Amsterdam travel guide
The Dutch have a sense of style and elegance in their interior design you don’t find in many counties, think Scandinavian with a splash of humour. Everywhere you go interiors are well thought trough, stylish and gezellig (our word for cozy/comfy think the Dutch hygge) Your Instagram feed will fill up with beautiful shots of shops and cafes in no time! And then you haven’t even photographed all the bikes :)
Amsterdam is a city to walk around in, to loose yourself in the small streets, to keep looking around spotting beautiful houses, gables and odd window displays. Just start walking, zig zag your way through the city, have a coffee, sit on one of the many al fresco lunch spots and only when you really don’t know where you are have a look on Google maps.
To make your next trip even more inspiring I made a list of my favourite places, spots that inspire me and give me lots of ideas for my next projects.
This former ship wharf is a great spot for up-cycling inspiration and not often mentioned in your average city guide but this is one of my favourite parts of the city. Catch the free ferry behind Central Station and within 10 minutes you have a whole new area to explore as many of the old buildings that were in use for the making of large ships are still there, housing creative enterprises.
Let's start with a bit of history: In 1937 the NDSM was the largest shipbuilding company in the world, building tank ships as well as huge passenger ships. Unfortunately the wharf closed around 1984 leaving the buildings left to waste and they were of course soon squatted. Craftsmen and artists settled in and the open thinking city council like the idea of these artist using this vast empty space and are now giving subsidies to further develop the area and make good use of the large boathouses, the huge outside terrain and ramps.
NDSM is the whole area but start your exploring by walking straight from the ferry to the NDSM building. (straight on from the ferry and turn right to the Neveritaweg) Keep an eye out for the street art along the way, the mural of Anne Frank is absolutely stunning. Inside this massive hanger building artist are working in de kunststad/art city where they have build their own studios. You can find art installations everywhere here. My favourites are the metal washing hanging between two units, the black and white flowers painted on the yellow steel bar and I can't look at the deck chiars in front of the beach poster without giggling. This place will inspire you, not only due to its raw industrial vibe but it has an amazing creative and positive feel in the air. A great example of using the old and turning it into something new, the Dutch entrepreneurial spirit.
If you time your visit well you might stumble on the biggest flea market in Europe held here,once a month, in the IJ-hallen. I must say I prefer going here on a random midweek day as it will be nice and quiet and you can snap as many Instagram shots as you want :)
This area is fast changing from ship yard, via industrial wasteland to creative hob. The NDSM is a workplace, it has been and it will always be. It’s an area where people are creating, the artists in the Kunststad, the small creative businesses that are popping up, but also bigger companies who now moving their offices here.
Swing by Noorderlicht, a cafe along the waterfront right by the NDSM building. Situated in a big half-pipe greenhouse structure, the cafe has a very relaxed vibe. They offers lunch, dinner and all food is sustainable and organic. Have a coffee on one of the benches outside and watch all the boats sail by.
From the NDSM building walk 15 minutes to the east in one straight line and you will find one of my favourite places in Amsterdam, de Ceuvel. If you are in to up-cycling you will definitely have to check this place out! De Ceuvel complex houses creative workspaces, a sustainable cafe, work spaces you can rent and they are even planning a floating B&B, all this on a former shipyard. The land was secured for a 10-year lease after a group of architects won a tender to turn the site into a regenerative urban oasis. Old houseboats have been placed on heavily polluted soil, a winding jetty connects all the boats together. As the soil of this old ship yard is contaminated a special mix of plants have been planted to clean the terrain of its pollutants.
