Secret Amsterdam: Lesser-Known Attractions, Bars And Restaurants

Rodney Bolt, The Daily Telegraph, January 28, 2014

These recommendations, and hundreds more, can be found in the free Telegraph Travel Guides app . The app features expert guides to destinations including Paris, Rome, New York and Amsterdam, with Edinburgh, Barcelona and Venice among those to be added in the coming weeks.

See and do


Pianola Museum


Top of my quirky-museum list. I love this little museum for its sheer eccentricity, as well as its intriguing collection and eerie concerts.

It includes not only the sort of honky-tonk piano that played itself in the corner of a Wild West bar, but also more sophisticated instruments, operated using a technology we can no longer fathom. These can reproduce the exact timbre and every nuance of the pianist who punched the scroll that makes them work. The museum has scrolls created by the likes of Debussy and Prokofiev themselves, as well as works especially composed by Stravinsky. Try to get to one of the eerie concerts, where the audience sits around politely listening to a playerless piano.

Sun, 2pm-5pm; see the website for concert times

€5; over 65s, €4; children, €3

Ons' Lieve Heer op Solder

The house is deeply redolent of Golden Age life, and the church in the attic adds a touch of astonishment

Parts of this restored 17th-century canal house, with its black-and-white tiled floors, heavy furniture, and period kitchen, are like stepping into a painting by Vermeer. This is my own top choice for a visit when I have guests in Amsterdam, because as well as atmosphere it holds surprise. Upstairs, a ladder-like stairway leads to the astonishingly large church of Our Dear Lord in the Attic, which dates from the time when Protestant Holland tolerated Catholic worship only in places hidden from street view. Try to get a museum attendant to demonstrate the ingenious fold-away pulpit.

Oudezijds Voorburgwal 40, 1012 GE, Centre

€8; children 6-18, €4; under 6s, free

Mon-Sat, 10am-5pm; Sun, 1pm-5pm

Tassenmuseum Hendrijke (Museum of Bags and Purses)

The museum sounds camp, or just plain silly, but in fact it's a world-class collection, spanning 17th-century leather pouches, 1920s beaded fripperies through to the very latest Gucci, Vuitton and Prada. And it's all displayed in a splendid canal-house setting, too. Like so many of the best museums, this one has its origins in a private collection, in this case one that has grown to encompass the precious, the quirky, the historically curious, and the delicately beautiful – some 4,000 pieces in all. Put some time aside for a coffee: the museum café is in a splendid 18th-century salon.

Herengracht 573, 1017 CD, Canal Belt

€9; students and over 65s, €7.50; children 13-18, €5.50; under 13s free

Daily, 10am-5pm


Through a brown wooden door, leading off the busy Spui square, lies another world – a tranquil garden courtyard, edged by dinky gabled buildings. The Begijnhof dates back to the early 15th century, when it was built for beguines, a form of lay nun. In 1607, the church at the heart of the courtyard was offered to Protestant dissenters fleeing England. Later they later sailed to America, becoming the Pilgrim Fathers. The last beguine died in 1971, but the houses are still occupied by single women. At number 34, you can see one of only two remaining medieval timber facades in town.


Daily, 9am-5pm

Verzetsmuseum (Museum of the Resistance)

A fascinating little museum that offers a glimpse of life in the Netherlands under the Nazi occupation, and of the underground resistance movement. Forged documents, homemade radios, old film footage and more are put together in imaginative displays. I think the permanently closed door, with doorbells that elicit recorded excuses for not taking you on as an onderduijker (secret occupant hiding from the Nazis, like Anne Frank’s family) is both moving and ingenious. Information is also in English, and there’s an excellent children’s section with small-scale, recreated domestic interiors, which give a real sense of what life was like.

