The locals’ guide to Amsterdam 

Discover the best of the Dutch capital thanks to these tapped-in residents who share their expert insights into the city’s most happening scenes

 

Words: Olivia Cuthbert

 

Fun for families 

Entrepreneur Melvin Broekaart lives with his family  in the countryside and knows all the best options for those with little ones in to

 

Amsterdam is great for families as nearly everybody speaks English, besides native Dutch, and people are friendly, open and welcoming to children. Summer is the best time to discover the city via bike or boat. You don’t need a license to rent a boat so you can see the sights from the water, at your own pace. It’s also extremely easy to hire bicycles. The 17th-century city centre was originally built for pedestrians and horse wagons, so riding is more convenient than driving. Popular rental companies include Yellow Bike (yellowbike.nl) and Mac Bike (macbike.nl), and there is the option to place a child’s seat at the front or back. You can reach the countryside and back in about four hours and while guided tours are easy to come by, you can also go your own way. Simply buy a paper map or download a bike navigation app like Fietsknoop (fietsknoop.nl).

When downtown, Rijksmuseum (rijksmuseum.nl) arts and history museum offers a fantastic children’s tour while more top family attractions include Natura Artis Magistra zoo (artis.nl) and NEMO Science Museum (nemosciencemuseum.nl), which is more of a play and discovery zone for children of all ages.

To maximise your time outdoors, head to Vondelpark for a stroll through nature and to enjoy a relaxed picnic on the grass. Plus, just outside the city centre there is a lovely goat farm in the forest called Ridammerhoeve (geitenboerderij.nl). 

For a unique piece of history on the river, stop by Zaanse Schans in Zaandam (dezaanseschans.nl), which is characterised by windmills, handicraft shops and museums with actors offering a glimpse into everyday life in the 18th and 19th century. Lastly, Muiderslot medieval castle in Muiden (muiderslot.nl) has a dedicated kids’ discovery route that offers little ones the chance to earn a medal and become ‘officially’ knighted.

 

 

Artistic appeal

Gerhard Hofland is a household name on the Amsterdam art scene who exhibits renowned artists in his gallery and helps develop upcoming talent

 

What’s new and interesting on the arts and culture scene in Amsterdam?

Like everywhere, it is currently in transition. In the Netherlands we are moving from a state-funded art scene to one where the market and collectors are increasingly responsible for the continuous existence of the arts. This has resulted in the opening of a number of new, private art spaces and museums, most prominently Museum Voorlinden (voorlinden.nl) in Wassenaar, about 40 minutes from the city centre by car. 

What makes it unique?

What makes Amsterdam particularly great when it comes to art is its two post-graduate art academies: De Rijksakademie and De Ateliers. These encourage an influx of talented creatives, making the city a breeding ground for great international artists. After graduating, most of these artists tend to stick around, and a lot of their work can be seen in the galleries all over town. 

Modern Art Installation, Stedelijk Museum
A colourful modern art installation inside Stedelijk Museum

Is there an underground arts scene?

Personally, I think an underground scene no longer really exists as everybody is generating exposure, but there are a number of fabulous, smaller institutions that do a great job in presenting more cutting-edge and young contemporary artists, such as W139 (w139.nl), De Appel arts centre (deappel.nl), and Kunstverein (kunstverein.nl), to name a few. 

What is your top pick? 

The EYE Filmmuseum film institute (eyefilm.nl) is a curiously designed building across the water from Amsterdam Centraal station. It has a wonderful programme of international film screenings and continuously presents extraordinary art exhibitions on the edge of cinema and contemporary art. Combined with its unique architecture, it is one of the most beautiful places in the city to have coffee. 

Museum Voorlinden, Wassenaar, Netherlands. Architect: kraaijvanger architects, 2016.
Museum Voorlinden (Photo by: Christian Richters/View Pictures/UIG via Getty Images)

Which of the most established museums is your favourite? 

Some might say it has lost its touch over the last few years, but Stedelijk Museum (stedelijk.nl) was and is an institution. It has an outstanding collection, which is worth coming back for, and the temporary exhibitions are magnificent in quality and always manage to inspire and stimulate the mind. 

 

Culinary adventures

Chef Dennis Huwaë, co-owner of Restaurant Daalder knows how to navigate the culinary culture, from the traditional to the avant-garde

 

1. Creative license. The Netherlands does not have a rich culinary history like France or Italy, so there are no strict rules and conventions for restaurants to follow. As a result, Dutch chefs have more creative freedom in the kitchen and develop their own style, which makes for an eclectic culinary scene. Some of the most interesting and creative dining venues in the city are The White Room (restaurantthewhiteroom.com), MOS (mosamsterdam.nl) and HoogtIJ (hoogtij.amsterdam), which has a great location in Amsterdam North with a spectacular lookout over the IJ river.

2. Culinary traditions. We use a lot of typical Dutch products in our restaurants, such as Brussels sprouts, sprout of chicory, beetroot, Dutch potatoes, Dutch cherries and delicious fish from the North Sea as well as seaweed and Dutch lamb. The restaurants that serve typical local fare are more for tourists – you won’t find Dutch foodies in there. Those who insist on trying old fashioned Dutch food to satisfy their curiosity can go to Haesje Claes (haesjeclaes.nl) or d’Vijff Vlieghen (vijffvlieghen.nl) in Spuistraat. They’re touristy but not tourist traps.  

3. Street food. There’s a lot of good street food in Amsterdam, a city that lends itself to pedestrian culture. Westerpark Market on the first Sunday of every month serves excellent-quality street food, most of which is naturally sourced. The Albert Cuyp Market is a great daily pop-up market (open every day except Sundays) while Noordermarkt is another foodie favourite specialising in organic fare. I like to stop for an apple pie at Café Winkel (winkel43.nl) and watch the people pass by.

Dutch baby pancake with fruits and ice cream
Dutch baby pancake with fresh peaches, blueberries, banana and vanilla ice cream

Must-try. Dutch pancakes are rightly renowned and there are plenty of boutique Pannekoeken cafés dotted around the city. The Pancake Bakery, housed in a 17th-century Dutch East India Company canal house on the Prinsengracht, is one of the best.

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