Travel: Rediscovering Amsterdam

Amsterdam is an exciting, vibrant, cosmopolitan city, and has even more to offer for visitors who want a more authentic visit. Step away from the centre which is filled with stag dos, nightclubs, teenagers and overpriced tourist cafes, and go where the locals go. 

Split up by canals, it is no wonder that Amsterdam has many different vibes. Welcoming everyone without discrimination, makes this a buzzy metropolis, which is very well acquainted with urban culture. 

Although municipal, Amsterdam doesn’t have a sense of gentrification. All around the city, you are immersed in the Golden Age of Rembrant and Van Gogh, traditional clogs, coffee shops and tulips, but there is much more to dutch design, which complements the old, but contemporary Amsterdam is filled with modern architecture, street art and interactive museums.

Head to the areas of Oostelijk Havengebied and West, for a happening neighbourhood which is largely off the tourist radar. Offering a melting pot of cultures, the area is ethnically diverse taking residence on the east side of the city. Home to state of the art galleries, and re-worked hotels, the area was reclaimed and has been regenerated after the squatters of the eighties, and rebuilt in an urban renewal project in the 1990s when the council invested heavily in the area. It is now the home to modern converted apartment buildings, family homes, refurbished warehouses, and historic houseboats. Even the eye catching passenger Terminal Amsterdam, constructed in the shape of a wave, fits into the eclectic vibe. 

Lloyd Hotel

The Lloyd Hotel takes pride of place on the river bank, and has an intriguing social history, having served as a prison, artist studios and a refugee shelter over the years. However,  when the area got revamped in the 1990s, the building got historic monument status and was refurbished as a hotel and creative hotspot.

© Dennis Bouman – Lloyd Hotel

It now comprises of 117 rooms which cater for any budget (from one to five stars), and each is as unconventional as the next. Situated in a building which has heaps of history, its original features which date back to the early 1920s when it was built by the Royal Dutch Lloyd Shipping company. Set on the IJ River, it is the perfect location for a thirty minute stroll into the city centre, soaking up the trendy media warehouses and bars on route, or you can take a ferry from the nearby jetty. 

Street Art in Amsterdam

Making the most of its industrial landscape, it is no wonder that street art is a popular way to make a political statement across the city. While many artists continue to tag buildings illegally to create socially conscious artwork, commissioned street art in Amsterdam, is a way for communities to develop an identity. 

One of the best ways to do this is by joining a tour, and street art collector, entrepreneur and art buff Anna Stolyarova opened up the Street Art Museum Amsterdam to help communicate her passion. She also offers an off the beaten track excursion around commissioned pieces of art throughout the Eastern area. Featuring work from Spenser Little, Cleaver Cunningham and brothers ICY & SOT, Anna has much to share on the background of the artists and their importance to the area. 

Join the tour to witness how traditional architecture has blended with street art to compliment the cityscape. Alas street art doesn’t last forever, and the group is trying to raise money via Kickstarter campaign to preserve artist Stinkfish’s ‘Failed Fatherhood’ piece, via preserving it onto a virtual reality headset, which is hoping to go into production. For a unique neighbourhood experience, you will really get to know Amsterdam from the inside. 

With the eastern docklands as your base, there are so many things which are accessible. From the cutting edge Foodhallen, which is open daily, and has 15 different street stalls serving international cuisine in a friendly, informal environment.  It offers everything from pancakes to dumplings to oysters, sushi, tapas and champagne, and the market is open daily, and cranks up the volume on the weekend with DJs adding to the party vibe. 

Kompaszaal Restaurant, Amsterdam

If you would prefer to go somewhere with a bit more history, cross the river to the Kompaszaal restaurant, which is set in a listed building on the canal. Dating back from its compass house roots in the fifties, the decor is still exactly the same with the tiles flooring, bar and doors still intact. Diners can go back in time and enjoy lunch, high tea, dinner in the spacious venue, which also holds swing dance parties every month. Only open from Wednesdays to Sundays, it’s worth double checking before you go. 

Brouwerij ‘t IJ

The Dutch love their beer- as do many visitors to the city, so if craft beer is your bag, head to Brouwerij ‘t IJ, in the obsolete municipal bath house- handily landmarked next to Amsterdam’s biggest wooden windmill. Founded by musician Kasper Peterson, who couldn’t get the ale he could get on tour, he decided to make his own! An institution since 1985, it now offers a huge range of brewed on site beers, to tickle any palette- or jif you simply can’t choose, go for a beer flight.

Ten Kate Market

Shopping fans can while away an afternoon soaking up the boutique stores on Wolvenstraat 9- which has plenty of independent designer boutiques and cozy cafes. Which suits the picturesque canal-district, or head to cosmopolitan neighbourhood of Ten Kate, which has a large Turkish immigrant and eastern euopean population.

SONY DSC

The Ten Kate street market is open daily and has a buzzy atmosphere, where you can join locals shopping for fresh flowers, vegetables and cheese, and pick up a bargain after 4pm. 

Instock Amsterdam

And if you enjoy food, but hate food waste, the Instock restaurant is definitely worth a visit. Wonder what your local supermarket does with all the food it doesn’t sell?

Instock Amsterdam

It could take a leaf out of Instock’s book, and join the social revolution to help reduce food waste. With a daily set menu prepared by experienced chefs, it helps tackle the 1.3 million tonnes of food that is wasted every tear. This initiative collects food from local supermarkets such as one day old bread, surplus fish or meat and blemished vegetables, and transforms it into a daily masterpiece, thanks to innovative, inventive  and socially conscious staff. Food never tasted so good. 

Although famous for its historic city centre, there is much more to see in Amsterdam- in 72 hours you could experience a whole new ‘dam. 

FACTBOX

Brewery ‘t IJ 
https://www.brouwerijhetij.nl/?lang=en

Lloyd Hotel
https://www.lloyd.nl/
Oostelijke Handelskade 34, 1019 BN 

Kompaszaal Restaurant
https://www.kompaszaal.nl

Street Art Museum Amsterdam 
https://www.facebook.com/streetartmuseumamsterdam

Food Hall
https://foodhallen.nl/amsterdam
Bellamyplein 51, 1053AT 

Instock restaurant
https://www.instock.nl/en/
Czaar Peterstraat 21

Sara Darling is a freelance travel, fashion and lifestyle writer. In a previous life she was a fashion luvvie, but quit to follow her gypsy soul! When she is not clutching her passport, microphone or glass of fizz, she can be found avec snorkel in exotic oceans, scouring international flea markets for covetable jewellery, watching indie films or checking out photography exhibitions and wishing she could take a better picture. Follow her adventures on Twitter and Instagram on @wordsbydarling and @1stclassdarling

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