Looking for things to do with your dog in Amsterdam, Netherlands? Is Amsterdam dog-friendly? Keep on sniffing!
HALLO, escapaders! I’m excited to bark about Amsterdam, Netherlands – one of the coolest AND dog-friendliest cities in the world. Coined “Venice of the North,” Amsterdam is the home to historic canals, crazily narrow and skewed houses, “coffee” shops, Anne Frank House, and of course, the raunchy Red Light District. Cyclists may flood the streets, but I’m hitting the ground running on all four paws. Don’t be surprised to see a dog inside a bicycle basket as dogs rule the town. In addition to a nationwide NO STRAY policy, the Netherlands has strong protections against animal cruelty and abandonment. WOOF-HOO, gotta love the Dutch for being dog-lovin’ and progressive. After marking it up in this funky Holland capital 3x (including a one-month-long stay), I’ve assimilated quickly into the canine Dutch culture. Here’s my list of Top 10 Things to do with Your Dog in Amsterdam:
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#1 Roam around Dam Square
OK, if you and your dog wanna play tourists in Amsterdam, then Dam Square is the spot to mark it up. As the main public square, Dam Square is one of the most famous, frequently visited places in the city and Netherlands. Just south of Centraal Station, this 13th Century 200-meter square was initially built as a dam on the Amstel River. It’s also home to the 17th Century neoclassical Royal Palace, the former grand residence of the Dutch Royal family and once the largest secular building in Europe. Since this square is quite massive, it doesn’t typically get too crowded, making it an ideal spot to take pictures of your dog or take a quick water break (don’t forget to pack water bowls and bottled water). My little Sherlock wet nose also sniffed out a good mixture of tourists and locals passing through the square. Despite numerous restaurants and food stands nearby, I tend to turn my nose up at them as they’re likely tourist traps.
#2 Chill on a rooftop lounge
WOOF, I take pride in being from California, but Amsterdam is paws down funkier and hipper than my hometown San Francisco. Heck, it even has a growing tech scene with open, bright-colored office spaces like a typical startup in Silicon Valley. With an atmosphere that’s so top dog cool, you can only imagine the nightlife scene here. As the alpha dog, I like to sniff and get sniffed at rooftop bars and lounges in the city, which boast tail-wagging panoramic city views. Although their posh contemporary designs resemble rooftop lounges in glitzy Los Angeles, most spots in Amsterdam are laid-back and far from pretentious. ARF, did I bark that these rooftop hangouts are also dog-friendly? For a more relaxing experience with your dog, walk those paws in during the afternoon or early evening without the blasting music. Hit up my go-to spot Canvas (on the 7th floor at Volkshotel) for a breakfast buffet or late drinks with the sunset over city views.
#3 Tilt your heads to crooked houses on the canal
Like Venice, the canals are an integral part of the city’s identity. With 90 islands and 1,500 bridges spanning nearly 500 acres, Amsterdam is a canal city. As I rest my tiny paws by the canals, my brown eyes are captured by skinny, often leaning forward houses along the water. ARF, my humans and I all tilt our heads in awe to these Pisa-like, sinking houses built on wooden poles. A local told us that the canal houses suffer from ongoing foundation problems. Mostly constructed during the 17th Century or the Golden Age of the city, these multi-level, multi-purpose gable-roof canal abodes were once homes to the wealthy Dutch. Thankfully, we don’t need to be millionaires to enjoy some of its eccentricity. Get your furry paws on some snacks and drinks, picnic by the canal, and take a thorough, investigative sniff of the architectural uniqueness around you!
#4 People-watch in Jordaan
Supposedly named after the French word Jardin (garden), the neighborhood of Jordaan has numerous streets named after trees and flowers. After my very first visit, I was already sucked in by its rich culture and history. Despite a working-class history, Jordaan has transformed into a trendy, lush area filled with modern art galleries, contemporary cafe-bars, hip eateries, and boutiques. It’s also home to the Anne Frank House, which attracts long queues of international tourists every day (just like most indoor tourist attractions, dogs are generally not allowed inside but you can still take pictures with your dog outside the museum). Although Jordaan is a happening area (located near the city center in Centrum), walking your dog is still extremely doable – remember to keep your dog on a leash for safety and watch out for cyclists. My go-to spot for prime people and dog-watching is Cafe Sonneveld (Egelantiersgracht 72 74).
