Amsterdam city guide: Why I love Amsterdam, the greatest little city in world
We finally did it. We moved to New York City! I’ve been so caught up in the excitement of the big move in the past months that it wasn’t till our last week in Amsterdam that I got to really reflect on what an amazing little city it really is and more importantly, what an inspiring bunch of people from all over the world live there – we are missing both madly and will always have endless fond memories of our time there.
So what’s the best thing about Amsterdam? Hands down, it’s got to be riding your bike along the canals with a bunch of your friends – no matter how old you are, riding a bike in a group will always make you feel part of a kids BMX bike gang
So I also made a list of our best of Amsterdam! Same deal as the other city guides really, a bunch of our Amsterdam favourites in this blog entry and a whole bunch more when you click through to the Google Map. Except this city guide is a bit of a bumper guide given that we had three years to research it!
Oh and this one goes out to all our Amsterdam peeps – I know you’ve spent many a night trying to think of a place to eat at or where to go – hopefully you get some good use out of this!
Big Love from MJ xxx
*Tips for using the map: Clicking on the printer icon in Google Maps will bring up a list with images and details that you can print and take with you on your trip. You can also send the link to yourself and use your phone browser to view the map on the go – remember caching the map is the best thing to do to avoid spending a lot of money on data roaming!
AMSTERDAM HIT LIST
ULIVETO TRAITUER & CATERING
A beautiful light-filled lunch spot with a communal table. When you arrive just ask them to put together an antipasto plate to share with the group.
Best bit: Eat you lunch and do your Italian grocery shopping at the same time.
If you’ve been to Amsterdam you’ve probably been stuck for good lunch options. Foodware fills that gap well with their great selection of fresh and well-cooked dishes. The owners and chefs have good taste and it shows in both the food and the space.
Best bit: Hopefully it’s sunny and you can enjoy your food on the bench right outside overlooking the canals.
Be prepared to line up for yum cha on the weekends at Oriental City. You’ll line up amidst a sea of black hair so you know your safe here. Best dim sum in Amsterdam hands down.
Best bit: They have these chili and sesame oil infused cucumbers – order them.
FOAM FOTOGRAFIE MUSEUM
A great small photography museum to stop past whilst you’re touring the canals of Amsterdam. Foam is located on the Keizersgracht and has a varied programme of exhibitions that include world-class photographers and young undiscovered talent.
Best bit: They sell our good photographer friend’s amazing work on cityscapes – check it out: Marcus Koppen Foam Editions. Interestingly, the feature image of this blog entry was taken by Marcus looking out of his apartment during one of Amsterdam’s snowy eves.
LOCKSTOCK & BARREL
A multi-label boutique situated in the nine streets of Amsterdam. LockStock & Barrel has an eclectic mix of styles from easy-chic Parisian to minimalistic Scandinavian. Shop for brands like Filippa K, Current Elliot, Sessun and Whyred.
Best bit: Cos recently opened right across the street from LockStock & Barrel, which makes for an easy day of shopping J
Sometimes Amsterdam shopping can start getting to you in a bad way – too many frumpy florals and chunky boots for my liking. That’s when I head to the Acne store for my fix of Scandinavian fashion.
Best bit: It’s small but somehow I always walk out with a pink shopping bag in my hand!
COWBOYS 2 CATWALK
A men’s boutique that carries labels such as Viktor & Rolf, ACNE, Prps, Comme des Garcons, Damir Doma and Folk. The guys that work there are truly passionate about men’s fashion so you’re in good hands.
Best bit: If your man gets caught in a long conversation about denim with the guys in the store, just follow your nose to Patisserie Kuyt next store and pick up some Dutch apple pie.
THE CITY STREET SPA
City Street Spa is a beautiful light-filled sanctuary on the canals of Amsterdam where you can truly indulge yourself with a massage, mani, pedi or facial – bliss.
Best bit: You won’t feel rushed to leave right after your treatment – who wants to jump straight onto a bike after a full body massage? Not me…
OH YOU PRETTY THINGS
I think everyone I know in Amsterdam goes to Oh you pretty things for a haircut – probably because they’re the best salon in the city and its always such a joy sit and admire the whimsical art-filled salon.
