THE HIGH LIFE IN AMSTERDAM
This winter, there’s a slew of holiday happenings, so get on your bike, as Amsterdammers do, and check out our list of the city’s most intriguing attractions, compiled by Amy Laughinghouse
Five-star luxury. Creative cuisine. Innovative fashion and design. These aren’t the sort of enticements that typically spring to mind when you think of Amsterdam, which is better known for its Red Light district and “coffee shops” that sell mood enhancers considerably stronger than espresso.
But the city is making an effort to leave its racy reputation behind and lure tourists with a taste for a different sort of “high life.” Over the past decade, Amsterdam has invested 10billion euro in cultural offerings, including renovations to the Van Gogh Museum, the Stedelijk Museum of modern art, and the Rijksmuseum, home of Rembrandt’s masterpiece The Night Watch.
Today, the Netherlands’ capital encompasses 44 museums, 55 theatres and performance halls, and more than 1,300 restaurants capable of satiating the most ravenous attack of the munchies. New cafes and bistros seem to spring up like magic mushrooms overnight, and even alleyways are getting a makeover.
Here’s a taste of what’s going on this winter:
Forget hash brownies. Amsterdam’s foodie scene is a culinary constellation of sophistication these days. At the December 12 launch of the 2017 Michelin Guide to the Netherlands, Amsterdam earned three new stars – one each for Bolenius, Mos, and Rijks – bringing the city’s total stars to 21.
For superb seafood, check out the one-star Bridges at Sofitel legend The Grand Amsterdam. For veggie-centric fare with flair, try Vork & Mes, which Michelin dubs “a particularly pleasant restaurant”, or wrap your tongue around the “flexitarian” victuals at Swych, a new restaurant at Amsterdam’s oldest hotel, The Doelen.
www. bolenius- restaurant. nl, www.mosamsterdam.nl, www.rijksrestaurant. www.bridgesrestaurant.nl/en/, www.vorkenmes.nl/en-GB, www.swych.nl/en/
JORDAAN FOOD TOUR
Combine an appetite for architecture, history and traditional nibbles which embrace the savoury contributions of the Netherlands’ erstwhile colonies on an Eating Amsterdam walking tour of the hip Jordaan neighbourhood. You’ll visit eight proprietors, who dole out Dutch treats like puffy poffertjes pancakes, herring, baka bana (fried plantain with satay sauce from Surinam), deep-fried bitterballen washed down with a local brew, and mouth-watering apple pie from a family- run café favoured by former US President Bill Clinton.
Guide Jelte VanKoperen ensures you get your fill of interesting facts, as well. He explains, for instance, that canal houses lean forward by a fewdegrees to make them look taller – not because drunken builders had indulged in too many pints of India Pale Ale, which, as Van Koperen can tell you, originated with Dutch merchantswhoadded extra hops to their beer to keep it fresh on journeys to India.
The A’DAM Tower, which opened in May across the IJ River from Amsterdam Central train station, offers an unexpected newway to get high – literally. The tower’s rooftop terrace, Lookout, boasts 360 degree views, but the main attraction is a pair of metal swings that extend over the edge of the building. As your legs dangle nearly 330 feet in the sky, there’s nothing but air between you and the city below. Gulp!
You’re going to need a drink after that, and fortunately, A’DAM Tower is not short on options. Sip on a cocktail fromMadam as you explore cool multimedia exhibits about Amsterdam, reserve a table atMoon revolving restaurant, or head toThe Butcher SocialClub on the ground floor, which serves “bloody delicious burgers” in a loungelike atmosphere kitted out with a billiard table, pinball machines and video games.
If you don’t want to wobble back across the river afterwards, book a room at the just-launched SirAdamhotel. It’s got a chic, minimalist aesthetic and a music theme which extends from a “disco elevator” to in-room records and turntables and a “room service menu” of guitars which you can play during your stay.
In September, the Pulitzer Amsterdam – a 225 room, five-star hotel flanked by the Prinsengracht and Keizersgracht canals – emerged like a butterfly from an 18-month cocoon of renovation. Housed within a luxe labyrinth of 25 interconnected 17th-century buildings, the property occupies an enviable position in the Nine Streets, a neighbourhood packed with one-of-a-kind boutiques and restaurants.
Jacu Strauss – whose recent projects include the Mondrian London in the old Sea Containers building along the Thames – oversaw the top-to-toe transformation, creating a clever mix of modern art and antiques that pays homage to Amsterdam’s history. In lieu of a chandelier, the new double-height entrance features a grand piano suspended from the ceiling, in recognition of a classical concert the hotel co-sponsors each year. In the lobby, massive wooden ceiling beams and reception desks encased in Delft tiles accompany swathes of velvet drapes and sleek upholstered sofas, a nod to the riches wrought during Amsterdam’s Golden Age of trade. New glass hallways connect the two main wings, offering views on to a quartet of courtyard gardens.
The Pulitzer has also introduced a casual café, Pause, and the elegant Jansz, providing fine-dining throughout the day. Pulitzer’s Bar is dark and seductive, with Persian rugs, cosy seating and bookshelves filled with antique leather tomes.
