A blog about (hidden) Amsterdam


A blog about (hidden) Amsterdam

Historic Outdoor Seating in Amsterdam

5 ways to Amsterdam like a local

Amsterdam comes alive when the sun comes back each spring. Every evening, each neighborhood rings with laughter from the patios for outdoor drinking and dining. Every bar, café and restaurant that’s able to will open a terras.

What is a terras, you ask? Well, it’s Amsterdam’s answer to alfresco drinking and dining in a city where space is at a premium. While some do live up to terras’ literal translation of terrace, some cafe patios commandeer the sidewalk or even traffic-ways. Café de Magere Brug extends its terras onto the busy Magere Brug, moving the bike traffic to the side.

Like everything in this city, there are some with deep historical roots. These are our five favorite Amsterdam terraces with historic connections:

  1. In De Waag. It’s hard to get more historic than Nieuwmarkt. The castle-looking building that houses the café was originally a city gate before becoming a tax office, guild hall and museum. Rembrandt’s famous painting, “The Anatomy Lesson”, depicts a dissection that happened here. For centuries, the plaza next to the patio has been home to markets, festivals, protests and – briefly – executions. Nowadays, the drama to watch is locals navigating their bikes through recently arrived pedestrians.
  2. Café Schiller. Let’s be honest: even the most beautiful Amsterdam sunset has trouble competing with the Amsterdam art deco décor inside this cafe. Its small terras, however, has more than a great view. It was an early 20th-century theater hangout that saw the goodbye between renowned Jewish actress Heintje Davids and her journalist husband when their wedding celebration was interrupted by news of the outbreak of the First World War.
  3. Café de Jaren. While most of the outdoor seating on the list is next to street and sidewalk traffic, De Jaren overlooks boat traffic. This airy restaurant has a patio on the water where the Amstel meets the canals of the inner city. It’s also in a building where the city wall used to be and whose previous occupants included Rembrandt van Rijn and his wife Saskia.
  4. Brasserie Nel. This tree-adorned plaza on the Prinsengracht would place on any list of Amsterdam’s most beautiful terraces. It also has the city’s religious conflict written in architecture. It’s located in the Amstelkerk, which was built to be a temporary wooden church for the dominant Dutch Reform faith during the expansion of the Canal Belt. Due to complicated politics, it was still standing two centuries later when Catholics were allowed to worship openly again and built the imposing stone church, De Duif, directly across the canal.
  5. De Ysbreker. The long lines on any remotely sunny day mean this might be Amsterdam’s most popular outdoor dining spot. Its name comes from the days when it used to be a way station for the boats bringing clean water into an overcrowded city. It also became a popular meeting place for Jewish and Socialist intellectuals in the early 20th There’s a striking story of the café emptying out within an hour of news of the Nazi invasion, never to be full again until the war was over.

We have to add one extra recommendation, even though we’re not totally sure it counts as an Amsterdam terras because it’s in a courtyard. Café-Restaurant De Plantage has a patio within the Artis, the country’s oldest zoo. Rather than the traditional violin, you can have your meal serenaded by exotic birds.

Whichever terras you choose, make sure to spend sunny hours outside. It’s the Amsterdam way!

And hey, if you join us on one of our tours, you’ll have plenty to talk about while you terras afterward. 😉

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