and there are so many things to do there, from the flower market to the Anne Frank House to canal cruises. I’m going to let you in on a few of my favorite treats in the Dutch capital.
A Holy Treat
Walking by this quintessentially Dutch building, you could never guess what perches up in its attic, and that’s the point! Its attic conceals an entire Catholic church, which is a must see when you’re in Amsterdam. After all, where else are you going to see an entire church in an attic?!
The Church of Our Dear Lord in the Attic (yes, that’s the actual name) is now the Museum Our Dear Lord in the Attic (formerly the Amstelkring Museum). The church was originally built in 1663, when Catholics in Amsterdam did not have the right to worship publicly, since Protestantism was the official religion. Catholic worship was tolerated, much like marijuana use today, if done privately, and so the owners of this house built a church on the top three floors of their house. Today, the church is the second oldest museum in Amsterdam.
Visitors can explore the entire house including its living rooms, kitchen, and bedrooms, but the highlight of the tour is, obviously, the attic church. One of my favorite features was the hidden pulpit. When looking at the altar (picture to the left) can you find it? I couldn’t either. That’s because the pulpit pulls and then folds out out of a small door on the left-hand side of the altar. Check out the picture on the left below. That’s what I call space saving!
If you’re in Amsterdam, don’t miss this special hidden treasure. My partner isn’t a huge fan of museums. However, at the end of our time in the Amsterdam, I asked him what his favorite part of the trip was, and to my astonishment, he replied the Church of Our Dear Lord in the Attic. Make it a memorable part of your trip too!
The Museum Our Dear Lord in the Attic is located at Oudezijds Voorburgwal 38 in Amsterdam (see locations below).
Sweet & Savory Treats
My second favorite thing to do in Amsterdam is EAT! Amsterdam has so many amazing international foods to try, but here are my favorite Dutch treats and where to get them.
(1) Dutch Pancakes
There are Dutch pancake restaurants all over the city, but the best also has the most easy-to-remember name: Pancakes! (the exclamation point is actually part of the restaurant’s name). Pancakes! has several locations in Amsterdam, but the best one is located at Berenstraat 38 in the “Nine Little Streets” (Negen Straatjes) district, which is full of quirky shops and boutiques for some after-meal browsing. You’ll recognize the restaurant from its bright blue sign (see picture at left) and, likely, the group of people waiting outside for a table. I don’t like to wait at restaurants, but TRUST ME, this place was worth the wait.
Dutch pancakes are paper thin, as big as an entire plate, and come in both sweet and savory flavors. It’s a meal in itself! Here’s a link to the menu. I devoured the Bacon & Banana pancake, while Greg treated himself to a Veggie pancake with house-made pesto.
Stroopwafels are a uniquely Dutch confection. Don’t think Belgian waffle, because, while that’s its own delectable treat, it’s not what you’re going to get. A stroopwafel is more like a giant wafer cookie made of two thin, crunchy layers, with a filling of either caramel or honey. The outside layers are made in a waffle iron, so that’s why it’s called a stroopwafel.
You can buy them in bakeries all over the city, but in my opinion, the best come from Banketbakkerij Lanksroom at Singel 385 in Amsterdam. Get one for each person in your group (who wants to share?!), find a nice place to sit along a canal, dig in, and watch the boats go by. If you’re not in Amsterdam but still want to try them, I’ve seen them for sale in HomeGoods and T.J. Maxx on the food isle and in Whole Foods in the cookie racks in the bakery department. While they won’t be as fresh, they’ll still be tasty!
(3) Flemish Fries
Who doesn’t love a good french fry? In Amsterdam, they’re called Flemish fries, or Vlaamse friets, and are especially delicious because they’re fried twice: one for a soft inside and another for a crispy outside. The Dutch also serve them with a variety of sauces including (but not limited to) curry ketchup, satay, apple, and mayonnaise, the latter being the most common. The absolute best place, in Amsterdam, to get Flemish fries is at Vleminckx de Sausmeester, a hole-in-the-wall fries stand located at Voetboogstraat 33, right off the main Kalverstraat shopping street. You’ll recognize it from the line of people, which you know means it’s good! They only sell fries, so go there for a snack or late night treat. Here’s a link to their English menu. The fries come in a little paper cone, so it’s easy to eat, walk, and people watch at the same time.
(4) Herring Stands
Ok, ok. I know what you’re thinking . . . He’s recommending raw herring?!? YES! You have to trust me here. Herring didn’t sound entirely appealing to me either. However, I decided to give it a try, since it’s a local delicacy. In my opinion, one of the best travel experiences that you can have is trying something new, especially when its comes to food. Go out on a limb and taste something outside your comfort zone. You’ll create a memorable experience, and at the very least, you can get bragging rights (and a fun picture!) that you tried it.
The “raw” fish is actually cured in a brine, or salt water solution, for five days to preserve it, so it’s not really raw.
When you order, you’ll have a few choices. The easiest to eat is a herring sandwich, or broodje, in a soft roll with diced onions and pickles. Another choice is “Amsterdam-style”, that is served as cut up hunks of herring with onions, all of which you eat with a toothpick. For those of you who live on the edge (kidding!), choose Rotterdam-style, which means you pick it up by the end, raise it up in the air, and lower it down into your mouth. I went for the sandwich which worked perfectly for me because I have a very big mouth!
There are herrings shops all over the city, and they’re very easy to spot. If you’re visiting the Floating Flower Market, I recommend Frens Heringhandel at Singel 468.
If you try only one of these Dutch treats or you try all of them, you’ll be creating memories that will stick with you long after your trip is over. Trying local foods is, yet, another way that you can be F.I.T. — a free and independent traveler!
Church of Our Lord in the Attic – Oudezijds Voorburgwal 38
In the Red Light District near the intersection of Oudezijds Voorburgwal and Heintje Hoekssteeg. Click on the map for directions. Its Dutch name is “Ons’ Lieve Heer op Solder”, so that’s what will show up in Google.
Pancakes! – Berenstraat 38
Near the intersection of Berenstraat and Prinsengracht. Click on the map for directions.
Stroopwafles at Banketbakkerij Lanksroom – Singel 385
At the corner of Singel and Heisteeg. Click on the map for directions.
Flemish Fries at Vleminckx de Sausmeester – Voetboogstraat 33
Near the intersection of Voetboogstraat and Heiligeweg – click on the map for directions
Herring at Frens Heringhandel – Singel 468
At the intersection of Singel and Koningsplein, near the Flower Market and Mint Tower – click on the map for directions