Walking around Amsterdam is more than just crossing a busy city street. Amongst the blizzard of bicycles, where you'll find children laughing in bakfiets and baskets filled with fresh flowers/groceries/dogs, you'll find yourself immersed in the smells of cheese, freshly baked bread, and - if you're lucky, poffertjes. Your eyes are drawn to the shapes and colours, the quadrilateral windows and shutters, contrasting the circular bridges, bicycle wheels and a single golden stroopwafel balancing perfectly on the edge of your coffee, slowly warming the golden syrupy insides. Where many of us picture cities as places that are notorious for pollution, noise and general rat race behaviour, Amsterdam somehow clouds this miserable and claustrophobic skyscraper image, by what can only be described as a warm peachy fuzz. Your attention is diverted to the tinkle of bicycle bells, the clink of an espresso cup softly hitting the saucer and the gentle creaking of houseboats. Your eyes drift from door to door, and just when you think you’ve found your dream house on one street, you can guarantee you’ll find it again on the next.
If you're looking at visiting Amsterdam at some point, here are a few places you should definitely checkout to make your experience memorable...
Art and Culture
The Stedelijk Museum
The Stedelijk museum is an international museum dedicated to modern and contemporary art and design. Located in Museumplein, the collection contains works by world-renowned artists bound to inspire and intrigue. Be sure to check out their website for workshops and family events to make the most out of your Stedelijk experience.
Canal tours are an excellent way of learning a lot about Amsterdam without having to spend all day on your feet. Many vary in price depending on what sort of experience you’re looking for, but many are suited to large groups, couples, families and some are available for private hire. Although food and drink can be added onto some boat tours, many also allow you to bring a picnic along. Be sure to look at the weather before you book, as a clear sunny day will make for a great boat trip and even better photos!
Anne Frank Huis
During the Second World War, the Secret Annex served as a hiding place for Anne Frank, as well as her family and friends. Today, you can go and visit the Annex, which has since been turned into a museum. The experience is both educational and thought provoking, meaning you truly reflect upon what it would have been like to have to live in the Annex. The number of visitors to the House has increased continuously, with 1.2 million visitors a year today. Due to queues, it is advised that you book online here, as this also prevents overcrowding in various time slots.
Pasta e Basta
Pasta e Basta presents an evening filled with antipasti, pasta, fine wines and entertainment. A restaurant like no other in the area, the passionate staff will provide you with incredible performances, singing everything from opera to classics, as well as current songs. There is a set menu, as well as a collective meal served in large dishes from which you can help yourself. They also offer a three course menu for couples or smaller groups to dine a la carte. The food itself is of course italian pasta based dishes, but all have their own individual twist. There are vegetarian options available also. If you would like to book a table during the musical program, be sure to check the website for show times as the restaurant gets booked up quickly.
Located in Noordermarkt, Winkel 43 is considered the best place for apple pie in Amsterdam. The pie itself is served with fresh cream, and has hundreds lining up to get a slice every day. Because of this, you should get in early (the opening times vary around 7am and 8am, 10am being the opening time on Sunday). As well as pie, they also offer other traditional Dutch foods such as Bitterballen, and have menus for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Not necessarily a restaurant or cafe, but if you’re looking for somewhere to truly immerse yourself in Dutch cuisine, markets are the place to be. A delight for all of the senses, you’re bound to find fresh stroopwafels or poffertjes, as well as a variety of breads and pastries. You’ll be overwhelmed by the sheer amount of cheese, and if you’re unsure on whether to buy, most stalls will offer you samples to taste. Kibbeling - a dutch snack consisting of battered chunks of fish, can be found at most fish stalls, as well as fresh oysters, crabs and whatever has been caught and brought into the city that day. You’ll also be able to find fresh fruits, flowers and vegetables, as well as nuts and spices. Breakfast, lunch and dinner can all be accomplished in the markets, combining both food and a social experience. It’s easy to spend hours wandering around the stalls without even realising!
For the instagram expert
TOKI is the instagram coffee addicts dream. With exposed brick walls, minimalist interior decor and picture perfect latte art, you can’t go wrong. The coffee itself is high quality and brewed to perfection, and if you’re looking for a quiet haven to escape the busy streets, the calming environment of TOKI will feel like a warm hug. As soon as you walk in, you will be greeted by a selection of tempting cakes and pastries, and diverted to a snug armchair in the corner - where you’ll happily stay all day long, watching the cyclists go by.
If you’re wandering through Jordaan at night and find yourself being met by a strange neon pink glow - don’t be concerned, it’s just Cafe Nol and it’s blinding fuschia windows. This old-style cafe is filled with crystal chandeliers, plush seating and mirrored walls. Aesthetically pleasing - yes, but prepare for an energetic night if you decide to visit. Where there is plenty of drinking, there is also plenty of singing. You’re in for a night you will never forget!
Best hidden secrets
One of the best things about Waterkant is that you could walk right past it and have no idea that it’s actually a bar. Hidden behind a car park, this quirky waterfront bar sits right on the canal, meaning you can watch and wave at all of the boats going by. Jugs of Heineken are popular for large groups, but there is a wide selection of other beers and drinks available too. Food is equally as popular, especially the banana burger and roti rolls!
Another hidden gem, Pllek sits on the waterfront of Amsterdam Noord. Luckily, it is just a free ferry ride away! The restaurant is constructed of used shipping containers, covered by a high curving roof. It offers the best panoramic view of Amsterdam, which can be observed on the man-made beach. If you’re looking for trendy, Pllek is the place for you. Friday and Saturday nights at Pllek will greet you with crazy music, fun people and plenty of drinks. The food menu is 75% vegetarian, of which 25% is vegan, so there should be something for everyone. If you don’t fancy the dining and dancing on Friday and Saturday, there is a yoga class on Sunday.