Best bit: They always block out an hour to do your hair, which means no one’s rushed and you’re getting your money’s worth. And you can book your appointments online.
Restaurant RED only does 2 things – steak and lobster – and they do it well and more importantly consistently well. I have no fear in recommending this restaurant to you because I know they will do it just as well for you.
Best bit: If you can’t choose between steak and lobster just get both (surf & turf). Good wine list too.
A passionate foodie couple runs this charming little restaurant tucked away off the canals of Amsterdam. Each course served uses the freshest and most interesting ingredients in a truly creative way.
Best bit: Remember to spoil yourself with some matched wines.
Megnha serves up the freshest, cleanest and tastiest Indian food in Amsterdam. Do yourself a favour and order the amazingly tender chicken tikka.
Best bit: The tiny restaurant is always busy but somehow, never requires a reservation – this almost never happens in Amsterdam!
NYONYA MALAYSIA EXPRESS
The best Malaysian food you’ll get in the whole of Amsterdam. Take my advice and don’t go anywhere else for chicken rice, char kuay teow or nasi lemak.
Best bit: Always share the sambal okra (lady fingers) with the table – trust me, no one will complain!
Ph: (020) 422 24 47
There are few bars in Amsterdam with this much character. Cafe Brecht is two parts Berlin and one part Melbourne with its quirky vintage interior and young bar-loving crowd.
Best bit: Make yourself at home in this living room style bar. They’ll even provide you with knitting needles and board games!
A truly world class music venue. If you’re in Amsterdam even for the weekend check their schedule for any acts you want to see. Make sure walk up to the top floors and enjoy the impressive view of the stage and the sea of fans.
Best bit: The acoustic quality in this venue makes the music sound just amazing
A supposed pop-up bar that has been around for quite a while now and hopefully a lot longer to come. Bar Basis is a refreshing addition to the Amsterdam bar scene and although a little student-y, it’s definitely still cool.
Best bit: You can get food delivered to the bar and eat with their supplied cutlery and crockery!
This prohibition style bar makes artisanal cocktails. The bar staff know their drinks and can make anything you want – except sadly, my favourite, an espresso martini.
Best bit: It’s across from Duivel, a great hip-hop bar. If that gets too rough for your liking, simply ring the doorbell at number 74 and enter a completely different world.
Grocery shopping in Amsterdam normally means multiple stops at multiple specialty shops. This specialty shop is of the organic variety and the large selection of fresh and pantry products generally means you get to cut down the number of stops you have to make.
Best bit: You can feel assured that everything in the store is certified organic.
Marqt is the most stylish supermarket you’ll ever go to. It’s a farmers-market-cum-supermarket, similar to that of Wholefoods Market in the US and UK. I adored shopping at Marqt when it first opened on Utrechtsestraat. It’s such a joy shopping in a cool industrial style warehouse reminiscent of an art gallery with some jazz music playing in the background.
Best bit: The spelt bread loaves from Brood are my favourite.
Amsterdam’s most popular organic farmer’s market. Go on a Monday for the vintage flea market or on a Saturday to pick up your week’s worth of fresh organic veggies.
Best bit: On a sunny day, get a picnic spread of olives, tapenade and baguette then enjoy on a canal bench.
G&T’S REALLY REALLY NICE PLACE
G&T’s brings proper weekend brunches to Amsterdam in true expat style. They’re also constantly hosting loads of fun parties, events and pop-ups in their adorable little ex-brown cafe.
Best bit: George & Tanya are doing a really nice job of keeping the expats of Amsterdam entertained and tipsy with their famous selection of bloody marys.
SPRMRKT & SPR+
Amsterdam’s best proper concept store. 420m2 of vintage, design classics, TopShop and brands like Rick Owens, Acne and Margiela.
Best bit: It’s a store you can spend a good ½ hour perusing in even if you don’t end up buying anything.
The best pizza in Amsterdam.
