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    Amsterdam, Netherlands Travel Guide

    Photo: Stevie Benanty

    If London swings and Paris seduces, Amsterdam rocks. This European capital’s skyline is punctuated with turrets and domes and clock towers—15th-century landmarks that still loom over its cobbled streets. In the “Venice of the North,” canals trickle through the city—there are more than one hundred kilometers of canals here—flowing past storybook windmills and craft breweries. Visitors come here every year to experience a metropolis that, for centuries, has boomed as a cultural hub.

    Amsterdam sprawls for miles in the Netherlands’ northwest, close to the provinces of Utrecht and Flevoland. Dutch is spoken here, and people use euros. Amsterdam Airport Schiphol is the city’s main airport, located about 12 miles south of downtown. Visitors can hop on the NS Dutch Railways train at the terminal—a single ticket costs about $5.60—and travel to Amsterdam Centraal Station, which sits proudly on the banks of the IJ, a river that ripples through the capital.

    Amsterdam has an oceanic climate, characterized by chilly winters and mild summers. Spring is the best time to visit: this is when the tulips bloom and the naked sun turns the canal waters into a murky shade of green. Temperatures in May average 12 degrees Celsius. Visitors who prefer balmier weather should visit in the summer when temperatures hover in the high teens C. Amsterdam winters can be cold—temperatures struggle to get past four degrees Celsius in November, December, and January—but the city’s cozy bars, complete with craft ales and fireplaces, more than make up for the chill.

    Like any capital, Amsterdam attracts all sorts, from backpackers to businesspeople. Most people visit the city’s “big three” landmarks: the Van Gogh Museum, the Anne Frank House, and the Rijksmuseum

    Amsterdam’s cultural core has inspired poets and architects and musicians for centuries. Here, the streets are lined with Gothic architecture and narrow, pastel-colored houses. New landmarks jostle for street space, too. Soaring high-rises like the uber-modern Rembrandt Tower is now the city’s tallest building, standing at 135 meters, and glass office blocks make Amsterdam an economic nucleus.

    STAY

    The Conservatorium Hotel

    Photo: The Conservatorium Hotel

    With its Neo-Gothic facade and ultra-modern lobby, the Conservatorium Hotel is an upscale resort that blends old and new. Known as “Amsterdam’s Living Room,” the hotel is set amid a patchwork of steepled churches, 17th-century gabled houses and twisting canals that snake through the Dutch capital. Housed in a former music academy, the Conservatorium Hotel is a few minutes walk from Museum Square, the cultural center of the city. Each suite fuses contemporary design features with must-have home comforts such as coffee machines and WiFi. Free-standing white gloss baths and marble floors contrast with period windows, a hallmark of this historic hotel, which was built in the late 1800s. After a day exploring Amsterdam, guests can dine in one of two deluxe restaurants, or indulge in a massage or facial at the luxurious on-site spa. Nine miles from Amsterdam Airport Schiphol, guests can take a train, bus or taxi from their terminal to the hotel. Room rates start at $600. Visitors can book a room online, and view photos of the retreat on Instagram.

    Address: Van Baerlestraat 27 1071 AN Amsterdam, Netherlands

    EAT

    Ron Oriental Gastrobar

    Ron Oriental Gastrobar is one of the finest modern European tapas-style restaurants in Amsterdam, ran by Michelin Star award-winning chef Ron Blaauw, who also appeared on the area’s Top Chef show numerous times in previous years.

    The food here is very Oriental, taking Asian cuisine and giving it an “international twist” that everyone can love. Dishes here commonly contain Angus, chicken, duck, and seafood. Food gets prepared in the kitchen and brought right to your table, “served when ready,” the traditional Chinese dim sum way.

    The menu contains many choices of dim sum, with different flavors like chicken, pork, scallops and other seafood. Some of their specialty plates on the menu include roasted Peking duck, a Beijing-native dish, grilled black Angus and steamed lobster. After your meal, enjoy desserts like mango tapioca with passion fruit sorbet and almond tofu (Mong Gwo Bud Din), and bitter chocolate ganache with basil mandarin ice cream (Haau Hak Lik).

