The Daily Telegraph, January 14, 2015
Amsterdam's best restaurants, bars, attractions, day trips and more, revealed by concierges in the city's best hotels.
Though its dainty gabled buildings and relatively diminutive scale may give Amsterdam a village-like charm, this city pulsates with enough activity and energy to stand proudly alongside any European capital. As ever it's the locals who know what's best, so here giving their visitors guide to Amsterdam's best cultural pursuits, shopping opportunities and more are concierges from three of the city's best hotels:
Mireille Deenik at Waldorf Astoria Amsterdam
Isabelle Post at the Conservatorium
Michael Wigman at The Dylan
Which attraction should I definitely make time to see?
Mireille: The Ons' Lieve Heer op Solder or Our Lord in the Attic museum, a uniquely preserved 17th-century house from the Dutch Golden Age. Explore the narrow corridors and climb the stairs to historically furnished living rooms, kitchens and bedsteads, leading literally to the highpoint of the museum: an entire church in the attic.
Isabelle: The Rijksmuseum, which has on display 8,000 or so artworks from their total collection of one million objects dating from the years 1200–2000. Among which are some masterpieces by Rembrandt, Frans Hals and Johannes Vermeer. Also worth visiting is the museum's Asian collection, displayed in an special pavilion.
Michael: Our local Zoo, called Artis, is the oldest European zoo in the heart of a city. It shouldn't be missed and next to it you'll find Micropia, the world’s first museum devoted to microscopically small life - it is truly fascinating.
Which of the “must-visit” attractions should I avoid?
Mireille: Madame Tussauds, which is very crowded.
Isabelle: The flower market. It's the only floating flower market in the world, but it sounds more spectacular than it is because it's very touristy and smaller than you would expect.
Michael: Any overly touristy area like the Dam Square and the two adjoining shopping streets Kalverstraat and the Nieuwendijk.
Which cultural attraction would you most recommend?
Mireille: Cycle the backstreets of Amsterdam with a guide and experience the city like a local. The tour takes you to secret gardens, hidden courtyards and long-forgotten churches in the city's coolest neighbourhoods.
Isabelle: The canals of Amsterdam are the city’s signature and arguably its most charming feature, so a private canal cruise through the city’s waterways gives you a unique view of many spectacular city sights, such as the 17th-century mansions, humpbacked bridges, quirky houseboats and architectural features ranging from medieval to modern. Typically the captain has a rich knowledge of the route and can share great insider details about what you're seeing.
Michael: The FOAM Photo museum, which offers an insight on all aspects of modern photography. For cinema lovers, EYE Film Museum is a must, as it has a unique collection of films (from the first black and white pictures to examples from today) and some great temporary exhibitions.
I’d like to try something new here – what should I do?
Mireille: We can organise half-day Van Gogh-themed programme. After a private tour of the Van Gogh Museum you can visit an atelier where you will learn how to paint like Van Gogh - you'll of course be able to take your painting as a souvenir.
Isabelle: A tour of the city's many hidden gardens. Most of them were built in the 17th century and remain in Amsterdam's inner city, particularly the Jordan area. Amsterdam’s most famous “hofje”, is the Begijnhof, found a 10-minute walk from the Dam, the city’s main square.
Michael: Having dinner on a private boat as you sail through the canals is pretty unique, and we arrange this at the hotel. Guests can order a la carte and get each course from a different top restaurant, served on board the boat as they sail.
Should I rent a bike in Amsterdam?
Mireille: You definitely should rent a bike and ride by the 9 Streets, Jordan Area to North Amsterdam and behind the Central Station, where ferries can take you across the river IJ towards the countryside.
Isabelle: Yes. It's still the best way to get around in Amsterdam, and I'd recommend exploring the Vondelpark by bike too.
Michael: Absolutely. And for our hotel guests we can arrange private guided bike tours throughout the city: the Amstel/Garden tour itinerary is very special.
Is there a local designer, artist or creative whose work I should check out?
Mireille: Hotel Droog and Frozen Fountain are two shops which stock pieces by lots of great creatives.
Isabelle: In the heart of the Amsterdam Spiegel Quarter art district, you can pick up beautiful paintings, sculptures and lithographs by Dutch artist Erik Renssen in the Renssen Art Gallery.
Michael: There are so many. To start, Viviane Sassen is a brilliant local photographer; you'll find interesting menswear at our neighbour Olaf Hussein ; you'll find unique pieces at J.C.Ceramics - they made some pieces for our hotel too.
Where is the most interesting restaurant?
Mireille: Restaurant de Kas ; it's located in a greenhouse and they produce their own vegetables.
Isabelle: &Samhoud places is the only modern two Michelin-star fine-dining restaurant in Amsterdam . It serves a lavish experimental menu and street food options in a stylish setting with city views.
Michael: Kaagman & Kortekaas, a restaurant which is managed by two very talented, much-loved owners – they deliver a genuine Amsterdam experience.
What’s the best bar in Amsterdam? I don’t want somewhere touristy.
Mireille: I'd recommend The Butcher, Hiding in Plain Sight and Door74.
Isabelle: Our Tunes bar is not touristy.
Michael: Tales and Spirits, for innovative cocktails and an attractive crowd
What’s the most romantic thing you can do in Amsterdam?
Mireille: A private boat tour through the canals of Amsterdam with dinner on the boat.
Isabelle: Visit the city's oldest art cinema, De Uitkijk on the famous Prinsengracht canal, to watch a romantic movie in the love seats upstairs.
Michael: Simply drinking a bottle of wine and watching the boats along the canals.
Can you recommend a daytrip I can take from Amsterdam?
Mireille: I'd suggest visiting the south of the country. Start at Den Haag, which is where our parliament is located together with the Maurtishuis art gallery (where you can see The Goldfinch and Girl with a Pearl Earring); then continue to Delft, which is where Delft Blue earthenware is from (we can even arrange a Delft Blue workshop), and go on to Rotterdam, which is a very modern architectural city as it was completely destroyed in the Second World War.
Isabelle: Visit Muiderslot Castle, the most beautiful and best-kept medieval castle in the Netherlands.
Michael: Visit the north of Holland, which is beautiful and about 30 miles from the city. I recommend stops at Monnickendam, Edam Hoorn and Enkhuizen and its interesting Open Air Museum .
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