Just how amazing does the Ceuvel cafe look? A perfect spot for a lazy Sunday brunch or a quick after work drink with your friends. The building has been designed by architect Wouter Valkenier. He constructed the building completely from up cycled materials, such as 80-year-old bollards from the port of Amsterdam and a lifeguard beach pavilion from Scheveningen. Try and get a seat by the window and look out over the water, or get the seats on the little platform. Every corner of this building looks amazing and believe me you wont stop photographing it :)
The food is delicious too this is what the owners say on their website "Café de Ceuvel has been founded by people that would like to make a difference in the world, and that starts with your plate. The world food system is one of the biggest causes of climate change and many other social problems in the world. That’s why we are on a quest for truly good food and drinks. This goes further than a label that says ‘organic’. We are coöperating with a large amount of initiatives that make sure that every plate, beer or drink that we serve make a positive impact somewhere else. For instance, we are making our own soda’s with the organic syrups of Leslie Dronkers, we are growing our vegetables together with Mijn Stadstuin in Amsterdam-West and our bitterballs are made of oyster mushrooms that grow on coffee grinds"
I tried the bitterballs (a great Dutch snack staple of deep fried ragout balls) and they are absolutely delicious!
From the Ceuvel walk to the Buiksloterweg ferry and you will walk past the Shell tower which now hosts a great restaurant on the top floor with stunning views of the city. And the EYE film institute, a beautiful building that was opened in 2012 and designed by Viennese architectural firm Delugan Meissl. The EYE is the only museum in Amsterdam which is open day and night and its collection represents an outstanding sample of film history, from classics and blockbusters to cult films. But EYE does not only focus on the past: it also closely follows the latest developments in film by organising new acquisitions, programmes, and debates. From the Buiksloterweg take the ferry back to Central station and continue your sightseeing.
Do you think it's time for a drink yet?
Gin has made a massive comeback over the last couple of years and craft gin companies are popping up everywhere. Bring it back to basics and try gins predecessor jenever/genever in Wynand Fockink, one of the oldest distillery in town. I wouldn't normal suggest visiting the Dam square area as it's so full of tourist but head over to the Pijlsteeg (an alley just behind the national monument on the Dam) and you find yourself back in time. In around 1679 Wynand Fockink started a liqueur distillery and soon a proeflokaal (tavern) was added, where customers could taste and buy the products. To this day, this practice has continued, liqueurs and genevers are still being made using the same 17th century traditional craft methods. The building alone is worth a visit but you should really try one of their genevers. The distinctive tulip shaped genever glasses are filled to the brim and using old traditions you are not allowed to pick up your glass for the first sip but you have to bend down to the counter to take your first sip. You bow down for your drink, also otherwise you might risk spilling your tipple :) If pure genever is a bit too strong for you try one of their many flavoured liqueurs. Have a look on their website for opening times and more information http://wynand-fockink.nl.
Not a big spirit drinker? Not to worry as Amsterdam is the city of a great cup of coffee. The whole nation lives on coffee, they are one of the biggest coffee drinkers in the world going through 8.4 kilo's of coffee per capita a year (Scandinavia tops the charts, the USA didn't even make the top 20 and esspresso nation Italy uses only 5kg) An average Dutch home has at least two coffee makers, a trusty filter coffee machine and a Senseo which uses coffee pods. Go and meet Dutch friends at their home and you always get offered a cup of coffee, mostly served black and in a big mug. The Dutch like their coffee strong and where you used to drink your brew at home or in a bar/cafe, trendy coffee places have popped up all over the place in the last couple of years. There are hardly any Starbucks or other chains in Holland so the independent coffee companies are the places to go, hooray!
My favourite is Back to Black on the Weteringstraat 48 and not only as they have the best tag line ever 'Thank you for being addicted.' They are not just a coffee bar as they also have a coffee roasters. Back to Black are buying Arabica beans direct from the farmer and prefer purchasing from micro farms who are more likely to put extra care in harvesting and processing their coffee. Resulting in a great cup of coffee. On the back to black menu (black coffee) you can find espresso coffee's, coffee brewed in a Chemex (my fav), from a V60 drip filter, French press, Aero press, Syphon and cold brews. On the back to white menu you can find your milky coffee's like the late, cappuccino, cortado, flat white etc. They also serve tea's and amazing cakes sell their own coffee beans and a variety of coffee makers. Can we just talk about the blue wall, how amazing is that colour!! The teal looks amazing with all the timber, and love the rope shelves. Not only do they serve great coffee this place is Instagram hotspot :)
I could do a whole separate post on great coffee places in Amsterdam as there are so many! Here some of my other favs:
- The Scandinavian Embassy, Sarphatipark 34, excellent coffee in a Scandinavian setting.
