Sas and I pass through Amsterdam several times a year as we make our commute between New York and Nairobi, turning it quickly into our favorite stopover in Europe. While Anthony Bourdain sticks to the tourist mecca of the Red-Light district and the seedy alleys with mediocre food, we tend to favor exploring some of the newer (and top notch) restaurants, the stunning architecture, boutique stores, and getting lost in Vondel Park. Whenever possible, we try to tack on a 24-hour layover in this charming city to stretch our legs, clear our heads, and break up the 15-20-hour flights we routinely take.
For starters, getting around Amsterdam is incredibly easy. Once you arrive at the airport, you simply jump on the train and you will be in the center of Amsterdam within 20 minutes. Once in the center of town, you can either purchase a 24-hour OV-chip card to use on the plentiful tram cars or simply take to the streets by foot – our preferred mode of transportation.
On our most recent visit, we arrived in the early morning to the Centraal Station and grabbed an Uber to our hotel, the Sir Albert, overlooking the canal in the De Pijp neighborhood. While there are tons of beautiful hotels with canal views, Sir Albert’s location is in trendy De Pijp and eschews all the massive tourist masses, but keeps you close to some of the best attractions and restaurants.
After you drop off your bags, take a shower, it’s back on the streets with comfy shoes, a camera, and an appetite. First things first: coffee. Head east on Albert Cuypstraat 3 or 4 blocks until you are fully immersed in the Albert Cuyp Market, a street market packed with vendors selling all types of wares. Once you get your shopping fix in, and remember its time for coffee – make your way to Bakers & Roasters on Eerste Jacob van Campenstraat for an amazing flat white. Or simply stick around for a killer Kiwi-brunch – if you can get a table. Alternatively, take your flat white across the street and grab a Banh Mi at FRNZY.
Once you have your caffeine fix, head West to take in the expansive Park Museumplein, the open fields surrounded by the Van Gogh Museum, Moco Museum, and Rijksmuseum. You could easily spend a day in each museum, or taking in a concert at the Het Concertgebouw – definitely come back here for days 2 and 3.
After you get your fix of selfies and tourists, head north to Grachtengordel and navigate along the canals towards Jordaan – our favorite neighborhood in Amsterdam. This is the mecca of foodies, boutique hotels, stunning canal views, and charming boutiques. Once you meander through these streets, taking in the sceneray, and build and appetite - make your way to the delightful Breda on Singel street, the newest spot from the minds behind Guts & Glory. Sas and I ordered the 5 course “Full Monty,” because…well obviously. Order a glass of the Château Saint-Robert, Cuvée Poncet-Deville Blanc, Graves AOC, Bordeaux ’14 to start and then let them lead your taste buds through an incredible journey. We never had an appreciation for herring until eating at Breda.
Once you stuff yourself and feel a bit tipsy, find a nice coffeeshop to overcome the food coma – many abound. Then obviously make your way to another snack – we love a quaint wine and cheese bar called DiVino on Boomstraat, with insane meats, cheeses, pastas, and Italian wines. I come here all the time, highly recommend it.
Finally, once sufficiently stuffed, make your way south along the canals to Vondelpark, Amsterdam’s most glorious park (one of our favorites in the world). Bicycles, runners, and picnic goers abound in this lush getaway in the city center – a perfect place to stroll and walk up an appetite. Make your way all the way South to Amstelveenseweg Street, take a left and walk 2 blocks to Ron Gastrobar – and enjoy a phenomenal tapas experience. We met up with our friend Jordan here and dined our hearts out. If you are looking for something a bit more unusual and more casual, then jump in a cab and head to Tempo Doeloe, for insanely tasty Rijsttafel. Ask for it spicy, they tend to dial it down for tourists.
Once you are now extremely full, make your way back to Sir Albert and luxuriate in a hot bath and call it a night. Rinse and repeat tomorrow.
Tempo Doeloe – an established Indonesian joint serving Rijsttafel, this place aims to please and is a fun and casual group dinner with many shared spicy delicacies.
Guts & Glory – quaint, lively, minimalist joint by the super-talented chefs Guillaume de Beer and Freek van Noortwijk and their partner Johanneke van Iwaarden — one of the hottest places to eat in Amsterdam. Its signature is the single-ingredient menu called “chapter,” which changes every two to three months.
Breda – run by the same team behind Guts & Glory, this upscale prix fix is a stunner and while understated is downright perfect. Sit along the canal if you can.
Daalder – French-style bistro, well regarded chef – and down the street from Winkel 43 for apple pie desert.
Café De Klepel – Quality wines and bistro food in the simplest way possible – this understated spot is run by young sommelier duo Margot Los and Job Seuren. Perfect for a glass of wine with cheese midday.
Ron Gastrobar – lots of hype for good reason, delicious tapas and wine with a beautiful setting near the park.
Bakers & Roasters – Come for the coffee, stay for the atmosphere and Kiwi attitude – excellent brunch.
DiVino – Amazing Italian wines, paired perfectly with charcuterie and cheeses.
Sir Albert – immense value here, plus a nice and quiet location.
Pulitzer – 25 stunning old canal homes combined into a beautiful hotel, lots of character.
The Dylan – absolutely beautiful, but a bit confused on service – they are slow and not on par with the price point. But if you are looking for a refined getaway, this is it.
Lots of antiques and art in Amsterdam, particularly around Kerkstraat. I love the nautical and travel pieces at Staetshuys Antiquairs B.V. Meulendijks & Shuil. But strolling around Jordaan is the place to do your shopping beyond antiques and fine art.