In 2005, high school diploma recently in-hand, I headed off to Europe with a friend for a month-long backpacking trip. One of our first stops was Amsterdam and, being fairly naive, our two nights were mostly spent between the less-than-perfect hostel in the Red Light district, a token cultural trip to a museum and the city’s ‘cafes’.
Since putting down the backpack, I returned a few more times – always with friends, alway staying in cheap hostels. But, this summer, I returned for a much more civilised trip (conference with work) and had a week to explore the city and its restaurants, cafes and bars.
Amsterdam is a great city for wandering, especially around its picture-perfect neighbourhoods like Jordaan, Spui and De Pijp. The latter is where you’ll find the ‘hipsters’ of the city, with numerous small bars/cafes – like Mem’s – along Eerste Jacob van Campenstraat and a market on Albert Cuypstraat. For beer, check out the Gollem Beer Cafe.
I had a brilliant lunch at the secluded De Kas, which only offers a set menu for lunch and dinner. In the summer months, you can opt for an outdoor table overlooking the gardens or retreat to the glorious restored greenhouse. But, for a lighter bite during a long walk, grab some frites at the city’s best Friteshuis, Vleminckx, a pancake at Pancakes!Amsterdam, or an early-morning bite of great breads at one of the few De Bakkerswinkel.
The Eastern Docklands of Amsterdam – around Javaplein – has emerged, in recent years, as a cooler alternative to De Pijp. Take the tram to Javaplein and grab a coffee at the perfectly named Bedford Stuyvestant Cafe, a relaxed dinner of modern Dutch cuisine at Wilde Zwijnen (tip: go for the set menu) and a drink after at the cafe on Javaplein.
When the weather’s warm and sunny, head north to Amsterdam-Noord – the city’s alternative and fashionable district- for a waterfront bite at Hotel de Goudfazant. Housed in a former factory, the space is part motorcycle garage, bar and restaurant – but not hotel. The food is straightforward, comfort Dutch cuisine, service is friendly, and the atmosphere is buzzing. You’d be hard pressed to find a more unique restaurant than this in the city. (Just around the corner is Cafe Modern which is, actually, a hotel and restaurant, and little sister to Hotel de Goudfazant). To get here, hope the free, five-minute ferry from the back of Centraal Station to Veer IJplein, and it’s a 15-minute walk.
And, if you’re after a more authentic brewery experience than the incredibly tourist Heineken experience, head to one of the breweries on the map below for a tour and pint, but be sure to check opening hours before you go, as they can be sporadic.
Be sure to also take some time to visit the marvellous, newly-reopened Rijksmuseum.
Embedded below is my travel map for the city. Places in yellow are breweries, places in blue are detailed above, and those in red I didn’t have time to visit, but come highly recommended. Enjoy!