I’ve visited Amsterdam three times now and I am absolutely in love with the place; with the beauty of the canals and the higgledy piggledy houses that line them and the friendly and welcoming atmosphere of every bar, restaurant and shop that you step into. It’s a place where the young and old sit closely and happily together, where trendy bars and contemporary art installations occupy centuries-old buildings.
There’s also a burgeoning creative food scene, with an abundance of vegan-friendly outlets right across the city, a huge proportion of which are actively celebrating plant-based food in some pretty exciting ways.
If you’re going to take my advice (and I suggest you do) and eat your body weight in vegan food over the course of a weekend, then it’s probably worth investing in a bike for the duration of your stay. We hired a couple of bikes from MacBike in Centraal Station for about €50 for three days and this not only allowed us to eat without regret but also gave us the best opportunity to see as much of the city as possible, in a very authentic way. It’s also hella fun.
Ij-Hallen Flea Market
There are two things I will travel for – donuts & flea markets. The Ij-Hallen Flea Market is a monthly event that takes place on a huge sprawling industrial area in Amsterdam Noord, easily accessible by ferry.
The market runs across an entire weekend, and is a combination of proper car boot stalls full of people’s old junk and some antique dealers selling 20th century vintage and retro goodies. The market is absolutely huge and it could easily take a few hours to walk the full area, but it’s great fun. The emphasis is a little more on junk than quality, but prices are low and there’s no “tourist premium” so you can still pick up a few good little bargains.
Van Gogh Museum
Despite not really being “museum people” we decided pretty early on that we’d definitely be visiting the Van Gogh Museum as he’s an artist we’re both pretty interested in. There’s a pretty hefty entrance fee (€18 each!) and you have to book a specific time slot for your visit online. The collection here is absolutely outstanding and the museum does a great job of illustrating the story of Van Gogh’s life through his art, but the galleries are heaving, particularly around some of the more recognisable works.
Vegan Restaurants & Cafes
A month or so ago I wrote a blog post about how to travel vegan, setting out some of the ways in which I approach planning a trip as a vegan. One of my top tips was not to rely on Happy Cow for vegan friendly food options, and Brunchroom is an excellent case in point.
This small cafe, absent from the Happy Cow listings for Amsterdam, is located out to the East of the city and serves the best waffles I’ve ever had. As the name suggests, they do a pretty comprehensive brunch menu but its only their waffles that are available as a vegan option. There’s an extraordinary number of vegan toppings that are available to top the waffles, which are perfectly crispy on the outside yet soft on the in.
For weekends you will need to book a table, and the service is a little on the slow side, but the staff are incredibly friendly and the food is absolutely worth it.
The Happy Pig Pancake Shop
Are you even in Amsterdam if you’re not eating pancakes? Despite the city being synonymous with the best breakfast food ever, there aren’t many outlets that advertised vegan versions. Step up Happy Pig, which sells thin crepe-style pancakes wrapped around a variety of sweet and savoury fillings. We both plumped for the sweet special – chocolate sauce, bananas & toasted almonds, which was pretty tasty and overall a nice novelty, but unfortunately nothing to write home about.
Vleesch Noch Visch
We were incredibly lucky that there was a vegan food festival in Westerpark while we were in town. The whole thing was a little haphazard and there were only a small number of food stalls (with some pretty humungous queues).
The Vleesch Noch Fisch (which translates to “neither meat nor fish”) stall had the biggest line when we arrived early on the Friday afternoon, so we joined up and ordered their gado gado pita, a fabulous wrap with Indonesian satay sauce, soya meat, veg, sweet & sour cucumber and the most delicious roasted coconut topping. Thankfully Vleesch Noch Visch has a permanent set up in Amsterdam-West so you can try their super tasty street food any day of the year!
Dutch Weed Burger
We nearly didn’t make it to Dutch Weed Burger; we had originally intended to visit Meatless District but they had no free tables so off we trotted to Dutch Weed, a cute and very friendly casual little eatery in Amsterdam Old West.
Disclaimer – the weed isn’t the type you normally think of re: Amsterdam, but a reference to the seaweed that they use in their patties and sausages. The result is one of the best vegan burgers I’ve ever had, with an amazingly chewy texture without the beany mush that I’m a little too used to having to put up with.
The menu is small but that’s probably because there’s no need to mess with something this good.
Mr & Mrs Watson
I started our weekend being uncharacteristically unprepared so was so grateful when Mr & Mrs Watson managed to squeeze us in for an early dinner one night. This place is an entirely plant based restaurant that specialises in non-dairy cheeses, which of course comes third on my list of best things behind donuts and flea markets. It’s a little swanky inside without being intimidating; the kind of place you might go on a nice date.
To start we ordered the tasting plate, which was basically a selection of vegan cheeses. Absolutely delicious. We were also treated to an amuse bouche on the house – some toasted gingerbread with tofu and black olive tapenade and blueberry peach kimchi. See? Swanky!
The menu is a bit on the short side, which normally I’d have no issue with as I’m totally a quality not quantity kinda gal, but I have to admit that the mains let the side down a little bit. I ordered the cashew cheese fondue which, although it was filling, didn’t really feel like much of a meal. The fondue was pretty grainy and more like a white sauce than a cheese sauce, and I had a selection of raw veggies and bread to eat it with. I could totally imagine this as a shared starter or bar snack type of thing, but it left me a little unsatisfied.
Thankfully the pudding, a chocolate brownie with peanut butter frosting, was absolutely gorgeous so all is forgiven.