    Inside Ron Oriental Gastrobar you’ll find a fascinating mix of old and new decor. Here cut-out bamboo screens merge beautifully with an impressive mirrored bar and lacquered surfaces. Set between the Willemspark and Schinkelbuurt neighborhoods and just around the corner from the historic Vondelpark waterfront, this is a great spot to grab a bite to eat or a few drinks before dinner.

    As you can expect from any establishment with a Michelin star, this is a popular place to be and making a reservation for dinner is advised. Follow on Instagram

    Address: Sophialaan 55 hs, 1075 BP Amsterdam, Netherlands
    Phone: +31 20 496 1943

    Vleminckx Sausmeesters

    Phot: Stevie Benanty

    Vleminckx Sausmeesters is an infamous fry stand situated in the heart of Amsterdam. This tiny and popular hole-in-the-wall establishment has something of a cult following and a very long, but fast-moving queue. These purveyors of some of the best fries in Amsterdam have been plying their trade for almost 60 years and have changed neither their recipe nor their trademark paper cones during that time.

    Residents from all across Amsterdam, as well as tourists, regularly stop in for a bite to eat. Fries run below €3 and come in two sizes. You can spice up your fries with some applesauce, curry ketchup, joppie sauce, piccalilli, sambal or satay sauce, or keep it traditional with ketchup or mayonnaise. This place is a must try for anyone in the area—just remember, they close at 7 p.m. each day of the week.

    It’s just around the corner from Bloemenmarkt, the only floating flower market in the world.

    Address: Voetboogstraat 33, 1012 XK Amsterdam, Netherlands
    Phone: +31 6 54787000

    Mossel en Gin

    Photo: Stevie Benanty

    Mossel en Gin is a seafood bar with high recognition and local respect. During the week, you’ll see workers flooding from their offices looking to take their place for cocktails on the bar’s terrace. This is also a popular haunt for tourists captivated by the alluring pairing of seafood and gin. Inside you’ll find wooden seating, minimalist chic and plenty of mood lighting to set the scene as the sun goes down.

    Mossel en Gin is especially known for its wide variety of seafood options and offers choices of dishes that contain everything from lobster to octopus to oysters and much more. Of course, most diners dine here for their variety of—you guessed it—mussels. All main plates are served with fries on the side.

    Mossel en Gin is positioned between Tuinpark Nut & Genoegen and Westerpark. It’s just around the corner from Zuiveringshal West, which runs adjacent with Haarlemmerweg on the other side of the water.

    Reservations recommended. Follow on Instagram.

    Address: Gosschalklaan 12, 1014 DC Amsterdam, Netherlands
    Phone: +31 20 486 5869

    De Kas

    Photo: Stevie Benanty

    De Kas, housed in a giant garden conservatory, with ceiling-to-floor windows and exposed piping, is an architectural wonder. The building dates back to the 1920s and is girdled by lavishly landscaped gardens; it is also smack dab in Frankendael Park—home to a 7th-century country mansion and twisting, black pine trees—on the outskirts of eastern Amsterdam, North Holland.

    The laid-back Michelin-starred restaurant, which opened in 2001, is just a hop, skip and a jump from Amstel station, and it is presided over by vegetable grower and chef, Gert-Jan Hageman. The food menu is ever-changing at De Kas, with lunch and dinner options based on that day’s harvest at the on-site nursery. Fresh fruit and vegetables are the foundations of every dish: Head Chef Jarno van den Broek fuses Mediterranean flavors with homegrown ingredients, and he creates culinary showstoppers like grilled catfish and veal stew.

    Patrons can indulge in the three-course dinner menu ($55), consisting of a selection of three small starters, a main and a dessert. Amsterdammers, who travel across town for dinner, don’t know what’s on the menu until they arrive. Visitors to the Dutch capital can book a table at De Kas online.

