Cheap Eats in Amsterdam

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Check out my other Afar highlights, in Amsterdam and beyond.

Hungry in Amsterdam? Goodyou can satiate your appetite without going broke. No matter what your budget, have your fill of gyros, falafal, frites, herring, pizza or burgers for no more than a few euros, at dives throughout the city. If you can ignore the no-nonsense settings, Amsterdam satisfies with international fare that will have you loosening your belt long before you need to get a grip on that scrappy travel budget.

Skek: Amsterdam’s Affordable, Student-Run Café

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Run by and for students, Skek is a great place for an affordable, sit-down meal near Amsterdam’s Red Light District.

If you’re a student on a budget, Skek may be your best bet for a wholesome, sit-down meal. Run by and for students (get 25% off with ID), this eco-friendly café off the Red Light District describes itself as “loving, honest and curious.” For no-frills, organic snacks, meals and drinks, you can’t beat it. Portions are generous on lunch and dinner menus that feature Dutch classics like bitterballen, plus burgers, soups, salads and creative entrées that are great values even if you’re well past your student years.

Fronted by a gezellig living room and bar, Skek has no manager, maître d’, five-star chef or snooty sommelier. A staff of 30 students cooks, serves and performs, learning the restaurant business as they go. A bent for seasonal products means the menu changes often, with new creations showcased at Tasting Evenings featuring 10–15 previews of menu additions for €15. Food and service can be erratic, but that’s the case in many Amsterdam establishments with more experienced staff, so don’t let it put you off; these kids try hard to please!

The fare is creative if erratic at Skek, where you may find this salad of roasted veggies with goat cheese on the menu.
The fare is creative if erratic at Skek, where you may find this salad of roasted veggies with goat cheese on the menu.

Since Skek is both restaurant and creative showcase, you may find yourself entertained by budding talent: singers, dancers or comedians. Open Mic and game nights, themed parties and pub quiz challenges happen frequently. On the dining room walls, young artists display unconventional work—papier mâché cows, abstract landscapes and arty portraits.

Don’t expect haute cuisine or five-star service at this mellow pub. What you’ll get is no-fuss food served with a side of talent that may include klezmer bands or singers belting out pop/hip-hop tunes. While their performances may bowl you over, the bill won’t, especially if you’re a student entitled to that deep discount.

Belly Up to the Burger Bar

It may look like one, but Burger Bar is not your typical fast-food chain.
It may look like one, but Burger Bar is not your typical fast-food burger joint. Even vegetarians can be happy here!

Even if you’re not a carnivore, there’s no better place to grab a meal or late night snack than Burger Bar. From the outside, it looks like a typical fast food joint, with a neon sign leading into a brightly lit hole-in-the- wall. Inside, you’re likely to find a dozen or so Amsterdammers crammed at the bar and tiny side tables, chowing down on freshly cooked burgers, chicken and portobello mushroom sandwiches.

Order 200 or 270 grams of 100% freshly ground Irish, prime aged U.S. Black Angus or Wagyu beef—pure Kobe deliciousness on a sesame seed bun. It’s cooked as you watch, then served with lettuce, tomato, pickle, creamy sauce and optional bacon, cheese, grilled onions or mushrooms, avocado, fried egg and/or jalapenos. A side of Belgian fries—crunchy on the outside, fluffy on the inside, delectable with mayo, samurai sauce, blue cheese or other gooey toppings—completes your meal.

Hiding under the pickle is 200 grams of pure beef deliciousness.
Hiding under the pickle is 200 grams of  100% Irish beef deliciousness on a sesame seed bun at Burger Bar.

When your order arrives, you’ll know why you came. Especially if you’re hungry at 4am, after the bars and everything else has closed. Burger Bar has outlets Kolksteeg, Warmoesstraat and Reguliersbreestraat—the latter a great spot to grab a bite before a movie at the nearby Tuschinsky.

FEBO: Window Shopping for Fast-Food

Window-shopping for fast food at FEBO.
Eating from the wall at FEBO.

Any list of cheap eats in Amsterdam would be remiss if it didn’t include FEBO, the Dutch culinary tradition of eating from a wall of fast food vending machines. With 20+ outlets in Amsterdam, it’s easy to find a FEBO de Lekkerste (literally, FEBO The Tastiest). If it’s past midnight, chances are you’ll bump into a handful of Dutchies, trying to inconspicuously grab a late-night frikkandel (minced meat hot dog) or kroket. At the push of a button, out comes a hot snack for munching on while peddling home over the cobblestones.

No one knows exactly how long those mayo-laden burgers are allowed to sit under heat lamps in FEBO windows. But no one seems to care, especially at 3am, when there’s no other option for a snack.

9 comments

  1. Some interesting suggestions Mellisa. If one is not a student or just wants to get fresh food from market and grocery stores, where do you suggest? I love wandering around food markets looking for interesting things to try, does Amsterdam have any great ones? Daily or weekly?

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    • A’dam has loads of daily and weekly outdoor markets where you can get fresh, organic + affordable produce + snacks, Stephen. The biggest is the Albert Cuyp outdoor market, open daily except Sunday in de Pijp. A smaller version is the Ten Kate market in the Oude West, also open daily except Sunday. On Saturdays, there are farmers markets at Nieuwmarkt + Noordermarkt. For groceries, our ubiquitous Albert Heijn, in addition to Aldi + Dirk supermarkets, carries lots of eat-to-go options. Eet smakelijk!

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      • Wonderful! I’ll be sure to check some, if not all, of them out when I come next week and grab some good snacks for my long bus journey when I leave. If there are non-perishable goods for sale, I might even be able to pick up a few early Christmas presents.

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  2. I am already starving just looking at this pictures hahaha
    I´ll try most of then for sure!! This tips are wonderfull for travellers because sometime when you don´t know the city you have to eat in some place like Mc Donalds or Burger King hahaha
    But now after read this article I will stay faaar from mc donalds…the Burguer Bar should be delicious!

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  3. Great article on some budget friendly places to scope. Burger Bar looks really interesting and well worth visiting. I’m wondering though, what are some typical meals the Dutch are known for as well? You mentioned herring, but any other native plate suggestions? I’ve been living abroad in Spain and though tapas are an awesome plate at 22h or 23h, I like to explore and see what else is out there. Great perspective. Looking forward to seeing as much of this cool vibe city as I can.

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  4. I’ve been checking some places (and prices) around europe and I realised that pretty much all of the popular cities have discounts for students. I didn’t know such thing even existed! I’m so used to pay full price on meals that any sort of discount will be welcome, especially since I’m travelling on a budget. Also, the one who is travelling with me is a vegetarian which makes eating a bit difficult sometimes so I’m happy to know there are veggie burgers available! Thanks for the great tips, Melissa!

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