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 10 simple activities make it so much easier to fall completely in love with the new season.
Amsterdam in Autumn: 10 Insider Tips
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, for historic art or the Stedelijk for contemporary art. Other really rad options are Micropia, a unique learning center about microbes, the Tropenmuseum, which features all kinds of objects from cultures around the world, the FOAM Photography museum, and NEMO Science Museum. The latter is especially interesting for science enthusiasts of all ages.
One thing you should also 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, snap an Instagram shot of the colourful foliage, and see what kind of weird fungi you can find. 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
Amsterdam in autumn means a lot of cold and wet days, which makes 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 suffer a frosty death.
8. Complete your Autumn in Amsterdam 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.
9. Find Your Inner Bookworm at the Library and Bookstores
So what do you do if it’s another rainy day and you’ve already checked out the botanical garden, the museums seem a bit expensive, and you don’t feel like seeing a movie? Don’t worry, the central library in Amsterdam is also a really cool and budget-friendly spot to check out. You’ll find it after a 10 minute walk from central station in an easterly direction (close to the NEMO Science Museum). The contemporary style and spacious design inside the library is definitely worth a visit. Take some time to explore the floors and relax with a magazine, book, or your laptop. What’s even better is the beautiful cityscape view from the upper terrace, which you’ll find on the top floor.
However, the central library isn’t the only highlight in Amsterdam for bookworms. There are also tons of beautiful bookstores and bookstalls around town. I personally love the Athenaeum Boekhandel for their international magazines and the American Book Store for their diverse collection and cute little café. You’ll find both of those stores on Spui Square, the same square where you can enjoy a rare and second-hand book market on Fridays. The book stalls in the passage at the historic Oudemanhuispoort are also adorable to see and fascinating to explore.
10. Go on a Cycling Trip Along the Amstel River
In case you are blessed with a gorgeous, sunny autumn day in Amsterdam, you have to take advantage of this rare occasion! Make sure you fetch your (rented) bicycle to cycle along the Amstel river. Head to the southern part of Amsterdam, towards Amstelpark (also worth a little visit, if you have enough time). There, you’ll find a bike path that runs parallel to the river. This part of the river, the green area between Amsterdam and the nearby village of Ouderkerk aan de Amstel, is where famous Dutch painter Rembrandt would often sit and sketch. You’ll find his statue right next to the picturesque Riekermolen, a historic 17th-century mill on the Amstel riverbank.
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!
Here is a quick overview of all the 10 insider tips for Amsterdam in Autumn:
- Try traditional Dutch pancakes and poffertjes
- Chill out and admire the leaves in the city parks
- Visit the museums on rainy days
- Escape into the forest at the Amsterdamse Bos
- Benefit from the film festival season
- Buy a freshly baked stroopwafel
- Enjoy the tropical temperatures at the Hortus Botanicus
- Go for an iconic apple pie + hot chocolate combo
- Find your inner bookworm at the library and bookstores
- Go on a cycling trip along the Amstel River
Note: I updated this article in 2019 with new insider tips!