Nieuwmarkt is a cozy square, directly south from Central Station. This is a popular hangout with locals who come here for coffee, beer and meals. If the sun is out, do as the locals do and take a seat on one of the terraces outside, and order a typical Dutch beer or liqueur with a platter of bitterballen, the fried snacks that the Dutch love.
A 15th-century monument is the only building on the actual square. It was originally a gate, built as part of the city’s defense wall. During the 17th century it became a place where traders came to weigh in their goods, such as butter and cheese, before selling them throughout the city. This weighing house became known as De Waag, which means the weigh in Dutch. Check out the Gate of the Guild of Saint Luke, an intricately-carved side entrance. The interior is lit up by hundreds of candles, making the medieval-looking building a romantic place for couples to enjoy dinner in the charming restaurant.
Over 20 other cafés, coffee shops and restaurants overlook the square, and it’s a good place to find Dutch and other European cuisine. If you feel like Asian sushi, noodles or duck, head to the northwest corner of the square to explore the rather small Chinatown with cheaper food. Don’t miss the Buddhist temple that stands in stark contrast with the narrow gabled houses surrounding it.
Farmers’ stalls sell fresh fruit, vegetables and flowers on the square on Saturdays. Every Sunday between May and October, there’s an antique market where you’ll find unique furnishings from the past, kitschy souvenirs, and secondhand clothing. Check out the artistically decorated bench made up of Portuguese-style tiles near the canal. This square is often used for concerts, national celebrations and fairs, with the annual Zeedijk street festival attracting hundreds of locals.
From Central Station, cross the canal, turn left and follow the narrow street called Zeedijk to Nieuwmarkt: a 10-minute walk. The square has a metro station, the easiest public transport option. There are parking lots in the city center, but spaces are limited.