#5 Take a stroll on the waterfront of Eastern Docklands
During my first visit to Amsterdam, I roamed up and down the waterfront of Eastern Docklands every single day. With a wide, red-brick walkway and calm atmosphere, this non-touristy area is one of the best off the beaten path places to take your dog. Eastern Docklands is a gentrified port area with old brick warehouses transformed into funky art studios, bright tech startup offices, contemporary residential lofts (for young professionals), and trendy hipster restaurants. Besides modern urban Dutch design, I also enjoy sniffing the grounds of the historical Lloyd Hotel. This lovely hotel served various purposes over the years – a temporary residence for immigrants, then a prison and detention center, and later an art studio.
#6 Explore the city’s parks and open green spaces
WOOF, it’s time to mark it up! As the most populous city in the Netherlands, Amsterdam did not fall short of dog-friendly parks and green spaces. Please remember to be a respectful visitor by always cleaning up after your dog. Here are just a few places where I like to rake my feet:
Oosterpark – Located in Oost, Oosterpark is a massive park with monuments (including one for the National Slavery Monument), grassy fields, waterfront views, ponds, and of course, off-leash dog areas.
Vondelpark – In the borough of Zuid, Vondelpark is PAWS DOWN the most visited and largest park in the city, with a whopping 120 acres of fun butt sniffs. It also has a cool dog run.
Sarphatipark – A small quaint park with ponds and an off-leash dog area near De Pijp and Albert Cuyp Market. Although there is one NO DOG grass zone, the rest of the park is dog-friendly otherwise.
Rembrandtpark – Named after the 17th Century painter, Rembrandtpark boasts 110 acres in Nieuw-West with a gigantic brown, floppy-eared dog statue on the bridge! *Please do me a favor by skipping the petting zoo at this park. Petting zoos exploit animals by taking them out of their natural habitat (or breeding them in captivity) and then place them under enormous stress through forced human interaction. Find out other ways you can help animals while traveling.
Beatrixpark – With aesthetically landscaped walkways, Beatrixpark is well-maintained, clean, and relatively quiet compared to the city’s famous parks. Named after Queen Beatrix, this local park also has a popular off-leash area.
#7 Fill up your tummy in De Pijp
Resting south of the city center in the borough of Zuid, De Pijp is arguably one of the best foodie neighborhoods in the city. ARF, so let’s get chompin’! From chops’ lickin’ tagine to savory pad thai to beg-worthy shawarmas, I will stare these goodies down until I WILL them to my little mouth! De Pijp is foodie heaven where I can grease up my paws from food from all over the world. Historically ruffin’ it with residents of the working class, De Pijp is now like the alpha dog hood. Hanging out here is TOP DOG cool. With vegetarianism/veganism on the rise throughout the city, be sure to sniff out De Waaghals. And, yes – dogs ARE allowed inside most restaurants (and bars) in Amsterdam. From hipster pizza joints to traditional Dutch restaurants, I’ve stomped right in with all four paws and sat my furry butt comfortably on a human chair!
#8 Sunbathe in Weesperzijde
On the street of Weesperzijde (in the neighborhood of the same name), I wagged my stylish tail to sniff out some sunbathing picnic gatherings of 20 to 30-year-olds and their dogs along the eastside of Amstel River. In the summertime, this street (roughly from Schollenbrugstraat to Burmanstraat) gets quite lively with youthful Dutch picnic-goers and daring swimmers by the late afternoon or early evening. Even if you’re not down for a sunbathe or snack along the river, this street makes a scenic stroll with your dog in the morning or early afternoon as it comprises a wide brick walkway with an adjacent grass area. Needless to bark, there is plenty of space for me to MARK IT UP. As most Dutch are dog-lovers, I became quite popular on my daily walks here. My teddy bear face and soft brown eyes are my secret weapons to getting a treat or two :).
