By Mary Richardson, Editor-in-Chief
Amsterdam’s gabled buildings, grid-like canals, and candlelit cafés make it an attractive and increasingly popular European city to visit. However, the scenic cityscape holds more than just what can be seen. Though probably more known for its phenomenal nightlife and pioneering architecture and design, the Netherlands has produced a wealth of artists, including Rembrandt, Vermeer, Van Gogh, and Mondrian. Its devastating World War II experiences, embodied by the Anne Frank House, also make it a place for reflection and contemplation. Here, tradition intertwines with progress, putting Amsterdam amidst a time of renewal.
If you’re interested in seeing the Dutch capital in person, here are just a few ways to spend a day there:
9am Food Fusion
True to being a T-bird, have breakfast at a culturally-infused café. During a night out and chance encounter in West Hollywood, a New Zealander and Brazilian bonded while chatting about how much they missed the food of their native countries — the home-cooked meals, the street food, the flavorful coffee, the deliciously fresh cakes. And so, they combined all of these, along with special touches of hospitality, to create a New Zealand-inspired café with a Brazilian twist, Bakers & Roasters.
Conveniently located on two sides of the city, it shouldn’t be hard to find one that is striking distance from where you’re staying. The hearty Kiwi Brekkie will give you the energy for a long day of touring and biking, but if you want something a bit more unexpected, the Smoky Aubergine & Feta Savoury Pancakes will pique your interest with its array of toppings: cumin spiced chickpeas, toasted cashews, pine nuts, pita chips, and a dollop of yogurt and fresh herbs.
The wait time might dampen some people’s motivation to stay if they arrive later in the morning, but the restaurant offers to text a link so that customers can keep track of their status in line. People can also order coffee, tea, or B&R’s popular carrot, turmeric, ginger, and apple juices while they wait. Assuredly, it’s worth it.
10:30am Feast Your Eyes
While Amsterdam boasts the recently renovated Rijksmuseum and Stedelijk as well as the Van Gogh Museum, Holland is arguably more famous for what it offers outside of art. Namely, tulips and cheese.
For a more hands-on (and appetizing) experience than the notable museums, the Amsterdam Cheese Museum offers visitors to experience the history of cheese-making and taste the distinct flavors that are unique to Holland. Housed here is a wide variety of the best known (and lesser known) Dutch cheeses as well as the most expensive cheese slicer in the world. Hopefully, you’re not too full from breakfast.
If you have time after that, you can take a quick visit to the Amsterdam Tulip Museum to learn about the importance and symbolism of the flower during the Ottoman Empire, its voyage to the Netherlands, and the strange craze for it in Holland during the 16th and 17th century. “Tulip mania,” as it’s known, escalated as tradespeople exchanged bulbs for exorbitant prices, to the point that houses and estates were mortgaged and the country was brought to the verge of bankruptcy.
History aside, tulips are also pretty to look at.
1pm “Food Hall of Fame”
Whether eating alone or in a big group, Foodhallen provides options to meet any person’s taste with its 21 food stands and three bars. If during your travels you’re struck by a craving for Vietnamese street food, Mexican cuisine, Mumbai market treats, or Spanish tapas, make sure to at least also try bitterballen, a famous Dutch staple, as an appetizer at De Ballenbar.
After hearing about the Foodhallen concept four years ago, De Ballenbar founders Peter Gast, a Michelin star chef, and his former sous-chef Jeroen Elijzen felt that the small, deep-fried snack would be a hit in the former tram depot turned impressive indoor food hall. Just a heads-up for vegetarians—the traditional filling is a beef or veal ragu shaped into a ball and coated with coarse breadcrumbs. However, De Ballenbar serves six types of filling to choose from including one that’s truffle-based.
3:30pm A Few Brews
While most first-time visitors flock to the Heineken Experience for a brewery tour, Brouwerij ‘t IJ offers a just as (if not more) informative brewery tour in a unique setting. Located inside a windmill built in 1725, you’ll find a range of regular, seasonal, and small batch beers being made. Be prepared — these brews tend to be on the stronger side at upwards of 6%.
Drop by for the tour and enjoy a pint if you’re in Amsterdam between Friday to Sunday. While the brewery is open every day, the English language tours are only on the weekend. With lots of indoor and outdoor seating, it’s an easy and convenient place to relax for the afternoon.
For those interested in spending more time in the sun, head over to Vondelpark instead. As the largest park in Amsterdam, people come to enjoy the weather, walk their dogs, jog, roller-skate, or laze about in the grass. If you’re lucky, you can catch a free concert at the open-air theatre or you can also pop over to the main museum district from here if your museum itch wasn’t satisfied in the morning.
5:30pm Scent-sational Gift
Take a break from touring and shop for someone who appreciates noteworthy, clean scents. Don’t be fooled by the French-inspired name—Marie-Stella-Maris is an Amsterdam-based brand offering natural care products, luxurious home fragrances and natural mineral water. The company, with its origins as a social enterprise, does more than just sell care products though.
When the United Nations declared access to clean drinking water and sanitation to be a human right in 2010, the founders were inspired to improve conditions around the world and created the Marie-Stella-Maris Foundation. Since 2011, they’ve helped more than 18,000 people access clean drinking water through its socially-geared, responsible pricing model.
Manufactured in Sweden, the care products are made from botanical organic ingredients, such as shea butter, cocoa butter, jojoba, sweet almond oil, and coconut oil. While the shop’s Lemon Notes Liquid Soap sells quickly, make sure to try the nourishing Poivre Noir Frais (black pepper) Liquid Soap or Marie-Stella-Maris’ best-selling aromatic room spray.
6:30pm A New View
Instead of just having a view of the canals, have a view from them. Book an evening canal cruise so you can see even more of the city without the hustle of navigating on your own. (It’s okay — no one saw you crash your bike while you were looking at your maps earlier). The 165 canals make up a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and while these can’t all be cruised in one go, there are some gems in the city to see along a few recommended paths. A popular route for evening cruises includes sailing on the Amstel and along the Hermitage. If you choose to book with Friendship Amsterdam, you can also see Carré, the well-known romantic Skinny Bridge, the Maritime Museum and Nemo.
Wynand Fockink is easy to pass by, though a shame to miss. The liqueur tasting room is hidden in a discrete alley behind the National Monument on the Dam square. Like almost everything in Amsterdam, it has a long history. Started as a liqueur distillery around 1679, a tavern was added soon after where customers could sample the drinks. To this day, the original 17th century craft methods are used to produce more than 70 Dutch liqueurs and genevers.
By filling the traditional tulip glass so that it’s budding above the rim, customers are encouraged to drink the old-fashioned way: bowing to the drink and slurping the first sip. Prost!
Please feel free to comment below what your favorite places in Amsterdam are and where you’d recommend T-birds visit during their time there. Though the Netherlands is small, the places to see are countless.