Plantage Kerklaan 61A, 1018 CX

Amsterdam East

Tue-Fri, 10am-5pm; Sat-Mon, 11am-5pm


Het Hanze Huis

I love gifts with a story, and affordable, foodie gifts with a story surely beat the lot

Owner Maryleen Smid ingeniously taps in to northern European history to fill the shelves of my favourite gift shop in town. Her first idea was to deal in food specialities from towns of the Hanseatic League (a powerful medieval trading alliance). But she expanded that to include products famed for generations, from old family firms all around Europe. So alongside Lübeck marzipan, you’ll find Champagne biscuits from Fossier in France, Barbero nougat from Italy – and, of course, Dutch goodies such as Groningerkoek (gingerbread from Groningen).This is the perfect shop to pick up Christmas stocking fillers.

Staalstraat 20, 1011 JM, Centre

Mon, noon-6.30pm; Tue-Sat, 10.30am-6.30pm; Sun, 11am-6pm


In a tiny shop studio on the corner of the Noordermarkt, Noomi van Gelder sits at a wooden table and makes jewellery – necklaces and earrings, mainly – from semi-precious stones and silver. She is best known for pieces she creates for Happinez, a local style magazine, and her ‘click-a-wish’ charm necklace with swappable pendants (rose quartz for love, yin yang for balance, crystal for energy). Some friends find it all a bit New-Agey, but I think the pieces have charm – and they capture something of the alternative spirit of Amsterdam. The delicate earrings make easily transportable mementoes.

Prinsengracht 16, 1015 DV, De Jordaan



A restaurant that does what Amsterdam does best – combine the small-scale and low-key with top quality

Natasja Postma works wonders in the kitchen, hair wrapped in a tea towel; Jan Paul Delhaas whirls around the restaurant making people feel at home. There’s something endearingly domestic about Wink – a tiny kitchen with a serving hatch; pale green walls and painted tiles, cheerful red table tops. But the food propels things to a different level altogether – quail with lentil salad, exquisitely presented; wild duck on a touch-of-genius base of crunchy bulgur, beets and pomegranate. This is one restaurant where I prefer the table nearest the kitchen, and chatting with the cook through the hatch.

Govert Flinckstraat 326, 1073 CJ, De Pijp

Dinner around €35

Tue-Sat, 5.30pm-10pm


It’s a little out of the way, but Elmar has long been a favourite of mine – mostly for owner-chef Elmar Gerekink’s earthy and imaginative cuisine (pumpkin cake stuffed with goat cheese and Granny Smith apples; smoked pigeon with a chocolate-nut crumble). But I also admire the way that all the servers know the ins and outs of the wine list (really know, rather than just mouth adjectives), and can talk in depth about the menu. Fish here is as direct from the boat as you can get in Amsterdam, and there’s a wide range of really good wines by the glass.

Van Woustraat 110, 107 LS, De Pijp

Set-price menus from €27.50 (two courses) for lunch, €32.50 for dinner

Tue-Sat, noon-3pm, 6pm-10pm


De Engelse Reet

There is no bar at De Engelse Reet. Drinks are dispensed in a small backroom, opening into a voorkamer (‘front room’ or parlour). It’s a centuries-old set-up which, as far as I know, remains nowhere else in town. The current owners have run the bar for four generations, and successive first sons have all had the same name.

I love the fact that the barman has been called ‘Teun van Veen’ for more than 85 years. Try one of the jenevers (Dutch gin) from local distillery De Ooievaar, which dates back to 1782 – they have a really good range here.

Begijnensteeg 4, 1012 PN, Centre

Mon-Thu, noon-1am; Fri, Sat noon-2am

These recommendations, and hundreds more, can be found in the free Telegraph Travel Guides app . The app features expert guides to destinations including Paris, Rome, New York and Amsterdam, with Edinburgh, Barcelona and Venice among those to be added in the coming weeks.

About Rodney Bolt

Rodney Bolt has lived in Amsterdam for nearly 20 years. He has written two guide books to the city, contributed to numerous others, and writes regularly about Amsterdam for the Telegraph and other magazines and newspapers around the world. For over a decade, he reviewed local restaurants for Holland Herald, the KLM monthly inflight magazine. Together with criminal lawyer Britta Böhler, under the name ‘Britta Bolt,’ he also writes crime books – all set in Amsterdam – in which the city is almost a character in itself.

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