The Greener Guide to Seeing the Amsterdam More Sustainably

See thousands of exotic species at the centuries-old De Hortus Botanical Garden
See thousands of exotic species at the centuries-old De Hortus Botanical Garden | © Paul Grecaud /
Imogen Lepere

Everything from your morning cup of coffee to your nightly place to stay has been carefully considered on this curated list of light-touch things to do in the Dutch capital.

Gezellig is a Dutch concept that roughly translates as “cosy”, and it’s the perfect word to describe the narrow lanes of Amsterdam’s core, with its canalside buildings and cuddled-up tulip stands. Tootle just a few minutes further out on your bicycle to discover up-and-coming creative neighbourhoods and some of the best clubs in Europe. For all its history, the Dutch capital has its eyes on the future. It’s now the first city in the world to embrace “the doughnut” economic model, which puts the needs of the environment and people at the centre, before economic growth. It’s also well on its way to reducing carbon emissions by 40 percent by 2025 using wind turbines.

1. De Hortus Botanical Garden


Reflections of the glasshouses of the botanical garden in Amsterdam, Netherlands
© christophe cappelli / Alamy Stock Photo

One of the oldest botanical gardens in the world, this lush corner of the city was founded in 1638 in order to supply doctors with medicinal herbs to treat the plague. Today, it’s home to thousands of rare species, including a 2,000-year-old agave cactus. Peruse three glasshouses before recharging with tea and cake on the sunny terrace of its organic cafe, the Orangery.

2. Hotel Boat & Co

Luxury, Apartment

Stylish Fifties-style furniture and a cheery colour scheme in the living-dining-kitchen space of Hotel Boat and Co
Courtesy of Hotel Boat and Co /

Overlooking the water of the Western Docklands, this fun aparthotel is a visual feast thanks to rounded Fifties-style furniture and a cheery colour scheme. The building was constructed from sustainable materials and cunningly incorporates solar panels and nesting boxes into its Art Deco-inspired design. The two terraces that spill directly onto the waterfront are the true trump card.

3. Restaurant de Kas

Restaurant, European, Mediterranean, Gluten-free, Vegetarian, Vegan

The converted greenhouse dining room of Restaurant de Kas in Amsterdam
© Ronald Hoeben / Restaurant de Kas

Set in a converted greenhouse on the outskirts of the city in a disused municipal nursery, De Kas is a locavore’s dream. Almost all ingredients served in multi-course set menus are grown in hydroponic greenhouses on site or in the restaurant’s own fields, just outside the city, and cooked on the day they’re harvested.

4. Waterlooplein Flea Market


A heart-shaped stack of used book for sale at the Waterlooplein Flea Market
© Donatella D'anniballe /

The oldest flea market in the country sees 300 stalls spring up every day except Sunday in the hip De Pijp district. Flick through vinyls, scan unsigned sketches (there are still lots of Rembrandts unaccounted for, after all), slip into leather jackets and fall in love with antique curios for your home. If you’ve caught the bargain buzz, there are also several second-hand shops on nearby Haarlemmerdijk.

5. Hotel Jakarta

Boutique Hotel

The stunning bamboo and glass interiors with palm trees of the energy-neutral Hotel Jakarta in Amsterdam
Courtesy of Hotel Jakarta /

This striking wedge of glass perches on Java-eiland, a man-made island in the Eastern Docklands, where ships used to set out for the Tropics. Interiors cleverly nod to this history through bamboo panelling and Indonesian artwork. Aside from being pretty easy on the eye, it’s also one of the first energy-neutral hotels in the Netherlands. Rainwater is collected and used to spray the indoor tropical garden, and even staff uniforms are made by a sustainable Dutch fashion label.

6. Amsterdamse Bos

Forest, Park

A woman enjoys a solitary walk among the trees at the Amsterdamse Bos
© Nicky Terink /
Three times the size of New York’s Central Park, the Amsterdamse Bos is a tapestry of wetlands, meadows, reedbeds and woodland, haunted by a cast of colourful critters, including birds of prey. You can enquire at the visitor’s centre about hiring a canoe to explore Lake Grote Vijver, or head straight to Ridammerhoeve, a biodynamic goat farm that serves its own products at the terraced cafe.

7. Four Elements

Eco Hotel

The earthy stylish lounge area at Four Elements in Amsterdam
Courtesy of Four Elements /

Rising out of Ijmeer Lake like a modern-day Atlantis, this minimal hotel is a testament to the power of human innovation. Its natural air-con system was inspired by African termite hills, and the entire building is covered in solar panels, with excess energy stored underground for later use. Tuck into locally sourced, seasonal plates underneath a hanging garden in the Herbs Garden Restaurant.

8. Café de Ceuvel

Bar, Cafe, Restaurant, Contemporary

Located in a thriving community of creative and social enterprises on a former shipyard overlooking the Johan van Hasselt canal, this sustainable restaurant and bar is a favourite with trendy millennials having in-depth discussions about the planet. The owners are constantly looking for ways to rethink the food chain to be less intensive and more equal. Current initiatives include carbon-neutral coffee from Kaap Koffie – a fair-trade, zero-waste company, with emission-free distribution – and offering subsidised meals to those on a tight budget who want to consume more responsibly.

Culture Trip Summer Sale

Save up to $1,395 on our unique small-group trips! Limited spots.

Edit article