On The Road
The Best Places To Go In Amsterdam
Go Dutch with seven of the coolest new spots to hang your hat in and around the city right now
Roomservice by Droog is a simple, elegant and airy café and tearoom serving some of the finest homemade recipes
Amsterdam could easily rest on its historic laurels. A city of ancient art and 17th- century architectural marvels, all built around its extensive network of picturesque waterways, people would always flock here – whether or not it has also fostered a healthy reputation for sex, drugs and rock’n’roll. But this is a forward-thinking city and contemporary design is to the real Netherlands what tulips and pancakes are to the stereotype: vital and all-pervasive.
The country has produced a host of design luminaries, from Ms Hella Jongerius (designer of the delegates’ lounge at the UN’s New York HQ, among many other accomplishments) to Mr Marcel Wanders (who has more than 1,700 products to his name – most of them instantly recognisable), and the interiors of Amsterdam’s hotels, bars, restaurants and shops have come to act as a testing ground for the best Dutch design talent around. With first-rate design setting the scene, the bar is set similarly high for food and drink. Find a date, grab a bike and start here.
The combined vision of architect Messrs Daniel Knuttel and furniture and interior designer Piero Lissoni, Conservatorium is shortlisted for a Mr & Mrs Smith Best Dressed award
Shortlisted by Mr & Mrs Smith for the Best Dressed category in its annual awards this year, Conservatorium is not only particularly well turned out but also supremely well placed, at the doorstep of Amsterdam’s famous museum district. Housed in a building originally designed as a massive bank – the Rijkspostspaarbank – by Dutch architect Mr Daniel Knuttel at the end of the 19th century, Conservatorium has a rich historical narrative, renewed and refreshed by Milan-based designer Mr Piero Lissoni in its transformation into a hotel.
It’s not always easy being green. But Conservatorium makes it look effortless and eminently stylish, with sustainable elements throughout the hotel including eco-certified spa products and an organic restaurant. The spa, meanwhile, is something else. The largest in-hotel spa and gym in Amsterdam, the Akasha Holistic Wellbeing Centre features a Watsu pool (heated to body temperature for special hydrotherapy massages), whirlpool sauna and hammam, as well as a fitness club and (organic) bar. The 18m swimming pool is a minimal masterpiece.
Check into the I-Love-Amsterdam Suite, a beamed 155sqm triplex complete with its own rooftop terrace, and you won’t want to leave. Don’t feel bad. Given the 360-degree views over Amsterdam’s skyline, you’ll be able to honestly say you’ve seen the whole city anyway.
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The Hoxton Amsterdam
Having only just opened this summer, The Hoxton is a go-to place for locally sourced food, atmosphere and picturesque views
The newest and shiniest Hoxton Hotel opened its doors on Herengracht in July, taking over five canal properties that were once home to Amsterdam’s mayor. With epic ceilings and postcard-perfect views over the canal on each side of the building, it’s a serene yet sociable base from which to see the city. Downstairs there’s the hotel restaurant, Lotti’s, which is run (like all the Hoxton’s restaurants) in partnership with Soho House. Further refreshment options include Up Top, a coffee and cocktail mezzanine, the lobby bar and the hotel’s event space, The Apartment, which is also home to Hoxtown bar.
One of The Hoxton’s more charming features is the fill-it-yourself minibar fridge (free water and milk included), which can be stocked with local products at local rates from the lobby shop, and the daily breakfast bag filled with snacks from fashionable local deli, Stach.
The Fruity, one of three concept rooms at the Hoxton, is among the grandest rooms in the house (it was here that the mayor slept back in the 17th century), complete with frescoed ceilings and original fireplace.
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The first hotel of the conceptual design company, Hotel Droog is a one-stop one-bedroom shop, with fairy-tale gardens, spathroom and exhibitions
Dutch design is full of personality, and no company epitomises that better than the design institution that is Droog. A case in point is the group’s first hotel, which opened in 2012, and has only the one room. But what a room. Taking over the entire top floor of a beautiful 17th century house, Hôtel Droog has amazing views of Amsterdam, you can take a leisurely stroll through the fairy-tale garden and have a drink or a bite to eat in the Roomservice café. Here the concept of a hotel has been reversed: Hôtel Droog does offer a place to sleep but it’s mostly about showcasing its own design prototypes and offering a dream sequence of regularly changing design exhibitions and events such as cheese-making workshops and Urban Monk Sundays – Zen-influenced relaxation sessions.
