Here’s a brief guide to the fabulously stylish Dutch city. Easily achievable over a weekend, taking in a good smattering of old and new, solid culture and party basics.
EAT: De Kas
Michelin starred chef Gert Jan Hageman found a new home and a new direction when he revived the municipal nursery’s 1926 greenhouse, pegged for demolition. Situated in Frankendael Park, De Kas is an oasis of calm, whether you choose the dining room designed by Piet Boon, or – if weather permits – the herb garden. De Kas has its own greenhouses and garden near the restaurant; Hageman can be found there at sunrise, working the soil and harvesting the finest herbs and vegetables that will be plated up that same day.
Kamerlingh Onneslaan 3
+31(0)20 462 4562
EAT: Tempoe Doeloe
Don’t miss out on a rijsttafel feast, a treat virtually exclusive to The Netherlands. Come hungry because you’ll be presented with around twenty five tiny dishes to wade through. Think of it as micro-tapas on heat. This Dutch Indonesian cuisine is extraordinarily difficult to find outside of the country – not even in the Spice Islands. The general rule of thumb is to start at the mild end and work up to hot and hotter via Sambel Goren Boontjes and Atjar Tjampoer. This is one of the best in the city but best to book in advance to be sure of a table.
+31(0)20 625 6718
A homely restaurant that feels local, deeply personal and personable. The seasonal pan-European menu is matched to your capacity and the sommelier owner goes to great lengths to select perfect wine pairings.
+31(0)20 625 4189
Found in the north of the city this rustic, seasonal and low-key restaurant relies on its garden to nourish much of the menu. The rest of the ingredients come from carefully vetted suppliers. Tuck into a ‘Proefplatter’ with Baambrugge pork whilst the resident chickens peck around your ankles.
+31(0)20 682 2656
EAT DRINK: Lion Noir
This sleek restaurant offers French fare in a design heavy but cosy environment. Service can be slow so it’s not the best place for a pit stop.
+31(0)20 627 6603
EAT DRINK: Vooges
A cosy café bar, perfect for an aperitif before bracing yourself for a feast at Tempoe Doeloe a few doors down.
+13(0)20 330 5670
EAT DRINK: Stanislavski
This grand French brasserie and café is attached to the old Stadsschouwburg theatre, attracting a mixed demographic of customers to eat or drink. A recent makeover has smartened up the large airy space whilst retaining a touch of classic glamour, making this a suitable spot for any time of day.
+31(0)20 795 9995
DRINK: Wilde Zwjinen
Modern cooking using traditional Dutch ingredients at this restaurant in the eastern regions of the ‘Dam in Oost district. As well as the wild boar of the restaurant’s name, expect local produce such as mussels, sea oyster and crispy fried ‘kibbeling’ catfish snacks. The space has a semi-industrial bare-brick and white washed interior, with idiosyncratic touches throughout.
+31(0)20 463 3043
DRINK: In’t Aepjen
Dating from 1560, this café is located in one of Amsterdam’s oldest wooden houses. Part of it has now been shored up with stone, leaving the wooden spiral staircase eerily embedded in the back wall. The curious simian theme references the café’s history as a spot where sailors of yore used to offload their unwanted monkeys that they had acquired on their travels to the tropics.
+31(0)20 626 8401
DRINK: Café Welling
Amsterdam’s brown cafés with their tobacco-aged interiors exude gezellig. Much like the Danish word hygge, this means feeling cosy, intimate and relaxed. Welling, in the museum district, is a perfect example and popular with the city’s lit-crowd.
+31(0)20 662 0155
DRINK: Wynand Fockink
This independent distillery, liquor store and tasting room is resurrecting the art of jenever – Dutch gin – for a new generation to appreciate. Spices and herbs like anis, juniper, fennel, ginger, cinnamon and cardamom will hit you on the nose and the carefully selected barrels, pot stills and jars of the quaint and sandy floored tasting room will slip you back in time. Try old Dutch liqueurs such as ‘Bruidstranen’ (The Bride’s Tears), a spiced wine served in the days leading up the wedding. House specialities ‘Half en Half’ and ‘Boswandeling’ (The Walk in the Woods) have made Wynand Fockink world-famous.