We visited De Ceuvel on a Sunday morning after our trip to the Ij-Hallen flea market. We’d been up pretty early, because the early flea market bird catches the worm, so come 11am we were busting for some sustenance.
De Ceuvel is a very cute little cafe in Amsterdam Noord within a small business complex set amongst canal boats. Everything here appears to be recycled, made out of old boats or wooden pallets, and it’s a pretty cool little corner of Amsterdam. De Ceuvel doesn’t start serving food until midday, but it’s a beautiful spot to sit in the sunshine and enjoy a coffee and feel like you’ve discovered one of the city’s best kept secrets.
The food menu is limited but decent; I had the tempeh bagel and Steve ordered the soup. A selection of vegan cakes is also available.
Vegan Junk Food Bar
The name says it all, right? A vegan junk food bar. And boy, this place is insane. There are a few locations in Amsterdam but head to De Pijp for the largest menu and best chance to eat yourself stupid, which of course we did.
We ordered the Supreme loaded fries with chik’n, truffle mayo and “parm a san”, the Original VJF Burger, and the Supreme Hot Dog which is served in a spray painted charcoal croissant, because why not. Everything was amazing and disgusting and dirty and absolutely worth a visit because it’s the best vegan food in Amsterdam and probably the best vegan hot dog I’ve ever had. Do not miss this place.
Vegan Snacking & Quick Bites
Exki has a number of outlets across the city (and Europe) and is basically quite a lot like Pret a Manger in the UK. They have a few decent vegan options, including a smoked tofu and seaweed tartare sandwich plus some salads and snack pots. All ingredients are clearly marked and vegan options easily identifiable.
Every Saturday there’s a pretty banging little farmers market at Nieuwmarkt just to the east of the Red Light District. There’s a small selection of stalls here but it’s worth a visit purely for the Indian snacks stall, which serves the best pakora and samosa I’ve ever had alongside some delicious chutneys.
Juice Brothers x Van Leeuwen
There are a few branches of the Juice Brothers shop dotted around the city, which, unsurprisingly, sells fresh juices, smoothies, and the obligatory acai bowl. However their branch at the tip of Westerpark also sells a selection of vegan ice creams by the Brooklyn Van Leeuwen creamery, which is where you go to get the best vegan ice cream in the world. The selection rotates but, based on that time we went to Brooklyn in the depths of winter and still managed to find time for a Van Leeuwen scoop every day, it’s always amazing.
Marqt is a high-end supermarket with a few branches scattered around the city that appears to have a focus on small produces with a bit of a whole-foods vibe. They have some good vegan options, including ready-made sandwiches, vegan meats and snacks.
Vegabond appears to be one of those Amsterdam institutions, and has the feel of one of those old school vegan catch-all locations that you get in most cities across the world. There’s a small cafe where you can enjoy a coffee, pastry, cake or a sandwich from a very limited menu, as well as a shop area.
The shop area wins out here, making this an absolute must-visit and a great place to stock up on walking snacks like donuts, vegan jerky etc., and while the cafe serves good simple fare it’s a little pricey for what you get.
I’ve been known to plan trips around the availability of vegan donuts (hey Brammibals and Dunwell Donuts) so finding the Donut Dude stall at the Westerpark vegan market was an absolute dream come true. These bad boys are filled and topped to order, which means they are super fresh, but boy did we have to wait for it.
40 mins after ordering we finally got our faces around two of the most delicious donuts I’d ever had – one beetroot lemon thyme donut and one apple custard. Outlets like this make me so happy to be vegan as it’s pretty clear that there are absolutely no compromises being made to create delicious and interesting plant based food. Unfortunately these guys don’t have a permanent location but keep an eye on their website to see where they’re serving up treats next.
Brouwerij ’t IJ
Brouwerij ’t IJ is a glorious brewery based out in the Eastern Docklands. They sell a great mix of their own brews; a selection of traditional Dutch style beers, and also offer brewery tours. Their standard range is completely vegan, but worth checking on any specials that are on sale as well. It’s a lovely chilled out location and a great way to pass a few increasingly tipsy hours.
GlouGlou is one of those places that I wish existed in every city all over the world. It’s a wine bar in De Pijp (my favourite part of the city by far) that sells only natural and unfiltered wines, which means everything here is vegan. The staff are also incredibly friendly and will help you navigate the menu to find your favourite wine. The vibe is a bit Parisian bistro with cute chairs out in the sunshine and it’s terrifyingly easy for one glass to quickly turn into four.
Where We Stayed
We decided to plump for the relatively new and pretty good value Sir Adam hotel in Amsterdam Noord, as we’d heard some rumours that Noord is where all the cool kids hang out. It’s one of those painfully hip hotels and there were some cute touches, such as the karaoke and disco floor in the lifts, but it all just felt a bit on the corporate side for me.
I like my holiday accommodation to be a little rough around the edges, full of character and a pretty good reflection of the place I’m staying in, whilst Sir Adam felt a little like it was trying too hard to be simultaneously cool but without upsetting anyone. We also had a few cleanliness issues with the room that were a bit of a hassle to get sorted out and we didn’t get a good response from staff on hand.
Having said that, the rooms are a good size and the bathrooms are swanky, plus the south facing rooms have awesome views across the river Ij to the city. Location wise it’s super easy to get to Centraal station in a matter of minutes thanks to the 24/7 free ferry and from there Amsterdam is your oyster. There are a couple of cafes and bars nearby but we found ourselves travelling a fair distance most days to get to where we wanted to be.