Out Of Bed: The Insider’s Guide To Amsterdam
Words by Jen Nurick
The French have Paris, Italians call Rome home and the Greeks are grounded to Athens, but in North Holland, in an area peopled by bicycles and travelled by trams, a special slice of Europe lures millions of visitors each year to its own capital city of Amsterdam.
Here, history and reinvention collide on 17th century canals that lead in and out of the city’s cultural pockets. A once small fishing village-cum-trade port, the diverse city of Amsterdam was and remains the cultural epicentre of Dutch masters Vincent Van Gogh, Rembrandt and Johannes Vermeer. It was also the home and hiding place of Anne Frank, and still today the residence of contemporary fashion designer Iris Van Herpen.
Below, an eclectic mix not unlike the city’s unique personality of places to visit, eat and ‘gram you may or may not have read about. Pre-book historical hotspots in advance and enjoy the rest at your leisure—our money’s on you coming back for more.
Where to eat
Equally renowned for its canals as its cuisine, Amsterdam rounds out a delicious spectrum of Dutch delicacies from poffertjes (small Dutch pancakes made with yeast and buckwheat flour) to bitterballen (Dutch meatballs) to Gouda cheese.
Once you’ve ticked these tokens off your list, head to d&a hummus bistro (Westerstraat 136) for a local eatery experience. Here, offerings which include roasted eggplant and falafel centre around the hero ingredient in the restaurant’s namesake: hummus.
For an Instagram-friendlier alternative, wake early to avoid the queues and enjoy breakfast at The Avocado Show (Daniël Stalpertstraat 61). Outfitted in millennial pink and vegetable green for a sartorial sitting, the healthy fat is served up centre stage in countless iterations from poke to pancakes to the simple yet sacred avocado toast.
At Coffee and Coconuts (Ceintuurbaan 282-284), a cosy ambience complements an equally comforting menu in a converted 1920s cinema house that stretches across three floors. An onsite bakery boasts fresh croissants and focaccias while the all-day menu features vegan bowls, coconut pancakes and shrimp tacos, with fancier spins on similar favourites served up for dinner.
Don’t leave without ordering a large fries or four at Manneken Pis (Damrak 41) at least once on your visit. The hole in the wall is a Dutch patat or potato fries institution, serving up the best fries and sauce in the city with the longest queues should you need any convincing. Other competitors scattered throughout don’t stand a chance against Manneken Pis, making it the only fried food station worth the indulgence.
Where to shop
For interesting reads you’ll be hard pressed to find anywhere else, spend time at Titus Books & Images (Nieuwe Hoogstraat 15) or Mendo (Berenstraat 11) —a self-proclaimed confectionery for the coffee table book connoisseur.
Should books only hold your interest for so long, peruse the carefully curated wares at FOUR Amsterdam (Van Baerlestraat 9-11) if in search of luxury clothing, where racks of Haider Ackermann and Helmut Lang intersperse with Vetements and Valentino.
While you are still on the same street, pop in to Azzurro Due (Van Baerlestraat 3) where you’ll find every luxury staple under the sun. Contemporary designs by Off White and Chrome Hearts sit pretty alongside timeless offerings by The Row and Loewe, although you may not have budget to cover all the ground on this straat. In this case, cross the road to Pieter Cornelisz Hooftstraat and continue shopping there—the street is lined with smaller boutiques and big names, and is only a five minute stroll from Vondelpark.
Cultural and historical hotspots
A visit to Amsterdam is incomplete without a moving tour of the Anne Frank House (Prinsengracht 263-267), where Anne Frank and her family hid from Nazi persecution in WWII. Tickets are released two months in advance and are hard to come by, so be sure to plan your visit accordingly and book this Amsterdam highlight ahead.
For the fashion inclined, sip tea and stroll through the Museum of Bags and Purses (Herengracht 573) in a building dating back to 1666 that overlooks one of Amsterdam’s many canals. The accessories collection is comprised of some 5000 pieces, which together stretch over a 500 year history, rounding out rare and valuable bags du jour and fashion items that have stood the test of time.
Artists and appreciators alike should reserve entry into the Van Gogh Museum (Museumplein 6) and Rembrandt House Museum (Jodenbreestraat 4) before arrival. The lives, times and works of both Dutch giants are on splendid displays in each venue and offer intimate portraits of the masters at work, making these sites unmissable.
‘Gram and chill
Once the world’s only floating market, the Bloemenmarkt (Singel) is a popular place to peruse or to shop for Dutch souvenirs to hold onto once the holiday ends. The 15 stall-strong market, which sells an abundance of tulips and other accessories for growing plants and flowers, hangs over the city’s canals and dates back to 1862.
A short walk from the Bloemenmarkt, Vondelpark is the perfect respite from hoards of tourists and heaps of bicycles that crowd Museumplein and Dam Square. The 47-hectare public park is home to family-friendly cycling tracks, cafes and beautiful ponds, and is the ultimate sartorial setting for an Instagram or two.
Equal parts tourist-trapping as it is genuinely enjoyable, a canal tour of Amsterdam is an excellent and easy way to grip the geography of the city and map out places you’d like to return to or not. The guided tours are no longer than an hour and give good insight into the historical and cultural footprints of the city—a rich education best learned with complementary on-board drinks in hand.
For more from Jen Nurick, follow her on Instagram @jennurick and read her work at JENNURICK.com.