Hello friends, today I've got another guest post for you and today it's all about what life is like owning or visiting with a dog in Amsterdam!
You may remember I recently shared I'd be handing over this space to guest writers, as I prepare and recover from the birth of my second son, though they will still write about the same topics I do - travel (with a focus on luxury holidays and family travel), writing, and yes, lots of tips for coming to Amsterdam. And if you're here because your love of animals means you're also a vegan, you will love reading my guide to vegan Amsterdam.
I'm happy to say that today's post is about the latter, but is all about something I'm really not qualified to write about - what it's like to live with a dog or dogs in Amsterdam! Kay Winters from Paws and Pines is your guest writer today and I love this post as it perfectly captures the many ways Amsterdam is a very dog-friendly city and why you shouldn't be put off travelling to Amsterdam with a dog.
(And by the way if you'd like to write a guest post for As the Bird flies, here's where you can find out more.)
"Hondje, hondje!" squeal toddlers passing by my dog.
"Mag ik aaien?" ask Dutch children as they run up to me in the park and ask to pet my dog.
Everywhere I go in Amsterdam, my dog pulls me into conversations with strangers. But I don't mind; I've actually made some really good friends this way, and I love talking about my dog!
Five Reasons to Love Living in Amsterdam With a Dog
Living with a dog in Amsterdam is such a joy because the city and its residents are so animal-friendly. With a relaxed attitude towards off-leash policies and plenty of dog-friendly places and businesses around, my dog is known to tag along with me even when I'm doing a day of errands. Today I'd like to share the many reasons why life with dogs in Amsterdam is a good one!
Having lived in De Pijp with my dog over the years during my time in the Dutch capital, I'm here to share the top reasons why I life is good if you are planning on living or travelling with a dog or dogs in Amsterdam.
Dogs will love the many green spaces in the city
For a relatively dense city, I'm always pleasantly surprised by the number of green spaces in Amsterdam.. Luckily, all of them are (in-part) dog-friendly so you can always enjoy the greenery and outdoors with your favorite pooch.
Sarphatipark is my dog's absolute favorite park because there are always other dogs there ready to play! It's one of the smaller parks in the city, but that also works to an advantage because there's really only one main area in which dogs can run around and its fairly well-contained. This close proximity gets them to play with each other more often than at other parks. Given the smaller play area, people also don't bring dogs that may have a problematic disposition so I've rarely seen any dog tussles here. The park is split in half by a large pond: half of the park is dog-friendly; the other side is for people and ducks. On hot days, dogs will jump into the pond to swim around. On super cold days, the pond freezes over and you can walk across!
Other nice (dog-friendly) parks include Flevopark, Oosterpark, Beatrixpark, and the strip of green (Amsteldijk) along the Amstel River.
Of all the parks in Amsterdam, I would actually recommend skipping Vondelpark (Amsterdam's principal green space) as it is far too crowded and filled with too many opportunities for my dog to scavenge food carelessly tossed around.
There are lots of dog-friendly bars, cafes, and restaurants
There are so many dog-friendly restaurants from which to choose. Most European-style restaurants will allow dogs, provided that your dog behaves well and they're not too busy.
When bringing your dog to a restaurant, try to visit at off-peak times and do not assume that your dog is allowed but if you're polite and ask you are more likely to be welcome than not. You'll also see dog bowls already set up outside on bar and cafe terraces so that's a good sign! However, it's important to understand that any restaurant always has the right to deny entry to your dog for any reason. If you're worried you can always give them a quick call ahead to confirm.
I've dined with my dog at many restaurants, but here are my favorites:
JD Williams: a top-notch whiskey bar with a resident corgi. Try their Vietnamese summer rolls and the Karaage Donburi. I don't drink alcohol, but I still go there frequently for that exact meal - every time.
Sir Hummus: serving fresh hummus bowls with a variety of delicious toppings. I always thought I wasn't a hummus person because I always hated the hummus at grocery stores. But nope, I love hummus! The ones at the grocery store are just not fresh. Also, they definitely spoil my doggie here by bringing her large chunks of their slow-cooked beef.
Bulls & Dogs: a creative hotdog and loaded fries shop, best known for their decadent and super creative milkshakes.
Friends & Foes: not a restaurant, but a game cafe where you can play from hundreds of their open games. My doggie can sit under the table here for a few hours with her favorite dog chews while my friends and I try out a few board games.
Coffee & Coconuts: with a laid-back vibe, this cafe/restaurant serves drinks and interesting fusion foods. Perfect for working in off-peak hours, with your doggie hanging out on the sofa next to you.
China Sichuan Restaurant: I've never been to another Chinese restaurant that allows dogs, but this one's a hit. Not only have I visited twice with my dog, the (spicy! hot! Sichuan!) food is one of my favorites in the city.
Sushito: serving poke bowls/burritos that are the best value for your money in Amsterdam. It's perfect to eat-in with your dog, or take-away and eat at nearby Sarphatipark.
One quick tip, the 'no dogs allowed' symbol in Amsterdam is a dog with a red circle around it. Initially, I interpreted this sign as 'dog-friendly' because I assumed the 'no dogs' sign would cross out the dog. Turns out 'no dogs' is a dog enclosed by a red circle. 'Dog-friendly' is a dog enclosed by a green circle.
There's a very supportive dog community in Amsterdam
It's super easy living in Amsterdam with a dog because of the supportive community that loves caring for animals. The veterinarians here provide great care for a super affordable price, there is no shortage of dog-walkers and dog-sitters at fantastic rates, and the dog community is extremely friendly and helpful.
