Besides meeting nice and interesting people from all over the world, part of what I love about being a guide is discovering places that are new or new for me in Amsterdam. For example, recently I’ve been interested in learning more about the history behind details on the gables of the former mansions and merchants' houses. Of course not everyone shares similar interests! Here, I would like to share a variety of places that are lesser known, but I believe, also special. Many of them are close by the world famous tourist destinations.
Not long ago a major hotel chain opened a branch in a former telephone exchange building and a bank just behind the Royal Palace on Dam Square. The W Hotel lounge and lobby on the sixth floor offer 360-degree views over the city. This is one of the best places to take beautiful and unique pictures of Amsterdam. The gold lines on the windows and the copper pipes refer to the telephone wires and electricity lines that exchanged information in the past. You can also enjoy a coffee or a cocktail and the stunning views from the rooftop swimming pool.
What I especially like to find are locally invented products, shops and places with a story. For instance, Roetz Bicycles are Dutch bikes made from local manufacturers out of discarded bike frames. The workers are people who have had difficulty finding employment, and have now become cycle craftsmen. The business has found a way to re-purpose abandoned bicycles, cleaning up Amsterdam’s streets and selling a truly one of a kind product. Look for these bikes around the city!
Dignita on Oudezijds Achterburgwal 82A is another store with a story. In this former brothel you can buy soup, salads and fair trade gifts. Dignita is part of the international NotForSale organization, providing training programs for women who have had to seek shelter. These ladies learn to make soups and salads, which are then sold by volunteers to women working behind the windows in the Red Light District and in Restaurant Dignita on Koninginneweg 218.
Our Red Light District is changing (partly thanks to businesses like Dignita) and wonderful new Koffie bars are opening all the time in this neighborhood. Koffieschenkerij, attached to the oldest church of Amsterdam, is my favourite.
The Dutch Resistance Museum is very interesting and a good option besides the Anne Frank house. Do not forget to visit the children’s section which is impressive for grown ups too. The Museum of Bags and Purses located on the Herengracht serves a wonderful high tea (reservation required). The Flower Auction just outside Amsterdam, not to be confused with the Flower Market, is definitely worth getting up early for. Or visit a local market such as Albert Cuypmarket or Dappermarket to buy your Dutch cheese – an essential Amsterdam experience!
Amsterdam is full of high profile museums and galleries, along with well-known shops and tourist attractions. I highly recommend that you also explore some unique, less known museums and shops in local neighborhoods. Try the ones I’ve mentioned, or explore and discover your own!
Thank you for sharing your local finds with us, Yvonne. Any travellers headed to Amsterdam in 2016 or beyond should get in touch with Yvonne to plan a day of exploring the city with a fabulous local guide.