Amsterdam was never on my must-see list when I was travelling in my early twenties. Perhaps I was put off by my friends returning with vivid tales of hazy coffeehouses, and my own visions of stepping over strung-out hippies outside Centraal Station. How wrong you can be.
I visited Amsterdam for the first time this year in mid-March and loved every minute of it. Firstly, it’s stunning. Beautiful crooked buildings, weaving canals, beautiful eternally youthful people zipping past on bikes – it’s the actual dream. Secondly, it’s one of those European cities where it pays not to be staying in the actual centre. By avoiding the red light district you also avoid the inevitable accompaniments to heavy tourism – McDonalds, tacky souvenirs, Irish bars, to name a few. We stayed in the west, just outside the city centre, in an apartment overlooking the canal. There were dozens of cafes and bars on our doorstep, and it was easy biking distance to everywhere we wanted to go. Thirdly – with travellers flocking from around the globe, expecting much more than accessible marijuana, Amsterdam has massively upped its food game. Here’s a few favourites:
Breakfast at The Breakfast Club
There are several Breakfasts Clubs around Amsterdam, and we had one bang in our neighbourhood. It’s super busy on weekends, but worth waiting if you’re not in a rush. It’s very New York breakfast vibe, with pancake variations, Mexican eggs, or the full fried affair with organic juices and herbal teas. Delicious, and a great way to fuel up for a day of biking and site seeing!
Tapas at De Hallen
One of our friends now lives in Amsterdam, and took us to this bursting-at-the-seams Foodhallen at Amsterdam Oud-West. On a Saturday night it had an amazing vibe – loud music, cold gin, and at least two dozen street food stalls with everything from sushi to steak. The system is, order your food, get a ticket and wait to be called when it’s ready, weave back to the bar to order drinks, and stake out a table or cargo crate to occupy for the night.
Brunch at Bagels & Beans
If you’re planning a visit to the Van Gogh Museum, or the Rijks, the best plan is definitely to arrive at 9am. We did this for both, and happily missed the much-moaned-about queues. At Van Gogh we queued for a total of two minutes – the early starts were worth it! Bagels & Beans is just opposite the museums quarter, and is a great spot for post-culture sustenance. So many bagel options, so many options! I had prosciutto, mozzarella, sundries and pesto on seeded which was amazing. They also do takeaway breakfast bagels so if you do end up waiting in the queue, at least your stomach will be happy.
Stroopwafel – to immediately eat, and to take home
The best stroopwafels I ate in the ‘dam were from a slightly grumpy old man who had a vendor stall at a market near Rembrant’s house. We had been biking and stopped for a wander around. He was making them up fresh on his hot griddle, slapping syrup between two wafers the size of my face, and letting them hiss. He wasn’t up for too much chat, he just held out his money pouch on a cane for you to drop your coins in and kept going.
The market wasn’t on on our last day, but we found amazing, if slightly more expensive stroopwafels at a small cafe/bakery called Lanskroon. You could buy them in fresh boxes of four or seven.
Pizza and prosecco at De Pizzabakkers
De Pizzabakkers was such a good find. It had everything I wanted out of a late-night dinner. Small tables, candles, cosy setting, Aperol Spritz as the recommended aperitif and wood oven pizzas on offer. I loved the design of many Amsterdam eateries, with a petite downstairs, and open-viewed upstairs, like the section of a dolls house. Everywhere seemed extra-intimate and original, and Pizzabakkers was no exception. Highly recommended for excellent pizza and vegetarian options.
Have you been to Amsterdam? Share your recommendations, I’ll be going back!