If you’re anything like me, sometimes you like to seek out things a little more offbeat when you travel, rather than just the usual tourist sites. What can I say, I like fun stuff!
There are TONS of things to see and do in the Dam but here are my top recommendations for quirky things to do in Amsterdam.
View the modern art at Moco Museum
Everyone will tell you “go to Rijksmuseum!” or “you can’t miss the Van Gogh museum!”, which are all well and good but if you’re looking for something a little more modern, may I suggest the Moco Museum? Moco got its name from its collection of Modern and Contemporary artwork, displaying work by the likes of Warhol, Basquiat and Banksy. There’s even a section dedicated to the relatively new phenomena of NFTs.
My favourite part of the museum was the digital immersive art exhibition by Studio Irma – where you can literally immerse yourself into rooms of lights, colours and mirrors while marvelling at your surroundings (and taking some awesome selfies!). It was kind of like walking into a kaleidoscope.
Of course the other part of Moco that I must mention is the branding. Pretty pink branding everywhere. Plus they give you a map and a scratch card on arrival. I actually won a fridge magnet from the scratch card which I later collected in the gift shop. Very novel!
Immerse yourself in art at Fabrique des Lumieres
If you enjoy art that’s more like cinema then you might like Fabrique des Lumieres. To put it simply, it is one huge room where the art is displayed as animations onto every surface. At the moment the exhibitions are Antoni Gaudi and Salvador Dali which are showing until the end of December 2023.
When we first walked into the exhibition space, the room was dark and there were lots of people sat on the floor. We felt like we had walked into a theatre after the play had already started so just sat down where we could. DON’T DO THIS! Head away from the entrance. The room is large and the animations are far more enjoyable if you are immersed in the room rather than sat on the floor like a kid at school assembly. The back of the room is also less busy. We didn’t expect it to be one large room and thought that we’d be moving around into different areas like a common art gallery so we didn’t want to miss anything. Silly us!
Take an alternative canal tour with Those Dam Boat Guys
Everyone says take a canal cruise, so after seeing them appear on Channel 4’s Travel Man, we booked a tour with Those Dam Boat Guys. If you’re looking for a company that doesn’t take themselves too seriously (I mean they have a swashbuckler language option on their website!) then these are your guys. The tours are small – just 8 people per boat plus the captain, ideal numbers.
Our captain was Dominique and because we had all visited the city in the past she decided not to take us to the usual touristy spots like the Red Light District. Instead she switched it up to show us a little more of the city that perhaps we wouldn’t have otherwise seen. She was highly entertaining and informative.
Tours last around 90 minutes but private tours can last longer. This company are also happy for you to smoke, drink and swear on board – so I’d leave the kids at home! However our tour was in the morning so no pirate grog for us, we just enjoyed the ride!
Spot the decorated bikes around the city
Amsterdam is famous for its bikes, honestly they are everywhere. But there is one man who is bringing cheer to the city with his beautifully decorated bikes. Warren Gregory aka Flower Bike Man has left hundreds of colourfully decorated bikes all around the city. Initially his creative endeavour began as a way to help his wife, who has epilepsy, find where she parked her bike and has since escalated from there. It’s a lovely gesture and the bikes I spotted certainly brightened up my day too!
Pet some cats at the floating cat sanctuary
As someone who works in a cat shelter and loves cats, the floating cat sanctuary was the first thing I booked for our trip to Amsterdam. De Poezenboot aka The Catboat doesn’t sail anywhere but it is a small cat rescue situated on the canal.
They are open 3 days a week between 1 and 3pm. You must book your slot on their website to avoid disappointment. Visits last approximately 15 minutes and while you’re there you can pet the kitties and learn about the work that the rescue do.
It’s free to visit but they appreciate donations or purchases from their small gift shop. It is also possible to adopt a cat from them, see their website for details.
Dine in the dark at CTaste
CTaste is a restaurant where you literally eat in the dark. I’m talking pitch-black-can’t-see-my-hand-infront-of-my-face kinda dark. The menu is a mystery so you tell them your dietary requirements in advance, but part of the fun is guessing what you’re eating.
Upon arrival you check in at the bar and are seated in a waiting area. The waiters are all visually impaired and will arrive to lead you to your table. You place your hand on his shoulder and then follow him like in a conga line. Once seated at your table he explains that there is a carafe of water and some glasses, so you pour your water yourself. I think we did ok, minimal spillage.
We went for the Experience Dinner package which included a 3 course meal and 3 drinks each. We were also given appetisers before the starter and before the dessert. The interesting thing about dining in the dark is that it really makes you consider what you are consuming. After you finish your meal you are lead out to the bar again. Here you are invited to scan a QR code on your phone and answer a short quiz to see if you knew what you were eating.
For starter we had roasted celeriac with creme of green peas, sweet & sour infused celery, beetroot in balsamic, crispy quinoa and cashew nuts.
For main I had risotto with mashed butternut squash and sweet potato, ratatouille and sweet potato crisps. As a meat eater Nick had lamb instead of risotto.
Then for dessert we had raspberry parfait with dark chocolate, tangerine bavarois, vanilla crumble and poprocks. The popping candy was quite a fun element!
The portions weren’t huge but I was sufficiently satisfied. I would highly recommend if you’re looking for dining with a difference.
If you liked this, you might enjoy the quirky cat sanctuary in Rome or any of my quirky travel recommendations.