As I mentioned before, the Ellie & Co team of two recently took a weekend break to Amsterdam for a concert and do a bit of exploring. We ate our body weight in pancakes, drank wine by the canals, and spent most of our time wandering the pretty narrow streets hunting out local treasures and hidden gems. Here are some photos if you’d like to see!
(↑ Hello from me on my Amsterdammer bike…)
I mean, I knew Amsterdam was bike friendly, but I had no idea just how many bikes there would be. There are literally row upon rows of bikes everywhere… people cycle to work, to restaurants, to the park, to meetings, to picnics, to go shopping, to do everything… so obviously we joined in.
As a cat person, a trip to KattenKabinet – museum of cats! – was high up on the agenda. It’s set in a beautiful 17th-century merchant’s house by a canal, founded by the house’s owner Bob Meijer in 1990 as an act of remembrance for his own departed cat, John Pierpont Morgan. Meijer and his family still live in the upper floors of the house, with the lower floors dedicated to works of art, some by unknown artists, with others by the greats such as Picasso and Rembrant. Even if you’re not into cats, it’s worth going just to see inside the house.
The collection spills into the garden where you’ll find lots of old advertising posters…
Of course the museum would not be complete without the real thing – Meijer owns five cats which roam around the museum, greet guests and doze on the antique furnishings. We managed to spot two of them.
Find KattenKabinet at Herengracht 497
Amsterdam’s botanical garden is a horticulturist’s dream opened in 1638 to serve as a herb garden for the city’s doctors and pharmacists. The palm house is a sight to behold, but the best bit is walking through the greenhouses filled to the sound of birdsong, the temperature designed to mimic different climates depending on the plants growing inside. One of them is so humid you feel like you’re on holiday in the rainforest. The perfect place for escaping the Amsterdam crowds.
My jaw dropped when I walked inside this movie theatre in central Dam. Pathé Tuschinski was built in 1921 and is still open for business today. Its spectacular interior mixes Art Nouveau and Art Deco styles and is perfectly preserved from the day it was created, give or take a little TLC. I couldn’t stop staring up at the ceiling and imagining movie night here in the 20s.
You can turn up each day between 9.30 and 11am and pay 10 euros for an audio tour, or you can just have a walk around the auditorium – even onto the stage and into the boxes – like we did.
One of the nicest things to do in Amsterdam is to wander around the streets of Jordaan, you can’t help imagining what it would be like to live in one of the lovely merchants’ houses you see everywhere.
Amsterdam felt much smaller (in a good way) than I had expected; the narrow streets with townhouses are beautiful. And there are so many canals – more than Venice! I loved walking along them looking at the houseboats and imagining what it would be like to live on one, or even just stay on one. (Side note: did you know that the canals freeze over in winter and you can go ice-skating on them?)
Side note: One funny thing about Amsterdam are the public toilets – metal structures peppered around town – which the men can use even though passersby can see their feet and faces. Obviously Dan had to investigate… handy, he says.
Thuis Aan de Amstel is a little way out of the city centre, but made a great bike trip and is worth it for the food, the rose wine, the setting on the canal, the sunset view, the design – everything. We liked it so much, we ate dinner here twice.
It’s housed in what used to be the family home of the managing engineers of Amsterdam’s old gas factory plant Westergasfabriek up until the 1960s. The factory dissolved in 1965, when carbon gas was replaced by natural gas, and the factory district has since been repurposed as a park and a recreative and cultural hotspot (hosting different festivals as well as the Amsterdam Fashion Week). There’s a big terrace outside for sunny days and evenings, and a maze of dining rooms inside spread across FOUR FLOORS furnished in thrift-store finds… obviously I went to investigate.
Almost forgot the most important part – the food. I usually start eating before I remember to take a picture but the food was so pretty I needed no reminder.
↓ Happy after our first-night dinner in Amsterdam!
Find tHuis Aan De Amstel at Korte Ouderkerkerdijk 45 – a short walk from Amstel station
One of our favourite spots was a little cafe-bar on the water called t’Smalle, where people in boats pull up and jump off a pre-dinner drink. And giant plate of cocktail snacks.
Find t’ Smalle at Egelantiersgracht 12.
Where We Shopped
This fantastic shop started out selling enamel ware, like house numbers and name boards, teapots, plates, jugs, cook pots, but sells so many other curiosities such as West African handicrafts like rainbow baskets, beautiful beads, mats and bags. It also imports its lovely wares and stocks one of my favourite Brighton stores, Blackout Shop – ironically the most colourful shop in the city!
Find De Emaillekeizer at Eerste Sweelinckstraat 15.
I could have gone totally nuts in this shop if I had a home in Amsterdam – it stocked everything from blankets and cushions to old Indian front doors and the odd vintage haberdashery trolley!
Find De Weldaad at Noordermarkt 35-36.
Perhaps the most random shopping experience on our Amsterdam trip – if not anywhere I’ve ever been – was at Flesch Records. The place to come for all your vinyl needs, “and where owner Herman Verkoop, always dressed in traditional Volendam costume, also sells fabulous old record players, valve amps and radios – as well as fruit and vegetables”, according to the Herb Lester Amsterdam map. Herman was dressed casually on our visit, perhaps the lederhosen was in the wash. Ah well, we bought some apples anyway. *Clogs display only.
Find Flesch Records at Noorderkerkstraat 16.
Where We Stayed
Set in what was once an orphanage, Hotel Arena is located in East Amsterdam – by a canal of course! – and was a nice escape from the craziness of the central part of the city. It faced a big leafy park and wasn’t far from a good cafe and a cool local bar.
Find Hotel Arena at ‘s-Gravesandestraat 55.
Instead of a hotel, why not stay on a houseboat? There are so many to choose from on great spots lining the canals, some quirky, others sleek and modern. It would make for a fun trip. Here are some to browse on Air BnB, here
Until next time Amsterdam!