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Amsterdam is home to more than 60 miles of canals, most of which are navigable by boat—though most locals get around on bicycle. (Photograph by JOHN BRACEGIRDLE/Alamy Stock Photo)

Shawn Ruth’s Amsterdam

Originally from the southern Netherlands, Shawn Ruth van Heuckelum moved to Amsterdam in 2009. Since then she’s lived in nearly every part of the Dutch capital—a city, she says, that has far more to offer than tulips and clogs.

A passionate writer, explorer, and foodie, Shawn Ruth shares her insider intel about the  latest and greatest restaurants, attractions, and experiences with the world as a blogger for Spotted by Locals.

“Amsterdam always surprises me…in the moments when I least expect it,” she says. “Even after years of living here, sometimes I still get lost, not only in the small streets but also in the beauty this city has to offer.”

Here are a few of Shawn Ruth’s favorite things about the place she’s proud to call home.

Amsterdam Is My City

When someone comes to visit me, the first place I take them is for a stroll along the canals toward the de Pijp district to show off the local side of Amsterdam.

Summer is the best time to visit my city because Amsterdam has its own beach and outdoor swimming pool, stunning parks, happy people, and ice-cold IJwit beer from a local brewery. What’s not to love?

You can see my city best from the Canvas Club on the roof of the Volkshotel.

Locals know to skip the touristy places and check out the little hot spots outside the city center, such as Café de Weteringinstead.

The Albert Cuyp Market is the place to buy authentic, local souvenirs. Look for tulips, clogs, candy, and homemade Dutch cheese.

In the past, notable people like Johan Cruyff, Kirk Douglas and Multatuli have called my city home.

My city’s best museum is the Stedelijk Museum because it reflects the modern vibe of the city.

If there’s one thing you should know about getting around my city, it’s that Amsterdam is a bicycle jungle. Join the madness by hopping on a fancy rental bike to crisscross the city and get a taste of how the Dutchies get around.

The best place to spend time outdoors in my city is at Vondelpark, Amsterdam’s communal backyard. If you prefer a quieter park, visit Westerpark on the west end of town. Make sure to stop at Pacific Parc while you’re there!

My city really knows how to celebrate King’s Day. The city becomes a sea of orange, our national color, as locals celebrate the Dutch king’s birthday and keep the festive fun going with dance parties and outdoor markets.

You can tell if someone is from my city if you see them cycling in a suit or high heels.

For a fancy night out, I go to the Conservatorium Hotel, where dedicated bartenders serve up the best gin and tonics in town.

Just outside my city, you can visit Bloemendaal aan Zee, a beach directly west of Amsterdam where you can windsurf, swim, or relax at one of the beach clubs, such as Woodstock 69.

My city is known for its Red Light District and liberal marijuana policy, but it’s really so much more!

The best outdoor market in my city is the Neighborfood Market.

Coffee and Coconuts is my favorite place to grab breakfast, and Happyhappyjoyjoy is the spot for late-night eats.

To find out what’s going on at night and on the weekends, read Spotted by Locals or Your Little Black Book. These up-to-date guides tell you where to eat, dance, shop, even sleep.

When I’m feeling cash-strapped, I book a dinner through Bohobees, a Dutch online platform where travelers and locals can meet up to share a plate and a story. You can always eat for less than €10.

To escape the crowds, I visit the Amsterdamse Bos. If the weather allows, stroll around and get lost in this beautiful forest away from the busy center.

The dish that represents my city best is bitterballen (savory meatballs) or herring and Zatte, the classic beer from microbrewery Brouwerij ‘t IJ, is my city’s signature drink. Sample them at Haringstal A. van Dok and Oedipus Brewing respectively.

The Waterhole is the best place to see live music, but if you’re in the mood to dance, check out Chicago Social Club.

Grabbing a nosh from a Febo “snack wall” could only happen in my city.

In the spring you should go to Café de Ceuvel in Amsterdam Noord. This eatery and “urban retreat” attracts the creative set and will give you new energy.

In the summer you should organize a BBQ in Vondelpark. It’s a giant green space where locals play Frisbee, celebrate their birthday, visit the Open Air Theatre, or just chill on the grass with their guitar.

In the fall you should go to de Drie Graefjes for high tea after a day of shopping around the De Negen Straatjes (Nine Streets) or on Kalverstraat.

In the winter you should go to Louis to drink red wine and play board games when it’s cold outside.

If you have kids (or are a kid at heart), you won’t want to miss Nemo, a science discovery museum near Central Station.

The best book about my city is Millennium of Amsterdam: A Spatial History of a Marvellous City by Fred Feddes because he makes the city’s history come alive through wonderful photographs and old protest posters.