Every room is different, although each includes thoughtful touches like a bicycle repair kit, a specially-designed desk that converts into a dressing table, andawoodenheadboardwhosesilhouette echoes Amsterdam’s distinctive rooftops. For a treat, book the expansive Pulitzer’s Suite, with its super-kingsized bed, or one of four newCollector’s Suites, each of which is devoted to a different creative passion: Art, Antiques, Music and Books.
The Amsterdam Light Festival, now in its fifth year, brightens up the night with whizz-bang illuminated installations along the canal belt. Through January 22, you can board a “Water Colors” boat tour to view 20 sculptures, ranging from a neon rainbow to Day-Glo tulips. Check out the outdoor ice- skating rink (through February 5) at theMuseumplein facing the Rijksmuseum.
This 700sqmconcept store, located in a former bank, is completely devoted to Dutch design. Spend as little as seven Euros on wine flavoured candies or as much as 1,700 Euros on a black leather dress from Blck. You’ll also find art installations, bicycles, liqueurs, lacy lingerie and everything in between.
Save time for a drink at The Duchess, theglamourousbarandrestaurantnext door. Here, senior bartender Wouter Boschservesupa dangerously more-ish punch, as well as philosophic punchlines (ahem).
If you’ve ever wondered what lies beneath the surface of Amsterdam’s ubiquitous canals, skip the dip and take a stroll through the Beurpassage. The barrel-vaulted alley, which opened in December, connects Nieuwendijk and Damrak, but it’s more than a shortcut between two of Amsterdam’s busiest shopping streets. It’s a 30,000sqmart-
“The tower’s rooftop terrace, Lookout, boasts 360 degree views, but the main attraction is a pair of metal swings that extend over the edge of the building”
work that serves as a witty tribute to this multi-faceted city, where cast-off items form a sort of primordial soup within the aquatic melting pot of the canals.
ArtistsHans van Bentem, Arno Coenen and Iris Roskam have incorporated elements like a red stiletto (a winking reference to the Red Light District) within the intricate mosaic ceiling, a green glass wall sconce in the shape of a flaming spliff, and gilded chandeliers comprised of bicycle parts, thousands of which are hauled out of the canals every year. “We were not afraid of clichés,” van Bentem grins. You can even drink from a fish-shaped water fountain, dispensing what van Bentem calls “Amsterdam’s tolerance elixir”.
MUSEUM VAN LOON
Passers-by can’t resist peeking in the windows of historic homes lining the canals, but Museum Van Loon offers an eyeful with rare, behind-closeddoors access to a 17th-century mansion that once belonged to a founder of the Dutch East India Company. Filled with 18th-century furnishings and portraits of stern-looking ancestors, with a manicured garden and renovated coach house at the back, the estate has welcomed key players on the world stage, from Vladimir Putin to Francois Hollande.
“We don’t cut off the rooms with ropes, and there’s no audio guide,” says director Tonko F. Grever, who wants visitors to feel at home. But the museumdoes drawthe line at bouncing on the beds. You’ve been warned.
Follow your nose to Otentic, one of only three outlets in the world where you’ll find these exotic perfumes, produced in Grasse, France. At the light and airy shop, which opened in April, you can sample more than 64 unisex scents, which are divided into various “mood” categories, from Grasslands (“earthy and spicy”) to Sedux (“sweet and fruity”). Touch screens offer detailed descriptions of each, and bulbbottomed vials allow you to take a sniff before you spray.
Amsterdam’s “new church” actually dates to the 1400s, but it does embrace a novel concept. Since 1980, this neo-Gothic landmark has served as an exhibition centre, focusing mainly on biographic showcases.
Through February 5, the former church is hosting a retrospective dedicated to Marilyn Monroe.
Highlights include a documentary about the iconic blonde bombshell, costumes and scripts from some of her most popular films and intimate artefacts, including cosmetics, hair curlers and a bottle of her favourite perfume, which she famously mentioned when a reporter for “Modern Screen” magazine asked what she wore to bed.
“Why, Chanel No. 5, of course!” Monroe replied, no doubt with a guileless flutter of eyelashes. www.nieuwekerk.nl/en/ Tourism info: www. iamsterdam.com
“Museum Van Loon offers an eyeful with rare, behind-closeddoors access to a 17th-century mansion”
Terrifying or exhilarating? the Lookout at the A’DAM Tower
The Amsterdam Light Festival features illuminated sculptures along the city’s canals
The A’DAM Tower, which opened in May 2016
Colourful oysters at Bridges, a one-star Michelin restaurant at Amsterdam’s Sofitel Legend The Grand Amsterdam hotel
The State Coach of Louis van Loon in Museum Van Loon
Until February 5, Amsterdam’s Nieuwe Kerk is hosting an exhibition dedicated to Marilyn Monroe
Right: Lobster risotto with ‘lacework’ made from squid ink fried in butter, at the Hotel Pulitzer’s Jansz restaurant
Left: a salad of beetroot, onions, carrots and spelt at Swych
The ceiling of Amsterdam’s Beurpassage contains more than amillion mosaic tiles