Well, all I can say is wow! Sign me up for a bicycle, a houseboat, life around the canals and the cafe culture, tout suite!
Following my recent first trip to Amsterdam, it has swiftly became one of my favourite European cities. I expected to like it of course, and was keen to visit, but I didn’t really think I’d love it and feel like I could live there.
Here’s a little more about why I loved Amsterdam and what I suggest you check out if you’re visiting.
There’s so much to love. First up (you know me and I know what you really want to read about!), the shopping! No visit to Amsterdam is complete without a visit to The Nine Streets (De Negen Straatjes). I didn’t even know about them so I’m glad I stumbled upon them and would hate anyone to miss them.
This delightful area of nine side streets connecting the main canals is full of fashion and homewares boutiques, cool cafes, bars and delis. It is an absolute pleasure to explore, even if you don’t buy anything. A good proportion of these stores sell homewares, which will please the true interiors addict, but there’s something for everyone. Think Melbourne laneway shopping but so much better! The atmosphere is upmarket but not intimidating.
We stopped for pancakes at Pancakes! Amsterdam, which is allegedly one of the best places to try the traditional Dutch crepes. They were delicious. Expect to queue, but not for too long. Make sure you sit a while and watch the world go by inside or outside one of the cafes (they all have the cutest interiors).
There’s just something about cities that sit right on the water, don’t you think? And there’s a reason Amsterdam’s canal district is on UNESCO’s World Heritage List. If you love design and architecture like me, you could gaze at all the amazing houses for days and weeks. They’re unlike anywhere else and I love how different they all are, which makes for a unique and beautiful skyline. These truly impressive and huge buildings were stately homes in the Golden Age but are now largely offices and museums (I daren’t imagine how much a whole one would set you back!).
We went on a canal boat tour (everything touristy in Amsterdam seems to cost 15 euros!) where I mostly tried to look through windows and imagine living in one of these fine structures in a bygone age. Dreamy. You really must take a canal boat trip as you get a unique view of the city this way. But make sure you wander around by the canals on foot too.
Yes, it’s seedy and kind of gross, but when in Amsterdam, you really have to see it! And you’ll see tourists of every age having a peek too. The women in their underwear in the windows just seemed really surreal to me and we couldn’t help having an embarrassed giggle. It’s a very safe place to visit in fact, with plenty of police, just don’t take any photos or you’ll find yourself in trouble. As red light districts go, with a canal down the middle, Amsterdam’s has to be one of the more quaint (not that I make a habit of frequenting these places!).
We didn’t have a bad meal while we were there. We suggest you go for Indonesian at least once as this is one of the best cuisines you can try here. We had a traditional ‘rice table’ (rijsttafel) one night and it was really enjoyable. It consists of many small dishes served with rice. Dating back to colonial times, during their presence in Indonesia, the Dutch introduced the rice table concept to impress visitors with the exotic abundance of their colony. You must try Dutch pancakes too, of course (see above).
We ran out of time to visit the immense Keukenhof Tulip Gardens. Luckily, they’re everywhere in the city anyway when in season. Some of the best can be found in the beautiful Vondelpark.
It really isn’t, so leave those preconceptions behind. Yes, Amsterdam is known for these naughty pursuits, but it’s such a small part of what is a beautiful and very chic city. It’s a real pleasure to visit, just make sure you don’t stay or hang out too much in the area immediately around Central station or the red light district (you won’t stumble upon it, you have to go looking for it!) and bear in mind that coffee shops are for smoking, not getting your caffeine fix! I’d recommend you stay a little further out (we stayed at The College Hotel, about 15 minutes from the hustle and bustle by tram, and highly recommend it).
Jen Bishop is a blogger at Interiors Addict, Australia’s leading online publication dedicated to the interiors, of homes, hotels and more! She is currently spending 6 months traveling with her new husband, Damian.