CONTRARY TO PULP Fiction lore, there’s more to Amsterdam than hash bars.
Coffee shops are the shit for many an Amsterdam virgin, yet locals view them as tourist traps lacking in “gezelligheid,” or coziness, the cornerstone of Dutch culture. Smoking yourself into a coma at the Bulldog is just fine, but you’re going to miss out.
Follow these ten tips and you’ll do Amsterdam like a local.
1. Immerse yourself in art
View Van Gogh’s life through art, from the Potato Eaters up through the last two months of his life in France.
Holland’s Golden Age is the highlight of the Rijksmuseum. Don’t miss Vermeer’s Milkmaid.
2. Day trip it
For an excursion, the 15-minute train ride to Haarlem is worth the trip.
For eats, kick back at the spacious Café Brinkman on the square, and to top off the day, have drinks at Café 1900 (Barteljorisstraat 10) on the way back to the train station.
3. Drink up
With more than 1200 intriguing pubs to crawl you’ll have more than your fill.
Start at the Heineken brewery (Stadshouderkade 78) to see how famous beer is produced. Check out Café Belgique to taste smooth Belgian brews like La Chouffe.
4. Night bike it
Amsterdam is most romantic at night, when the city is aglow from lit up bridges and canals.
Start at Leidseplein and bike down Kerkstraat to the Amstel River, where you’ll find the Skinny Bridge in all its glory.
Cut across Waterlooplein to Jodenbreestraat, which takes you into Nieuwmarkt. Pay a visit to the Waag, a pub/restaurant that once formed the city wall, or brown bar Café ‘t Loosje (Nieuwmarkt 32-34).
5. Club it
For pre-partying, head to Lux (Marnixstraat 403), Bitterzoet (Spuistraat 2), or Seymour Likely (Nieuwezijds Voorburgwal 250) for live DJs.
Join the dance crowd at Mazzo (Rozengracht 114), Club More (Rozengracht 133), and Paradiso (Weteringschans 6-8). For a laid-back vibe, check out Café Alto (Korte Leidsedwarsstraat 115) for local jazz acts.
6. Shop for treasures
Walk the famous 9 streets to pick up cutting-edge fashion and eclectic wares.
Don’t miss Lady Day, which sells vintage and secondhand European fashion for a steal. Browse for a designer fragrance like Creed at Skins Cosmetics, investigate the Paul Frank Store, and get pampered at Spoiled, where you’ll be custom matched to a designer pair of jeans.
7. Do it like the Dutch
Nothing says typically Dutch better than a hunk of Gouda stuffed in a fresh bread roll.
Savor this ritual by picking up a sandwich at Broodje van Kootje (Spui 28). Grab a newspaper at the Athenaeum bookstore across the way, and plunk yourself down on a bench in the square.
For another Dutch favorite, visit the Pannekoekenhuis, a tiny upstairs restaurant on the second floor of a narrow canal house. Dive into big pancakes, served sweet or savory.
8. Indulge, Indonesian style
A former colony of the Netherlands, Indonesia now occupies Amsterdam, in terms of cuisine.
The rice table (a smorgasbord of dishes) is the name of the game but you can opt for the Nasi Goreng (fried rice) at Sie Joe.
9. While the day away in a café
At Café Zeezicht (Hoofdweg 456), people watch on the outdoor terrace, sipping a Dutch style latte, and nibbling on the best apple tart in town. Brown cafes, named for their wooden interiors, are good for mingling with the locals.
Cafes not to miss: De Balie, Café De Tuin (Tweede Tuindwarsstraat 13), and Café ‘t Smalle (Egelantiersgracht 12).
10. Walk it
Start at the eastern end of the Albert Cuyp street market in the ethnically diverse neighborhood De Pijp.
Peruse Dutch treats like fish, cheese, and chocolate among 300 stalls. Take a right on Ferdinand Bolstraat, then a left on Stadshouderkade.
Take a right at Spiegelgracht for a stroll in the antique district. Turn left onto Herengracht to see splendid 17th century canal houses. Make a right at Leidsestraat and go up to Singel.
Hit the Singel lunch Café (Singel 404) for homemade soups and baguette sandwiches. This article was originally published on June 11th, 2008.
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