Summer is over and the autumn season has kicked off in Amsterdam, full force. I always struggle with the seasonal transition into colder temperatures and drearier skies, but there is one thing that never fails to lift my mood: without a doubt, Amsterdam is prettiest in autumn. The dramatic skies accentuate the historic architecture, the many trees slowly reveal a sea of yellow and orange foliage, and the sunsets radiate with an extra touch of golden shimmer.
Regardless of whether you live in the Dutch capital or plan to visit sometime soon, there are several insider tips for Amsterdam in autumn that you definitely need to know about. These 8 simple activities make it so much easier to fall completely in love with the new season.
1. You Have to Try Traditional Dutch Pancakes and Poffertjes
If you think Dutch pancakes are just like any other European crêpe, you are missing out! The pancakes are thicker, a little bit eggier, and slightly richer in taste. It’s not a snack, it’s a meal. The autumn and winter seasons are the best time to enjoy traditional Dutch pancakes. Some of my best childhood memories are eating my mother’s warm, homemade pancakes when it was cold and rainy.
If you want to try traditional pancakes, but only have room for a snack, find a good place to try some poffertjes. Poffertjes are basically round, puffed-up mini-pancakes. You can eat pancakes and poffertjes at specialised restaurants called pannenkoekenhuizen (pancake houses), street markets, and the occasional food truck.
Tried and tested pancake hotspots are the Pancake House Upstairs (smallest pancake house in Europe), The Happy Pig Pancake Shop, and The Pancake Bakery. Whatever you do, avoid those churros bakeries you see everywhere in central Amsterdam. They’ve recently invaded the historic heart and there is nothing authentically ‘Dutch’ about them, not even remotely.
2. The Best Urban Parks to Chill Out and Admire the Leaves
Once the weather changes, I spend a lot of time indoors. The best way to sniff the crisp outside air in Amsterdam (instead of the usual weed) is to go on a refreshing walk in the park. Obviously, Vondelpark is a decent option, but there are several other non-touristy parks where you can truly escape the crowds and completely chill out. Great locations to admire the changing leaves are Sarphatipark (South, great for dog lovers), Westerpark (West), Oosterpark (East), Amstelpark (South-East), and Beatrixpark (South).
3. Rainy Days are for (Nightly) Museum Adventures
I have a personal slogan I like to recite on drizzly weekends: “Rainy days are best spent exploring a museum.” I always feel a bit annoyed about spending time indoors when it’s sunny, so autumn is the best time to cultivate your inner art critic, anthropologist, historian, or science nerd. Cool museums to visit are the Rijksmuseum, Micropia, Tropenmuseum, FOAM Photography museum, and NEMO Science Museum.
One thing you should know about is the annual Museum Night Amsterdam, which takes place on the first Saturday in November. Once a year, the museums are open to the public from 19:00 until 02:00. Night at the museum, anyone? There is no other experience like it!
4. Amsterdamse Bos: The Fastest Way to Escape into the Forest
Now, as I mentioned, urban parks are a great way for a quick break and casual stroll. The Amsterdamse Bos (Amsterdam Forest), however, deserves to be an insider tip on its own. You can easily plan an entire day to explore this green oasis in-between Amsterdam and Amstelveen.
Put on your boots, relish the crunch of the forest floor, and snap an Instagram shot of the colourful foliage. From ponds, lakes, and woodland to landscaped gardens and freely-roaming highland cattle, the Amsterdamse Bos is the place to be. The ‘forest’ is basically an enormous urban park, three times the size of New York’s central park.
5. Benefit from the Cinema and Film Festival Season
Now, I think everybody knows that autumn is the perfect season to escape the gloomy weather, pop that popcorn, and temporarily immerse yourself into a completely different story. Just like museum visits, a trip to the cinema is an excellent solution to entertain yourself on a rainy day or night. What some of you may not know, however, is that Amsterdam is a particularly suitable location to embrace the cinema season. This is because IDFA (International Documentary Filmfestival Amsterdam), the world’s largest documentary film festival, kicks off in November.
6. Why You Need to Buy a Freshly Baked Stroopwafel
You typically see them everywhere in the Netherlands: plastic packages of ready-made stroopwafels in supermarkets, souvenir shops, and airports. Yes, they’re very good. I eat them all the time. But here’s the truth: they’re nothing like the real thing. Eating a freshly baked stroopwafel is a first-class foodie experience that only gets better as the temperatures start to drop. Head to a street market, find a good stroopwafel stall, and savour the warm and gooey caramel. The Albert Cuyp market is the most popular destination for stroopwafels, but the Dappermarkt is also a wonderful option (and a lot less busy).
7. Permanent Tropical Temperatures at the Botanical Garden
Cold and wet days make it a lot less enjoyable to venture outdoors and appreciate nature. Fortunately, there is one solution that eliminates both chills and raindrops. Botanical gardens are basically smaller versions of the great outdoors, but everything still takes place indoors! The Hortus Botanicus in the Plantage district of Amsterdam has several stunning sheltered areas. This includes a butterfly house and large greenhouse where they keep tropical and desert plants. Most of these areas are nice and warm (albeit a bit humid), so the plants don’t die a frosty death.
8. Complete your Dutch Autumn with an Iconic Apple Pie + Hot Chocolate Combo
Let’s be real. As soon as summer decides to pack its bags, the whipped cream and warm beverages are back in town. Now, when I say warm beverages, I actually mean one warm beverage in particular: hot chocolate. In order to further ‘dutchify’ your warm beverage experience, you have to go for the traditional apple pie + hot chocolate combo. That also means you need to put whipped cream on both of them, otherwise you’re cheating.
Quality and trustworthy lunch rooms to try traditional Dutch apple pie with hot chocolate are De Drie Graefjes in the Gravenstraat (central, not the one at Rokin), Winkel 43 (West), Latei, or Ivy and Bros. The latter two locations are both located in the Red Light District.
I hope these insider tips were helpful, how many have you already done? Are you planning on checking all of them off your checklist? I certainly am, especially the pancake and poffertjes one. Do let me know about your autumn plans in the comments!