The Ultimate Guide to Amsterdam | SUITCASE
Published by suitcasemag.com, May 2018
Sir Albert Hotel
Housed in a former 18th-century diamond factory in the achingly cool De Pijp, Sir Albert is hip but not overtly so, and draws an older, more understated crowd as a result. Its 90 rooms are spread across five floors and in contrast to the darkly-lit communal areas of the hotel, boast huge windows and white walls, with flecks of chocolate-coloured décor adding a flash of indulgence. Downstairs, the hotel bar buzzes most nights, while trailblazing Japanese fusion restaurant, IZAKAYA, makes an impressive culinary impact. Make friends with the concierge and you might just score the password to a secret, smoke-filled cocktail bar behind The Butcher, an affiliated burger joint.
A masterpiece of Dutch design, Hotel Pulitzer stretches between 25 connecting canal houses that each date back to the 17th century. Nods to this illustrious heritage are visible in every space, with luxe furnishings and antique furniture standing beautifully side-by-side throughout. Upgrade to one of the suites and you’ll have an extensive library and a standalone bath to make the most of, and be sure to pop into Jansz, the hotel restaurant where the city’s well-heeled and hip hangout. Located within Nine Streets, The Pulitzer is a must if shopping is high on your agenda – this is where the fashionistas flock en masse.
Those fond of over-the-top, French-inspired opulence will feel right at home at The Toren, which revels in lavish extravagance. Here, you’ll find velvet wallpaper, crystal chandeliers and four-poster beds, as well as double Jacuzzis in most rooms. More appropriate for a romantic break than a parental bonding trip, this is the kind of place to channel Nicole Kidman in Moulin Rouge.
Sir Adam has a mirrorball and a mini disco dance floor in one of its elevators – and that’s one of the subtler design features. Most rooms have panoramic, floor-to-ceiling windows looking out onto river below, Gibson guitars hanging from the walls and vinyl players with accompanying libraries to get stuck into, not to mention a sleek, industrial design polished off with a rock ‘n’ roll flourish. Be sure to take advantage of the Sir Explore concept, which lets you discover the city with the friendly guidance of a clued-up local – the crate digging tour is a must for music fans.
Renowned as one of the city’s finest boutique offerings, The Dylan specialises in under-the-radar excellence. Here, the atmosphere is refined and the decorsumptuous, drawing a particularly refined crowd as a result. It’s centrally located amid all the devilishly enticing boutiques of the Nine Streets, but thanks to a gorgeous little courtyard out front, remains detached from the hustle and bustle. Each room was created by famed Dutch designer Remy Meijers – a bonus on top of the hotel’s exclusive charm.
With a dreamy riverside location in Amsterdam Noord, Pllek’s manmade beach is the ideal spot for spending sunshiny days watching boats float past atop the IJ. The interior is built using old shipping containers and corrugated metal – and much like a lot of the surrounding architecture – it’s got an industrial feel that also lends itself well to lively nights. Come here for yoga, films, music, sunset, and an excellent selection of borrelhapje (drinks snacks).
This gleaming white space gives back to the community while putting delicious food on plate by providing jobs for individuals hoping to reintegrate back into the workplace. Each of the 70-strong members of staff has faced past difficulties, but now work as a team to produce excellent Mediterranean cuisine with a Middle Eastern flourish. Great food that supports a good cause – double thumbs up.
This restaurant caused quite a stir when it opened in summer 2015, with praise flying in from people, press and chefs. It’s housed in a gloriously ornate building with a stained-glass roof and belle époque-inspired interiors, but it’s the faultlessly decadent food that steals the show. Think crispy gnocchi, foie-gras doughnuts and casserole de la mer. If you’re celebrating a special occasion, this is the place.
Vegan Junk Food Bar
At Vegan Junk Food Bar they’re challenging the (increasingly untrue) opinion that plant-based food is boring, serving up a menu of genuinely delicious dishes like burgers, spring rolls and a vegan take on the Amsterdam staple, bitterballen. It’s located in De Pijp, as you might expect from a restaurant where the staff are dressed as superheroes – but they are helping to save the world, after all.
The Avocado Show
Show us someone who doesn’t like avocado and we’ll call you a liar. At The Avocado Show, Insta’s favourite superfruit is promoted to the lofty position it deserves as queen of the menu, featuring in every dish. There are plenty of options when it comes to breakfast, brunch and lunch, the best of which see avo paired with its mighty best friend, the egg – try the French Florentine if you’re keen to prove us right. It’s hipster, but unashamedly so, and since the avos are sustainable and socially sourced, there’s really nothing to complain about.
Absolutely no bonus points if you can guess what De School used to serve as. All you need to know is that it’s now a vibrant multi-purpose creative space, cleverly serving as a restaurant, café, gym, hangout and a club with a 24-hour licence. There’s a dark, low-ceilinged cellar for losing yourself to bone-crunching techno, a garden that’s perfect for warm summer nights, and elsewhere, a window-illuminated DJ booth, where if you stay long enough you witness daytime, sunset, nighttime and sunrise, just like at Panorama Bar in Berlin. Godspeed.
It must be torture to live alongside so much water and have so few places to really savour it, and that’s why at Amsterdam Roest they’ve built a manmade city beach to ease those yearnings. On summer days, sit outside and bask in the beauty, during winter, head inside, where crumbling walls and vintage leather sofas add to the rustic, industrial appeal. In both spaces there’s always something going on to pique your interest, whether it’s a DJ, a market, an exhibition or a film.
