Since I’ve been here, I have experienced the city from both a tourist’s perspective (when I first arrived and everything was new), and as someone who lives here. Since I haven’t lived here for that long, I wanted to hear from Michiel where his favourite places in the city were so I could go and see them, and find out why he loves them so much. When he gave me his top 5 I wasn’t at all surprised by any of them.
The Jordaan District: The Jordaan district is one of the most popular and sought after areas to live in Amsterdam and you can definitely see why. The Brouwersgracht canal is right at the top of the Jordaan district and is one of the most stunning canals to walk around at night when it’s all lit up. Hidden within these narrow lanes I stumbled across a traditional sweet shop which sells ‘spoonful of chocolate’ (among other things) which you put in warm milk to make hot chocolate. They are ridiculously good, and definitely worth it. There are several cosy restaurants in the Jordaan, but always book in advance – it’s a popular area especially on a weekend.It used to be where the working classes lived and in the last decade or so, more and more people have noticed just how beautiful it is and now everyone wants a piece (me included).
The 9 Streets: The 9 streets are full of shops and restaurants that cater for every taste. There are a lot of boutiques which sell vintage clothes which is the main draw for a lot of people, but I like it because there are a lot more unusual shops and museums there like De Witte Tandenwinkel – a shop dedicated solely to toothbrushes, Het Nationaal Brilmuseum which is a museum dedicated to glasses (the ones you wear on your face) spanning over 700 years and The Lomography gallery store for analogue photography fanatics. One of my favourite places that I found was What’s cooking? which sells kitchenware aimed mainly at girls. Think pink and cute and you’re very close.
Vondelpark: The vondelpark one of my favourite places to be in the summer months. You can BBQ to your hearts content in the designated BBQ areas which is a really nice way to end a hot summer day. There are also restaurants and bars throughout the park if you don’t fancy a BBQ, and nature lovers can enjoy looking at their collection of trees including sugar maples, Bald Cypress, Black poplars, evergreen oaks, and Hornbeams – some even date back to the 1900’s. There are several sculptures and art within the vondelpark as well, and there are bike lanes all over it so you can get around very easily.
Westerkerk: The Westerkerk – or West Church is one of the most beautiful churches in Amsterdam. Built by Hendrick de Keyser this church is still in operation over 400 years after its official opening date in 1631. You can go to services on a Sunday, but unless you speak Dutch you won’t understand a word of what’s going on (trust me, Dutch is a hard language to pick up). My favourite part of the church is the tower, which has the sign of Maximillian the 1st of Austria which he gave as a gift to the Dutch people. It’s beautiful to look at . Rembrandt is also buried somewhere in the Westerkerk, but because it was a rental grave nobody is really sure exactly where so in 1906 a plaque was unveiled at one of the pillars in the church close by to his son’s grave. You can also catch a free lunchtime concert in the church including orchestras, choirs and soloists from April to October.
Nieuwmarkt: Nieuwmarkt is one of the most historic districts in Amsterdam and includes attractions like The Rembrandt House Museum, Waterlooplein and the Joods Historisch Museum. I think that De Waag is a beautiful building. The square around De Waag has markets every day and on weekends it hosts an organic market. De Waag used to be a gate to the city and was later converted into a weighing house. I has also been the home of several guilds within Amsterdam including the surgeons guild which let members of the public pay to watch dissections. (Gross!)Now it’s the home of a cafe called In de Waag which has some tasty food, and is really nice to sit in the summer.
So if you fancy seeing the best that Amsterdam has to offer (from Michiel’s perspective) these are definitely some places I would recommend to you.