now on to I amsterdam
(this is the city’s VERY successful rebranding campaign logo)
After 5 days in Copenhagen, Lynn Karlin and I flew to Amsterdam. The flight was only an hour, and we made arrangements for a shuttle service to meet us at the airport. Like Copenhagen, Amsterdam is a creative city–creativity is part of its DNA. Our hotel (The Times Hotel) was centrally located on a tree-lined canal street and just a 5 minute walk away from the Anne Frank House. It was a reasonable and affordable homebase and we both loved the area. We stayed there five days. Here are some highlights, images and tips from our stay in this beautiful city.
BEST SHOPPING, EATING, AND ROAMING
The JORDAAN Area and beyond:
Often cited as Amsterdam’s most charming neighborhood, wandering into the Jordaan feels like stepping back in time and it is the best neighborhood to get lost in. The Jordaan is clustered between the four canals of Prinsengracht, Linbaansgracht, Passeerdersgract and Brouwersgract. Yikes, what a mouthful!
There are small alleys to explore, canals to follow, tiny houses and hidden courtyards to discover, small hip eateries, cozy pubs and indie boutiques, bakeries, farmers markets and so much more. The architecture and residential homes along the canals are magnificent!
And, at the street fairs and local blocks and food courts, I was told we must try the smoked eel, kroketten or bitterballen, and poffertjes (small pancakes).
De Belhamel Restaurant (Brouwergracht 60, Amsterdam)
We could have eaten here every night and been happy! The restaurant is situated at the edge of the Jordaan area, with a beautiful view of both canals. They serve lunch and dinner, and in summer, there is outdoor dining. The interior of the restaurant is extraordinary due to the large amount of original art nouveau elements. The restaurant and the annex bar exude a romantic early-twentieth century Parisian atmosphere. It’s a place where you will see locals and visitors, and, it’s oh so welcoming! Our first visit was on a beautiful evening and after dinner we sat out by the canals. Best of all, it was walking distance from The Times, our hotel.
Not far from the Jordaan, are :
Anne Frank Museum: You must order tickets way in advance if you want to have a chance of getting into this museum. We were unable to get in…we tried everyday but never scored tickets. You can only get tickets online and must order months ahead of time. Definitely worth going to so if you plan to go order your tickets ASAP!
The 9 Streets
Without a doubt, everyone recommended The 9 Streets…a labyrinth of narrow lanes that sprawl eastwards from Prinsengract canal, and you will find the most trendy shopping area of Amsterdam. They are actually three streets crossing two canals. Full of fashion shops, nice restaurants, coffee bars, bookshops, interior design stores and hairdressers.
MUST-STOPS IN THIS AREA
The Dylan Hotel – Beautifully designed hotel. Worth looking at, having a drink and/or dining. I have friends who stay at this hotel every visit to Amsterdam (and they travel there a lot!)
[click photos to enlarge]
The Pulitzer Hotel – The hotel is set within 25 restored 17th and 18th century restored canal houses. It’s a 5 star hotel reflecting traditional and modern Dutch craftsmanship. The design elements of the hotel were impeccable and you just wanted to stay and hang out there. We ate there on two occasions…once for breakfast and another for lunch. The outside terrace offered a calming atmosphere and the food was simple but delicious. The hotel embraces you in a world of tranquility and makes you take time to step back and enjoy a lovely meal.
PLACES TO EAT IN THIS AREA
The Lebanese Sajeria: Lebanese Everyday Food (Wijde Heisteeg 1, Amsterdam) – great food to eat-in or take-away. I recommend their Zaatar and Hummus plate and their Lentil Soup.
Pluk: This cafe is located in Pluk, a charming boutique store. The menu full of tasty sandwiches, bowls, salads, baked goods and a healthy hot spot for the best juices! They have a few locations throughout Amsterdam.
Rainari (Prinsengracht 252; near the Dylan Hotel) – Best for lunch, this small restaurant with Algerian home-cooked food is right on the canal.
PANCAKES Amsterdam (38 Berenstraat location) – You MUST have pancakes in Amsterdam and these are the BEST!
We spent the day at the Rijksmuseum, home of the Dutch Masters. Next to it is the Van Gogh Museum and next to that is the Stedelijk (Modern) Museum Amsterdam. It’s nice that so many great museums are close together. We had lunch at RIJKS, the restaurant affiliated with the museum. The menu features dishes that primarily feature products from Dutch soil. It was a beautiful day and we sat out on the terrace.
Other museums of interest:
CANAL BOAT RIDE
A MUST! Lots of different options, but we just chose the hour-long one through the canals at dusk.
