I visited Amsterdam for the first time last Halloween with my (then 8 year old) son. It lashed with rain for most of our stay and so for a large part of the trip we stayed cosy in our hotel playing endless games of chess (when we were not dashing in and out of taxis to the Anne Frank Museum and the Stedelijk). But, the Amsterdam bug had well and truly bitten and I was pining to get back before I had even left. The place and its people ooze low-key, no effort cool and friendliness.
And so last weekend I found myself back there minus the (now 9 year old) son and instead with a great friend.
We booked an Airbnb in the De Pjip area, a quietly hip, mainly residential area. I couldn’t recommend our accommodationmore. Owned by the most gorgeous family of four, it was an incredibly well designed former garage and had an unspeakably good collection of jazz on vinyl.
One of our first stops was a buzzing coffee shop called Toki. I had heard great things about it, BUT honestly, I think it was the images I’d seen of the Max Lam for Dzek 'Marmoreal' (chunky terrazzo) that really made me want to visit. Happily it didn’t disappoint. The terrazzo, coffee (and breakfast cake) were great, so much so that we visited it twice. (Also delighted to see some Hay Revolver Stools lined up along the bar).
I really wanted to have a mosy around some shops, and see what shopkeepers in Amsterdam are up to. On my previous visit we were staying in the infamous ‘9 Streets’ area. It’s incredibly picturesque but I felt the shops were a wee bit geared up for the tourist market and so this time headed to Haarlemmerdijk & Haarlemmerstraat.
Some of the highlights for me were Vivian Hann , which is essentially a shop that sells cutlery and ceramics. Vivian herself was there and a more engaging and passionate woman you could not hope to meet. Her warmth and passion combined with an eye for the most delectable ceramics were a true inspiration.
Another favourite was Restored, a concept store selling everything from bags, books and perfumes to ceramics and jewellery. It’s a gorgeously curated collection that will leave you questioning why you are only doing hand luggage on an easyjet flight….
My friend had read an interview with Margaret Howell where she recommended a place to eat called ‘Café-Restaurant Amsterdam’. We decided that if it had Margaret's seal of approval then we’d have to check it out ourselves. In a former water pumping station, it is bright and airy and filled with locals, friends and families all enjoying the delicious food on offer and just being all understated and cool with their fresh (possibly make up free) faces and flat shoes (hardly a heel to be seen, its all about the trainer in Amsterdam).
On the advice of a regular visitor to the city, we booked tickets for a Cello Concerto at The Concertgebouw on the Sunday morning (where we were also able to have breakfast beforehand). I could hardly think of a better way to spend a morning. And then it’s just a stroll across the park to the Rijksmuseum for peek at a Rembrant and a glass of wine in the stunning Atrium.
There is something incredibly special about Amsterdam. Every balcony and doorway is dripping with incredible plants and every second person seemed to be cycling past with a massive bunch of flowers under their arm. Definitely the land of the flower, there were wonderful florists on every corner. Our favourite was Pompon, it had an Alice in Wonderland feel with its supersized stems in giant vases.
I’m already dreaming of my next visit….