E.g., 04/05/2020
E.g., 04/05/2020

Alternative Amsterdam: Hidden Gems, Places off the Beaten Path

21 March 2017

The Netherlands Association of Translation Companies (VViN) is delighted to welcome GALA 2017 Conference attendees to lovely Amsterdam!

Below is compiled a list of local places that might not make it onto the tourist blogs, but are worth checking out. Discover places off the beath path and see Amsterdam from a local perspective.

Island mentality

NDSM Island is an up and coming district in the north of Amsterdam, which offers a mixture of old (industrial) landscapes and modern developments, creating a unique atmosphere. After the shipyard closed in 1984, the island became a breeding ground for squatters, artists and craftsmen, and you can still find evidence of this today. Old shipping containers have been used to create unconventional cafes and a crane has even been converted into a luxury hotel. But the island is now also home to ultra-modern cafes, restaurants and bars, such as Loetje aan ‘t IJ (Werfkade 14).

This stunning building has the sleek lines and appearance of an enormous luxury yacht, in keeping with its waterside location and fantastic views. The sirloin steaks are sublime and it’s worth paying an extra euro for the spicy ‘Bali’ version, but there are plenty of other dishes to choose from.

Reaching the island is an adventure in itself and is done so via a free ferry service behind Amsterdam Central Station. Walk through the 19th-century train station and you will see two ferry bays in front of you. Ignore them! They simply ferry passengers to and from the other side of the IJ body of water. Instead, walk about 100 metres to your left (west) and you will find the NDSM ferry. The enjoyable, free trip takes 10-15 minutes.


Anyone who has visited Amsterdam will be familiar with Dam Square, at the very centre of the city. But if you walk down an alleyway (Pijlsteeg) just to the right of the Grand Hotel Krasnapolsky and pass through two sets of transparent sliding doors, you will find yourself at the Wijnand Fockink (open daily from 15.00 to 21.00). This distillery and proeflokaal (tasting tavern) dates back to 1679 and offers a wide range of more than 70 delicious liqueurs and other drinks, such as bitters, jenevers (the original gin) and draught beer.

It’s worth choosing a liqueur from the assortment of single or combined flavours, some with exotic names like ‘Perfect Bliss’ and ‘A Walk in the Woods’, either by perusing the menu or asking the friendly staff. If they’re not too busy, they’re always happy to lend advice. Once you have made your selection, it will be poured into a traditional tulip glass almost to overflowing. The custom, which the staff politely insists upon, is to bend down and take your first sip while the glass is still on the bar, to avoid spillage. If you find something irresistible, you can pop next door to the adjoining shop and buy a bottle.

My personal favourite is the cherry chocolate (kersenbonbon) liqueur!

Old-school games

You can (re)discover your inner pinball wizard at one of TonTon Club’s two locations in the city. Both feature a selection of pinball machines, ranging from those made in the 1960s/70s right up to (almost) the present day. They’re only for fun, of course, but it’s hard to beat the exhilaration of keeping multiple balls in play at the same time (on those with a multiball feature) or winning a replay. As well as pinball machines, TonTon Club also offers vintage arcade games and ‘analogue’ games like air hockey (always fun) and Jenga. All machines cost one token per play and you buy the tokens in advance (€1 each or six for €5). Enjoy the games while sipping one of the 25, or so, mainly local beers and you can also have a bite to eat while you’re there.

The city centre location is situated at Sint Annendwarsstraat 6 in the heart of the Red Light District, which may not be to everyone’s taste. It offers a predominantly Tex-Mex menu. The slightly larger TonTon Club West (Polonceaukade 27) is farther out of town (approx. 20-minute walk), on the trendy Westergasfabriek terrain, and offers a more Japanese-themed menu and games. Tram 3 to Haarlemmerplein will take you close or you can catch the 21 bus from Central Station.

Art on the edge

Amsterdam is famous for its museums and galleries but most of them are crowded and charge for admission. In recent years, outsider art (art produced by untrained artists, some of whom have a mental or psychological disability) has been growing in popularity, also in Amsterdam. In 2016, Queen Maxima opened the Outsider Art Museum, which is part of the Hermitage Amsterdam (Amstel 51). It costs € 12.50 to enter and features an exhibition of Chinese outsider art until 5 June.

If you walk just around the corner, however, to Neerlandiaplein 1, you will find the Outsider Art Gallery, which is absolutely free to enter and was also opened by Queen Maxima in March 2016. It houses a colourful collection of paintings and objects by outsider artists from all over the country, and regularly exchanges works with other outsider art galleries in the Netherlands and abroad. The art is uplifting, versatile and, above all, pure, since it is unconstrained by commercial considerations (open daily from 10.00 to 17.00).

Make a meal of it

A newish, ultra-hip restaurant (interior by Bricks Studio) with a very central location (Rokin 103), great atmosphere and friendly service is Terpentijn (turpentine, but don’t worry, it’s not included in any of the dishes). Tinner runs the restaurant during the day (10.00 to 16.00) and serves an extensive lunch/brunch menu, including grilled sandwiches, four different courses with egg, a Bloody Mary soup (with or without vodka), a French toast of banana bread and much more.

After 4pm, you can either head for the downstairs bar and snack on Asian-themed street food or go up one floor to the restaurant. The street food alone is enough to make your mouth water and includes steamy prawn dim sum and papadum pulled pork. Dinner menu starters include crispy duck, scallops and oysters, while main courses range from pork loin and Black Angus burger to sea bass. There’s even a group menu. Cocktails are also served all day long but how about a walnut gingerbread milkshake, made with gingerbread liqueur? Yummy!

Wherever you choose to roam, enjoy your stay in Amsterdam. We look forward to seeing you at the Conference!