- Coffee and Coconuts, Ceintuurbaan 282, located in an old interior this one is proper interior inspiration heaven. White washed walls, wood, industrial elements, plants and linen. On top of that they serve great coffee and delicious food.
- The Koala Republic, Jan Evertsenstraat 115, healthy eating, great coffee (from beans roasted by their neighbour White Label Coffee) and stunning interiors. How would you like to climb to your mezzanine style table&seats like a koala or relax with your feet on a swing?
Most coffee places also serve up a great lunch but if you want to go somewhere special try Buffet van Odette. Situated on the Prinsengracht 598 this restaurant is a hot spot for brunch, lunch and diner. It might be tricky to get a table so I would advise to book, you can do this very easily on their website. The interior is absolutely stunning with its white walls, tiles and marble bar countertop but you might want to sit on the terrace and soak up the beautiful canal views. Odette shows you how good simple cooking can taste when you start with great ingredients and a dash of creativity. On the menu you can find truffle omelet, harissa mussels, ravioli with artichokes and I heard the sticky toffee cake is to die for. Love the interior? Why not sleep in it! Bed& Buffet is Odette's latest addition, two beautifully styled B&B rooms in the Wetering neighbourhood. Think big windows pouring in lots of natural light, handmade rugs and calm white interiors.
Some of my other favourite restaurants:
- Hotel de Goudfazant, Aanbeeldstraat 10, not a hotel but an amazingly styled restaurant in an old car garage. If you love raw and industrial with great food this is the place to be. Situated on an industrial estate in the north of the city I would suggest taking a taxi to this place.
- De Kas, Kamerlingh Onneslaan 3, restaurant & nursery is located in a set of greenhouses which date back to 1926. The food is made from freshest, local ingredients, as they grow their own herbs and vegetables in the greenhouses and their farmland just outside town.
- Bak, van Diemenstraat 408, located on the top floor of a former warehouse over looking the water, try and get a window seat for stunning sunsets. Bak is all about the food and serves ethical and innovative cuisine from locally and seasonal produce.
- For a quick bit or food on the go try Stach, this local chain can be found all over town. They do a great sandwich, lovely salads, pasta dishes and delicious cakes and cookies
You can't come to Amsterdam without visiting de Hallen (the Halls). Once the first electric trams in Amsterdam were serviced in this building but now it has been granted a new life. You will probably spend some time here as in de Hallen you can find an amazing indoor food market, the food hall, an superb cinema, de filmhallen, and some great shops like the Maker Store.
The Foodhallen is a classy indoor food market lined with stalls of top-notch street food from some of Amsterdam’s most respected kitchens, there are plentiful bars and seating areas and a lovely styled restaurant called the Kanarie Club. I would suggest coming here mid week or for lunch as the foodhallen tends to get super, super busy.
Catch a movie in de filmhallen, my fav independent cinema in town. It has 9 screens with my fav being the Parisien Room, adorned in an authentic art-deco interior which formerly belonging to one of the oldest film theatres in Amsterdam.
But my favourite part of de Hallen is the Maker Store, a beautiful shop for, by and about makers. With more then 80 different unique, local and small scale brands, each product tells their own story. The Maker Store thinks it's important to tell this story so you can find little notes next to the items for sale so you can read about the products origin. As you know I'm all about making so this is a shop after my own heart. Some items are even made in store, the brand Uncover can engrave your item while you wait. They take personalising to a whole new level, by creating all sorts of custom objects with the help of a laser cutter. Just like a tattoo shop, you’re free to bring in your own design, or choose one from their collection and you will soon have an unique Moleskin notebook, wooden chopping board or leather apron.
