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Amsterdam Hidden Gems

By Janette

Marketeer and social media expert who just "happens" to speak Chinese fluently. Moved to the capital two years ago and shares her Amsterdam discoveries with you.

January 16, 2020

When going to a foreign city, you want to get the most out of your stay. Of course, you want to see the highlights. After all, when you’re going to New York you also want to see the Statue of Liberty. And when you’re in Paris, you take a gander at the Eifel Tower. But hidden gems are at least as nice. Personally, I love it to discover awesome spots, sights and places that most tourists don’t know about. That’s why I’m going to let you in on a few of my personal favorites. It is a combination of modern and centuries-old places. The Amsterdam hidden gems, only an insider knows about.

Historic places

Let’s start with a few historic places I consider Amsterdam hidden gems. As you may know, the Netherlands was very prosperous during the Golden Age (17th century). In that period of time, many new buildings popped up and new professions came into existence. An example of this is, of course, diamond polishing. That’s why Amsterdam is called the City of Diamonds. But the Golden Age also brought a lot of foreign influence to our country. For example architectural styles and exotic spices.

The Little Houses of the Victoria Hotel

In 1883, the Victoria Hotel was built. It is one of the oldest, modern hotels in the Netherlands. It has a convenient location as well: right across the Amsterdam Central Station. However, before the hotel was built, there were already houses where families lived. Therefore, the company “Victoria Hotel” decided to buy the houses of the family. But there were two homeowners who didn’t accept the offers. The owners, tailor Carstens and tapster Verburgt, did not want to accept a large offer of 46,000 guilders. It was respectively 3 and 14 times more than what they paid for their homes. Why they did not accept this amount was never clear. Perhaps they simply didn’t want to move.

Victoria Hotel in AmsterdamVictoria Hotel in Amsterdam. When you look closely, you can still see the old homes encapsulated in the hotel.  

The Victoria Hotel did not have any other option than simply to build around the houses. That’s why, to this day, the homes of Carstens and Verburgt are not a part of the hotel. You can still see and visit the two houses that have a complete other look and feel than the hotel. Since 2001 the hotel and houses protected monuments because of the cultural and historical value of special facade design and urban interests. These two small houses inside the hotel are definitely some of Amsterdam’s hidden gems for me.

Jacob Hooy & Co

Travel back in time the 18th-century spice store on the Nieuwmarkt, Jacob Hooy. In 1743, the 21-year-old sailor son Jacob Hooy opened a spice shop. Almost three centuries later, it is still here. The store takes you back to the time of the V.O.C. in which tobacco and opium were considered remedies for diseases. The store has still retained its original design, including antique wooden barrels with inscriptions in Latin. But also pharmacy cupboards and a beautiful collection of scales that are braided with two large snakes.

Jacob Hooy AmsterdamJacob Hooy & co, Kloveniersburgwal 12, Amsterdam Centrum. Picture: Iamsterdam.

The company stands for beautiful, natural, healthy and fair products. To this day, Jacob Hooy still sells herbs and spices. But nowadays they also have cosmetics, essential oils and many more products with the same values. Just like Coster Diamonds, Jacob Hooy is one of the few companies in the Netherlands with the honorary title Royal.

Hortus Botanicus

The Hortus Botanicus Amsterdam (est. 1638) is a botanical garden in East Amsterdam, in the Plantage district. Here, the you that goes outside is different from the you that entered. The age-old cultural heritage offers a harmonious place where people experience the beauty of plants in different ways. But the Hortus also lets you understand what you perceive.

Hortus Botanicus indoorsInside view at the Hortus Botanicus

With its rich history and versatile collection, the Hortus is the ideal platform for dialogue about plants and the indispensable role they play on earth. The Hortus Amsterdam wants to inspire people of all ages.

Ons’ Lieve Heer op Solder

From nature, we move to religion. In 1578, the Protestants took over power in the city. The Roman Catholics – about 20% of the Amsterdam population in the 17th and 18th centuries – then come in second place. They can no longer go to official churches for mass. Public Catholic celebrations were then officially prohibited in the Netherlands. You were allowed to be catholic, but you can only do this in a domestic circuit. However, the rich catholic merchant Jan Hartman (1619 – 1668) had a plan. Hidden in the heart of Amsterdam’s city center is a small miracle. In 1661, Jan Hartman bought a canal house at the Oudezijds Voorburgwal. He also bought the two houses behind it. Jan gave the order to connect the attic of the three houses. Here, he founded a church: Ons’ Lieve Heer op Solder. Literally translated, this means: “Our Dear Lord in the Attic”.

Ons Lieve Heer op SolderInterior of the church of Our Lord in the Attic Museum. The church was originally built in 1663, when Catholics lost their right to worship in their own way

Go on a discovery in a rare well-preserved canal house from the Golden Age. Narrow corridors and stairs lead to historically decorated living areas, kitchens and bedsteads. You’ll end in what is literally the top of the museum: the complete church in the attic.