+31(0)20 639 2695
Lellebel is a long, skinny, hedonistic drag bar off the corner of Rembrandtplein. Pull up a chair and let the entertainment wash over you. Or you ar most welcome to jump up and take centre stage of the smallest platform, at 1m x 1m. Best experienced over a nightcap after a dinner atTempo Doeloe or Utrechtsedwarstafel further down the straat.
+31(0)20 427 5139
DRINK: Door 74
If you prefer your bars to feel everso slightly more recent, then this speakeasy-style bar is the place to come for the finest cocktails in town. We’re still not going to manage an interior that feels later than 1920 though. This is grown-up drinking and the menu changes with the seasons, so we’re probably now heading from lighter drinks with hints of ripening fruits towards Autumnal darker spirits and the stronger flavours of Old Smoke whiskey, Benedictine liquor, flames and spices. Observe their mantra ‘very good drinks until deep in the night’ – it may impact upon your plans the next day! Please note, this bar comes with instructions: reservations must be made on the same day for that evening only; there’s no door or sign, just a bell.
+31 6 3404 5122
SEE: Stedelijk Museum
So the city’s leading contemporary art museum is back in its original home on Museumplein and settling into its spanking new, rather controversial wing designed by architect Mels Crouwel. Unusually Crouwel tagged his own design as the bathtub, and yes, it certainly does smack of sanitary ware, sitting rather aloof from its surroundings.
020 5732 911
St Petersburg’s Hermitage took over this 17th century care home to exhibit pieces from their vast collection from the mother ship. Don’t expect the grand, gilded opulence of the original mega-museum. Here, the look is modern and light, verging on an austere minimalism.
+31 (0)20 530 7488
SEE: Museum Amstelkring: Our Lord in the Attic
The Red Light District might seem an unlikely location for a notable religious site, but Ons’ Lieve Heer op Solder – Our Lord in the Attic – is one of the most interesting churches in the city. Hidden inside a 17th century canal house, this clandestine Catholic church is a beautiful and fascinating place. This hidden church in the attic was built during the Reformation when Catholics were forbidden to hold public services. The church occupied both the entire top floor of the canal house and the two houses behind. It would go on to serve as the parish church for city centre dwelling Catholics for the next 200 years.
Oudezijds Voorburgwal 40
+31(0)20 624 6604
SEE: Begijnhof Courtyard
The Begijnhof Beguines’ court lies within the Singel — the innermost canal of Amsterdam’s circular canal system. The Begijnhof was originally built as a sanctuary for the Begijntjes, a Catholic sisterhood who lived like nuns, although they took no monastic vows. While it’s no longer restricted to Catholics, the apartments around the courtyard are still made available exclusively to women. The Begijnhof is at medieval street level, sitting a meter below the rest of the old city centre and has a sanctified atmosphere. The oldest standing house in the city is the restored, wooden Houten Huys at No.34 dating back to 1528. Eighteen of the neighbouring houses possess a Gothic wooden framework but most of the facades date from the 17th and 18th century.
SEE: Rijks Museum
It appears that the major renovation buck has been passed to the Rijks Museum now. However, they have rehung their sublime Dutch Masters collection in one wing which means you can probably see them all in half the time – one quick visit before the airport? Come and lose yourself in that extraordinary handling of light and shadow.
Jan Luijkenstraat 1, on Museumplein
SHOP: De Winkel van Njintje
For a 57-year-old bunny, Miffy is still looking pretty sprightly. As minimal as any Mondrian – one of creator Dick Bruna’s key influences – ‘Njintje’ as the wabbit is known on home turf is now a bona fide design classic. Bruna had always watched Miffy’s rival Hello Kitty with a wary eye and he successfully sued Japanese Sanrio when they brought out a rabbit character that was a just too close for comfort. Satisfy all your Miffy merch needs at this boutique, from high-end Delft ware to classic knuffels for kinders.
+31(0)20 664 8054
EAT DRINK SHOP SLEEP: Hotel Droog
This quintessential Dutch brand approaches design with an oblique aesthetic and imbues every product with provocative humour. Featuring a store, gallery, dining room and a single bedroom near the Singel, Hôtel Droog is housed in a 17th century building in the heart of Amsterdam.
+31(0)20 523 5059
SLEEP: Exchange Hotel
Students and alumni from the Amsterdam Fashion Institute have styled the entire hotel. Fortunately neo-gothic, military and punk aren’t ‘in’ at the moment so you can choose from sixty one becalming spaces – more of the Margiela minimal ilk.
+31(0)20 523 0080