In a new series designed to seek out and document the most stylish destinations on the planet, we here at StyleCaster are happy to present to you our first feature documenting the perfect long weekend in Amsterdam, Netherlands. Everything about this progressive city seemed to scream creativity and design. From the brands in the stores to the homegrown fashions being developed locally, the hotel, culinary and nightlife scenes are all in full-effect and there’s no telling what’s next artistically for this city.
Scroll on down for the breakdown of how to navigate this beautiful city and click through the slideshow above for some killer shots of our experiences!
What To Do
St. Nicolaas Boat Club: “The best way to see Amsterdam is from the water, but unfortunately the typical big canal boats suck. Fortunately, there’s St. Nicolaas Boat Club, which runs small, open boats that can go into the smaller canals. Tour sign-ups are at the offices of Mike’s Bike Tours. Boats go only when it’s not raining, so be ready to fit this into your schedule whenever the weather allows.” – Fortnighter
The Heineken Experience:One of the things you “just have to do” while in Amsterdam. Heineken is everywhere in this city. Learn how this divine brew is made, the history of the brand and wash it all down at the end of the tour with two free beers (or more if you’re lucky).
Mike’s Bikes:Something that becomes evident the moment you arrive in town is that you NEED a bike. Sure Amsterdam is an extremely walkable city, and the tram system is even more functional for getting from A to B, but the bike culture is second to none. One could argue this is the most bike-friendly city on the planet. So if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em. Rent a bike, get lost and discover new things. While some hotels even offer rentals, our favorite has to be Mike’s. Great prices, great selection and a friendly staff. Take a bike out by the hour or by the day, explore by yourself or take a tour that operates 360 days a year.
Where To Eat
De Culinaire Werkplaats:It’s easy to find comfort in the tightly-knit spiral of canals that make up the center of Amsterdam. However, there are many treasure that lie on the periphery. Well worth the 15 minute cab ride it takes to get there, De Culinaire Werkplaats is a dining experience unlike any other. I’m hesitant to call this a “vegetarian” restaurant for fear of turning off carnivores — all I can say is, trust me. Interestingly, the menu is designed monthly around a theme (when we were there it was “honesty”). Around that theme comes intriguing, ingenious, and inspirational culinary endeavors. Opened by Marjolein Wintjes and Eric Meursing, the kitchen and restaurant double as a design studio, gallery and delicatessen. More novel still, the restaurant asks that each patron bus their own plates and fill their own water glasses. What else would one expect when the cost of this experience is a very modern and egalitarian “pay what you feel” approach.
Lion Noir:Having opened only a year ago, Lion Noir has made quite a splash on the dining scene, boasting a superb location and inventive cocktail menu. I recommend the octopus carpaccio and brown shrimp risotto as appetizers, Iberico ham for entree and the roasted apricots for dessert. The cocktail list is not to be overlooked either. Make sure to try the the Dutch Garden — it’s a delightfully refreshing mix of Dutch Geniver cucumber and elderflower liquor. (Reservations recommended.)
Hartenkaas:I’m inclined to agree with this small shop’s claim that it produces the best sandwiches in Amsterdam. I highly recommendpopping in during any shopping excursion to the 9 Streets for a quick bite. While they can make you almost anything, the “De Dubbel” (roast beef, fried bacon, avocado, tomato, lettuce, pine nuts, capers and chive cream cheese) was heaven.
Caf Katoen:Located directly across the street from the Hotel de l’Europe, this caf/bar is open throughout the day serving up delicious soups, fresh mint tea and local beers.
