Herring in Amsterdam: A Beginner’s Guide to Enjoying This Bite

Holland and herring go together like bread and butter. Visit any city or village in the Netherlands, and you’ll see the iconic image of a young woman in traditional Dutch dress holding a herring by the tail, dangling it into her mouth. The Dutch have been catching these prized silver fish in the North Sea and preserving them in brine for hundreds of years.

They’re not only tasty, but also a great source of healthy protein and Omega 3 fatty acids. So it would be rude not to give herring a try while you’re in Amsterdam. We’re here to help you find the best places to taste herring in Amsterdam, and to guide you on how and when to eat it. Eet smakelijk!

People waiting in a line at a food stand.
Are you ready to try this Dutch delight? Photo credit: Fons Heijnsbroek

How to eat herring

Herring is the quintessential Dutch street food. Which means you’re most likely to buy it from a fishmonger or fish stall (selling a range of ready-to-eat fishy snacks, both raw and cooked) or a herring stand (known as a haringhandel). Herring is best eaten as fresh as possible, so most locals consume it standing outside next to the stall, where there’s sometimes a bar table or two.

The jury’s out on the best way to eat herring: the “Amsterdam way” is sliced into small pieces, topped with raw onion, and eaten with a toothpick (preferably with a Dutch flag on top). The “Rotterdam way” involves tipping your head back and lowering the entire fish into your mouth.

You can even eat it stuffed into a white bread roll as a Dutch broodje (sandwich). But whichever way you choose to eat it, herring’s distinctively salty, mildly fishy flavor exudes the essence of Holland and must be tasted at least once.

Herring with pickles and onions on a tray to eat on the street in Amsterdam
With or without a Dutch flag, herring is a very popular street food in Amsterdam. Photo credit: Jeremy Keith

When to eat herring

The arrival of the Hollandse Nieuwe (“new herring”) every year is an event in itself, with thousands of people eager to taste the first catch of the herring season.

It’s brought into Holland at Scheveningen–The Hague’s very own seaside resort–on Vlaggetjesdag (“flag day”) in June, and is a huge celebration that heralds the arrival of the new season’s catch.

However, if you don’t happen to be in the Netherlands in June, don’t despair. With modern preservation systems, typical Dutch herring is available (and delicious) all year round.

People laughing and smiling while enjoying traditional Dutch food in Amsterdam.
Enjoy herring year round in Amsterdam with friends.

The best places to eat herring in Amsterdam

Stubbe’s Haring

At the top of the Singel canal, Stubbe’s Haring is probably the most famous herring stand in town amongst locals and visitors alike. This family-owned herring stand has been a beloved fixture in Amsterdam since 1903, truly standing the test of time, and earning itself a reputation as one of the city’s best destinations for herring lovers.

And its location right next to Amsterdam’s central train station makes it a convenient stop on your way to or from the city.

Herring served as a sandwich with pickles in Amsterdam.
Do you prefer your herring with a bun or without a bun? Photo credit: satanoid

Haringhandel Jonk

Spui square is home not only to a bustling second-hand books market and the famous ArtAmsterdam-Spui open-air market featuring works by local artists… It’s also home to one of the best herring stands in the city.

Haringhandel Jonk sits at the far end of the Spui square, outside Waterstones bookstore, attracting lots of passing trade from hungry shoppers. Jonk sells North Sea-fresh herring, as well as shrimp, mackerel, salmon, and typical Dutch kibbeling: small pieces of white fish, battered and deep-fried to golden deliciousness. And spoiler alert: it’s one of the dishes we try on our Ultimate Amsterdam Food & History Tour.

smoked eels, fried mussels & herring in Amsterdam.
Smoked eels, fried mussels, and herring? Yes, please! Photo credit: Taiwai Yun

Vishandel Albert Cuyp

The Albert Cuypmarkt is the biggest and most famous market in Amsterdam. So it’s no surprise that one of the best fishmongers in town is also to be found there. Vishandel Albert Cuyp (Albert Cuypstraat,155) has been going strong since the Second World War: initially from the back of a fish cart, then with a dedicated stall, and now with its own shop behind the stall.

It’s a treasure trove of fishy delights, from sashimi-grade salmon to cooked cod. But among its offerings, Dutch herring stands out as a crowd favorite. So join the throngs of market-goers as they line up for a true taste of the North Sea.

People walking around exploring Albert Cuyp markt.
Pick up some herring and other Dutch goodies at Albert Cuypmarkt. Photo credit: Alf van Beem

Frens Haringhandel

In the middle of the always-busy Koningsplein, Frens Haringhandel is handily located between the Leidestraat and Kalverstraat shopping areas–making it a delicious and healthy pit stop while you shop.

Its traditional wooden design harks back to a bygone era, and its menu probably hasn’t changed in 40 years either. Sliced to order, with chopped raw onions and pickles on the side, Frens’s herring is top quality and always fresh.

People walking past Frens Haringhandel stand.
While this may look like an ordinary food stand, the flavors that await you here pack a punch. Photo credit: Maryna Nikolaieva

Volendammer Vishandel Jonk

Not to be confused with Haringhandel Jonk above (Jonk is a common Dutch surname), Volendammer Vishandel Jonk is a fishmonger that’s a little off the beaten path compared with the others on this list–down in Amsterdam Zuid rather than in the center of town.

However, it’s well worth the trip to taste not only their freshly sliced herring and broodje haring, but also their paling (smoked eel), which is another Dutch specialty that’s not to be missed. Moreover, Jonk offers a range of fantastic fish platters (some including herring) to take away and enjoy as a picnic with a bottle of crisp white wine. Heerlijk!

Herring on bread in a wrapper with Dutch flag outside on an Amsterdam street
The best part about herring in Amsterdam? It’s versatile. Photo credit: Juan Domenech