Expats with Dogs in Amsterdam is my go-to place if I'm ever wondering about anything dog (or cat) related, particularly as it relates to living in Amsterdam so everyone is very knowledgeable and happy to share advice. I've learned so much from this group including fun dog-friendly day trip ideas around the city, where to buy raw dog food, setting up doggie play dates, and any local dog news that I should be aware of.
If you find a stray dog, a lost cat, or an injured animal, you can call the Dierenambulance (the animal ambulance) and they will come to transport the animal. Injured animals will get cared for, and lost animals will get registered on their website and transported to a temporary shelter.
I've actually used the Dierenambulance myself. as a dog that I frequently see at Sarphatipark was running around by herself in the empty park around 19.00 so I called the Dierenambulance to take her. Turns out, a friend was supposed to be dog-sitting, but the dog managed to slip out because she wanted to play at the park! I ran into the dog's caretaker a week later and she was so grateful for my having called the Dierenambulance. I'm just grateful the Dierenambulance works so well and it's a bit relieving to know that if my dog does get lost, there's one number that many people know to call.
Pawshake is also an easy-to-use website to find reliable walkers and sitters for a great price. You can schedule a free meet-and-greet and read through customer reviews to find the perfect sitter for you.
Amsterdam is easy to get around, even with a dog!
With bike lanes all throughout the country, it's extremely convenient to bike around to explore new areas. On shorter trips (i.e., less than 20 minutes), we've taught my dog to run alongside our bikes on a leash. It's a great way to get her exercise and to get her to parks that are a bit further away.
On long bikes rides (i.e., to Amsterdam Forest), we actually pull out our dog bike trailer! These are trailer attachments that you can affix to the back of your bike in less than 5 seconds. With two sturdy wheels and lots of flaps for ventilation and sight-seeing, it's a great way to bring your doggie to explore the country with you. If you're looking to purchase one, you can also refer to this dog bike trailer buying guide that I wrote based on the research I compiled during my own shopping experience.
For longer trips, we can take our dog on the tram, the Metro, and the trains.
On trams, buses, and trains within the Metro system, smaller dogs (that can fit in a bag, basket, or your lap) travel for free. Larger dogs need a € 3,10 ticket.
For Intercity trains, you must purchase a dog ticket that is generally 50% of the price of a full fare ticket.
One challenge that I currently still have is how to travel to different countries with my dog. There are a few trains (like the Thalys to Paris) that are dog-friendly, but most are not unless your dog can be transported in a bag. I wouldn't want to fly with my dog because I've heard too many horror stories about dogs in the cargo hold. Popular budget options like Flixbus do not allow dogs.
Luckily, we can still travel by car! And we often do...
You're in a great position to explore more of Europe... with your dog!
Having grown up in the US, I've always wanted to experience living and working in Europe. At least part of the reason I finally made the move to Amsterdam was the allure of being able to travel with my dog. It's heartbreaking having to leave her behind when I travel because having been rescued from a shelter, she does have some issues with separation anxiety.
It's so fun being able to road trip with your dog through Europe! If you love outdoor adventures, it's a joy to be able to hike with a happy doggie running along beside you.
I'm pretty sure my dog's favorite was our trip to the Swiss Alps. We went in early May but many of the lifts were not yet open due to the snow. Because the gondola from Mürren to Allmendhubel was closed, we hiked up on our own and were rewarded with a mountain views completely to ourselves! My dog had a blast running through the snow banks and chasing after our snowballs.
On another day, we rode the train from Mürren to Lauterbrunnen. She loved sticking her head partially out of the window, her beagle ears flapping with the wind. I wish you could have seen the joy in her face! You can't help but feel happy seeing such a happy dog.
Of all the countries we've visited so far, Italy was (by far!) the most dog-friendly. Everywhere we went, the locals would exclaim how beautiful she was. We had no problems dining at any restaurant, and she was even offered a seat at a number of them!
There are also so many options for dog-friendly accommodation so it's not really something you have to worry about. While our room was not the best in some hotels because they designate certain less desirable rooms as "pet-friendly", some hotels go above and beyond. At one hotel in Paris, we had booked a standard room but when we arrived, were upgraded to the penthouse suite that had a huge balcony terrace with views of the Arc de Triomphe "to give the dog a bit more space to relax"!
These are just some of the reasons why it's such a joy living in Amsterdam with a dog. I haven't even covered things you can do in Amsterdam (i.e., boating through the canals), or day-trips you can plan with your dog (i.e., apple-picking, Keukenhof, or Noordwijk). If you've been thinking of adopting a dog, I'd say it's as good a city as any and you'll receive a lot of support from friends and strangers, alike.
One small warning about living with dogs in Amsterdam...
However, do note that it's not ALL fun and games! There are real drawbacks to having a dog in the city too. The most pervasive issue is trying to find a pet-friendly apartment on a budget. The housing market in Amsterdam is already so competitive even without a dog. Additionally, having a dog is a big responsibility and you need to ensure that you can dedicate the time and money to care for your dog properly.
If you do decide to adopt one, perhaps we'll cross paths at Sarphatipark one day!
About the author
Kay Winters writes about living an eco-friendly lifestyle over at Paws and Pines. In 2016, she accidentally ended up in Amsterdam because of work and fell in love with the city. Since then, she's been on a mission to live a zero-waste lifestyle in Amsterdam with her husband, dog, and two cats. You can find Kay on Instagram and Facebook.
Thanks so much Kay! And if you'd like to save or share this post, here are some images you can pin:
Looking for more travel advice for Amsterdam?
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Frances M. Thompson
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