This article first appeared in the Sunday Times SA on 11 November 2018
You’re in the ‘Dam and time is tight. Here are a few of my recommendations – things to do and great places to eat, drink and visit.
Have a fijne dag!
Google ‘coffee shops’ in Amsterdam and, confusingly for many, a list of marijuana dispensaries will pop up under that description. If all you want is a simple espresso (sans a legal high on the side), type that into your search bar and Coffee & Coconuts will likely be the frontrunner, a popular coffice hangout located within a 1920’s Art Deco cinema in De Pijp, a twenty-minute stroll from Dam Square. It pulls a mega caffeine crowd so to avoid the queue get there early for a silky flat white and laptop time.
Ceintuurbaan 282-284 De Pijp / www.coffeeandcoconuts.com / Insta: @coffeecoconuts
“Relax your soul and have a bowl”. Whether you’re leaning towards the green or not, Ferdinand Bowls will kickstart your day with their plant based açai and smoothie breakfast bowls (try the ‘Blue Me Away’), fresh teas and non-dairy coffees.
Ferdinand Bolstraat 21b / www.ferdinandbowls.nl / Insta: @ferdinandbowls
09h00 THE SIGHTS
The only plein in Amsterdam described as a square, Dam Square or ‘The Dam’ as locals call it, is both a busy commercial centre and a one-stop heritage hub, conveniently framed by the 17th century Royal Palace, the gothic style Nieuwe Kerk, the WWll National Monument obelisk and Madame Tussaud’s. It’s also close to other must-see places like the Nine Streets, Spui Book Market and the Red Light District.
https://www.amsterdam.info/sights/dam_square/ Insta: #damsquareamsterdam
If it’s high end brands you’re after, head to De Bijenkorf department store on Dam Square and the pedestrian-only Kalverstraat, just off it. For a refreshing change, target standout local design and cool locally made craft at shops like HEMA, Denham Jeans, Mumami knitwear and BDP (By Popular Demand) for everything from travel accessories to gimmicky toys for kids and stylish homeware and apparel.
Raadhuisstraat 2 www.bpdthingsyouwant.com / Insta: @bpdamsterdam
11h00 ART & MUSEUMS
Amsterdam is an art mecca and the 19th century Museumplein is a glorious grouping of three of world’s best institutions – the Rijksmueum, Van Gogh Museum and the Stedelijk Museum of Modern Art and the site of the IAmsterdam sign. Revel in Rembrandt and the great Masters and afterwards head next door to the Moco with its permanent collection by Hirst, Dali and Warhol, and Laugh now, an assemblage of Banksy’s work that’s on view until 15 January 2019. On Sundays there’s a huge antique and craft market on the Museumplein and in winter the pond is transformed into a man-made ice rink.
http://www.amsterdamsights.com/amsterdam/museumplein.html / Insta: @het_museumplein
12h00 Light Lunch
There’s no avoiding carbs when you’re in Amsterdam but with such delectable pastries like stroopwafels and pannenkoeken, banting really is a waste of time. One of the best (and cheapest) snacks to be had is a plate of traditional frites (fries) dipped in thick mayo. Try them at van Wonderen Frites on Runstraat, a street that also entices with cool boutiques and the newly opened Screaming Beans, an (actual) coffee shop.
Runstraat 1 / www.vanwonderenstroopwafels.nl Insta: @vanwonderenfrieten
13h00 1 HOUR CYCLE TOUR
With 881,000 bicycles (four times the amount of cars) in Amsterdam, the city is completely cyclist friendly and if pressed for time, a one hour bicycle tour is a fun way to orientate oneself plus drop a few frites calories as you cruise alongside the canals like a local. Note to first-time tourists in Amsterdam: don’t walk & text-bicycles come out of nowhere & accidents can happen if you’re uploading on Insta instead of looking where you’re going-keep an eye out, be respectful of their right of way and be aware at all times that you’re in a cycle city *
14h15 CATS ON THE CANAL
Cat lovers make a beeline for the world famous De Poezenboot, a floating cat sanctuary on the canal that was originally opened in 1968. Today’s cat boat has been specially modified to accommodate street strays that are taken in and nursed back to health and dignity. Visitors are admitted two at a time for twenty minutes between 1pm and 3pm daily and with no entrance fee, donations and e-adoption pledges are much needed to ensure the projects longevity.
Singel 38G / www.depoezenboot.nl Insta: @depoezenboot.amsterdam
15h00 Iconic Design
Droog needs no intro to those in tune with design and the eponymous hôtel that famously has only one room available to book, is a must. Comprising five historic buildings, there is a concept store, exhibition space, a quirky Fairy Tale Garden designed by Claude Pasquer and Corinne Détroyat, a restaurant and an uber pricey store-within-a store called Menage. Give yourself as much time as possible here-it’s fabulous!
Staalstraat 7B www.droog.com / Insta:@droogamsterdam /
15h30 High Tea
Since you’re in the Droog Hôtel, step into the airy Café Droog on the first floor, the exquisitely designed eatery and events venue where almost everything you see can be purchased. Sink into the Sack Blue Sofa and indulge in the sumptuous high tea with shots of soup, homemade cakes and sandwiches. You won’t want to leave.
Staalstraat 7B www.droog.com / Insta: #droogcafe
17h00 See and swing from the A’Dam Tower
Head up to the observation deck of the A’Dam Tower with its unbeatable views across Amsterdam, then end your afternoon with a thrilling ride on ‘Over the Edge’, Europe’s highest swing that hovers 100 metres above the ground.
www.adamlookout.com Insta: #adamtoweramsterdam
Tippling in stylish surrounds is always a good idea. Head for a cocktail at the Mezzanine Bar at Room Mate Aitana, a design hotel set among an exceptional architectural collective on IJDock. They also have a selection of more than fifty craft beer if you’d prefer a frothy. The menu is curated by mixologist Alfonso Graça who comes with an impressive industry pedigree and is always ready to share stories on the evolution of traditional Dutch Jenever to gin.
https://room-matehotels.com/en/aitana/ Insta: @roommatehotelsIJDok 6, 1013 MM Ámsterdam
Spoil yourself at De Kas, an acclaimed restaurant twenty minutes from Amsterdam Centraal and housed within a set of greenhouses built in 1926. Founder and ‘head grower’ Gert Jan Hagerman, a chef with a Michelin Star earned at Vermeer, harvests fresh herbs and vegetables from its own nurseries and the menu is prepared by chefs-de-cuisine Jos Timmer and Wim de Beer.
Kamerlingh Onneslaan 3 / https://www.restaurantdekas.nl/home Insta: #dekasamsterdam
22h30 Late night Jazz
For serious live jazz and blues, Jazz Café Alto near Leideplein is a seven-nights-a-week venue that hosts established musos and emerging talent. Entrance is free.
Korte Leidsedwarsstraat 115 http://www.jazz-cafe-alto.nl/ Insta: @jazzcafealto_amsterdam
I flew Emirates to Amsterdam via Dubai- take a look at my recent post about the superb South African wines now available on flights to the region.
All opinions are my own.