SHOPPING in Amsterdam:
Amsterdam is as famed for its markets as it is for its museums. Here's a good advice: If the money gets tight, forget about Van Gogh and devote yourself to the colours and aromas of the Flower Market or the Albert Cuyp Market or the Antiques Market or...Here's just a small selection: The famous Flee Market at Waterlooplein has been enriching the Jewish Quarter since the sixties. You get second-hand and new clothes, music, a lot of knickknack and even more flair (Mon-Sat/9:00-17:00). The Albert Cuyp Market is the largest market for specialties. All Amsterdam seems to buy herbs, fruits and spices here, especially on Saturdays. (Albert-Cuypstraat/Ferdinand Bolstraat, Mon-Fri/10:00-18:00, Sat/9:00-18:00). The Flower Market, while to be found in every travel guide, is still worth a visit. And you will encounter more bulbs than tourists there for sure. A highlight of the market it that it floats on the water. (Singel, between Rokin and Leidsetraat, daily 9:30-18:00.) The Noorder Market is popular for its second-hand clothes, jewellery and furniture - you'll find the one or other bargain there. (Stationsplein, Mon-Sat/9:00-15:00, in the summer until 16:00).
What sounds comfortable is not really comfortable. The focus here lies on the look. How you manage to walk or dance in these shoes is your problem. Since 1983 men have been spoilt with high-end products by the most acclaimed designers in the world. Sad ladies, however, remained empty-handed (or -footed) when just another impertinent guy came out wearing the hottest boots, trainers, patent-leather shoes, slippers or sandals. Since 2000, with the opening of the shop in the Leidsestraat, the girls' sufferings have come to an end. Now, all the great labels - Gucci, Prada, D&G, Lanvin, Galliano - and smaller labels - Dsquared2, Frankie Morello, Y-3, Cesare Paciotti - make shoe fanatics beaming with joy. The shops are all but uniform - so everyone finds his or her favourite shoes here. The price category, however, is a different story: Be sure your credit card will screech with shock. In the meantime, there are four shops in Amsterdam - and they are all worthwhile visiting: Koningsplein 7, PC Hooftstraat 80, Leidsestraat 10, Cornelis Schuytstraat 9.
Jonett van Buyten and Cora Albers enjoy being talked to personally when entering a store. Jonett has made her own experiences with that while being a sales woman herself. She used these experiences with her partner Cora and applied them in their own concept store Maison NL in Amsterdam. Maison NL is a store for women by women offering clothes, shoes, jewellery, purses, living accessories, fragrances, vintage pieces and small pieces of furniture. You can also find garments for men and children but the customers are rather wives and mothers anyway. These are the ones who are known to be best and most persistent at shopping after all. That's also why the owners have precautionarily deposited some coffee cups in the store for a little small talk break in between - a smart idea! And afterwards the shopping spree can continue: through South Africa, India and Armenia. These are the countries where a majority of the goods that Cora and Jonett sell in their store come from. Some of these articles can only be purchased within Amsterdam at Maison NL, for other products that applies to the whole country.
EAT in Amsterdam:
The restaurant enjoys cult status in the gourmet world of Amsterdam thanks to its former patron Christophe Royers. Having earned himself a Michelin star, he has sold the restaurant in the meantime, but the legend is alive and the cuisine still lives up to Christophe's name. Today, Jean-Joel Bonsens is the master of the pots. He, too, has been awarded with stars, pampering his guests with frog legs, aubergine with cumin and herb salad, lobster with oranges, saffron and vanilla or crème brûlée with red pepper and lemon grass. While he can't deny his French background, he adds regional ingredients as well. The elegant and yet cosy atmosphere rounds off the culinary experience.
Because industrial style is en vogue, the engine room of a water tower happens to accommodate Café Restaurant Amsterdam. The restaurant has been there since 1996. Old engines that have partly been preserved create a special atmosphere and interesting interior unlikely to be matched by a designer. Cosy and rustic wooden tables and chairs as well as the ancient illumination of the Olympic Stadium enhance the special flair. The cuisine mixes Dutch down-to-earthness with French ingenuity and Italian classic style. While the prices are appropriate, the only thing that's missing in the restaurant is intimacy. Due to its vastness it is hardly apt for romantics in need for niches, candles and secrets. But larger groups and families with kids that want to move around will feel good here.
If you are not hungry you should take out your spouse to IJ-kantine - it's worth the unique experience. The restaurant, which lies to the north of the city, is easiest reached by ferry. The ferry is free and takes you out of the city to an old and fascinating industrial area. The restaurant, with its high ceilings and huge glass windows, is probably the district's most beautiful building. And of course you have to pay for it as neither the delicious lunch nor the long drink is cheap. But the sunset above the harbour makes up for it, especially on Sunday afternoons which have a special flair enhanced by live music. Apart from business people who hold conferences here you will also come across families. While parents wine and dine in the restaurant, the kids can play in huge sand boxes or in the kids' corner. Our tip: Those who get seasick can also come by car or taxi. There's free parking available.
