Insiders Guide to Amsterdam

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As a follow-up to our Top Amsterdam Blogs post, we’ve roped our Amsterdam Experts into providing some expert insider tips to enjoying a fantastic trip to Amsterdam.

Amsterdam word mapThanks very much to:

We’ve tried our best to condense their answers, which were very insightful – especially when it comes to food and drink! If you haven’t already been to Amsterdam, book your trip today.  It’s a beautiful city with a lovely ambience and a variety of attractions.

Without further ado, let’s get down to the useful stuff:

Amsterdam is a relatively compact capital city – good thing or bad thing?

Vicky: Good thing! It means you can get everywhere by bike.

Mark: Great thing! Compact doesn’t mean limited. Amsterdam is literally packed with cool things to do and it’s all just a bike ride away.

Dutch Bikes

Dutch bikes: economical (1)

The confluence of trams, cars, bikes, scooters and pedestrians can be somewhat overwhelming for a ‘buitenlander’; what are your tips for staying alive?

Wendy: Watch where you are walking at all times. Look to your left and right before crossing the streets.

Wieden+Kennedy: Join the chaos and rent a bike.

Vicky: Get on a bike. They rule the roost, so they’re the safest place to be.

Kira: …more importantly, don’t abruptly stop walking/biking without looking around.

Mark: Above all, don’t get your bike wheels in the tram tracks.

The Dutch are renowned for their grasp of the English language, but are there any situations in which you’d recommend going Dutch in terms of communicating?

Daniel: I recommend always greet in Dutch to show goodwill. Obviously the more you know, the more you can appreciate the local culture.

Cecily: It’s always fun learning a few phrases to try out in bars and restaurants. The Dutch term for a café latte, for example, translates as ‘wrong coffee’, apparently because Dutch people were initially unused to so much milk. Could I have a café latte?: “Mag ik een koffie verkeerd?”

Wieden+Kennedy: Know your numbers if you want a good price at the markets.

Mark: Being able to say “dankje” or thank you is always a nice touch.

Pancakes, brown cafes, bitterballen – how would you define a typical Dutch experience?

Wieden+Kennedy: Start out the morning trolling the trash. Seriously, the Dutch throw everything they want to get rid of on the street, and it’s a gold mine in the morning.  And if it’s summer, buy a case of Heineken and rent a boat.

Wendy: Obviously you have to try a fresh stroopwafel (the big ones) at one of the market stalls for breakfast: have a frietje speciaal with a kroket for lunch, and boerenkool with worst and jenever for dinner!

Cecily: Cycling along one of the city’s canals is a pretty Dutch experience. Or eating chocolate sprinkles on your bread at breakfast.

Kira: It’s all about comfort. The Dutch are practical and fuzz-free people.

Daniel: A typical Dutch experience is more about hanging out with your friends, preferably in the (rare) sun, than the food.

Amsterdam canals

Amsterdam canals: well lit (2)

What is your favourite restaurant in Amsterdam?

Wendy: Marits Huiskamerrestaurant.

Daniel: ‘t Zwaantje. Plenty of good food, fair price, a local hangout.

Wieden+Kennedy: De Kas on the outside of town for seasonal fare. Winkel 43’s apple pie for desert!

Vicky: I’m going to say Greetje, because it’s my favourite Dutch restaurant.

Cecily: Do I have to choose just one? I’d say Le Restaurant for a blow-out French meal, and Cafe Kadijk for cheap and really tasty Indonesian.

Mark: My favourites are Balthazar’s Keuken, De Kas, Marius, and De Witte Uyl.

Kira: Chic dining: Spring (French restaurant) and Sazanka (Japanese Teppanyaki)
- Stylish without snobbism: Vandekaart (European), Incanto (Italian)
- Informal: Toto (Italian home cooking) and The Bird (Thai snack bar).

Amsterdam Restaurant

Dutch food...plentiful (3)

What are your tips for great bars/pubs to hang out and have a “gezellige” time?

Cecily: Café Fonteyn on Nieuwmarkt is almost always heaving, while brown cafe Papeneiland is on a beautiful spot where Prinsengracht meets Brouwersgracht.

Daniel: I like ‘t Smalle in Jordaan — nice in cold or fair weather. For real good Dutch beer, go to ‘t Arendsnest. If it’s nice weather, Brouwerij ‘t IJ is always a good choice: there you can taste some delicious local organic beer in a really nice place.

