A City Of Sin?
What’s the first thing you think of when you hear ‘Amsterdam’? Tulips, canals, drugs, naked girls in shop windows or none of the above?
The capital and most populous city of The Netherlands, Amsterdam’s vibe hit me round the face like a breath of fresh air. A bit like Madrid in energy varieties, it’s buzzy and relaxed all at once, but it feels quite a lot kookier.
A Different Kind Of World…
I’d previously put Amsterdam in a weird sub-category of topsy turviness quite apart from the rest of Europe - an ethereal, alternative world filed away with the likes of Alice In Wonderland and Charlie And The Chocolate Factory. And though it certainly has an other-earthly feel about it with its distinctive and slightly wonky canal-side apartments, it’s the best kind of unique.
A Cool Kind Of Kooky…
A bit like stepping into a pop-up story book like Hansel and Grettel, it has a quirky visual layout which I simply haven’t found in other European cities bar Venice, with its plentiful canals giving it a peace and spaciousness which is quite sublime. Yet at the same time, it’s also seriously civilised, housing the headquarters of some major international brands such as Nike, Heineken and ING, with bars, shops and markets befitting a major European hub. So whether you’re a shopaholic, culture vulture or a lover of illicit substances, there really is something for everyone here.
Amsterdam’s Best Bits
1. Artistic Aesthetic
The shop windows are a sight to behold, with an artistry to most facades which is truly striking. With bespoke, boutiquey appearances, the shops are often small and quaint with detail befitting mini museums. The insides are pretty cool too – check out the urban-chic lamp above! #want #one
2. Canals Everywhere
The canals are plentiful, giving the city a wonderful sense of space and peace. If you’re seriously lucky, you may even have a riverside view from your home, otherwise it’s not hard to find a cafe or bar with a view. You can even take a tour of the city on a canal boat if you have good water legs.
3. Bikes, Bikes And More Bikes
Forget four wheels, bikes are how everyone rolls here. Creating a wonderful calm and classlessness which unites prince and pauper, I’m a particular fan of the Minty number above. If I was a bike, I’d be that
Whether in florists or markets street side, tulips are never far away, adding a touch of purity to the seedier parts of certain suburbs…
Whether mainstream or vintage is your thing, there’s a great array of shops here from treasure chests stacked full of old jewels to modern gems like Nike.
Cafés bedeck the streets in Amsterdam with cakes and drinks galore to pour over of an afternoon. Amsterdam coffee shops, not to be confused with cafés, have been a part of the city since the 1970s, when the Dutch government made a clear distinction in the law between ‘hard’ and ‘soft’ drugs. So if you fancy more than afternoon tea, find yourself a “coffee shop”.
Whether it’s cheese, flowers, silly hats or sumptuous fabric you’re after, the markets in Amsterdam are amazing! And if sausages are your thing, you’ll find more here than in a brothel at midnight.
Whether sampling the cracking eggs benedict at Scandinavian Embassy, Amsterdam’s speciality apple and cinnamon cake or a range of treats from De Food Hallen, (an incredible indoor market with the likes of sushi, burgers and pretty much every type of food your heart could desire), Amsterdam is a greedy girl’s paradise. There’s even a gin and tonic bar with every kind of gin and fruit accompaniment you could imagine in the latter! Words fail me…
If that’s not enough, swing by the Grand Cafe at De Balie, a cool, kitchy café adjoining a theatre and centre for politics, culture and media and try the traditional, battered balls which go by the name of ‘bitterballen’. These are a savoury Dutch meat-based snack, typically containing a mixture of beef or veal, beef broth, butter, flour for thickening, parsley, salt and pepper. Or as my egg-obsessed friend put it, Amsterdam’s version of the scotch egg. They go really well with a pint of Heineken (I’ve heard) - one of the best Amsterdam products going.
I stumbled upon this magical little bar escaping from a snowy blizzard (which put Chamonix snowfall to shame). A bit like stepping into an animal’s grotto in Narnia betwixt a tree trunk, I’m sure you can see why I loved Papeneiland so much. A cosy lover’s paradise
You can also visit The Anne Frank Museum where you can see the place where Anne went into hiding and wrote her diary.
If you prefer chilled live music or concerts, there are plenty of treasures to unearth come nightfall.
11. Street Art
You’ll often stumble across vibrant displays of colour which betray Amsterdam’s zany undertones. A feast for the senses if, like me, you like a bit of rainbow