There is a certain intangible feeling that comes from exploring Amsterdam’s flower-lined canals, biking through the leafy Vondelpark and enjoying biertje (beer) with locals as the setting sun shimmers on the waterways. The city bewitches with its easy pace and ability to make visitors want to just be; to live in the moment and all of its beauty.
And while this timeless quality has made Amsterdam one of Europe’s classic destinations, it has never been considered among the most innovative cities—that is, until now. After a record-setting number of visitors in 2015, the charming Dutch city had reason to celebrate with the opening of such stylish hotels as the Pulitzer Amsterdam and Hoxton Amsterdam and the impending arrival of a Soho House in 2017. Factor in a new foodie scene and some groundbreaking concept stores, and the city is leading the pack of European destinations on the rise. Here, Indagare rounds up the five most exciting reasons to visit Amsterdam now.
Located in the posh Nine Streets quarter, the Pulitzer first opened in the 1970s under the direction of Peter Pulitzer, the grandson of Pulitzer Book Prize creator Joseph Pulitzer. Peter owned a hotel group with KLM Airlines and was scouting locations when he stumbled upon a block of canal houses and was taken by its charm. Now under new ownership and after a transformative renovation, the Pulitzer Amsterdam, which spans 25 four-century-old canal houses, reopened in summer 2016 and offers a modern representation of Amsterdam both past and present. The property exists today as a perfect example of gezellig—an oft-referenced Dutch word that describes a cozy, warm feeling. Drawing on Amsterdam’s most alluring attributes—storied canals, unique architecture and a rich mercantile history—the new Pulitzer is just one of many signs pointing to the second coming of a Golden Age for Amsterdam.
Formerly a derelict industrial area north of the IJ river and reached by ferry or underwater tunnel, Amsterdam Noord first saw signs of change with the opening of the EYE Film Institute in 2012. The dramatic, all white building was designed by Delugan Meissl architects, and has a massive film archive and theater, where it screens classic films as well as new indie releases. Next door is the A’DAM Toren, a multipurpose building that opened in spring 2016 and boasts the highest swing in Europe, located on the roof (it is over 300 feet high), a members-only club, the Sir Adam hotel (siradamhotel.com) and two restaurants, Moon and M’Adam. The former is located on a revolving floor and provides diners with 360-degree views of the city.
While the area surrounding the EYE and A’DAM Toren is the most gentrified, those who venture beyond can experience some of Amsterdam’s most unique shops and restaurants. Just a short bike ride from the EYE is a cluster of waterfront warehouses and car dealerships, among which lies hipster-cool restaurant Hangar. The restaurant is constructed from corrugated iron plates in brown, green and white, and boasts a 20,000-square-foot terrace—a tropical paradise with palm trees, hanging string lights and bean bags. Just a short ride east of the EYE is an area that has become popular with Amsterdam’s younger set thanks to Pllek, a post-industrial hangout made from old shipping containers. Now a fun hot spot, Pllek offers an all-day food menu and boasts a beach with picnic tables and live music. A few blocks from Pllek is IJHallen, the largest second-hard market in Europe and a treasure trove of unique finds. With over 700 stalls, proffering everything from culinary treats to vintage jewelry, it embodies the industrial spirit of Noord.
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During the Rijksmuseum’s 10-year renovation, serious art enthusiasts went into mourning, what with its most famous museum only partially open. Coupled with the Stedelijk Museum’s simultaneous eight-year renovation, which left the modern art museum almost entirely closed to the public, the city’s Museum Quarter had just two (Van Gogh Museum and Concertgebouw) of its four main attractions in operation. As of 2013, the Rijksmuseum and Stedelijk are back and better than ever. Beautifully renovated, the Rijksmuseum is most well-known for its Gallery of Honour, home to Rembrandt’s The Night Watch. The redesign of the church-like gallery was structured so that the piece, hanging at the end of the hall, is framed like an altarpiece. And in 2014, the Rijksmuseum debuted Rijks, an elegant, modern restaurant located in a building adjacent to the museum. By choosing a separate building as its home, the eatery can remain open after the museum closes without incurring budget-busting security charges; and today, Rijks is one of Amsterdam’s best restaurants, serving seasonal, Dutch-inspired cuisine in a sophisticated setting.
Amsterdam has long been known for its indubitable charm and incredible art institutions, but few considered it as a foodie destination. And while it may not yet measure up to culinary capitals like Paris and London, Amsterdam has recently welcomed a class of restaurants that provide seriously high-caliber dining, and many that are offering a more accessible take on gourmet cuisine. Leading this charge is Rijsel, a rotisserie kitchen serving back-to-basics French fare in a welcoming environment. The spot is so successful that it has spawned a sister restaurant, Scheepskameel, which focuses on raw food (be it meat, fish tartares or vegetables).
Another trend hitting the dining scene is that of more affordable (and less intimidating) tasting menus. Recent hot spots like Breda, MOS and Choux offer a choice of tasting menus highlighting combinations that taste indulgent and come at a reasonable price (think cauliflower fried in beurre noir and served with hollandaise, chives and black truffle shavings).
Related: Top Tables Amsterdam
Amsterdam has always excelled in design, whether old or new. Neighborhoods like the Spiegelkwartier have fantastic antiques shops, while stores like Droog and Moooi remain trendsetters in contemporary design. But it was missing a high fashion scene, which one local chalked up to the Dutch tendency towards practicality, which favors basics and functionality over artful fashion. In early 2016, however, X BANK opened in the W Amsterdam, offering a flourish of ready-to-wear fashions including sky-high heels and avant-garde Dutch pieces. Already Amsterdam’s most cutting-edge shop, X BANK could be compared to iconic concept stores Colette in Paris and Dover Street Market in London. The boutique offers a curated selection of products from primarily Dutch designers, and is as carefully laid out as its clothes are selected: the industrial space features high ceilings, a grand white spiral staircase and a hanging pulley that wraps around the circumference of the store and is used as a clothesline. Among the finds within the 7,500-square-floor space are Dorhout Mees fashions, Maarten Daas art, artisanal liqueurs, Van der Borne purses, menswear, books, jewelry and children’s clothing.
Related: Top Shopping Amsterdam
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