Well, I’ll Be ‘Dammed’
It’s been ten years since I last set foot in The Dam. I was on a scoot away from someplace like Middle Earth in France and basically spent most of my time wandering up and down PC Hoofstraat (the equivalent of Bond Street in London) taking pictures of the Chanel window.
This time round, older, wiser and with a Longchamp backpack as opposed to the shabby one in my teens, I went back to Amsterdam, a city that is so much more than just, you know, the Red Light District and, um, other ‘joints’. Ahem.
First of all, it is not as expensive as people make it out to be. You can start each day with a mimosa (“you’re on your holidays”) and stop for a prosecco, while eating well, sightseeing well and shopping well. Don’t let other people tell you different and don’t be put off by the plunging exchange rate.
We stayed in one of the most recommended hot-spots: The Volkshotel. Very cool, totally reasonable and every bit as stylish as ourselves, and they do a good cocktail there. They also have a hairdresser, a nightclub, a smooth cocktail bar that’s hidden away in the basement, a sauna (sort your skin and sinuses right out) and a rooftop terrace. A metro stop is directly beside the hotel and you can hire bikes from reception. It’s also only a twenty-minute walk into town and what with all the pretty canals and buildings, you won’t even notice the time.
Food wise, we ate. A lot. And we ate well. A favorite on the trip was Libertine Café. Not only was the food delicious, and they served a delightfully refreshing G&T (a must have after traveling) but the little streets to get there are so adorable and you will find some hidden gems along the way.
Eddy Spaghetti (you want to go for the name alone, don’t you?) was just around the corner from the hotel in a strange, rather residential setting but the pasta was top notch.
For coffee shops, shocker, Amsterdam is full of them. Read into that what you will. Depends on what kind of coffee shop you are after. Coffee & Coconuts is the best for breakfast. I mean, it is good. It also has a kind of beach shack vibe going on that’s quite enjoyable considering you are smack bang in the city.
For shopping, PC Hooftsraat is for the flush. You will want to hit the Centrum, in and around Dam Square. There’s so much choice you will have a moment of panic of “do I have enough time to fit all the shopping in?” Obviously, we hit Scotch & Soda (ah, the entire store smells of BarFly and it is lush).
Amsterdam is home to the most renowned artwork in the world. Naachtwatch, anyone? Okay, so maybe you don’t know it but it’s like a Dutch Mona Lisa and you will be blown away. Now, in fairness, entries to museums will cost you in and around 15 to 20 euros. Yep. But you really want to squeeze at least one culture vulture jaunt. If only for the fact that the three biggest hubs are based pretty much in a triangle around the prettiest park and surrounded by such beautiful buildings that you will want to visit the museum quarter if only for that. The architecture is astounding. Just stop, stand, and take a look around. Behold.
The Van Gogh Museum will be bunged but the work is so beautiful. But, prepare for elbows out. It kinda defeats the purpose, but if you want to see for yourself the work of one of the greatest artists of all time then… bring water.
The Rijksmuseum is my personal favorite. It’s intense. It’s the national museum so you’ve got art and history and a whole heap of it at that. Again, bring water and comfy shoes and prepare to spend a solid couple of hours there. Much roomier and literally cooler than the Van Gogh museum, you can breathe here, it’s truly a stunning building and you can potter to your heart’s content.
The Stedelijk is the museum for modern art and again, a lot more room here to navigate. If contemporary art is your thing, definitely stop here. The building itself looks like a bathtub so that in itself is a worthwhile sight.
Anne Frank’s House is not for the faint-hearted. It’s emotional. Well, that goes without saying.
Flights to Amsterdam are fairly inexpensive and you’re no sooner up than you are down. Trains, trams, and metros are cheap as chips (one ticket does all for the buses, trams, and metro) and you can pretty much get around the city easy-peasy. Also, there’s the bike. Not as bike-friendly as Copenhagen – I have a trusted source on this – but plenty of bicycles nonetheless.
So, for paintings, pot-tering and Prosecco, look no further for your next city break.
Over and out.