#9 Blend in with The Night Watch at Rembrandtplein Square
Named after the artist Rembrandt van Rijn who resided nearby in 1600s, Rembrandtplein Square has a history dating back to the Middle Ages with defensive walls to protect the city. It later served as a public space for nightlife artists, and now it’s a gathering place for locals, tourists, and nightlife party-goers. Their main attraction is the life-size bronze The Night Watch monument, a stellar representation of The Night Watch painting by Rembrandt from the 17th Century Golden Age. Depicting a group of militiamen and a fabulous military dog, this sculpture was presented to the square in 2006 to honor Rembrandt’s 400th birthday. My wet nose randomly stumbled upon this magnificent sculpture, leading me to greet the great watchdog statue with a little sniff. As you can see in my picture, The Night Watch monument features an adorable watchdog barking at the drummer’s feet. WOOF, I think I blend in pretty well – what about your dog? 🙂
WOOF: Just a quick bark that Rembrandtplein Square is actually in a different location from the park (of the same name), as mentioned earlier.
#10 Walk through the Red Light District (ONLY during off-hours)
A BARK OF CAUTION: I do NOT necessarily recommend taking your dog to the Red Light District because it can get VERY raunchy and crowded at night with inescapable second-hand smoke. However, if you’re adamant about checking the notorious Red Light District off your list, then yes, you CAN do so safely with your dog during off-hours (typically before 10 pm). The ladies will always be there, even during the day (but, of course, you’ll generally see more action on a prime Friday or Saturday evening with the craziness starting around 10ish/11 pm).
With that barked, I have been carried through here in the arms of my human during my first Amsterdam trip; however, it was mostly in earlier in the evening before the crowds (and smokers) took over. I’ve explored the main street of Oudezijds Achterburgwal and then cut into a few side streets. However, we left as soon as it started to feel congested. Therefore, I can suggest a quick carry-thru with a dog for those who really want to see this out-of-the-ordinary scene, BUT please do so during off-peak hours when streets are relatively quiet. Gauge the environment – if it starts to feel rowdy or smell smokey (2nd hand smoke), LEAVE and don’t put your dog through such unnecessary stress and toxic air. You can always return on your own time. While you cannot take pictures of the workers at their windows out of respect for their privacy, you can still snap a few pictures on the main street (as long as the ladies are not visible).
What is the Red Light District? De Wallen or the Red Light District is where legalized prostitution comes to life in Amsterdam. Intrigued tourists from all over the world flock to this neighborhood to take a glimpse – well, NOT necessarily as customers. ARF, I’m not going to lie. Going through the Red Light District IS very strange and fascinating if you’ve never seen anything like it before; potential customers “shop” for “workers” or ladies of their liking via glass door windows, and then negotiate the price. Once a transaction is agreed upon, the curtains are closed from the public eye.
More Dog-Friendly Tips in Amsterdam:
Uber: Taking Uber with your dog in Amsterdam can be a hit or miss. It essentially boils down to the driver. Unfortunately, I was denied so many times that my humans started putting me inside a carrier before getting picked up. My experience with Uber in Amsterdam has been paws down the WORST out of all the countless cities I’ve used the ridesharing app. It seems as though we were mostly matched up with drivers of a certain religion who generally do NOT like dogs or view them as “unclean.” 🙁 Therefore, if you have a small dog, make sure you put him or her inside a carrier before your ride shows up. OR you can simply call ahead of time to make sure the driver is okay with your dog. It can save you a lot of time and frustration.
Coffeeshop: OK, it’s not what you think! In Amsterdam, you don’t go to a “coffeshop” to down espresso and skim People magazine for the latest celebrity gossip. Instead, coffeeshops are where you can legally buy and smoke cannabis in the city. While visiting a coffee shop seems like a “When in Rome”-type thing to do, it’s not something you should experience with your dog. Coffeeshops have poor ventilation inside with inescapable second-hand smoke, which is dangerous to both humans and dogs. While humans can usually choose to walk away from smokers, dogs cannot. Your dog will not be able to escape the polluted air even in outdoor seating. Hence, please do your dog a favor by leaving him or her at home.
Hope you enjoy taking your dog to Amsterdam! Feel free to share your experience – BARK AT ME!
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Markin’ it up,
Roger Wellington a.k.a. The Doob