STAY in Amsterdam:
Do you know what the Japanese are good at? They do without plastic, use a lot of wood and create the kind of architecture that render any Yoga programme unnecessary in the first place. Add lots of comfort, perfect service, the eternal smile and out comes the sole European branch of the Japanese Okura noble chain, one of the leading hotels in the world. Not without reason the Japanese are known to be excellent business people. And the Okura accommodates the probably most expensive suite in town, which is also the largest in the Benelux States. The price per night goes beyond the 1,000 Euro limit. And if you run away screeching now, please do come back. There are cheaper rooms as well, attracting the target group of wealthy Japanologists. You can relax with Japanese soaps via satellite, before you treat yourself to dinner at Ciel Bleu. The hotel restaurant lies at 75 metres, breathtaking view included. The price for a night in a standard room starts from approx. 200 Euros.
Multitasking skills have seemed to be quite trendy for a couple of years. At the moment, this trend moves toward the opposite direction again - but not for Ulrika Lundgren: she manufactures leather bags and cashmere cardigans, publishes a magazine and has recently opened her own guest house - the Maison Rika - with view on the Herengracht in Amsterdam. The former Vogue and Elle stylist is smart: she has designed the interior of the two suites in the hotel that is located in an old corner house directly opposite to her boutique. Each spreads over a whole floor and manifests her personal living style. She has put vintage pieces and white furniture on the black oak floor, and art objects by Sang Ming adorn the walls. The Gallery Boutique on the first floor with her favourite pieces also functions as the hotel lobby. There she hosts events with artist friends and colleagues from the newly founded Dutch Vogue. You might not be served breakfast the next morning there but she will provide snacks in the suite throughout the day. It's also the perfect spot to browse through the hotel's own city.
Don't tell anyone else: The Jordaan quarter is one of the best in town. The former working-class district turned into a favourite hangout for artists and intellectuals. Today, dreamers will adore its old-fashioned charm, and shoppers will love the hip stores around. The hotel is right here, in the immediate vicinity of the Anne Frank House. And right here you should check in if you are a fan of the authentic. The 17th-century Gracht house has been renovated to accommodate eight rooms, all of them of pretty, albeit plain interior. Don't go on a search for details, you won't find any. Just content yourself with being able to sleep in such a charming historical ambience. And believe us: You won't need more than that. The price for a night in the double room starts from 139 Euros.
SIGHTS in Amsterdam:
Bicycles are the ideal means of transportation in Amsterdam. You will hardly find a Dutchman who doesn't own one. No matter whether you want to travel fast and flexibly from one spot to the other or cruise around leisurely: A rented bicycle pays off! There is a reason why Amsterdam is called the city of bicycles. Everyone cycles here, from the very young to the very old. As a tourist you won't only have a convenient and fast rental bicycle at hand, you are also travelling Dutch-style. If you want to see sights as well while you are cycling, we recommend you visit the Jordaan district. There, you can combine a tour of the Anne Frank House with the Norderkerk and the Museum of History. Be careful when leaving your bicycle on stops in between: Don't forget to lock it. As far as equipment goes, the various bicycle rents offer bicycles from 8 Euros per day. The longer you rent, the cheaper it gets. The more gears the bicycle has the more expensive it is - and the more useless. You don't have to fear strenuous mountain tours here for sure!
Whether you like or don't like the taste of the famous Dutch beer with the green label and the red star, visiting the Heineken Experience is worthwhile anyway. On four floors you won't only be shown how the beer gets in the bottle but also how Heineken became the trade name it is today. There is an interactive adventure world catering to all the senses. The range of topics includes the individual production steps, the development and philosophy of the company as well as Heineken's definition of fun and entertainment. The fascinating show is accommodated in proper style in the building that once housed the old brewery. It is, in fact, more than just another brewery where you press your nose on smudged glass pane. You will also be able to taste the beer, of course, and almost forget the slogan: Enjoy with responsibility!
On vases, tiles or toilet seats - the focus is on sex here. The Sex Museum gives an overview of the most beautiful pastime in the world and its depiction. Exhibits range from phallus symbols in Antiquity to medieval morals, from the pin-up culture of the fifties to future visions on sex. In addition to paintings, sculptures and scriptures, you also see very bizarre objects, for instance a somewhat dingy toilet seat. But if you think that with what we have to do here is a tatty collection of adult magazines and perverted fantasies, you can't be more wrong. The three floors of the Sex Museum exhibit a sometimes serious, sometimes comic exploration of the topic that is usually not talked about so openly. This extraordinary museum offers a somewhat different perspective of sex, showing different developments in historical contexts.