Rivalled only by Paris and Venice, Amsterdam is a city plagued by played-out postcard imagery: apple-cheeked locals cycling through narrow, cobblestoned streets; tree-lined canals and pretty windmills; a red-light district known for salacious tableus that sell pleasure through dark windows. But there’s more to the green, walkable capital than these hackneyed visual polarities—more than quaint architectural architecture versus liberal excesses, coffee versus cannabis—even though they’re all on offer too, if it’s what you’re after. For the more discerning traveller—who’s likely spent some time in Amsterdam already—the city is steeped in designer cool, teeming with lesser-known galleries, dining hotspots and inventively chic guesthouses. Here are a few of our absolute favourites.
As the former site of a stone theatre, this boutique hotel is charged with creative history. We’re especially fond of its Jacob van Campen suites—which borrow their name from the Golden Age artist and architect—all bright white walls and crisp bed linen. Their most marvellous feature is architectural, of course: 20-foot-high ceilings spliced by grand, treehouse-like wooden beams.
Located within a three-story townhouse, this elegant, two-apartment guest-house boasts views over Herengracht canal, and is right in the middle of 9 Streets—making it the ideal city retreat for aesthetes. Created by Ulrika Lundgren, the maison’s loft apartment oozes laidback scandi cool: its ancient wooden floors painted black, its surfaces dotted with monochrome prints and ceramics, its bathroom wash basins fashioned from handmade copper. The bottom floor features a selection of (mostly) fashion objects, including the designer’s cultishly-adored sweaters and cotton pullovers by Holiday Magazine.
To eat, drink and entertain
While you’ll find vegetarian options almost everywhere in Amsterdam, this casual, rustic bar and kitchen is 100% vegan—and open for any meal. For breakfast fare, the offering is delightfully simple: a BLT that substitutes bacon for a juicy eggplant, a smoked salmon bagel using marinated tomato and a matcha granola prepared in-house, using rhubarb, summer berries and a vanilla preserve.
The British Vogue-approved restaurant is reminiscent of an upscale museum dining hall, with its olive green walls, leathery chairs and hanging portraits. While the cuisine is far from typically Dutch, its lunch fare is unbeatable: think sandwiches, salads and a smattering of ‘hot dishes’. Our pick is from the latter category: truffle risotto made with green asparagus, fresh truffle and perfectly poached egg.
Beat the dinner crowds and drop by the canalside warehouse-turned-seafood spot when it opens at 4pm, where wine and fresh oysters abound, and the generous gin and tonics are served with a codfish doughnut (gently steamed).
At this thoughtful, affordable eatery, helmed by the Michelin star-awarded chef Gert Jan Hageman, you’ll dine in a repurposed glass greenhouse—formerly home to the city’s municipal nursery—on a unique menu created around its harvest that day, along with choice fish and organic meat from local suppliers.
Tucked within The Pulitzer Hotel (and with its own entrance on the Keizergracht), this earnest bar has been designed with a literary bent. Inside, it’s not hard to imagine all of Europe’s greatest authors leaning against its gold art deco bar and ordering a stiff cocktail, before reclining in the plush, jewel-toned seats and pouring over a manuscript.
After you’ve taken the requisite canal cruise on a glass-top boat (there’s no shame in indulging here—those slim, winding waterways really are as beautiful as ever), head to gallery Martin van Zomeren for a more contemporary culture fix. All through July, they’re showing an apolitical group exhibition curated by Joost Declercq and Charlotte Crevits, which radically teases out the relationship between artist and gallery.
Founded in 1975, this experimental, not-for-profit art institution hosts more than exhibitions: it’s a nexus for performances, film screenings, talks and gatherings that link cutting-edge art with other creative disciplines. Right now, it’s presenting 2 Limited, a dynamic group exhibition with an adjoining public program that uses the city as a starting point, opening up “new possibilities for communication, language, communality, design … to not look back, only look forward.”