If you ever set out to Finding Netherland(s) you’d discover more than you can keep in that treasure trove. There’s more to the country than rich cheese, bright wooden clogs and four-handed windmills. There’s that, and then there’s the capital city.
René Descartes, the famous French philosopher who lived most of his life in modern-day Netherlands, once said, “God created the world, but the Dutch created Amsterdam.”
Photo Credit: joiseyshowaa
Like the origins of its name, the city of Amsterdam gloats at its reflection in the Amstel River with diverse imagery, depending on the time of day.
Getting in and out of Amsterdam is not as daunting as it can be in other foreign lands. A Eurail pass, with unlimited travel for a whole 8 days, would do the trick. A little bit of enthusiasm, and a heart for exploring quirkiness should set the wheels in motion.
Houseboat or Hotel? A glimpse on where to set shop…
With a city bustling with so much activity, it helps to live in the center of it all. Pick your stay well. Just for the experience of it, we lived in a houseboat for two days. It was within the historical center at the Rembrandsplien area which made the distance between all the popular museums, night clubs, coffee shops, the Dam Square and the Red light district a stone’s throw away. Okay so the houseboats are a little watered-down version of the resplendent gondolas of Venice fame, but if you look around more carefully, you could find the same grandeur in the midst of all the action.
For a true 5-star experience we also lived at the Lloyd Hotel, which is an exceptional, one-of-a-kind nest located in Amsterdam’s Eastern Docklands area. Mixing elements of modern Dutch sensibility with the traditional and classical, each of its 116 rooms has a unique layout and aesthetic. Besides, its clientele boasts of many aficionados who’ve dabbled in different forms of art and culture.
Partying – a religion, a way of life…
In a completely non-agist sentiment, if you are young (at heart or otherwise), Amsterdam might just be the place for you. It’s not uncommon to party hard till 7am and then party harder as the bar-hopping tradition takes over, only to find yourself call it a day at an usual 12pm! In my part of the world, noon and partying don’t necessarily go together. But while I was on Amsterdam time, it seemed like the most natural thing to do. On another day, we rocked some of these places including Bulldog, Escape, WoktoWalk til another unearthly hour.
‘Om te eten’ or places to keep your stomach happy…
Looking for something solid to whet your appetite? If you’re hoping to find good palatable suggestions, you will get more than your fair share. With multi-cultural cuisines aplenty, you’re in for a treat. What many people don’t know is that Indonesia once belonged to the Dutch East Indies and so you can find numerous Indonesian influences in the culinary field. Another popular cuisine is good Mediterranean food. Note: Do not miss out on the lip-smacking falafels here.
Fifteen, takes from its namesake in London – a successful restaurant chain started by Jamie Oliver, with a focus on giving 15-20 youngsters to change their life by training them to blossom into perfect chefs.
For the love of fresh, organic food, I would highly recommend De Kas. With a greenhouse and garden of their own, the restaurant grows its own set of Mediterranean vegetables, herbs and edible flowers. In addition, they grow their seasonable vegetables in Purmer Polder which is 10 kilometers from Amsterdam.
So Amsterdam IS popular for a certain something that is easily available at local coffee shops. But you’ll be surprised at the number of other things in the city that can take you on a different ‘high.’
Ever been to a bartending school museum? Sounds random? Well, it actually exists. Alcoholic or not, House of Bols is one of the coolest interactive museums that will not disappoint you. It was designed to discover the world behind genever and liqueurs such that different areas within the museum treadle how taste, aroma and smell are integrated to make great liqueurs. They also had some bartending flair lessons and an open bar to taste their flavors.
And then of course, we have the Van Gogh Museum. The man might be a little crazy but his work is awe-inspiring.
Can anything else compete with affordable yum-ness. If I mentioned it twice, it comes with good reason. Quite a you-cannot-miss-this double check!
There is no dearth of creativity and art in Amsterdam. The good news is that some of them come with a price tag. Then again, the bad news is that some of them come with a price tag. But if you are the kinds that digs unique little collectibles, this city will seem like a haven of sorts. Of all the fun design stores that have mushroomed all over the city, one of the more popular places to go visit is Droog.
The Frozen Fountain which sells contemporary furniture and accessories for your home.
Pilat & Pilat is another interior design store where the designer customizes his furniture to adapt the surrounding to the user’s lifestyle. The design sensibility is simple with clean cut lines, and a strong emphasis on using natural materials through refined structures. Very interesting, that.
Studio 91, a six designers collaborative effort showcases a very diverse and unique gallery/design store where you can shop for unique paintings, fashion, jewelry and lamps.
Post Amsterdam, formerly known as Pakhuis Amsterdam, opened it’s doors a couple of months ago in the old Dutch post office near Amsterdam Central Station. They share the same building with Stedelijk Museum, a hip and trendy restaurant/club and a lot of design studios. More than a store, it’s a place where furniture companies present their work. What I’ve gathered from information by designers is that the cost to “present” your work here is so high that it almost seems unaffordable.
Biking in the city
Biking to work, a club or a coffee shop is not out of the ordinary. Bicycles, in fact, are the most common means of transport. And with a city so picturesque, I recommend you try it for yourself. It just adds more character to the entire experience. Having said that, be sure to look on either side of the road or you will be kissing the curb.
For the curious, the creative, the closeted, and the cocky; there’s a little place for each of that in quirky old Ahm-Sta-Dam.