Coffee, Canals + Capers | Amsterdam


Last week we headed off to Amsterdam for a few days.

Amsterdam is a city I had never visited and it is a city I never thought I would. Stories from friends about the amount of stag parties and weed smoke placed it pretty far down my list of must-see cities.
However, while it is true that there are a LOT of stag parties and weed smoke, it is city with a few hidden treasures if you go beyond the coffee shops and red light district.

Like any major city, there are going to be the usual tourist trap and tacky commerciality. However, combine this with a laid back attitude to marijuana and prostitution, it can attract a certain type of tourist.

Out of a sense of morbid curiosity, we did venture through the Red Light District on the Saturday evening. Heaving crowds and heaving bosoms, it was something I can say I have seen but do not have to nor wish to see again. I wouldn't say I'm a prude and I respect every woman's right to do what she wants with her body, it was the mentality and crassness of the men that makes the area seem so seedy.

I am truly a city break kind of guy, I would rather walk 15 miles a day exploring a city than spend an afternoon on a beach. Stepping away from the usual attractions of Dam Square, we found several spots which were more my type of city. Call me a hipster cliche, but I do love a good street food vendor and coffee shop (BTW, most coffee shops in Amsterdam are obviously "coffee shops" but there are a few excellent exceptions.)

Caelan is the navigator extraordinare. 
He always finds the best little spots and always gets us home!

Highly Recommended

During the day, this converted former tram depot is a hub of boutique shops, a small screen cinema and a communal food hall with vendors selling pizza, sushi, seafood, patisserie, burgers and vegetarian delights (we tried all the afore mentioned cusinines)
At night, when most of the vendors have closed up, it becomes an indoor beer garden.

Anne Frank Museum
The modern museum is actually built around the house that Anne and her family hid in for 2 years while attempting to escape Nazi persecution. I think it's a really important piece of history and something everyone should take an hour out to include in their trip. Booking is essential so make sure you have your tickets reserved before you go.

Canal Tour
There are any number of operators along Damrak with prices starting from around €10pp. It's a great, alternative way to explore the city for an hour or so and gives some great photo opportunities as you navigate through twisting canals and under bridges and locks.

The thinnest house is Amsterdam
The gentleman who lives here is taller than his house is wide...

It wouldn't be one of my trips if I didn't investigate the city's coffee scene. We squeezed in 3 different coffee shops (actual coffee shops - no herbal smoke to be found) during our stay and each come highly recommended.

Try the coffee tonic and coconut macaroon (NB these are good old macaroons not fancy wee macarons)

Most of the buildings in Amsterdam are tall and narrow and Lot Sixty One takes advantage of this with a partial basement area which houses the roastery. 

A peculiarly laid out store with steps in random arrangement around the shop, its a mix of the pared-back modern feel with a vintage, reclaimed vibe.


photo by betterhalfblog

While I'm in no rush to return to Amsterdam, I'm glad to say I've seen it and it is not without its charm. Away from the tourist traps, it is as cosmopolitan and engaging as any major European city. The Netherlands itself is one of the most progressive countries in the world but perhaps this have been exploited by tourists (indeed there is a distinct anti-tourist vibe from some residents) to the detriment of the city. However, as always this is just my opinion and can only put out my recommendations should you decide to visit.

Have you visited before? Drop me a comment with your thoughts.

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  1. I last visited Amsterdam in the mid '80s. I went specifically to see art and in that regard I enjoyed my visit very much. However, I am also an avid city watcher and came away with much the same impressions as yourself; doesn’t sound like much has changed. I would like to visit The Netherlands again, including Amsterdam, but I would spend more time in Rotterdam. Apparently that is where all the cool-kids hang out these days.


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