While in Amsterdam, take time out from the usual Rijksmuseum, Anne Frank Huis and Canal District routine to do a few of these real Amsterdammer things:
EAT AT ROOMSERVICE IN HOTEL DROOG
Amsterdam, like most European cities, has its share of charming, quirky, hipster or just plain elegant cafÃ©s, but one of the city’s most exciting and stylish places to brunch at has to be Hotel Droog. The iconic Dutch concept design store has an excellent cafÃ©-restaurant, Roomservice, overlooking the canal and a sprookjestuin (literally, fairy garden). It is open daily from 9am to 7pm for a drink, late breakfast, early lunch, high tea or anytime-dinner. Still not tempted? It has free wi-fi and fantastically designed products that decorate the space and are also for sale. Recommended sandwich: grilled vegetables and hummus. Simply super lekker! See droog.com.
GO SHOPPING AT MARQT
Grocery shopping is probably not most people’s idea of a fun thing to do on vacation. However, in Amsterdam it could be a nice break between visiting museums and buying Delft ceramic ware. If there’s time for only one supermarket trip, give the ubiquitous Albert Heijn a pass and visit Marqt (marqt.com) instead. A Dutch organic and sustainable small supermarket chain, it has all the usual produce, dairy, etc, but also really wonderful cookies and artisanal chocolates, including an entire section of superfood cookies and treats that don’t taste like sandpaper. Note that Marqt usually doesn’t accept cash payments, but all major credit cards are accepted.
GET LOST IN HET SPUI
Sometimes the best way to get to know a city is by getting a little lost in its streets. And few cities are more fun to get lost in than Amsterdam. I suggest the neighbourhood of Het Spui for this. And if you’d rather not, get on tram 5, towards Centraal Station, and get off at Het Spui. The word ‘Spui’ comes from the original name of the waters that until 1425 formed the southern border of the city of Amsterdam. Today, the neighbourhood is an eclectic mix of bookshops, including two large English language bookstores (the American Book Center and the British chain Waterstones), little cafÃ©s, frites shops, the Amsterdam Museum and a pedestrian-only street given over to high-street stores like Zara, Desigual, Topshop and Foot Locker. The area is also home to a few wonderful vintage kitchen shops that sell everything, from beautifully engraved antique silver spoons to post-War Dutch ceramic butter dishes and cream jugs. Prices range from several hundred euros to under â‚¬100.
TAKE IN A SHOW AT THE BOSTHEATER
If you happen to be in Amsterdam during the summer, a visit to the Amsterdamse Bostheater is certain to give you some unforgettable memories. A large open-air theatre (openluchttheater) in the middle of the sprawling Amsterdamse Bos, a landscape park, it is the venue of choice for music and theatre productions during long summer evenings. Shows get sold out quickly, so plan your visit well in advance. You can book at bostheater.nl.
TAKE THE KIDS TO THE VERZETSMUSEUM
If you’re in Amsterdam with kids eight years and older, then don’t leave the city without a visit to the excellent Verzetsmuseum. Verzet is the Dutch word for the resistance, and this museum, in its children’s section, tells the story of the Netherlands during World War II through the individual interactive stories of four survivors of the war, including Anne Frank’s less famous cousin, Eva. It is an educative experience, with tours in English, Dutch and other
ENJOY A NIGHT OUT AT THE FOODHALLEN
Like the Mercado de San Miguel in Madrid, Amsterdam now boasts its own gourmet indoor food market in the Foodhallen (foothallen.nl). Located in a renovated tram depot, this huge loft-like space offers a number of food stalls, selling everything from artisanal burgers and craft beer to sushi, and bitterballen elevated to Michelin-star levels. Good music, a very cool vibe, hipster-chic fellow-diners and communal tables all make for a very enjoyable evening out.
CATCH A CONCERT AT CONCERTGEBOUW
If Western classical music is your thing and you would love to see a concert at Amsterdam’s celebrated Concertgebouw without breaking the bank, do what thrifty Amsterdammers love doing: watch a Gratis Lunchconcerten, performed every Wednesday at the Concertgebouw (except in July and August), starting at 12:30pm, at the Grote or Kleine concert hall. Find more information at concertgebouw.nl
GO FOR A STROLL IN THE HORTUS
Hortus Botanicus Amsterdam is one of the oldest botanical gardens in Europe, open every day from 10am to 5pm. Carnivorous plants, a medicinal garden, greenhouses and endangered plant species are sure to provide entertainment to grown-ups and kids alike. The Hortus cafÃ©, located in an old monument known as the Orangery, is one of the city’s most charming outdoor cafÃ©s and a good enough reason on its own to visit the gardens. For more information, go to dehortus.nl
TAKE A DAY TRIP
>If you’re done with the canals and coffee shops of Amsterdam and have a day free, go visit Scheveningen, one of the eight districts of Den Haag or The Hague. A modern seaside resort easily accessible from Amsterdam, Scheveningen has much more than an excellent beach and an incredible museum hidden in the dunes. Plan your visit at denhaag.com/en/scheveningen.
>Just 15 minutes from Amsterdam’s Centraal Station is the picturesque town of Haarlem. Home to the Frans Hals Museum and the historic Grote Kerk, a favourite thing to do here is to visit on a Saturday when the sprawling square surrounding the cathedral is turned into one of the Netherland’s best and most colourful street markets.
>A short drive out of Amsterdam is the charming medieval town of Amersfoort. Known as the birthplace of the artist Pieter Mondrian, his home for the first eight years of his life is now a museum, Mondrianhuis. It’s worth a visit if you are a fan of his vivid primary-colour art. Visit the New York section of the museum to see Mondrian art on Converse sneakers (not for sale of course!). Walk around the old town centre and through the narrow cobblestoned street lined with craft and antique shops, and cafÃ©s selling hand-churned ice cream and freshly brewed coffee.
>Like your beer? Then visit Delft but think outside the box, and leave the blauwe ceramics for another day. Instead, head just for the beer. This picturesque town once had over 200 breweries, and a local historian, Aad van de Hoeven, wrote a book that eventually led to the Delft Beer Historical Society organising its famous walking tours (and tastings). For more information, visit bierhistoriedelft.nl (in Dutch, though you get an email address where you could write for more information in English).