There was a time when eating out in Amsterdam was relatively good value but, with the introduction of the Euro on the 1st of January 2002, replacing the Dutch Guilder at the rate of 2.20371 guilders to one Euro, the owners of cafes, restaurants and take-aways leaped upon the opportunity to more than double their prices, in most cases simply replacing the Guilder symbol on their prices lists and menus with the Euro symbol. This sort of price-jacking was meant to be illegal but the government turned a blind eye to it, denying for a year that the currency switch had caused any inflation, despite how obvious it was to anyone actually spending money in Amsterdam.
Food for Stoners … and Prices to Match!
Nowhere in the city did business owners more enthusiastically hike their prices than in the Red Light District (and, yes, that includes the prostitutes - be sure to read our article “How much do Prostitutes Cost in the Amsterdam Red Light District?”). Food had always been sold at a premium in the Red Light District, with many bakeries and fast food take-aways artfully displaying their food to make it as visually appealing as possible to tourists stumbling out of hash cafes and struggling to deal with “the munchies” - prices are certainly set at levels that only someone on drugs would consider reasonable. Likewise, the small mini-marts selling soft drinks and snacks are also mainly targeted at the ideal stoned customer who does not bother to look at prices and only cares about getting their hands on a Red Bull right now.
The Cheapest Fast Food in the Amsterdam Red Light District
Perhaps the cheapest fast food is offered by Febo. You can’t miss their bright yellow sign on Oudezijds voorburgwal, but you probably should. They are open from noon until 3 AM and until 4 AM on Fridays and Saturdays. Our Amsterdam Red Light District map includes Febo’s location, why not print out a copy to bring with you?
As part of a chain, Febo charges more or less the same prices in the Red Light District as it does throughout the rest of the city. Even so, it is not exactly good value, we really are taking about the trashiest, most basic junk food, but that might be exactly what you are in the mood for if you have had a few joints.
Febo’s serving system is intriguing: the different food items are placed in small compartments that make up a wall, and you have to insert coins to open them. From the other side of the wall, Febo workers refill the empty compartments with freshly cooked items, so, a good trick is to wait until you see one appear and choose that. An even better trick, however, for the sake of your health, would be to go somewhere else.
Febo’s proud boast is that they are “de lekkerste!” - the tastiest - and their offerings include various burgers including chicken (kip), shoarma, cheese (kaas) and Asian (flavor, does not contain actual asians). You can get a chips with a creamy mayonnaise (which is how the Dutch prefer it) or tomato sauce (to keep the tourists happy), but I recommend getting your carbohydrate boost from the more traditionally Dutch range of krokets: fat little rolls of mashed potato mixed with other ingredients, covered in a crumb coating and fried until golden brown. The varieties of kroket include Rundvleeskroket (beef), Kalfsvleeskroket (veal), Satékroket (Indonesian-style Sate), Vitaaltje (vegetarian meat substitute), Speciaaltje (beef and pork) and Noodles (chicken, noodles, spices).
The Only Supermarket in the Amsterdam Red Light District
An even better way to save money, with the option to include vaguely healthy food, would be to go to the one and only supermarket in the Amsterdam Red Light District, Albert Hein on Nieuwmarkt, just around the corner from the shemale territory of Bloedstraat (be sure to read our article “How to Avoid Accidentally Sleeping with a Man in Amsterdam's Red Light District” or, possibly, our article “How to Find LadyBoys, Shemales and Transvestites in Red Light District of Amsterdam”, you kinky devil).
Albert Hein is notable as the purest distillation of Amsterdam’s unique approach to customer service, otherwise known as the Please-go-fuck-yourself philosophy. If you are accustomed to American or UK supermarkets, you will be pretty surprised by the staff’s dour demeanor and their general inclination to step right over things like milk spills rather than mop them up. Tough planning regulations preventing the entry of competitors into the market has essentially handed Dutch supermarket chains, of which Albert Hein is the biggest, an effective monopoly and no real reason to experiment with exotic concepts such as customer service.
All the same, you will be able to find a pretty good selection of food, with bread, cheese and alcohol being particularly good value in the Netherlands, but other items are quite expensive, especially toiletries. Ignore the apparent special offers attached to certain products - they use a bizarre system whereby you only get the 2-for-1 discount or whatever if you have an Albert Hein club card, you will simply be charged full price if you don’t. Whatever else you do, and no matter how broke you are, no matter how extortionate the price and no matter how deeply in a coma the staff appear to be, never even think of nicking even a single item in this supermarket: as the only proper supermarket in the Red Light District, they have been dealing with a procession of scum from all over the planet, every day, for years - they know all there is to know about shop-lifting and will absolutely press charges.
Organic Red Light District?
Perhaps the exact opposite of Febo, and other forms of fast “food”, is the Nieuwmarkt Farmers’ Market, or “Boerenmarkt”, where you can find organic meat, fruit, vegetables and other similarly worthy foodstuffs, including snacks you can enjoy as you stroll, such as freshly boiled corn on the cob. A market has operated on this spot since the 17th Century but strict Dutch hygiene laws ensure that the food currently offered is much fresher. You can also buy fresh flowers here, directly from the growers, although, obviously, as you are reading this guide, you probably prefer just paying for sex with cash, not expensive bouquets.
The Nieuwmarkt Farmers’ Market is open every Saturday between 8:30AM and 5PM, although you should be aware that most of the stalls start packing up at 4:30PM and are long gone by 5PM.
Cheap Restaurants Close to the Amsteram Red Light District
As it happens, there is a cluster of relatively good value Asian restaurants running along Zeedijk, just around the corner from the Nieumarkt end of the Red Light District. Now, it is work noting that native Amsterdammers consider it a bad idea to dine out in this part of down, they feel it is not clean: the sheer age of these buildings, most stretching back to the 17th Century, and the ancient underground mess of sewer and canal system, means that practically all restaurants have rat and cockroach problems. Personally, I have enjoyed some simple but entirely pleasant meals, along with a nice glass of Amstel, in some of these small Chinese or Indonesian restaurants but, then again, I did not dwell too much on the conditions that the food might have been prepared in. If, like me, you are reasonably relaxed about these things, you will find the restaurants on Zeedijk a convenient place to grab a quick meals, otherwise you should save your meals for a better part of town.
Make a Day of it, Have a Picnic
If you bring your own food with you and the weather is nice, there is a relatively nice and spacious area with public benches to the south of Nieuwmarkt, close to the Albert Hein supermarket, making it a good spot for an impromptu picnic. Close to the Klovenierburgwal canal and with lovely views of Den Waag, it makes a pleasant break from the prostitutes, junkies and scammers of the Red Light District. There is also a Chinese supermarket on the farside corner, where the Klovenierburgwal street meets Nieuwmarkt. If you decide, following your picnic, that you are all red-lighted out for the day, I suggest turning in the other direction and taking a stroll up Sint Antoinesbreestraat, where there are lots of interesting little shops and a distinct lack of hookers.
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