Amsterdam Travel Guide
A visit to everyone’s darling Amsterdam is bound to come with a share of sky-high expectations. Thankfully, this town always delivers, whether you’re just here for the weekend or planning to stay and visit the Amsterdam points of interest. Famously free-spirited, laid back and liveable, its ancient canals overflowing with contemporary art galleries, cute cafes and edgy restaurants, the Netherlands’ charming capital and its fun-loving people will make you never want to leave.
The best hotels in Amsterdam
There are over 600 hotels in greater Amsterdam, but it doesn’t get much more majestic than the neo-gothic Conservatorium Hotel. The monumental former music conservatory on Museumplein now houses a five-star stunner with 129 rooms, a holistic spa and a great in-house Asian restaurant.
Another excellent option is the five-star Andaz Amsterdam Prinsengracht, located right smack in the middle of the canal ring. Upscale Marcel Wanders design meets 17th Century charm – nuff’ said. And while you’re in the neighbourhood, give Lotti’s Diner at the Hoxton a shot. Their leather settees and Dutch Sunset cocktails are keeping the city up past its bedtime.
If you’re longing for a bit more space, consider boutique Hotel De Hallen, a contemporary four-starrer in Oud West. Its former tram depot surroundings are buzzing with creativity and great food, and its 55 rooms prove that a more residential location doesn’t have to stand in the way of comfort.
Things to do in Amsterdam
If you want to get into that Amsterdam groove, rent a bike. Cyclists own this compact city, and though some main attractions are located no more than a stone’s throw away from the historical centre, there are so many more things to do in Amsterdam than ogling the working girls, seeing the windmills and spending time on the water.
For a serious photography fix, head to FOAM. Nestled snugly within the canal belt, in a glorious white-walled 16th Century building, Amsterdam’s primary photography museum exhibits renowned artists like Inez van Lamsweerde and Vinoodh Matadin, as well as up-and-coming photographers. A ten-minute bike ride away, in the equally stunning Plantage area, award-winning interactive museum Micropia focuses on an entirely different kind of close-up: microbes. Trust us – it’s so much more magical than it sounds.
Heading West, the Westergasfabriek cultural hub proves why every city should be granted the gift of repurposing. Whether you end up sipping on a G&T at Mossel&Gin, playing some air hockey at the TonTon Club or checking out the Sunday Market after a stroll in the Westerpark, this former gas factory complex will make you appreciate its makeover.
Due to its ever-growing popularity, Amsterdam has recently spread its welcoming wings to the industrial shores of the North, the city’s diamond in the rough. These days, the real magic happens outside the historical city centre: a palpable buzz of opportunity can be felt on the other side of the IJ, and Amsterdam 2.0 is sure to surprise even its most avid fans.
Right opposite Central Station, the glorious EYE Filmmuseum – a free, short ferry ride away – hosts standout exhibitions and has the best waterfront terrace in town. Or why not opt to sail on to Pllek, a groovy restaurant and city beach located on the tip of the former NDSM dockyards, now adored by artists and entrepreneurs. You won’t forget the view from here any time soon.
Finally, come Sunday morning, you will want to treat your weary feet and aching back at Het Massagehuys. Oriental massage meets Scandinavian design here in Amsterdam’s wild West. Treat yourself to the snazziest brunch in town at the Intercontinental Amstel Hotel’s La Rive restaurant afterwards, truly experiencing the Venice of the North from its balcony, and this trip will leave you feeling positively Royal.
Due to its ever-growing popularity, Amsterdam has recently spread its welcoming wings to the industrial shores of the North
Where to eat in Amsterdam
The Amsterdam gourmet scene took a while to take off but has finally come into its own. As a truly cosmopolitan city should, it now offers a plethora of great options for foodies, chefs and amateur explorers alike.
If you’re in the mood for authentic Italian, ristorante Toscanini’s prime Jordaan location, incomparable antipasti and extensive wine list are impossible to beat. But if Asian street food is more up your alley, look no further than HappyHappyJoyJoy, an exuberant, colourful place that evokes the hustle and bustle of Bangkok and Hanoi, and offers an imaginative menu based on the same tropical tendencies. Equally equatorial-sounding CT Coffee and Coconuts actually opted for a minimalist approach to complement its art-deco surroundings. Their excellent beans, juices and organic delicacies make for a hearty and healthy lunch.
For a more locally sourced affair, we suggest you take your pick from the slew of contemporary, no-nonsense restaurants that have taken Amsterdam by storm. BAK is a prime example. Housed on the top floor of an old theatre, with unparalleled views over the IJ, the bold, veggie-friendly chef’s menu – all from local produce – and exquisite vins natures will make you fall in love over and over again. Drawing on the same principles, the boys at Scheepskameel serve their honest recipes in one of the most elegant locations you’re likely to come across, on the historical marine grounds near Oosterdok. And they only have German wines – toll! But the winner when it comes to waterside industrial charm and affordable modern cuisine is Hotel de Goudfazant in the North, a 1200 square meter former car garage that makes for a classy yet easy-going night out.
The Amsterdam gourmet scene took a while to take off but has finally come into its own
Shopping in Amsterdam
Small designer boutiques and craft shops define the future of Amsterdam shopping. If you want to make a day of it, the charming Haarlemmerstraat / Haarlemmerdijk double whammy should be high on every gentleman’s list. For starters, the guys at Tenue de Nîmes will slip you into that single perfect fit. Denim, that is.
After checking out the home design, leather and vintage accessories at the Six and Sons concept store a bit further down, you’ll be in need of some freshly roasted espresso. Thankfully, Two for Joy Coffee Roasters are waiting for you right at the end of the line. Or, in case you woke up in the West, try Lot Sixty One Coffee Roasters’ signature blend. Your taste buds won’t know what hit them.
Ready for a change of scene? Cycle uptown and enter Renny Ramakers’ droog design emporium in the Staalstraat. This cutting-edge Dutch design studio and shop doubles as a single bedroom hotel, a spa, an exhibition space, a garden and a restaurant, and will keep any design enthusiast inspired for hours. And Puccini Bomboni, the city’s best chocolatier, is right next door, turning chocolate into art. Now there’s something lovely to take home!
So you think you can drink? Wondering what to do in Amsterdam at night? Known for their gezelligheid – an untranslatable feature of Dutch hospitality – the city’s famous ‘brown bars’ are not to be missed, as some have expanded and now specialise in wine as well as jenever. Try GlouGlou, an organic wine bar that oozes timeless Jugendstil charm. Sipping on an unfiltered pét-nat on their sun-drenched corner terrace in the Pijp just became the closest thing to heaven – or as Galileo said, “wine is sunlight, held together by water”.
Wine is also said to drive men to dance – and Amsterdam offers ample opportunity for that, too. Picking a single bar on the infamous Reguliersdwarsstraat is hard, so make it a pub crawl. A short walk away, PRIK is a Rainbow Award-winning place that has a fun vibe, the friendliest shakers in town and a dance floor so pink it would make Barbie blush. Top your night off with an Old Fashioned muddled to perfection at speakeasy Hiding in Plain Sight, on one of Amsterdam’s most scenic back streets, and you’ll finally be ready for bed.
Photo: Yannick Bakker
Photo: Jonas Denil
Photo: Pio Ibrahim
GlouGlou | Photo: Lauren Murphy
Photo: Bruno van der Kraan
Photo: Bastiaan Ellen
Toscanini | Photo: Lauren Murphy
BAK | Photo: Lauren Murphy
Six and Sons