Christmas in The Netherlands means I had the opportunity to spend some time in Amsterdam. With my sister Mol now a ‘local’ there, I wanted to have lunch at a few nice places and also see a museum or two. To keep myself – and City Turtle – updated.
Day One was unsuitably grey and miserable but Mol and I were determined to set forth on our exploration. Word of advice: post Christmas Amsterdam is not the ideal place to be. It is so crowded – I’m not sure whether there were especially many tourists or whether many locals had the day(s) off and were enjoying their city. Either way, avoid the Kalver Straat (main shopping street) – we wanted to take a quick look at the Zara sale so braved it. Big mistake. People were flowing in and out of the Zara in huge waves. So we fled.
The cute ‘Nine Little Streets’ (Negen Straatjes) were not much better to be fair, but they have such charm and the buzz is so infectious that it is hard to find the crowds annoying. Our initial intention was to go to Singel 404 for ‘one of the best sandwiches in Amsterdam’ (quote unquote Mol, many local friends and even the Guardian). But, having been warned it would be busy, were indeed disappointed to find a queue outside this small, trendy two-level cafe. Next time.
The Nine Streets is teaming with cosy little eateries. Screaming Beans has left but been replaced by another cool cafe. Things are constantly changing. We walked past the restaurant/cafe Goodies and – despite the perhaps a little off-putting name – had heard good things about it, so decided to give it a go.
It – naturally – was full. But the nice waiter said we could sit at the bar and have the next available table. We watched plates of thick, fresh and mouth-watering sandwiches go by. The tuna sandwich looked so good Mol had already made up her mind before we saw the menu. Chicken Tikka was not available so I went for the smoked salmon. The sandwiches (price from €4.50 – €7.95) tasted as good as they looked. The place itself is a little cramped but with a fun atmosphere. I liked it.
Shopping wise, the Nine Streets remains the place to be for vintage lovers. From the more expensive designer vintage shops to the ever-popular ‘Episode’, you will not be disappointed. Episode is pretty epic. It has rows and rows of fur coats, denim shirts, overcoats, headbands, platform trainers and colourful dresses. And even though I’m not big on vintage, I still had a great time finding Rob a 1920s hat for our New Years Eve party.
Day Two meant more rain and a nasty strong wind but again we were undeterred. We set off for the Hermitage Museum – which currently has an exhibition on Impressionism (my favourite art movement) and van Gogh (while the van Gogh museum is being renovated). The perfect combination. We grumbled at the small queue when we arrived but were grateful to have arrived as early as we did, as 30 minutes later when I looked outside, the queue was snaking around the (large) courtyard. The exhibitions were beautifully done, informative, but not overly so. I enjoyed especially the Impressionism exhibit as by the time we got to van Gogh there were about seven people crowded around each painting. We agreed this was not the way to see art. I hate being shoved around anyway. So after we stopped by the rather entertaining museum shop, we made a swift exit. Definitely worth while, despite the rather high €17.50 entrance fee.
Lunch was a short walk away at the Ysbreker. I absolutely loved this Brasserie. It was renovated and more than doubled in size in 2010, yet still keeps its intimate and cosy feel. It is almost multi-purpose. In the summer you can come here and sit on their terrace on the Amstel river. In the winter they have a fire place at the back with book cases and comfy sofas where you can work or surf the web. Or you can play games.
Or you can simply enjoy brunch, lunch, tea or dinner. And don’t be worried that they are trying to achieve too much, they can handle it. The food is excellent and accessible to all. You can have a ‘tosti’ (cheese/hame toast) for €2.50, or oysters or delicious steak tartar. I cannot recommend it enough and definitely intend on revisiting it in the summer.
Singel 404 1016 AK Amsterdam
Huidenstraat 9 1016 ER Amsterdam
Berenstraat 1 1016 GG Amsterdam
Cafe Restaurant De Ysbreker
1091 EC Amsterdam
T + 31 20 468 1808