Bridges: “Far and away Amsterdam’s best seafood restaurant, Bridges is in the magnificently redone Grand Hotel. After your sauna visit, you’ll appreciate the clean flavors and the comfortable dining room. Be sure to sample a few big, luscious Zeeland oysters.” – Fortnighter
De Pels: “Amsterdammers don’t do brunch per se, but de Pels, a classic Dutch- style “brown bar” has a mellow atmosphere on weekend mornings, and you can dig into a traditional uitsmijter (open-face egg-and-cheese sandwich) and a big mug of milky-but-strong koffie verkeerd. ” – Fortnighter
SC NOTE: This is a perfect stop before, during or after major shopping on the 9 Streets. We noticed the crowd overflowing onto the streets, Heinekens in hand.
De Koffie Salon: “Don’t leave town without grabbing a strong cappuccino and an old- school stroopwafel from de Koffie Salon, with branches around town. (If you want just the stroopwafel, get it straight from Dutcher-than-Dutch Lanskroon bakery, Singel 385.)” – Fortnighter
Freddy’s:Named after the prolific head of the Heineken company Freddy Heineken, Freddy’s could just be the classiest bar in Amsterdam. The Drink (according the Marcel the bartender) is a Heineken and Corowine (six-years aged Dutch Geniver).
Where To Party
Door 74: “Send a text message in the morning to this number requesting a reservation at door 74, Amsterdam’s best cocktail bar. They’ll text back with confirmation and an address for an unmarked door near the Rembrandtplein. Sure, you could find it online, but where’s the fun in that? ” – Fortnighter
SC Note: This will remind a lot of New Yorkers of Milk and Honey or PDT, definitely worth a trip. Asking your concierge for help is another great option for getting in. [Phone number to text: 06 3404 5122]
Museumnacht (Museum Night): “During the annual event of Museumnacht, museums all over the city stay open till midnight, with special programming: odd installations, bands and more. One ticket gets you in everywhere. Also check out the afterparty schedule: OT301, Smart Project Space and especially Trouw (Wibautstraat 127, trouwamsterdam.nl) will probably all be good.” – Fortnighter
SC NOTE: We checked out FOAM (The photography museum), the ude Kerk (Old Church and the local-recommended afterparty at gallery space W139 for a Warhol-Factory-esque impromptu concert.
Vesper:Serious cocktails straight from the history books, with a not-so-serious outlook–that’s Isaac from The Love Boat adorning the menus — Vesper is a relatively small space, and tends to fill up right after opening time at 8pm.
‘t Arendsnest: “Belgian beer gets the attention, but the Dutch aren’t such shabby brewers themselves. ‘T arendsnest specializes in microbrews from all over the Netherlands, with specials every month.” – Fortnighter
Where To Shop
The 9 Streets:De Negen Straatjes in Dutch can most easily be surmised as the SOHO of Amsterdam. The area knon as 9 streets in the heart of town stretch across the 17th century canals from Singel to the Prinsengracht and feature impeccable shopping, dining, bars and antique stores.
Red Wing: I never would have thought I needed to travel abroad to find the best collection of American shoes and boots, but Red Wing never fails to disappoint. Carrying their full line as well as American and European heritage brands such as Tanner belts (made in the USA), and, perhaps my favorite discoveries of the trip, Belmont socks (made in France) as well as Merz B. Schwanen shirts (made in Germany).
De Kaaskamer van Amsterdam:No trip to The Netherlands is complete without picking up some quality Dutch Gouda. Kaaskamer carries countless varieties as well as meats, bread and local delicacies.
Black Sheep Road:Just as a black sheep represents an outcast or a maverick, Black Sheep Road borrows from this idea in their choice collection of fashion sourced from hard-to-find labels like Grenson shoes, Le Mont Saint Michel, and Best Behavior. This 9 Streets store carries clothing for both men and women.
Spoiled:A phenomenal collection of unique brands located among the 9 Streets. Norse Projects for Hestra gloves, Penfield jackets, Chapman bags and SUPER glasses line the shelves. Perhaps the most unique find is the WANT les essentials de la vie bags, cases and luggage.
