Amsterdammers flock outdoors when the sun shines, so it’s natural to find a plethora of waterfront cafés that capitalize on views of stunning canals, graceful bridges and Golden Age mansions. Whether you want to share a meal, snack or drink with friends, the Dutch capital offers hundreds of establishments that will sate your hunger for food and drink, as well as visual interest.
The obvious spots are Amsterdam’s lively entertainment squares—Leidseplein, Rembrandtplein and Spui—all great places to watch the passing crowd while downing a cold one. For more local flavor, Café De Jaren offers two levels of outdoor tables overlooking the Amstel. In Vondelpark, four cafés feature outdoor terraces, including popular ‘t Blauwe Theehuis.
Spectacular View, Alternative Vibe
Don’t dress up for Café Soundgarden, a grunge bar tucked on Marnixgracht in Amsterdam’s Oude West. Inside its gritty exterior, an unpretentious pub opens to a spectacular canal-side terrace. In addition to the view, the dive boasts a pool table, pinball machines and table soccer, plus a full bar.
Belly up for some of the cheapest beer in town, including a wide selection of domestic and imported brands. On the rear deck overlooking Singlegracht canal, share a beer and a smoke with locals, expats and possibly a few tourists who’ve stumbled onto the gezellig terrace, offering a view of boats floating by and the Nassaukade street scene. Stay for live music and party hard while DJs spin tunes late into the night.
Be an Ij-Witness
Near Central Station, Hanneke’s Boom, an uber-relaxed gastrobar and dance venue, serves up drinks, light fare and stunning views of Amsterdam’s skyline and NEMO, the children’s museum that resembles a green whale. A seasonal menu features organic ingredients in favorites like nachos, sandwiches, burgers and fries.
From Hanneke’s Boom, a free NDSM ferry chugs to Amsterdam-Noord, a transformed shipyard where you’ll find such gems as IJ-Kantine, Noorderlicht and Pllek, a shipping container transformed into a waterfront restaurant, complete with its own urban beach on the Ij.
Nearby Noorderlicht also offers casual dining over the Ij. A grassy terrace offers a spectacular view of Amsterdam across the Ij. On a hopping night, it’s ablaze with a bonfire and laser lights visible across the river—hence its name. Seasonal lunch and dinner menus feature organic and regional dishes, plus casual fare like frites and burgers. A roster of events includes campfires, poetry readings and DJ nights that usually inspire pumping and grinding in an energetic crowd.
Waterfront Drinks on the Ij
Atop its homage to international cinema, the EYE Film Institute offers the eye-popping EYE bar restaurant, where you can wash down a plate of bitterballen with beer on tap while musing about cinematography against a backdrop of the watery Ij. A spacious terrace beckons for lunch or just contemplating the world of the moving image. The new location in Overhoeks, Amsterdam’s urban district across the water from Central Station, replaces the Film Institute’s previous headquarters in Vondelpark.
Bye, Bye Miss American Pie
Historic Papeneiland, one of Amsterdam’s oldest brown cafés, offers limited outdoor seating at the intersection of Brouwersgracht and Prinsengracht—prime spots to sample the apple pie made on the premises, as it has been for centuries, with a cake-like crust and crumb topping. Have yours with whipped cream that cuts the tartness of the apples.
Owned since the 19th century by the Netel family, the place serves up Old World charm alongside its popular dessert. Bill Clinton famously ate a slice before taking a whole pie back to D.C. with him. Manager Tiel Netel bears the same first name as all males in the family and often greets customers at his canal-side café.
Drinks at a Transformed Gas Plant
Sprawling Westergasfabriek has numerous options for al fresco dining, including Pacific Parc, a rock ‘n’ roll bistro with an edge. Situated in a former treatment plant, the café-nightclub on Amsterdam’s west side represents its mantra well: “Do not beg for the right to live, take it.” International favorites include saté with coconut-peanut sauce, Indian lentil curry, Black Angus burgers and Dutch pannenkoeken, all priced under €20 on lunch and dinner menus.
A Brewery at An Urban Windmill
A windmill on Amsterdam’s east side signals you’ve arrived at Brouwerij ‘t IJ, a small brewery and pub in what was previously a bathhouse adjacent to the De Gooyer windmill. Opened in 1985 by former musician Kaspar Peterson, Brouweij ‘t Ij prides itself on a large selection of unfiltered, non-pasteurized beers and seasonal offerings, all certified organic and made onsite.
Follow the scent of hops onto the spacious outdoor terrace, where you can enjoy your brew with peanuts, boiled eggs, local cheese and ossenworst. The adjacent pub serves more substantial meals, as well as drinks and snacks.
Clean Off the Tourist Track at Badhuis
In east Amsterdam on Javaplein, Badhuis is a former bath house in an off-the-tourist track neighborhood with street names that reflect Amsterdam’s Indonesian connection. When the sun shines, an expansive outdoor terrace draws Dutchies and expats, who come to imbibe Grolsch and other beers on tap, as well as wine, cocktails and traditional snacks like bitterballen.
Few clues of the restaurant’s earlier incarnation have survived, save for decorative bath tiles on the bar backsplash. Badhuis‘ lunch and dinner menus include such imaginative offerings as Tarte Tatin of green tomato, smoked mozzarella, rocket salad and almonds. Starters like pumpkin soup and sweet red beets with goat cheese cream and sausage are small, but one or two makes a meal for light eaters. Reasonably priced burgers, sandwiches, soups and other casual fare make for informal, al fresco dining on summer days. Your wallet won’t take a bath at this locals’ hangout, accessible via tram #14.
Chills and Thrills at Scheveningen
Wanna get outta town on a sunny day? Head for Scheveningen, where dozens of trendy bars, restaurants and clubs line the sand. Some offer seclusion with a tropical twist; others are better for watching dudes in the waves and strolling surfer girls. On the beach side, the bars are right on the beach, so you can enjoy drinks or a meal with a view of crashing waves. Get married at The Blue Lagoon, one of the town’s most popular clubs, or chill out at Bora Bora, where a roaring fire warms summer nights.