OTHER INTERESTING NEIGHBORHOODS IN AMSTERDAM
DE PIJP DISTRICT – Amsterdam’s upcoming hipster neighborhood. It is a walking neighborhood and home to the Albert Cuypmarkt, a daily market 300 stall open-air market where you will find everything from fresh produce to souvenirs to fresh flowers and clothing. The city’s best spot to sample local delicacies like Dutch cheese, herring and traditional stroopwafels, crispy, caramelly treats that are somewhere between a waffle and a cookie. Easy to reach by tram or bike.
NOORD – The Noord is shut off from the rest of the city and accessible only by a FREE ferry from behind the Amsterdam Central train station. It takes you to the NDSM Wharf, a derelict shipyard turned edgy arts community. It’s home to Europe’s biggest flea market, the monthly IJ-Hallen. It has a post-apocalyptic vibe: an old submarine slumps in the harbor, and abandoned trams rust on the streets.
Pekmarkt (in Noord) – the market on Van der Pekstraat, held on Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays, is very popular. On Fridays farmers congregate to sell their organic products and Saturday is the day to search for vintage treasures, handmade objects and other rarities.
Pllek (also in Noord) The Williamsburg of Amsterdam 🙂 On the waterfront of the River IJ, is Pllek, a restaurant built around stacked old sea containers, serving organic-focused food and drink. We were there on a warm, sunny day and sat outside on one of the long picnic tables by the beach, overlooking the city. It is a 15 minute walk from the NDSM wharf.
OTHER RESTAURANTS & PLACES OF INTEREST AROUND AMSTERDAM
Restaurant De Kas – It is one of the best restaurants in Amsterdam. We were told we had to take a taxi there, but we called the restaurant, and found out it was an easy cable car ride from Dam Square. It felt so great to be able to use public transportation so easily (and we saved at least $60 in taxi fares). To me, De Kas is the Blue Hill/Stone Barns of Amsterdam. It is located in a set of greenhouses, which date back to 1926 and used to belong to the Amsterdam Municipal Nursery. They grow their own herbs and vegetables and create a daily fixed menu based on the harvest of their nursery, and supplement them with the best additional ingredients they can find from local suppliers. RESERVATIONS ARE A MUST.
Conservatorium Hotel and Brasserie Restaurant – After a visit to the museum district one day, we had lunch at the Conservatorium Brasserie Restaurant, located inside the luxurious hotel. The lunch was amazing; serving perfection; and the hotel and surrounds were just beautiful. There are also shops inside the hotel.
Rijsel Rotisserie – My friends who travel to Amsterdam a LOT, said you MUST EAT HERE. Unfortunately, we never were able to get there (too much to do!) but I’m listing it anyway. The cuisine is French-Flemish inspired and served in a modern, industrial canteen restaurant with an open kitchen. And according to my friends — order Chicken and Potatoes!
Kantjil & De Tijger– Another great suggestion from a friend who used to live in Amsterdam, for wonderful Indonesian and Asian food.
A DAY IN THE COUNTRY
Our last day in Amsterdam, Lynn’s friend who lives outside of the city, came and picked us up and we toured the countryside. Just a short ride outside of the city, we drove by open fields, windmills, and quintessential Dutch towns. I was amazed at the open country just a short distance outside of the city.
When you think of the Netherlands, the first things that jump to mind are windmills, tulips, canals, bikes and cheese. And, you can actually do all of those things easily by train. Start your journey at Amsterdam Central Station and start exploring! The train goes right to Breukelen, my favorite country town.
Towns we visited along the way:
Abcoude is famously known as the only town to start with the letters A, B, and C in that order and ends with D and E in that order. It’s a small town outside of Amsterdam, in the province of Utrecht.
Baambrugge is a village on the river Angstel in the Dutch province of Utrecht. It lies about 14 km southeast of Amsterdam. My windmill photo was taken here!
Breukelen -Another town in the province of Utrecht, and just outside of Amsterdam. An absolutely magnificent town, situated along the river Vecht, and close to the lakes of the Loosdrechtse Plassen, an area of natural and tourist interest. I found a fabulous antique store! Little known fact: the New York City (originally called New Amsterdam) borough of Brooklyn is named after Breukelen!
FINALLY – No other flower is as synonymous with a country than the tulip is with Holland. We got there too late for tulip season but here’s the story. From mid-March to the beginning of May, is high-tulip season in Holland and visiting the tulip fields around Lisse is a must! A perfect way to explore the fields is by bike. Just download a bulb field cycling map, rent a bike in Sassenheim, then spend the day losing yourself in the color and magic of the tulip fields. YOU MUST PRE-BOOK A BIKE DURING HIGH-TULIP SEASON.
For tulip exploring, take sprinter train to Hoofddorp, where you transfer to the sprinter train in the direction of Den Haag Centraal, get off at Sassenheim, and it’s about 40 minutes.