Best bit: Hopefully the night is warm enough for you and your friends to order a bunch and sit outside on the bench chatting, eating and people watching. If not, hopefully you have a friend living in the Jordaan willing host pizza night – limited seating is the only downside of this place.
Mikee’s pick for the best Italian in Amsterdam. He’s a trustworthy source since he lived in Italy for 6 years, but I think the fact you can’t get a table unless you book at least a week in advance says something too.
Best bit: Open kitchen and New York vibe
Owned and operated by an Englishman and New Yorker, this restaurant was bound to be a crowd pleaser for the expat community. Then they upped the ante with a weekly brunch specialising in your favourite English fry-ups but also traditional American breakfasts.
Best bit: The ever-changing and super-fresh dinner menu.
An Italian wine bar that Mikee and I happened to stumble across when it had just opened a few years back – and what a find! The perfect cozy spot for a simple Italian dinner with friends in the wintertime.
Best bit: There’s no real menu, the chef makes what he’s feeling for the day but you can always bet on having a nice bowl of pasta.
A kitchen emporium, everything you need for the kitchen from baking supplies, tea towels and crockery to full kitchens and stovetops. All good brands are available and the staff is very knowledgeable.
Best bit: They practically take over the whole street with lots of little Duikelman’s next door to each other.
A small Italian takeaway and food store that also caters and holds private dinners. Very cute.
Best bit: Probably that only place in Amsterdam that sells Faella pasta, which is not only beautiful to have in the home, but also to eat
This place opened the week we left Amsterdam. There was plenty of buzz going on – everyone was excited to see a new all night gourmet burger joint open with a secret invite only cocktail bar behind a nondescript door. I wonder how long it’ll stay “invite only” in little ol’ Amsterdam
Best bit: One of the very few places serving fish and chips – and it’s decent!
Really really good gelato. And if you ever wondered how ice-cream shops make any money in cooler climate cites like Amsterdam, the answer is in the winter months they turn into a Stampot takeaway – genius!
Best bit: Super creamy nut flavours – my favourite is hazelnut and pistachio.
I lived in De Pijp for 3 years, walked past this restaurant countless times but never knew it existed – that’s how hidden it is! This tiny Michelin starred restaurant will impress you with its creative use of ingredients in each course.
Best bit: The restaurant is set in an apartment so it really feels like you’re having dinner (and a special one at that) in a friend’s living room.
HOTEL DE GOUDFAZANT
A restaurant set in a huge industrial space that can accommodate vintage sports cars and an enormous modern chandelier. The kitchen works to a high standard and serves Amsterdam locals with unpretentious but consistently good food. Get the spring chicken.
Best bit: Have a round of pool and a drink in the restaurant after dinner.
Proef is one of those restaurants you can count on for bad service. But the organic food they serve is so fresh, delicious and creatively styled that you can turn a blind eye to it.
Best bit: Enjoy lunch or dinner in the garden alongside the free-range chickens
290 SQUARE METERS
A well-curated men’s and ladies selection of brands like Henrik Vibskov, A.P.C, Our Legacy, Mini Market, Surface to Air and Wood Wood.
Best bit: The store has a nice mix of heritage and Scandinavian contemporary brands.
On a sunny day this is the place to go and hang out with all those sun-loving Dutchies. Boats moor up to Hannekes Boom to enjoy a drink and the vibe, it’s sunny and everyone’s happy
Best bit: You can end up spending the entire day there drinking and laughing with friends.
A cozy restaurant on a quiet corner of Prinseneiland, which dedicates itself to simple dishes, cooked with creativity and an emphasis on fresh, seasonal ingredients, focusing on seafood.
Best bit: After dinner, have a leisurely bike ride around the very pretty Prinseneiland – it’ll help you digest too
A proper Japanese supermarket in Amsterdam! I’ve always thought it was strange for a Japanese supermarket chain to open its doors in Amsterdam of all cities, but here it is and I was not complaining!
Best bit: They sell the hand-rolls that are packaged in a way where you have to roll the seaweed yourself – crunchy delicious seaweed every time J