Sure, Amsterdam offers plenty of fine dining – but you’ll get your share of that on your river cruise ship. Fueling yourself with classic grab-and-go street food favorites gives you a real taste of Dutch life for just a few euros as you snack your way through the city. Here are our top picks.
If you’ve pictured yourself dangling a raw herring over your mouth, holding it by the tail as you gobble it up, you’ll have to revise your expectations – that’s just not how it’s done in Amsterdam. Raw herring is a staple street food here, but it’s served chopped up and topped with onions and pickles, eaten by spearing the chunks of fish with a toothpick.
It’s an intense flavor experience, to be sure. To soften the blow, try ordering a broodje haring (herring sandwich). You’ll get all the same ingredients, but tempered by a soft white roll that also makes the whole thing much easier to eat while standing up.
Where to try it: You’ll spot standalone herring stalls all over town, often along the canals. Stubbe’s Haring, near the Centraal Train Station, is just a 15-minute walk from the river cruise port.
These delicious little puffed pancakes topped with butter and powdered sugar are a must for anyone with a sweet tooth: each is about the size of a silver dollar and is a delight to pop into your mouth (just give them a minute to cool down – they'll be served straight from a sizzling-hot cast-iron pan).
The classic version is tasty enough, but you can also have them stuffed with apples or raisins or topped with Nutella or jam. Locals know to flip the poffertjes over before eating to avoid having powdered sugar blow all over your clothes.
Where to try it: You’ll find poffertjes stands at most local markets. We like Poffertjes Albert Cuyp at the Albert Cuyp Markt, or Ome Tom’s at the Dapper Markt in Amsterdam East.
You can buy packaged stroopwafels (syrup waffles) at any grocery store in town, but for the real deal, you’ve got to have one hot and fresh, with the molasses-like syrup oozing out between two thin waffle cookie layers. They’re available dipped in chocolate, but the syrup is sweet enough that this seems like overkill unless you’re a die-hard chocolate fan.
Where to try it: Albert Cuyp Markt is your best bet all year round. During the holiday season, you’ll also find stands at holiday markets and outdoor skating rinks.
Think plain old French Fries sound a little boring? Not in Amsterdam – you won’t be eating them plain, or with ketchup.
The classic Dutch style is to serve frites topped with mayonnaise, but there are plenty of other options to drizzle over your paper cone. Satay sauce is a popular choice, or try one of two common topping combos: Patat speciaal is topped with curry ketchup, mayo, and chopped onions. Patatje oorlog also has mayo and chopped onions, but swaps the curry ketchup for peanut sauce. Grab plenty of paper napkins!
Where to try it: You’ll find frites stands at most markets, and plenty of takeout windows around town. We like Vlaams Friteshuise Vleminckx on Voetboogstraat in the city center.
If your cruise brings you to Amsterdam during the holiday season, seek out an oliebollen stand. An oliebol is a deep-fried, sweet ball of dough. It’s similar to an apple fritter but somehow more delicious, and it can be served plain, with raisins, with apples, or topped with powdered sugar. It’s a must-eat on New Year’s Eve, but you can find the stands starting in mid-November. They disappear January 1.
Where to try it: You’ll find oliebollen stands in just about every neighborhood, but the best oliebollen in Amsterdam according to readers of local newspaper Het Parool are actually found in a bakery: De Bakkerszonen (The Baker’s Sons) in Amsterdam East.
We’ll admit right upfront that FEBO is not a classy affair, but it’s an Amsterdam grab-and-go eating experience not to be missed. Think of it as a constantly replenished room-sized vending machine with rows upon rows of little glass doors. Behind each door is a freshly cooked hot snack, most of them deep-fried and all of them delicious – if not exactly packed with nutritional value. Choose what you want, put in your money, and open the door to pick up your purchase.
The classic FEBO pick is kroketten (croquettes), a perfectly salty, crunchy, deep-fried treat.
Where to try it: You’ll find FEBO outlets all over town. The closest one to the river cruise port is a 12-minute walk away on Oudezijds Voorburgwal in the Red Light District.