The bathroom is actually the spa, and full of highly covetable, all-natural brands such as hair products by Swedish hairdressing duo Sachajuan. Guests can browse the goods, book in for consultations or sit down to a vitamin-laden wellness dinner (which should help counteract any less healthy activities you have been up to in the city).
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Morgan & Mees
The hotel and restaurant’s interiors match the characteristics of the monumental building in which they are housed, but with a modern twist
With a fresh-yet-classic elegant interior worthy of showing off to even the most refined date, Morgan & Mees is a stylish new hotel and restaurant in Amsterdam West. It’s set in a historic building around the corner from the popular Jordaan area (one of the oldest neighbourhoods of the city and home to both the Westerkerk and the Anne Frank House), and even if you don’t stay here, you should book a table in the Mediterranean brasserie. Finish up with a leisurely romantic stroll around the little side streets with their countless art galleries, markets and boutiques.
Book a table for lunch or dinner and start at the bar, where you’ll be assured of a wide choice of local craft beers or classic cocktails (maybe swap the Amstel for a beer brewed at the local Brouwerij ’t IJ or the red light district’s de Prael). Though the bar menu is hearty, head to the restaurant proper (ask for a table in the pretty conservatory) in the evening for oysters, steak tartare or the classic M&M burger, and the cheese platter with special selections from Kef cheese shop. It’s open for breakfast, lunch and dinner – and you might find yourself returning for all three.
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The winner of the Bib Gourmand award for three consecutive years, De Belhamel’s cuisine and romantic atmosphere make it a favourite for locals and lotharios alike
Located on a canal junction – where the Brouwersgracht crosses the Herengracht – this romantic spot has become an institution in Amsterdam since it opened. Not only does De Belhamel boast some of the best waterside views around (and beware, a seat on the outdoor terrace is in high demand) but the menu has received the renowned Michelin Guide’s Bib Gourmand award annually since 2007. Weather not playing ball with the alfresco ideal? No problem. Indoors is just as lovely, with an Art Nouveau, almost-Parisian ambience that offsets the menu perfectly.
The restaurant’s seasonal French- and Italian-inspired menu is always worth sampling, and might include such dishes as chanterelle-stuffed guinea fowl or wild salmon with ginger and sesame. Finish up with a Belgian waffle and ice cream or tarte tatin from the à la carte.
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Restaurant De Kas
Only the freshest, most organic produce makes its way to this kitchen. The eight-metre high greenhouse promises an unforgettable experience, too
Nature or nurture? For diners at De Kas restaurant and nursery the answer is very much both, with a menu that redefines the term “fresh” when it comes to ingredients. Located in a set of greenhouses, which date back to 1926 when they were part of the Amsterdam Municipal Nursery, De Kas’s philosophy is that food tastes best when it’s grown on site. Hence all herbs and vegetables are from the greenhouses and gardens at the restaurant, while anything that needs more space comes from their farmland in the Beemster area. On sunny summer days, lunches and pre-dinner drinks are served on the herb-garden patio, while diners are otherwise seated in the eight-metre high, Mr Piet Boon-designed greenhouse.
What you’ll eat at De Kas depends very much on what’s been harvested that day, supplemented with the best additional ingredients from local suppliers. Overseen by Michelin-starred chef Mr Gert Jan Hageman (who was also the driving force behind the greenhouse’s conversion to a restaurant in 2001), the focus is on simple Mediterranean dishes. Book your meal at the chef’s table and watch the culinary drama unfold – each chef will personally (and knowledgably) introduce the dishes as they come to your table, and you’ll be treated to a tour of the vegetable gardens before returning to your seat for dessert.
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Café-Restaurant Amsterdam is bright and spacious, with a 19th-century industrial diesel engine as part of the décor
Located in a converted 19th-century pumping station, whose spectacular engine room once attracted people from all over the world, today the Café-Restaurant Amsterdam in Westerpark attracts crowds for its relaxed yet buzzy ambience and fabulous food. Since its conversion in 1996, the pump house has been at the heart of a pedestrianised eco-area built in the former water company grounds. One of the original majestic diesel engines still provides a talking point in the space which retains all its old industrial charm. Look out for the lighting too – the space is lit with original floodlights from Amsterdam’s two legendary football stadiums: the old Ajax stadium and the Olympic Stadium.
The extensive Dutch-French menu is simple seafood heaven, but features everything from caviar to croquettes via steak bernaise and garlic roasted chicken. Pick at a whole globe artichoke or savour a plate of snails while waiting for your sea bass or sweetbread main.
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