AMSTERDAM: This city comes to life. Flowers bloom, parks and gardens wake up and the world famous Keukenhof Gardens has opened its doors. In the end of April Amsterdam turns into a sea of celebratory orange. It’s time to take a seat at one of the city’s many sunny terraces. Follow me as I start to enjoy Amsterdam.
Dutch has a relaxed approach to life and locals in this city is focused entirely on enjoying life. That’s one of the reasons the Netherlands has a capital only reserved for culture and entertainment. Anything that has to do with the government, parliament and the royals has moved to the city of Hague.
Start at this cafe
Sure, I know where to start, that´s par of why I enjoy Amsterdam. The Cafe Papeneiland is just a short walk west of Central station. This place stands on one of those archetypal Amsterdam corners where two canals converge. As you sip a coffee or a beer, reflect that Rembrandt may have been a regular here. This “brown café” has been refreshing residents and visitors since 1641, the year that the artist’s son was born. The following year, Rembrandt painted The Shooting Company of Captain Frans Banning Cocq – later known as The Night Watch. The patina over nearly four centuries, the interior looks it has come straight from an Old Master painting. The gentle browning is a sign of the city’s tolerance, smoking is still allowed, but only on the upper level, and only of tobacco.
Check in at waterfront
No hotel is like Lloyd Hotel & Cultural Embassy, located on the waterfront in a building from the 1920s. All rooms are different and you can choose between affordable and expensive rooms. You will get a taste of the city’s cultural life, and a good restaurant is available.
The Dyland is located in a 1700s building at Keizersgracht 384, and this hotel also has different rooms and a popular bar and restaurant. Vinkeles is awarded a Michelin star, surrounded by original 18th century ovens and a view overlooking the garden, this restaurant is a destination unto itself. Good hotels is part of the reason I enjoy Amsterdam.
Tour of the canals
Dutch has always fought against the sea and in Amsterdam its water everywhere in canals that cross in all directions. The city has 165 canals, 1281 bridges and 100km of waterway. It’s the wooden houses hanging out over the water that makes this city so charming. There are three ways to experience the canals; by walking, cycling or hop on one of the boats that depart from the Central Station.
Java is an island that didn’t exist 15 years ago. Go there by tram from Central Station to see historic sailboats, walk over the island and take bus 42 back to square one.
Walk or rent a bike
The Netherlands is flat as a pancake and probably the reason there are cyclist everywhere. Amsterdam has almost as many bikes as inhabitants. It is possible to rent a bike. Rental agency Mcbike.nl is recommended. Or simply walk. This is a fairy compact city. The old town is dominated by canals, bridges, cyclists and well-maintained buildings. The outer district has modern architecture.
Amsterdam for children
Make sure your children get enough pancakes and boating on the canals. Nemo is a museum filled with exciting stuff for all playful, regardless of age. E-nemo.nl
Linnaeushop is a large amusement park with 350 attractions, included water cannons. Children under five have their own department. TunfunPark is an indoor paradise for children – a former tunnel turned into a play area. Perfect for rainy days.
The Tourist Office is located just outside the Central Station. The “I Amsterdam Card” includes unlimited use of public transport, canal boats and access to museums.
Life at cafes
Amsterdam is a social, casual and soulful city and there is a café-life that suits everyone. That´s part of why I like Amsterdam. Are you looking for one with much history, Café t’ Smalle, Egelantiersgracht 12, is an option. This is a brown café with elegant windows of stained glass and nice floors. If nice weather most guests are at the floating dock outside. But don’t forget to visit Cafe Papeneiland.
Out for lunch
By coincidence I ended up for lunch at a place with both atmosphere and good food. Restaurant Haesje Claes, at Keizersgracht 273, has a steady Dutch menu, cheese, croquets, herring with potato salad, smoked eel, steamed mussels and veal liver with fried onions, to name a few. The interior is dark wood panelling, and looks as if it is purchased with a guarantee for at least 300 years old. It turns out that the owner got most of it from old ships.
Dinner with locals
Moeders is not a typical tourist place, but rather a tavern where you eat and drink with the locals, serving Dutch food at moderate prices – and with high mood in the evening. Address: Rozengracht 251
College Restaurant, located in College Hotel, has a kitchen of high level. From here its short distance to the nightlife. Address: Roelof Harstraat 1.
Museums and galleries
In Amsterdam you are never far from the artworks. Outside the van Gogh Museum there is always a queue, so buy your ticket in advance online at Vangoghmuseum.nl.
Want to buy art, then head on to Spoegelstraat in the heart of the city, a street with galleries offer all kind of art, some with exclusive and expensive art.
Try to make a visit to the Rijksmuseum to watch some unique masterpieces, including works by Rembrandt – the man who bestowed oil painting with such emotion. Rembrandt has returned home to the revived national art museum – and is waiting for your visit to observe and enjoy every tiny detail of “The Night Watch”. That´s part of why I enjoy Amsterdam.
More to see and read: Dutch sailing the world for years