Vicky: For a cosy Italian wine bar, try diVino in the Jordaan. For a great selection of beers, try Gollem or Zotte in the Leidseplein area. For cocktails, it has to be Vesper, just off the beautiful Brouwersgracht.

Brouwerij ‘t IJ

Brouwerij ‘t IJ - authentic (4)

Amsterdam can be costly, but the Dutch are known for their thrift; how can visitors keep down their expenses on a trip to Amsterdam?

Kira: Rent a short-stay apartment and share it with 3-4 friends. Alternatively, don’t get too stoned and have your wallet pick-pocketed!

Daniel: Street food is always a nice way to experience local culture and save some money; go for a broodje haring, for instance.

Vicky: I would say just avoid the main squares when eating out or going for a drink. A regular beer can be a Euro more expensive on Leidseplein than it is just down the road.

Wieden+Kennedy: When buying gifts for people back home, try the flea markets. You’ll have to dig but you’re guaranteed to come out with some incredible finds. Find the cheapest and best at Waterlooplein Market or Ij-Hallen Market.

Cecily:Get an IAmsterdam card for unlimited public transport use and discounts/free entrance to museums, and research a few restaurants in advance. Bazar in the Pijp, for example, has cheap, filling breakfasts.

Leidseplein - expensive bubbly (5)

The Netherlands – and Amsterdam, in particular – has something of an overseas reputation for liberalism: what are your thoughts on the accuracy of this reputation?

Mark: I guess things like the coffee shops and the red light district get really blown out of proportion. They are unusual compared to other countries and cities and hence get a lot of attention in the media.

Wieden+Kennedy: Some believe there is a bit of a conservative push happening, combined with a political indifference amongst younger generations. The potential ban on coffee shops selling to tourists is evidence of this.

Vicky: A Dutch ex-boyfriend of mine once told me that the Dutch aren’t tolerant; they’re just intolerant of other people telling them what to do.

Daniel:I have the impression that the Dutch like to think of themselves as more liberal than they really are. But of course big cities, especially Amsterdam, are somewhat different from the rest of the country. One thing is true though: they’re a pragmatic people, and if something works, they’re willing to at least try it.

Coffee Shops - going up in smoke (6)

We’re great believers in authentic experience – do you have any favourite hidden gems or underrated attractions in Amsterdam?

Wieden+Kennedy: You never hear about Westerpark because it lives in the shadow of Vondelpark. Westerpark has hidden gems around every corner. From its industrial area to music venues in old water domes to the cemetery, it will not disappoint.

Cecily: Climbing Zuiderkerk tower offers a rare opportunity to get up high and see Amsterdam from a different angle.

Mark: One of my favorite recommendations is “Our Lord in the Attic”. It’s a church hidden in the attic of several adjacent canal houses and gives you a great glimpse of life in Amsterdam in the past.

Daniel: For a nice Boschebol with coffee in very small bakery head to the Arnold Cornelis Banketbakkerij at Elandsgracht, 78. Also, there are plenty of really nice international shops at Kinkerstraat.

Vicky:It’s not one of the big three museums, but I really like Foam, the photography gallery. I also always take my visitors cycling in Waterland – the countryside to the north of Amsterdam.

Zuiderkerk - dramatic (7)

So there you have it: get on your bike, root through the rubbish and give yourself a bit of time to explore – the city has enough hidden surprises to make getting lost a pleasurable activity.  Thanks to our Amsterdam Experts for their insights, and also to our intrepid researcher Sandrine for pulling this all together.

If you have more tips to offer, please drop a comment below.  Which destination would you like to know about next time?

1. http://www.flickr.com/photos/martinmantic/
2. http://www.flickr.com/photos/davaodude/
3. http://www.flickr.com/photos/bas-boerman/
4. http://www.flickr.com/photos/emilybean/
5. http://www.flickr.com/photos/daniele_sartori/
6. http://www.flickr.com/photos/trigs/
7. http://www.flickr.com/photos/bcnbits/

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Michael

About Michael

Arrogance, hostility, parsimony, rapacity, impatience; the five humours of the Englishman abroad are my most positive features and also my guide and solace through tribulations. I delight in coffee, cheese, and the music of Ray Charles, and you can catch me trying to form a queue anywhere from Centraal Station to Hoofddorpplein.

2 Responses to Insiders Guide to Amsterdam

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