Founded by a group of four friends who shared a love of hops, Oedipus is dedicated to the creation of golden nectar, and its worship thereof. It’s a buzzing little brewery in Amsterdam Noord that’s all about the freshest brews and tasty snacks – locals flock here in hordes.
There’s a temptation to always run with a tried-and-tested favourite when it comes to cocktails, but at Miss Moneypenny you’ll want to cast aside pre-formed favourites in favour of the house signatures. Try the “Man’s Not Hot”, not only for its on-point cultural referencing, but also for the composition of ingredients that include velvet-falernum-spiced citrus-sweet syrup, Belzasar rose vermouth, Ango Reyes Chile liqueur, watercress, red pepper and lemon. Sound familiar? Us neither – but it’s extremely tasty.
Café de Ceuvel
A sustainable creative space located housed in a former shipyard, Café de Ceuvel is a huge project encompassing many different elements – art, workspace, and community among them. If you’re thirsty or in need of a snack it’s the café you should make aim for. Stop by for a coffee, a juice or a beer, and learn something about the planet in the process.
On a mission to clear Amsterdam’s canals of plastic waste since 2011, Plastic Whale provide a different means of taking in the city’s sights. Armed with a net, you take to the water wearing an imaginary superhero cape and a resolution to fish out anything inanimate that floats your way. In the seven years it’s been running, Plastic Whale has collected enough plastic to produce a fleet of 10 boats which now patrol the canals, a brilliant (albeit somewhat depressing) fact. It’s an excellent way to secure a typical Dutch experience while also soliciting virtual high fives from strangers.
One for those with a head for heights and a yearning to rekindle the joys of childhood should head for the A’DAM Lookout, an observation deck boasting 360° views of the city that’s also home to Europe’s highest swing. Fortunately, it’s a pleasingly sturdy structure rather than ramshackle affair you’d grapple with at the local playground, and there’s a bar should you require some Dutch (ahem) courage. Book a space at sunset; it’s magical.
Amsterdam’s beautifully constructed, canal-lining houses are some of the most distinctive in the world, and of them all, the house at Singel No 7 is the narrowest. Measuring just one-metre across, it was constructed in the 17th century, when buildings in the city were taxed according to the size of their facade. It’s located a short walk from Centraal and en route to the Red Light District, so well worth a visit if you’re passing through.
Museum of Bags and Purses
Home to more than 5,000 bags, including ones designed by Gucci, Prada, Dior, Chanel to name a few, the Museum of Bags and Purses is an ode to arm candy. The building itself is really rather beautiful, but you’ll probably be far too busy coveting bags of all shapes and sizes to notice. Look out for pieces once owned by Madonna and Magaret Thatcher.
Amsterdam Dance Event
Usually held during the penultimate weekend of October, Amsterdam Dance Event is more than just a showcase of the finest electronic music – it’s a five-day event that sees the city really come alive. People from across the planet flock to the canals for a programme that includes thought-provoking talks, cultural events and raves in places you never knew existed. Hands down one of Amsterdam’s best global gatherings, coincide your trip for a unique opportunity to see it as the buzzing cultural hub it’s become.
A traditional tasting tavern home to more than 50 liqueurs, Wynand Fockink has been getting Dutch people drunk since 1679. Located just behind Dam Square, pop by to sample liqueurs that range in flavour from fennel, apricot, and blackberry, to the rather niche “Hansel in the Cellar”– a drink you toast with when celebrating a pregnancy. Private tastings can be arranged if you’re determined to emerge a pro/inebriated.
Much adored by culture-seeking locals, the Stedelijk is a museum specialising in modern and contemporary art and design. Exhibitions are frequent and innovative, often exploring zeitgeist themes of modern-day existence – essentially, displays to make you think. New York graffiti artist Keith Haring’s gargantuan work is currently on display in the building’s grand hallway, standing as a bold testament for what to expect as you snake your way through the corridors.
A destination in its own right, the Nine Streets area is home to some of Amsterdam’s best-loved boutiques. This is where fashion-forward Instagram influencers head to pose on bridges, but it’s also where savvy locals come to seek out unique, stylish gems. From vintage to high end to quirky, there’s a shop for everyone here, so set aside plenty of time to explore.
Run by students from the Amsterdam Fashion Institute, byAMFI sells unique pieces made by current students, teachers and alumni. It’s a chance to sniff out up-and-coming talent, and an opportunity to channel inimitable Dutch cool. Look out for the snazzy statement eveninwear which should be labelled under the category, “only for the brave”.
Amsterdam isn’t short on vintage shops – Episode alone has four stores – but its recent global expansion to cities including Paris and Copenhagen is testament to the quality of what they source here. Collections change with the season, so there’s always something on trend to be found if you do enough digging, and there’s a huge range of to-die-for leather jackets laying in wait. Eyes are likely to be bigger than your suitcase, so leave space if you can.
This legendary record store underwent a slick makeover, and the result is the antithesis of most vinyl shops; glossy, bright and with plenty of space to do some serious crate digging. Come with a tune selection already in mind, or throw yourself into the unknown of sections beguilingly entitled “sublime frequencies” and “Turkish psych”. A music lover’s dream.
Albert Cuyp Market
Europe’s largest market, Albert Cuyp, winds through De Pijp’s streets for over a mile every Monday to Saturday. Unsurprisingly, it’s quite a chaotic affair, with locals and tourists jostling for space in front of myriad stalls, but there are some treats to be found if you’ve the patience to unearth them – and if not, plenty of cafés where you can take a rest. Primarily though, come here to sample local delicacies like cheese, herring and stroopwaffel – you’re not allowed to leave Amsterdam until you’re hooked on warm caramel syrup.