You can find clothes in the Maker Store, bags, books, small pieces of furniture and design objects. All this in a beautifully designed store, you will want to buy and photograph everything!
Once a month the shop hosts its Maker Market in de Hallen, a weekend where even more makers get to show you their makes. Have a look on the website for the market dates. In June this year they will also open Maker Space a A workspace dedicated to bridging the gap between digital design and physical creation. Or as the managing director Daniel Eppstein says: "We see a place where makers can touch the people they inspire. It’s more than a desk; it is a network; it is high dollar resource; it is a brand name; it is a growth opportunity. It is a place that inspires and connects. It is a place of energy." They will host workshops with fellow makers, have laser cutters, embroidery machines and 3D printers for makers to use.
Other shops that I always have to visit:
- Hema, this Dutch stable of a shop has recently made it over to the UK. Hema started trading in 1926 and can be found in any Dutch town. They sell everything you might ever need in your life (kitchen items, bikes, curtains, clothes, food, cards, toys etc. etc.) but I love them most for their stationary department. Everything they sell is by their own brand and designed in the typical toned down and fun Dutch esthetic and for very good prices. Think Woolworths mixed with Ikea and Muji. Try the shop on the Nieuwendijk 174-176 or any of the other branches through town.
- Athenaeum boekhandel, Spui 14-16, I always have to pop into this bookshop as it has the best magazine selection and as a magazine addict is all about the magazine for me!
- Hutspot is my other all time fav, van Woustraat 4, Hutspot searches for new and interesting brands, designers, artists and entrepreneurs, offering them the chance to expose their products in their own space within the shops. They also have a shop on the Rozengracht but the store on the van Woustraat also houses a great cafe and a very stylish looking barber. More Hutspot shops are opening all over the country and you can now find them in Eindhoven , Utrecht and Rotterdam as well.
- Frozen Fountain, Prinsengracht 645, an amazing interior shop selling contemporary furniture and home accessories. Besides the classics you can find new designers that have been emerging from the various art academies both in the Netherlands and abroad. Resulting in a highly dynamic collection.
- The Public House of Art, Nieuwe Spiegelstraat 39, affordable art for everyone. Have a look at their latest show and if you like the art you can buy it in a size that fits your home!
Flower shops can be found all over town, restaurant &coffee spots have great selections of plants and every window or balcony has blooms on them. The cliche is true the Netherlands is a country full of flower lovers. Have a walk around town with your camera and see if you can find petals in unusual places. Have a look at the florist shops and be amazed how much cheaper a great bouquet is over here. Have a few hours to spare? Go to the Hortus Botanicus one of the oldest botanic gardens in the world.The garden is a beautiful and intimate place with an unique collection of plants and offers you an oasis of tranquillity in the urban busyness.
Have a look at Mooi Anders Bloemen on the Bildersijkstraat (not far from de Hallen) owner Dennis creates beautiful bouquets and has a great selection of house plants. He also hosts workshops so if you want to get greener fingered have a look on the website.
Most tourist will head to the floating flower market on the Singel but I would give this a miss as it's too crowded and better shops can be found through town. Like the Wildernis on Bilderdijkstraat 165, where you can find everything to do with plants for your balcony, terrace or bedroom. I used to buy my flowers from 't Lievertje , Spui 7, where they make the most stunning, massive bouquets. They also sell seeds and bulbs in case you want to take some home. A lot of interior or lifestyle shops also sell plants and flowers so you will be spoiled for choice by just walking around town.
So there you have it, my inspirational city guide of Amsterdam. If you are into interior, up-cycling, industrial style and plants this is definitely the town for you. Grab your camera, start walking and get inspired!
All images by Hester van Overbeek unless stated otherwise, the Amsterdam city guide appeared first here on www.hestershandmadehome.com