Amsterdam. It’s the sex drugs and rock ‘n’ roll of cities and a bank holiday there saw me doing all three. Kidding, of course…
This rebellious city, which always colours outside the lines, partners ambient canals, gardens of rare blooms, Van Gogh and Miss Marple bicycles with a buzzy beer culture, billowing marijuana ‘coffeeshops’ and the opulent glare of the Red Light District.
The Eurostar from King’s Cross plummeted me into the realms of eclectic Amsterdam right on time to raise an Amstel canal side. This popular city is on the bucket list for smoke-searching hipsters, fans of audacious architecture, the nomadic and selfie-stick wielding couples. It’s packed with diversity across its range of things to do, and if you’re wanting to keep off the grass (if you know what I mean), then embrace its new Golden Age; a tapestry of boutique shops, award-winning restaurants and galleries.
Amsterdam has been a beer-loving city since the 12thcentury, so it was only fair to encounter this stalwart part of the city’s tapestry (or, at least, that’s what my ale-addicted side informed me). Secret Beer Tours is a wonderful place to start. You’ll traverse the city, gulping down facts about Amsterdam’s slanted housing and small breweries, whilst feasting on Dutch fodder, from hot and delicious bitterballen to cheese synonymous to the city. Food is a much needed accompaniment to the local bars and breweries you’ll dip in and out of. One stop, built on beer, has existed since 1895 and has a menu that alters daily, whilst another flirts with your thirsty side with 52 real Dutch beers on tap.
One sweet way of touring the city, veering off piste, is via the stroopwafel selections. Traditional Dutch stroopwafels, originating circa 18thand 19thcentury, are thankfully made when bakers press two wafer-thin waffles between a layer of gooey caramel syrup, and a wander through the tourist-populated parts of the city, from Dam Square to Vodelpark, will see someone scoffing a stroopwafel piled high with marshmallows, chocolate and butterscotch. Championed spots for these sugary-delights include Lanksroon, a long-running bakery, Van Wonderen and Stach.
Filled up with beer, bitterballen and stroopwafels, a sure fire way to work off the carbs is by exploring the canals, darting from locals on bikes to snap photos in front of the flora and fauna and meandering waters of the city. For an early evening cocktail, Rosalia’s Menagerie is a must. Located at Kloveniersburgwal 20 this tipple emporium can be entered via a tap on the door and a watchful eye; from the exterior, this cosy little bar appears as nothing more than a book shop, say. Inside, the Diagon-Alley esque venue, inspired by Dutch heritage, wows with its animals and curiosities collected from around the globe and its Jenever and Korenwijn heavy menu.
Another coveted spot, known primarily as a muse for the locals, is Wynand Fockink, perhaps one of the most curious, whacky wonders of the city that produces more than 70 Dutch liqueurs 100% handcrafted genevers, herbal and sour bitters and brandy’s. I’ve never been to a more eccentric and wonderful spot, with staff theatrical in nature and on a mission to get you in a drunken tizzy, to which I’d never complain. Open daily from 2pm until 9pm, this intriguing bar has retained its 17th century character and product assortment and, as a result of its liqueurs, has become world famous.
The night air of Amsterdam is ablast with excitement. Tourists, stag & hen do-ers and locals delight in the upbeat, zesty nightlife and walking down cobbled streets sees al-fresco drinkers propped up by canals drinking wine. The food scene of Amsterdam is rife, from neighbourhood restaurants, swanky staples and intoxicated street food stumblers, there’s something for one and all. The city might have a stodgy reputation with its stoner fries (a must-have) and plumes of thick, delicious cheese, but it’s evident that Dutch chefs are attempting to subvert this theme.
An example of this is Jansz, a pastel-pink, luxurious dream of a restaurant, situated at Reestraat 8, accessed through the Pulitzer Hotel. The restaurant sits inconspicuously, yet alluring on a street corner, the result of 17thcentury craftsman Volkert Jansz and his discerning tastes, keen eye for style and passion for conversation, all of which waltz through a Jansz experience. The airy space is speckled with golds, mustard yellows and baby pinks and is an idyllic spot for a Saturday evening dinner, before heading out for a slice of Amsterdam’s voluptuous nightlife. I’d seen Jansz a great deal on Instagram and knew it to be the restaurant of the city before arrival. Pull out a black vintage-look chair tucked beneath a marble table and explore a menu that meanders through beautifully crafted modern classics.
Favourite dishes of the evening included oysters, £4 per piece, diver scallops which were meaty and delicious and, for main, the Dover Sole Meuniere which boasted a fresh flavour and salmon with black rice and bimi which tasted a little like gravy and boasted a richness that partnered perfectly with the lightly flavoured salmon. Wash this down with a crisp Mas des Lauriers white or, if wine isn’t your bag, then the Hotel Pulitzer bar cocktails will be. Espresso Martinis have never tasted so good. The luxury of Jansz is unrivalled, but there are some other tremendous restaurants to visit through the city too. Restaurant de Kas is a popular choice that cultivates herbs and veg inside its onsite greenhouse, or there’s Moeders restaurant which stuns with its authentic Dutch cooking and nostalgic interiors showcasing hundreds of photographs of mothers from its guests!
Amsterdam is a labyrinth of activity and every moment is consumed by adventure, be it bobbing up and down on a riverboat or witnessing the Red Light District and exploring its existence that appears as both futuristic and cemented in the past. We witnessed sexual acts in booths that had our eyes glued to the action, all the while juggling a range of emotions that weaved between intrigue and confusion.
Sex to one side, the Netherlands’ capital wows with its many museums, haunts with Anne Frank’s house and delights with BODYWORLDS the Rijksmuseum and its spinetingling nightlife. Of course, smoking is a Danish pastime but those unwilling to visit as a result of this are missing out on a life-changing trip. This treasure trove of culture is definitely a place I’ll return to time and time again.
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