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Exploring Amsterdam’s Cultural Diversity

From museums to markets, this stately city hums with the energy of immigrants.

Exploring Amsterdam’s Cultural Diversity

Amsterdam, The Netherlands.

Photo by Eriver Hijano

This itinerary is part of Travel Tales, a series of life-changing adventures on afar.com. Read more stories of transformative trips and inspired itineraries on the Travel Tales home page. Though COVID-19 has stalled many travel plans, we hope our stories can offer inspiration for your future adventures—and a bit of hope.

Home to more than 180 nationalities, Amsterdam has played host to a wide variety of cultures and religions since the 17th century, creating a well-earned reputation as an open, tolerant society in the process. Immigrants from the Middle East, Suriname, Morocco, Turkey, and elsewhere have not only made their homes here but have also influenced everything from the city’s culinary scene to its art. For the traveler, the result is a cornucopia of places to experience this rich cultural mashup. Here’s how to see it.

Sir Albert, Amsterdam, The Netherlands

Sir Albert, Amsterdam, The Netherlands

Check-in and Dive In
Get settled at your hotel, the Sir Albert, Amsterdam. The building’s history as a 19th-century diamond factory brings the past to life, while its location in the city’s De Pijp district puts you in the heart of an area that’s become a cultural melting pot. Today, the grand structure houses 90 stylish rooms and suites, a ground-floor izakaya, and a cosmopolitan atmosphere with just the right amount of hip.

Begin your journey at the Amsterdam Museum, where a permanent exhibition, Amsterdam DNA, showcases how Amsterdam has been a magnet for immigrants from around the globe. Delve deeper with a visit to the Jewish Historical Museum. Set in four Ashkenazi synagogues in the heart of the former Jewish quarter, it’s the country’s only museum to focus on Jewish history, religion, and culture.

Then head to Amsterdam Oud-West and check out Ten Kate Market, where you’ll find a potpourri of global vendors, including Asian, Spanish, and French produce grocers. Grab something to eat and take a seat among the lush green of Vondelpark or Rembrandtpark as you watch the intermingling of cultures both local and international.

When it’s time for dinner, head to the canal-side Waterkant restaurant, featuring a Suriname-inspired menu with specialties like peanut soup, curried duck spring rolls, fried dumplings, and roti roll.

Amsterdam, The Netherlands. Photo by Eriver Hijano

Amsterdam, The Netherlands. Photo by Eriver Hijano

Head East
The next day, your destination is Amsterdam Oost (East), where many of the expat communities have landed. Begin at the Tropen Museum, which features art, photos, music, and film from non-Western cultures. Then head into nearby Oosterpark to see the slavery memorial—a moving sculpture recognizing the dark period before the Netherlands abolished slavery in the colonies of Suriname and the Dutch Antilles.

Wander down Javastraat, named after the former Dutch colony Dutch East Indies (now Indonesia), that draws from Chinese, African, and Indonesian influences. The city’s ethnic mashup is on full display here in its shops and restaurants; take part by snacking on a Turkish pizza or simit (Turkish pretzel).

For lunch, visit the hip area of Indische Buurt; its converted industrial spaces and late-1800s buildings today house Surinamese restaurants, Moroccan supermarkets, and Turkish bakeries. Pick up something savory and take it to Flevopark, a popular picnic location overlooking Nieuwe Diep Lake.

Then explore the popular global bazaar Dappermarkt, where vendors from Turkey, Greece, and elsewhere sell clothing and other wares. Wind down your time with dinner at the stylish Restaurant De Kas, which also captures the cultural melding of Amsterdam. Here, the farm-to-table menu is decidedly Mediterranean, while the setting—a shimmering glass greenhouse in a field of tall grass—feels unmistakably northern European.

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