Velour:Effortless style has a home in Swedish brand Velour’s only Dutch location. “Feelgood Preppy” as they put it aims to provide essentials that make any outfit. Founded by Per Anderson in Gotburg, Sweden in 1997, Velour focuses on classic looks in a wide range of colors and fabrics. The pants, blazers, shoes, shirts and jackets are second to none.
Jefferson Hotel:Located in the Jordaan neighborhood, Jefferson Hotel carries cutting-edge labels, shoes, home furnishings, and coffee table books. The store itself is modeled after a five-star hotel lobby imparting a relaxed and inviting shopping experience. If the enormous leather chairs weren’t enough to get cozy, the front desk doubles as a vodka bar.
Brilmuseum:Part homage to optics and part museum, the Brilmuseum sells vintage frames (all new and never-been-worn) dating back 110 years. The store/museum has been open in the 9 Streets for 15 years and carries styles for everyone. This is the ultimate place to pick up specs that will make everyone back home jealous.
Where To Stay
Hotel de l’Europe: Built in 1896, the Hotel de l’Europe seems to be the most central location in all of Amsterdam. If you look at a map you see the HDL is smack dab in the center. Having just completed a renovation in 2011, the 5-star HDL features 111 remarkably appointed rooms, impeccable service and 7 restaurants including the legendary “Freddy’s” bar. Everything is within walking or tram distance, and no matter how lost you get, it is a safe bet that just a few corners later you will be back home.
Lloyd Hotel and Cultural Embassy: Located on the outskirts of town, the Lloyd is a sight to behold. Each of the wildly unique and eccentric rooms divided into types ranging from 1 to 5 stars. BTW, our 5 star room felt like a wood-paneled sauna with a giant bed that could sleep 8 (very cozy).
The Dylan Hotel: Reopened in 1999, the luxurious Dylan Hotel is located in the heart of the 9 Streets. The rooms come in 6 different styles: Loxura, ZenSation White, Klassbol, Kimono, Loft and ZenSation Red. The lounge is warm and inviting and serves food from 11AM-11PM. We definitely recommend the hotel’s “High Wine” service (a take on the often-stodgy high tea) where the finest wines from around the world are paired in a 90-minute long tasting session completed with light bites from the Dylan’s Michelen-starred Vinkeles restaurant.
Canal House: Having just opened this past June, the Canal House is Amsterdam’s newest boutique hotel. Designed to feel as if you were staying with “a wealthy Dutch relative” it features 23 rooms and is constructed out of 2.5 canal-side homes. This gem of a hotel features a restaurant bar that doubles as their reception desk and spacious backyard patio. The black walls are adorned with countless framed works of art and some rooms feature design implements from four separate centuries. All this attention to detail sets the mood for total immersion into another world entirely. Only two minutes from the Anne Frank House, and located in the heart of the Jordaan neighborhood, you’re truly in the middle of everything. A word of caution; 90 percent of the rooms feature open bathrooms, so be sure you are close with who you stay with, or be prepared to be REALLY close before your trip is over. Always up for excitement, this didn’t hinder us. We highly recommend it.
How To Get There
The main thing that stands out about traveling on KLM from JFK to Amsterdam is the color blue. For a nation known for its historical affinity for the color orange, this beautiful sky blue bathes the entire experience. From the delightfully retro pantsuits on the flight attendants to every aspect of the cabin, flying the airline is an amazing exercise in brand recognition.
Flights travel out of JFK three times daily, which makes the trip perfectly easy to arrive in Amsterdam any time you need. We prefer the 7pm flight allowing you to work most of the day and arrive at 7am giving you a full day in the city upon landing.
Train: Our recommended method of transport is taking the train directly from the airport to Centraal Station. The entire trip costs four euro and has you there in only 20 minutes. Once you arrive in Centraal Station, Amsterdam’s brilliant tram system awaits — or you can just hop in a cab to your hotel.
Taxi: A taxi from the airport takes only 20 minutes as well and will only set you back approx 40 euros. So if you have a lot of bags (or are up to four people) this is definitely the way to go.