    Address: Kamerlingh Onneslaan 3 1097 DE Amsterdam, Netherlands
    Phone: +31 20 462 4562

    Mata Hari

    Red Light District at night

    For those looking for the perfect combination of atmospheric lighting, cozy sofas, and wonderful food, Mata Hari has it all. Situated in the center of Amsterdam, this gorgeously retro establishment welcomes you warmly for lunch, dinner or just coffee and drinks. Mata Hari truly comes alive at night and you’ll always find the bar lively and the restaurant thriving. The owners are very enthusiastic about using fair trade, local and sustainable products wherever possible, and the menu reflects this clearly to diners looking to eat more responsibly. The dining options here vary but dishes here include lamb, oysters, rabbit, pasta, and steak.

    Mata Hari is located in the heart of the city’s Red Light District; this restaurant is very close to the riverfront. It is also a short walking distance from De Oude Kerk—the oldest building in Amsterdam, built in 1213 and widely recognized for its historical richness.

    Follow on Instagram

    Address: Oudezijds Achterburgwal 22, 1012 DM Amsterdam, Netherlands
    Phone: +31 20 205 0919

    SMOKE

    Abraxas Coffeeshop


    Cannabis has been legal in the Netherlands long before Colorado, Oregon, and other U.S. states voted to allow recreational usage. In Amsterdam, cannabis for recreational use may be purchased in coffee houses by anyone age 18 and older. In recent years, some Dutch cities and provinces have voted to require those purchasing cannabis at coffee houses to have a membership card (and thus provide personal information). Such laws would in effect ban tourists from purchasing cannabis. However, to date, Amsterdam has not adopted such a policy. You’ll notice that coffee houses where cannabis is offered do not sell alcoholic beverages.

    Abraxas has been one of Amsterdam’s most popular coffee houses since 1992 with locals and tourists alike. In addition to coffee, patrons can purchase gifts, seeds, t-shirts, hemp and smoking accessories, as well as cannabis. The atmosphere here is warm and fanciful, with small, cozy rooms filled with artwork and soft music. It’s the type of place you’ll want to linger for an hour or an afternoon. All you need to do is purchase some weed from the counter and settle right in.

    Conveniently located just off of Dam Square, Abraxas is open daily from 8:00 a.m. to 1:00 a.m.

    Address: Jonge Roelensteeg 12-14, 1012 PL Amsterdam, Netherlands
    Phone: +31 20 625 5763

    Green House Centrum

    Photo: Stevie Benanty

    Like Abraxas, Green House Centrum offers a variety of cannabis products for recreational use. Unlike Abraxas, this coffee house has a number of food items, such as cinnamon French toast and a full English breakfast, as well as coffee, smoothies and other non-alcoholic beverages. Located in Amsterdam’s Centrum district, Green House is easily reached from all areas of the city and about a 10-minute walk from Dam Square.

    The small establishment is located right on the canal and even has a private outside terrace overlooking the water. Be alert for celebrity sightings here: Green House Centrum is a favorite with notable actors and musicians.

    Address: Oudezijds Voorburgwal 191, 1012 EW Amsterdam, Netherlands
    Phone: +31 20 627 1739

    SEE

    Vondelpark

    Photo: Stevie Benanty

    Located in West Amsterdam, not far from the Rijksmuseum and the Van Gogh Museum, the 120-acre Vondelpark is to Amsterdam what Central Park is to New York City. This urban green space, established in 1865, features bike and hiking paths, a playground, an open-air theatre, a duck pond and four restaurants. There are also a number of sculptures in the park, including “The Fish” by Pablo Picasso.

    The largest park in Amsterdam, Vondelpark draws more than 10 million visitors annually. The park is open year round, although the park is most lovely in the April and May when the spring bulbs and flowering trees are in bloom. Admission to the park is free. Pack a picnic—and maybe a joint—and relax on the grass. 

    Address: 1071 AA Amsterdam, Netherlands
    Phone: +31 035 671 7915

    Noodermarkt Farmers’ Market


    Noordermarkt sets up every Saturday in Amsterdam year round. Located in the Jordaan District, on the outer ring of Amsterdam’s city center, this farmers’ market is well-known for its large selection of organic foods plus antiques, jewelry, books, music, hand-tied rugs, and sunglasses.

