Meet our Founder: Thijs van Royen

Thijs van Royen started Amsterdam Food Tours in 2018, after first having worked in Account Management, HR, and Recruitment Management. Prior to that, he studied Hotel School Management in The Hague. He is a true local Amsterdammer, and has spent most of his life in this beautiful city.

Here are his answers to our questions:

Q: Why did you start Amsterdam Food Tours? 

A: I always wanted to have my own company. Initially I wanted to become a freelance recruiter and start a catering company. I did that for a little while, and then I completely coincidentally came into contact with the world of food tours

Since I love people, Amsterdam, history, hospitality, and food, I quickly realized that this was the right field for me. It brings together all of the things I’m passionate about, which makes running Amsterdam Food Tours  a dream job. 

Q: Tell us a bit about your personal connection with Amsterdam?

A: I was born in Amsterdam (Overtoom, to be precise). When I was a child, my family decided to move to a nearby town, but after I finished my studies in The Hague, I immediately moved back to Amsterdam. I’ve now been living here for 28 years.  

During the Covid pandemic, I did a lot of research into my ancestors, and found out they lived in my current neighborhood in the west as well as in the Jordaan area of Amsterdam for more than 400 years. They were millers by profession, and I even located one of the mills that my ancestors worked on in the east of the Netherlands after it was moved out of Amsterdam in the 1800s. On the Grand Dutch Food & History Tour, we pass many places where my ancestors worked, lived, went to church, and were buried. 

Q: What inspires you in operating Amsterdam Food Tours? What do you enjoy most about it?

A: What inspires me is making people feel welcome in Amsterdam and introducing them to my beautiful city in an enjoyable way for everyone: the guests, the vendors, and the locals. 

It’s a real joy to show people around Amsterdam, especially the lesser-known areas. And Dutch cuisine is relatively unknown, so people are easily surprised and they learn a lot on our tours. When you see people’s reactions, you also learn how great your own city is. 

Q: How is Amsterdam Food Tours different from other tour providers in the city?

A: It’s all about the quality and making it fun for everyone: our guests, our partners, and the citizens of Amsterdam. In terms of food, we really go for the best. We also only take our guests to the places where we would normally go ourselves. This means that we avoid the cliches and the tourist traps. 

To achieve this, we do a lot of research and try out new places. We also change the tastings according to the seasons. 

And we try to be good to our vendors as well. They are often small and hard working companies and to support them, we do not accept any discounts or bottom prices from them, as many companies try to do. And we encourage our guests to shop while on tour or to return later. This also benefits the citizens of Amsterdam. By supporting these unique places, I hope we can keep Amsterdam a little bit more unique and prevent it from becoming a city with the same kinds of shops, bars, and restaurants everywhere. 

Our tours also offer the most complete experience, because we also include the history and the culture of the city. Our guides are the best, as they are true locals who are very experienced and knowledgeable. They give people a good feeling for the city and are always able to make great recommendations for the rest of your time in Amsterdam.

Each of our guides is specialized in something unique, such as art history or architecture, or has been a chef, or has worked as a city planner in Amsterdam, for example, making each tour different. We hate working with scripts the way many companies do, and the guides really don’t need this after all. You can do the same tour with different guides and it will be a different experience every time. 

Q: What would be your number 1 tip for someone who has only a few days to spend in Amsterdam (besides a food tour)? 

A: Go further than the canal belt. Don’t focus only on the old city, but also see the new areas, such as the Staatsliedenbuurt and De Pijp. Amsterdam is a small, safe, and compact city, which means that you can easily explore it on foot. It’s usually a great experience to go for a walk, get lost a little bit, and just see where you end up. 

It’s also fun to take the metro on the North/South line. Amsterdam has grown like the rings of a tree, so the further south you go, the newer the city gets. By taking this metro, you can see the newer areas on the outskirts of the city. 

Q: What is your favorite food, and where in Amsterdam do you most like to eat it? 

A: For me, eating is not only about the food, but about the entire experience. I’d say my favorite restaurant in the city is Cafe Restaurant Amsterdam. It’s situated in an impressive building that used to be a water pumping station. It was built in the early 1900s, so there’s a lot of history behind it, and the industrial architecture is beautiful. It’s also very family friendly, and there is a lot of outside space where the children can play while you are enjoying your meal.

Cafe Restaurant Amsterdam has a great multicultural menu, and each dish reminds me of a holiday in one of the European countries that I most enjoy traveling to, such as France, Italy, or Germany. 

Q: What is the most surprising thing you’ve learned while running Amsterdam Food Tours? 

A: Never be biased. When you meet new people, you gain new insights, and this opens your world. Since entering the world of food tours, I’ve learned that despite our differences, we all have many things in common, and tourism can help us find this common ground. In a world of growing populism and nationalism, I think this is more important than ever.

Would you also like to experience the best of Amsterdam with us? Book your tour here