How To Spend A Day In Black-Owned Amsterdam
By Shontel Horne
History and modernity collide in Amsterdam, a city that boldly embraces its past while it builds an even more progressive future. Known for the red-light district, 165 gorgeous canals within the city, parks, and landmarks like the Anne Frank House and the Van Gogh Museum, the capital of the Netherlands offers a unique experience that can’t fully (by law) be captured in pictures and videos.
Visitors travel to Amsterdam from around the world to have a good time, but the city also has a rich black heritage that often gets overlooked. The Dutch Kingdom was prominent in the transatlantic slave trade, and as a result, the Netherlands has a vast black history that can be unearthed if you know where to look, so use this guide to locate landmarks inspired by black culture and to find out how you can support black-owned businesses during a trip to Amsterdam.
Stay at a black-owned, women-only hostel
Bianca Brasdorp left her marketing career behind to open her hostel called Hostelle in 2012. Amsterdam’s first and only all-female hostel, Hostelle has beautiful dormitory-style accommodations and is the perfect choice if you’re exploring Amsterdam on a budget or you’re traveling with a large group.
Step back in time during a black history tour of Amsterdam
Let Surinamese-American Jennifer Tosch be your guide as you tour the streets of Amsterdam while learning about the little-known presence and contributions of the African Diaspora in the Netherlands with Black Heritage Tours. Inspired by her quest to learn more about her late mother’s Surinamese history, Tosch leads tourists through landmarks, some of the only black-owned buildings in Amsterdam, and to monuments that tell the story of the Dutch Kingdom’s role in the transatlantic slave trade.
Get “coffee” at African Blackstar Coffeeshop
There’s so much more to Amsterdam than weed culture, but there’s no denying that it’s a huge draw. African Blackstar Coffeeshop is one of few black-owned coffee shops/licensed dispensaries in Amsterdam, so if you’re going to engage, why not spend your euro at a black-owned business? They also really do serve coffee and you’ll find more locals than tourists here, and fun fact: in Amsterdam, when a business says “coffeeshop” it means the establishment is a dispensary, while “coffeehouse or café” means it’s a regular restaurant.
Have breakfast at Water & Brood
“Good Food, No Bullshit” is the mantra at Water & Brood, a chic restaurant located near many of Amsterdam’s famous museums and attractions where owners and brothers Rachid and Taraq Hok-Ahin serve everything from chicken and waffles and acai bowls to dishes inspired by their Surinamese roots.
Visit the National Slavery Monument
Late Surinamese artist Erwin de Vries created the Slavery Monument located in Oosterpark, which was unveiled in 2002 commemorating the July 1863 abolishment of slavery in Holland, Suriname, and the Dutch Antilles.
Stop by African Kitchen for lunch
Open since 2004, the goal of African Kitchen is to serve quality food to Africans visiting and living in the Netherlands and to introduce the unique flavors to Amsterdam natives. Here you’ll find West African soups, grilled or fried fish, and Jollof rice, and the restaurant also throws parties every Friday.
Ride bikes to Nelson Mandela Park
Nelson Mandela Park isn’t black-owned since it’s a public park, but the sprawling grounds, located in the Amsterdam-Zuidoost borough and the diverse neighborhood of Bijlmermeer, is a great place to spend the afternoon if you want to enjoy nature and hang out in a neighborhood that has a significant black population.
Go to an event at the Black Archives
The Black Archives is home to more than 3,000 books which all focus on race, colonization, feminism, and the legacy of Black Dutch writers and scientists. The venue hosts several exhibitions, film screenings, conversations, and community events every month, so if you want to learn about the Black Dutch experience of the past and present in great detail, a trip to the Black Archives is a must.
Wind down with dinner, drinks, and poetry
Craving soul food and spoken word while you’re in Amsterdam? Labyrinth is the place to be if you want to meet creative locals and enjoy exceptional cocktails by Sam Kingue Ebelle. Here you’ll find live music and poetry nearly every night of the week, and the menu is a mix of American soul food classics, Caribbean dishes, and West African flavors.
Take a day trip to Rotterdam
If you want to take a break from Amsterdam, Rotterdam is a short train ride away and has a bustling creative and culture scene of its own. Visit The Skin Studio by Luenna Jane if you’re in the mood for skin treatments designed for people of color and try the best West African food in the city at Mama Essi.