Contemporary places

When you’re not fond of century-old places, there are also plenty of other hidden gems in Amsterdam.

The Vondelbunker

Hidden in the Vondelpark in Amsterdam, under the bridge where tram 3 rumbles, there’s an old nuclear bomb shelter. This (unused) shelter stems from 1947. When World War II was over, this bunker was still unused. It became a temporarily location of a Rock-n’Roll school annex youth café. Young people came here to listen to music and to find love. Eventually, it became the first, real youth center of Amsterdam. They called it: de Beatkelder “Lijn 3” (the Beat Basement, Line 3), named after the tram that still rumbled over the roof. This Beat Basement wrote history as they had a spontaneous performance from Pink Floyd.

Bunker at the Vondelpark

In the following years, the shelter has housed many weird boarders, hoppers, youths, punks and anarchists, bicycle makers and musicians, through illegal parties, short-term rent or temporary use. Nowadays it is a creative stronghold of performances and exhibitions with bar evenings. They have some of the funniest stand-up comics in Amsterdam ready and set to make you laugh! Entrance is free.

Electric Ladyland

If you want to step into a different reality without a joint or a sniff, this museum is for you. It’s a real Amsterdam hidden gem. The First Museum of Fluorescent Art houses a large room-sized fluorescent environment. In here, you experience “Participatory Art.” This means you take place in the creation of a piece of Art. For the duration of your visit, you are a part of the piece of Art.  This is vastly different from most forms of conventional contemporary Art. Because traditionally, the visitor is merely a viewer and, as such, has no part in the creative process involved.

Electric Ladyland

The guided tour of the museum also includes demonstrations of large collections of Fluorescent Minerals from all over the world.  These very common rocks burst into dazzling colors when seen under different wavelengths of ‘light.’ Especially for someone who likes diamonds, common gray stones turning into brilliant multi-colored wonders of nature never fails to amaze.

This is Holland

One of the most quickly upcoming attractions in Amsterdam, is This is Holland. Flying like a bird, you get an overview of how the Netherlands was created. You learn about the people who weren’t deterred by all the water. Using mounds, dikes, windmills and polders, they succeeded in reclaiming land from the sea, creating this extraordinary country below sea level.

this is holland vr experience

You’ll forget that you’re in Amsterdam and feel as though you really fly over the Dutch landscape. Breathtakingly beautiful filming gives you a spectacular aerial perspective. Thanks to the astonishing special effects projected on a huge domed screen, you feel like you’re flying over the country’s must-sees. The term ‘Time flies, when you’re having fun!’ couldn’t be more appropriate here. Before you know it, you’re outside again, with an unforgettable experience to last a lifetime. At Royal Coster, we have a special package: a combination of This is Holland and the Royal Experience. Contact us for more information.

9 Straatjes Shopping Route

If you still have some energy left, I can recommend shopping. I already wrote about the best shopping streets in Amsterdam. Amsterdam has many busy shopping streets and large retail chains. In such a big city it is often difficult to find small, original and exclusive shops between the megastores. Therefore I tend to avoid the busy shopping streets and go to the “9 Straatjes”. Literally translated: 9 Streets. It’s one of my most beloved Amsterdam hidden gems.

sunset at the 9 straatjes The walking route of the 9 Straatjes is perfect for small boutiques and exclusive shops. 

You will find De 9 Straatjes in the middle of the canal belt between Singel, Herengracht, Keizersgracht and Prinsengracht. Just behind the Royal Palace on Dam Square. In the heart of Unesco World Heritage, where it has been bustling with craft, trade and culture for over 4 centuries. The 9 Streets have numerous monumental shops. They give a wonderful overview of the architectural styles in the 17th century canal district. You will also find Museum Het Grachtenhuis and photo museum Huis Marseille. On Singel 315, you can board a boat for a classic canal cruise.

Candlelight Cruise

A regular canal cruise is of course one of the most well-known Amsterdam attractions. The picturesque canals of the capital are very romantic in themselves already. But the flickering candlelight on the beautiful candlelight cruise makes your boat trip even more special.

canal cruise at night

Discover the Amsterdam canals while you are served tasty snacks and wines. The candlelight canal cruises at one of the many cruise companies are truly some of Amsterdam’s hidden gems. Especially with Valentine’s Day around the corner, this is one of the most romantic activities in Amsterdam.

Amsterdam Hidden Gems

Royal Coster is often called a hidden gem in Amsterdam – no pun intended. Our experienced guides take you on a journey that tells the story of the diamond. The story that starts millions of years ago and ends in a sparkling stone on your finger. Learn more about the Dutch Golden Age and diamond history in our Royal Experience tour. An exclusive tour with a sparkling surprise… Book now!

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