This laidback city is easygoing as ever. The art, music, beer, football and coffee shops are among the best the planet has to offer. Wander past dainty brick buildings along the cobweb of canals as the morning mists rise off the water and you’re back in the age of Rembrandt. Ferry to the Oostelijke Eilanden (Eastern Islands), where Amsterdam’s former dockland is being transformed into one of the coolest quarters of town and you’ll see why contemporary Dutch architects and designers are ranked world-class.
Author United Ailrines Photography United Ailrines
DAY THREE / Today is the day to indulge in some shopping and to delight your senses along the way. Breakfast is big. In true cosmopolitan Amsterdam style you’ll eat in a former church now brightly decorated with Turkish tiles and Arabian lanterns. Sit back at Bazar, beside the Albert Cuyp market, and sip your fresh mint tea as you are treated to mounds of Middle Eastern breads and pastries, marinated cheeses, honey, and fruits.
Outside, every nationality in town seems to have a stall in the marketplace.
Pick up some imaginative mementos of your visit—Indian spices, Indonesian batik, or a Dutch-chocolate Amsterdammetje.
Two stops from the western end of the market, on one of Amsterdam’s sleek new trams, you can change lines for another that will take you on a six-minute journey to the edge of the Jordaan area.
Jordaaners are renowned for their sharp wit and penchant for rousing sing-alongs. Their patch of town is crisscrossed by pretty canals and curious alleys and is a treasure-trove of art galleries, shops, and boutiques.
Set off down Rozengracht, turn left, and allow yourself to get pleasantly lost. Drop in on De Vrije Vork for lunch. Grab something light after that breakfast. Try pumpkin quiche or a wild-salmon sandwich. It’ll be delicious; the ingredients here are organic. Through the long corner windows, you can watch the Jordaaners go by. Then pick up some traditional Dutch candy across the road at Het Oud-Hollandsch Snoepwinkeltje (The Old Holland Sweet Shop).
Now it’s back to unload your purchases at the hotel.
Navigating is easy. Simply head for the crown atop the Westerkerk tower, just down the canal from The Dylan.
The afternoon’s a leisurely one, spent among the side streets that zigzag between the main canals. From Huidenstraat to Reestraat they’re awash with specialty shops, and your hotel is right in their midst. De Witte Tanden Winkel (Runstraat 5) sells only toothbrushes, ’t Runnertje (at the corner of Runstraat and Prinsengracht) is a forest of art nouveau lamps, and Lady Day (Hartenstraat 9) is an emporium of vintage fashion. Prince of them all is Pompadour, where the cakes and chocolates are so good you simply scorn the calories. Stop by Nielsen for chunky apple pie and coffee.
An evening walk through the booksellers’ district on the Spui, past the delicate 17th-century Munttoren (site of an early city mint), takes you to Rembrandtplein, where buskers croon in cacophonous competition with tipsy revelers. Tucked away on the far side of the square is an Amsterdam gem, Café Schiller, for decades the haunt of writers and artists. Its cozy art deco interior is still hung with paintings by the original owner. In the back room enjoy a plate of fine oysters, and then try the duck breast with a confit de canard spring roll.
Check out what’s showing just off the square at the Theater Tuschinski, a high-camp 1920s movie palace, replete with elaborate lamps, stained glass, and voluptuous carving. The Tuschinski rose out of the dream of a man fleeing pogroms in Poland. As young Amsterdammers bustle in to see a Hollywood block-buster, the combination of history, modernity, and eccentric charm makes a fitting end to three perfect days in Amsterdam.
Rodney Bolt, an Amsterdam resident and a longtime HEMISPHERES
contributor, is the author of the acclaimed books The Librettist of Venice and History Play: The Lives and Afterlife of Christopher Marlowe.
September kicks off the transition from summer to winter in Amsterdam. Average highs drop from near 70 degrees early in the month to the lower 60s by the end. Average lows drop from the lower 50s to the middle 40s. Rainfall totals about 3 inches. Amsterdam enjoys a mild climate thanks to its location between the North Sea and Lake Ijssel. Breezes off the water keep the summers temperate, with average highs in the 70s. The maritime influence tempers winter’s harshest cold snaps. Highs top out near 40, and snow falls only about 15 days annually.
Weather information is provided by The Weather Channel. For more Amsterdam climatological details, visit weather.com.
Trains leave Schiphol Airport station every 10 to 20 minutes and take 20 minutes to reach downtown. Taxis take longer and cost 10 times as much. Compact Amsterdam is friendly to walkers and bicyclists. Driving is complicated by streets crowded with—you guessed it—walkers and bicyclists, and parking is scarce and expensive. Bikes are available for inexpensive hire at depots all over town, and dedicated paths make biking safe.
A Nemo (www.e-nemo.nl) The Nemo science center provides hours of hands-on fun, while grownups admire the Renzo Piano architecture.
B Tropenmuseum (Museum of the Tropics) (www.tropenmuseum.nl) The city’s anthropological museum has activities and exhibitions geared to children.
C Vondelpark Playground (vondelpark.nl) Join Dutch families as the kids splash and climb in the playground.
D Kinderkookkafé (Kids’ Cooking Café) (www.kinderkookkafe.nl) Preschoolers and their adults make pizzas and bake cakes, daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.