Arched bridges, watery passageways and crooked canal houses make up the heart of this enchanting city. Picture-book beautiful and friendly, this place is bolstered by a history so rich, you can feel the stories whispering to you from the cracks in the stones. Amsterdam combines it’s rich past with a refreshing streak of rough, rebellious and contemporary edginess. The locals are friendly and famously forward thinking. Every neighborhood is compact and easily explored by foot, or even better, by bike! This is a pocket-sized city offering world-class museums, food, coffee, concept stores and design.
If you love market strolling, do not miss the organic farmers market on Noordermarkt. Every Saturday morning you can find fresh local produce sold alongside vintage furniture, crockery and other collectables. Try some oysters fresh from the sea, goats cheese rolled in fragrant herbs or local pancakes doused with Dutch syrup called ‘stroop’. And if you are still hungry, cue up for a big slice of home-made apple pie on the corner at Winkel.
Once a month there is a Sundaymarket at the lovely Westerpark (the park is worth a visit in itself). It offers a great mix of handcrafted products and mouthwatering food sold from colorful food trucks. There are artisanal teas to taste, organic wines to try, handmade gifts to shop and vintage treasures to be found. When it’s cold in wintertime, part of the market moves inside one of the old brick walled factory building that are scattered through the park.
02. Jordaan area
There are so many nice neighborhoods to wander around in, for example the Jordaan area (named after the French word for garden, ‘Jardin’). It’s packed with lots of cute shops, café’s and restaurants (walk along Tweede Egelantiersdwarsstraat to Tweede Anjeliersdwarsstraat). If you feel like exploring the nooks and crannies, the Jordaan is also famous for it’s hidden courtyards, also known locally as ‘hofjes’. For example the Karthuizerhof and Van Brienenhofje. Built in the 17th century as a kind of charity and protection by wealthy Amsterdammers to offer widows a sheltered and quite place to spent the last years of their life. Nowadays they are inhabited mostly my students and artists.
TIP: Do as the locals do and move through the city by bike! The Humble Vintage has a great rental collection of restored vintage road bikes and classic Dutch cycles, each with personality and charm. Make sure to lock your bike properly and watch out in traffic, it’s quite a mad biking city.
03. Dutch beer makes the world go round
Amsterdam is the birthplace of the world famous Heineken beer. You could do the big touristy ‘Heineken experience’ to learn more about the history and art of beer brewing, but nowadays artisanal craft breweries are popping up all over the city, so go check out one of those! A lot of them offer guided tours and tastings, for example Brouwerij Troost in Westerpark. Check this article for a more: http://awesomeamsterdam.com/local-amsterdam-breweries/
04. Green fingers at Wildernis
The location is slightly out of the way, but this modern and cute gardening store is worth a visit. This place is all about encouraging city dwellers to play with urban gardening. They organize great workshops, like crocheting your own plant hanger, textile dyeing with flowers, rooftop gardening and lots more handmade crafts.
Enjoy a cup of coffee, a slice of homemade cake en enjoy the canopy of hanging plants while you browse through the store. They sell all the necessary tools, planters, books and even nature inspired jewelry and art.
Bilderdijkstraat 165 F
05. Wholesome daytime fare at Vinnies
To put it in their own words: ‘Good food nurtures and reminds you of home’. Vinnies at offers simple, pure and healthy breakfast and lunch in a homely setting. They buy all their produce locally and most of it has organic and fair trade origins. All the furniture and art on the walls is for sale.
Haarlemmerstraat 46 HS
06. Tiny bites of happiness
A little further along the Haarlemmerstraat from Vinnies you will find the lovely Petit Gateau. They offer a mouth watering selection of tiny tarts so beautiful and tasty they will make your taste buds explode. The open kitchen concept offers an interesting sight into the Parisian style Pâtisserie and fills the whole place with the sweetest scent.