    Much of the food offered for sale here comes right from the growers and farmers. Although the wares change with the season, you’ll usually find fruits and vegetables, meat, cheese, fresh herbs, grains, pasta, nuts, baked goods, honey and olive oils. One of the specialties of the market is fresh mushrooms harvested from Dutch forests and flown in from other European woods.

    While there is no bad time to visit Noordermarkt, the market team with the bounty of the Dutch harvest in late August and September. That’s also when Amsterdam’s summer crowds begin to thin and the city’s weather is at its finest: not too hot and not too cold.

    Noordermarkt is open on Saturdays from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.

    Address: Noordermarkt, Gouden Leeuw 423, 1103 KJ Amsterdam, Netherlands
    Phone: +31 20 624 1111 (from outside of the Netherlands)

    Keukenhof Gardens *Spring only*

    Photo: Stevie Benanty

    Few places in the world embody the beauty of spring as well as the Keukenhof gardens in the Netherlands. Located in Lisse, about 30 minutes by rail from Amsterdam, this massive garden hosts one of Europe’s largest spring flower displays.

    For about eight weeks in the spring, the Keukenhof’s fields erupt with brilliant reds, yellows, purples, and pinks, as more than seven million flower bulbs come into bloom! The theme for 2017 is “Dutch Design.”

    Opened in 1949, the Keukenhof is situated on a former 15th-century hunting ground. The area also provided kitchen herbs for local nobility, hence the name, which translates to “kitchen garden.” The Dutch have a long association with spring flower bulbs and tulips in particular. These flowers, native to Persia and Turkey, were imported en masse to Holland in the 16th century. At one point, they were more valuable than gold.

    For 2017, the Keukenhof gardens will be open to the public from March 23 until May 21. Tickets are 16 euros for adults and 8 euros for children ages 4-11. Parking is 6 euros per vehicle. Guides to the gardens area available for 5 euros.

    Follow Keukenhof on Instagram to see the millions of blooms.

    Address: 2160 AB, Stationsweg 166, 2161 AM Lisse, Netherlands
    Phone: +31 252 465 555

    SHOP

    Rush Hour Records

    If you love music of all genres, especially world music, don’t miss a visit to Rush Hour Records. Founded in 1997 to showcase obscure house and techno records from around the world, Rush Hour Records has expanded to include independent Dutch releases and less commercial music the owners like from all over the globe. The endeavor also led to Rush Hour founding their own music label, which dropped its first release in 2000. Today, Rush Hour Records works with both new and established artists, including Tom Trago, San Proper, Aardvarck, Rednose Distrikt, Awanto 3, Hunee and Carl Craig.

    Although music is its focus, Rush Hour Records also stocks music-related art, books, t-shirts, magazines, DJ equipment and other merchandise. The store is known for its many special events and parties. There are usually two or three such events each month.

    Rush Hour Records is located just off of the Singel Canal, about a five-minute walk from Dam Square. The store is open seven days a week, from 11:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m.

    Address: Spuistraat 116, 1012 VA Amsterdam, Netherlands
    Phone: +31 20 427 4505

    Amsterdam Cheese Company


    Amsterdam Cheese Company is a popular cheese store with numerous locations across Amsterdam. If you are on a mission to find the best cheese in Amsterdam, you are very likely to find it here. With a cheese production of almost 800,000,000 kilos a year, Holland is now one of the biggest European cheese producers.

    You’ll find most of the Dutch cheese varieties available on offer here. Featuring a range of specialist and traditional Dutch cheeses made from age-old recipes, this is cheese for serious gourmets. Their main list of cheese products is broken down as follows: Dutch Gold, Maxima, Goat Cheese, Flavored Cheese, Farmer’s Cheese and Smoked. They also offer tasty flavors of jam and mustard.

    You’ll find branches of Amsterdam Cheese Company scattered across Amsterdam, including the neighborhoods of Kalverstraat, Leidsestraat, Nieuwendijk and Wijde Heisteeg.

    View their Stores page on their site to find the location nearest you and follow on Instagram.

    stevie benanty

    stevie benanty

    Founder of a conversation.

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