Amsterdam's formerly grubby image has been scraped away to reveal a clean, collected, and yes, cool one underneath
Amsterdam. Synonymous with so many things. Music...shopping...food...drugs – ahem – culture. Now scrubbed clean of its previously grubby image, the city is finally being seen as the hip cultural hub it is, and frankly, always has been.
Once the destination of choice for baying hen nights and lost weekends, it is now attracting a slightly edgier crowd. And for this, there is a reason. Amsterdam is really rather cool.
Look beyond the tulips, the clogs and the dancing ladies in glowing red boxes and you might just catch a glimpse of the low-lit, jazz fusion bars. The gloriously twee vintage clothes emporiums. Or one of the oh-so-many museums or galleries (perhaps whilst affecting the look of a mysterious hipster, stroking your chin knowingly). Yes, Amsterdam is a hip, happening place and it’s about time you came to terms with it.
A good place to start is the fabulous tangle of cobbled roads that is The Nine Streets. Not too far from the city centre so that it’s a massive schlepp, but just out of the way enough so it stays for ‘those in the know’.
On The Nine Streets you’re likely to find anything from kitsch tea shops and quirky boutiques to specialist art shops and fashionable bars. The place to wax-lyrical about Vermeer over a coffee before hunting down that perfect pair of vintage cowboy boots. A quick wander around attests that this is indeed the area of choice for Amsterdam’s droves of beautiful people. People watchers, take note.
Amsterdam has more museums and galleries per square mile than any other city in Europe. Whilst old favourites such as the Rijksmuseum and Anne Frank’s House are certainly worth a visit, you might want to break from the mould and hunt down some of Amsterdam’s lesser-known venues.
The Stedelijk museum (currently closed to the public for major refurbishment) offers more contemporary artistic wares, whilst the Film museum offers cinema buffs a regular turnover of exhibitions set in the gorgeous surroundings of the Vondelpark.
Nighteries tend to be dotted around and you can almost always find somewhere interesting simply by stumbling out of one bar straight into another. A few quirkier after-hours spots to watch out for are Bar Mono, Getto and Diep – all located quite centrally. And if you want to partake in The ‘Dam’s 'coffee bar culture’, ask at your hotel what the most ‘kosher’ of nearby establishments might be. And don’t forget to bring ID.
But before hurrying off to explore everything at once, consider this. The Dutch profess a culture of gezelligheid, which means a relaxed and laid-back attitude to life. Gezelligheid could be anything from blowing off work for a long, leisurely lunch with friends to spending hours visiting just one museum instead of rushing to see them all. And really, what’s cooler than that?
Where to stay
QBec Hotel Offering fantastically modern ‘pod’ type budget accommodation, located fittingly, in the financial district
St Christophers A psychedelic art-driven hostel, close to the city centre.
The College Hotel Relive your university days at this ex-college, where every member of staff is a hospitality student!
Where to eat
CTaste (Amsteldijk 55) A gastronomic trend sweeping the globe for...dining in pitch-black darkness!
Foodism (Oude Leliestraat 8) Casual dining has never been more, er, casual. In a good way of course. Vegetarian cool just off the Dam Square
Utrechtsedwarstafel (Utrechtsedwarsstraat 107-109) Tell the chefs what you like and they surprise you with the menu. Really.