TIP: While you are in the area do not miss SUKHA (meaning ‘joy of life’ in Sanskrit). This tiny little department store is poetic and inspirational. They sell a unique selection of sustainable and local (clothing) design and hand crafted home accessories made in collaboration with artisanal communities in Nepal.
07. Spoiled for choice at The Foodhallen
A few years ago these big halls, originally used to service the electric trams, where transformed into an indoor food market, movie theatre and multiple concept store spaces. Go here early in the evening to grab a seat and try as many different dishes as you like from all the pop-up food stands. There are burgers, Spanish hams, Dutch cheeses, Vietnamese Pho, healthy quinoa salads, you name it! You can also visit during the day to explore the non-food area.
SHOP TIP: Charlie+Mary offers a great selection of people and planet friendly travel outfits and beachwear.
08. Pure cuisine at it’s best at AS
Located near the business district of Amsterdam (de Zuidas) this is a place not many tourists get to, but it sure is a special place. At Restaurant AS they serve upscale seasonal Mediterranean fare at communal wood tables in a former chapel. In the summer the terrace adds a really romantic and robust vibe to the place. Menu’s are fixed, you can choose 3, 4 or 5 courses. Even though they offer a combination of meat, fish and vegetarian dishes, local and seasonal vegetables are always the main focus of their cuisine. They do lunch as well.
09. Get your artistic groove on at Noorderlicht
On the other side of the water of ‘Het Ij’ there exists a whole different universe with an edgy and artistic vibe. The area around and inside the NDSM-werf, the old shipyards of Amsterdam, is the home of hundreds of creative and artistic companies that have settled in self build workspaces. Wander around and then have lunch or diner at Noorderlicht (open in summer). This playful place serves simple, good food on a funky looking terrace with communal tables and a nice view over the water. In the weekend there is live music and performances.
To get there, take one of the free ferries to NDSM that leave at the back of Central Station.
NDSM Plein 102
10. Artisanal cocktails at Vesper
This tiny hole in the wall boutique cocktail bar in the middle of the Jordaan area offers the best mixes in town. Named after the original Vesper character from James Bond (try and find her picture inside) the interior is intimate and glam. Can’t choose from a drink on the menu? Just tell them what type of tastes you like and they’ll conjure up your own magical mix.
11. Maison Rika
This petite guesthouse is located in the charming boutique shopping area known as the ‘9 straatjes’ (9 streets). This place offers a home away from home for anyone who appreciates a warm, intimate atmosphere and gorgeous design. A reception area, gallery section for up-and-coming local artists and lifestyle store welcome guests on the ground floor of this traditional, three-story townhouse, formerly a gallery. The second and third floors each boast a beautifully furnished bedroom with heart-stirring views over the historic Herengracht canal.
Oude Spiegelstraat 12
12. Miauw suites
Located in the same area as Maison Rika,
Miauw is an evolving b&b boutique hotel, settled in two characteristic buildings. They have different suites that are all charmingly decorated and will make you feel like you are living like a local.
Hartenstraat 34 & 36
TIP: Do you really want to have an idea what it is like to live in this beautiful city? Amsterdam is bursting at the seams with AirBnB places. You can book a room or even a whole apartment somewhere in the city, even sleeping on a houseboat is possible! There is something for every budget. Look out for a place at Prinseneiland. This little island is a well kept city secret and feels like a tiny village on it’s own, only accessible by bridges.
A LAST WORD: BRING
Dutch weather is fickle, so bring layers! A scarf is always a great accessory as it can keep you warm or serve as a cover up to protect you from the sun.
A small umbrella or rain-proof coat is also very useful. There is no use in bringing tight, short, skirts or dresses, as they will make biking impossible, so pack you comfy yet stylish MATTER pants instead. Bring some cute flats to match your and go full on bohemian style, as wearing heels on old cobblestoned streets is not advisable.
Check your pockets before flying back home just to make sure you don’t have any local ‘herbs’ left in them (you know what we mean).
Written by Lisanne Stoop