Every time you visit Amsterdam you uncover something new, and often by accident: from historic pubs and unassuming cocktail bars to vintage shops and galleries. And uniquely, each destination is wrapped within the humble majesty of one of the Netherlands’ few UNESCO World Heritage Sites: the canals.
Amsterdam transformed from bustling 13th-century fishing village to entrepôt – a thriving hub for global trade – towards the end of the 1500s, a prosperous era referred to as its Golden Age and which saw the city’s population double to 60,000. This expansion, which only continued to burgeon in the centuries that followed, served as the impetus to develop the city beyond its timeless canal ring. The result was the birth of modern neighbourhoods such as the trendy and edgy Amsterdam-Noord, and happening De Pijp – the latter home to one of Europe’s largest daily outdoor markets, Albert Cuypmarkt.
Hotels like Pulitzer Amsterdam embody the city’s marriage of the old and the new. Composed of 25 separate townhouses located between two prominent canals – the Keizersgracht and Prinsengracht – Pulitzer is equal parts luxurious, zany and cosy. And its food and drink establishments, namely Jansz and Pulitzer’s Bar, are examples of spaces that could exist in no place other than Amsterdam.
THINGS TO SEE AND DO IN AMSTERDAM
While you could happily stumble upon a bench and soak up the canal’s beauty, it’s best to appreciate the city’s most alluring attraction by actually being on its waters. From group tours and cruises to private dining excursions, there’s no shortage of options for experiencing the ‘Venice of the North’ by boat.
Explore the country’s national spirit, jenever (or genever) at the House of Bols. Visitors who opt for the Bols Cocktail and Genever Experience get to follow the drink’s trajectory through the lens of the oldest distilled spirit brand in the world, born in 1575 – and with a jenever cocktail to conclude your journey.
Amsterdam is also home to over 50 museums – enough to keep residents entertained over the course of a lifetime – spanning every topic, from sex to cheese. For a cultured take, travellers can revel in Golden Age masterpieces from renowned Dutch masters, Vermeer and Rembrandt included, at the Rijksmuseum just outside of the city centre. Rembrandt’s most famous work, The Night Watch, is currently on display in the midst of its restoration, giving visitors the rare opportunity to see the piece as it’s methodically brought back to its former vibrancy. Just a few kilometres away from the Rijks, there’s the Van Gogh Museum which hangs the world’s largest collection of the eponymous artist’s work, while the nearby Stedelijk Museum caters to contemporary art lovers.
WHERE TO EAT AND DRINK IN AMSTERDAM
From Europe’s first Michelin-starred Japanese restaurant, Yamazato, to the Michelin Green-Starred De Kas, Amsterdam’s food-and-drink scene pushes the envelope. Start the day at Saint-Jean bakery in the northern Jordaan neighbourhood, whose vegan pastries are so good (particularly the yuzu cream cruffin), you won’t believe it’s not butter.
Smack in the middle of Amsterdam’s Red Light District is Dun Yong Kitchen; hidden a few flights above an unassuming grocery shop, it serves some of the best ramen anywhere. For those looking for a more traditional Dutch lunch – in other words, a mix of meats, bitterballen, pickled herring, sandwiches, and maybe even some jenever – canalside Café ‘t Smalle is worth a visit.
A traditional kopstootje (a word that means ‘headbutt’ in Dutch) is in order while in the Netherlands: a boilermaker comprising a glass of beer and a shot of jenever. Go to De Drie Fleschjes to get your fix, a Dutch pub founded in 1650. For more elevated cocktails, Mr Lyan’s Dutch outpost, Super Lyan, serves unparalleled innovative takes on familiar classics, from the Harvey Wallbanger to the Sidecar. Don’t miss the bar’s strawberry- and coconut-laced Mayaimi Vice.
Amsterdam is full of enticing dinner options, too, but popular Argentinian eatery Salmuera is one of the livelier spots thanks to its impressive Tequila and mezcal collection; try one of the steaks, or the lechón, and definitely order some empanadas on the side. Salmuera has just opened a new bar, Sins of Sal, undoubtedly set to become a favourite among Amsterdammers. If you’re looking for something already beloved by locals, though, Branie, an Asian fusion joint, offers an insanely delectable salmon tartare, soft shell crab bao, and a jackfruit dish that could convert even the most dedicated meat eater. Get the Banana Daiquiri – maybe get two – and watch Branie flaunt its brilliance.
WHERE TO STAY IN AMSTERDAM
Located on the historic Herengracht canal in a collection of six 17th- and 18th-century palaces, the Waldorf Astoria is the perfect place to stay if you’re seeking luxury but still want the charm that Amsterdam’s unique hotels can offer. With an award-winning spa, a Two Michelin-starred restaurant in Spectrum, a beautiful garden space, and tailored turn-down service at night, it’s one worth splashing the cash for.
At the boutiquey Pulitzer Amsterdam, each room tells a different story – some rooms are quaint and cosy, while others are grand and spacious with canal views – designed to drive home the ‘I’m in Amsterdam’ feeling.
THE ULTIMATE DRINKING DESTINATION
As far as ambience and creative drinks are concerned, Pulitzer’s Bar is second to none. A trip to this study-like hotel bar is one of the best ways to watch the hours pass in Amsterdam. The newly launched drinks menu is an homage to the hotel’s rich history – for instance, star bartender Najade Bijl’s Chocolate and Lavender Martini is made in honour of an old chocolate factory renovated to become a part of the hotel. Make sure to order a jenever-based Martinez as a nightcap – when in Amsterdam, right?