STAY in Amsterdam:
The hotel lies closer to the airport than the city - but who cares about a 15-minute drive when one lives stylishly and in the future? Personal service is minimalistic. It's modern technology that reigns here. Citizens of tomorrow do not need human help when checking in. They just need a computer that - with the help of light and music - delivers the right kind of atmosphere to each and every guest. If you arrive stressed out and your mood changes to perfect in Amsterdam - you wouldn't be the first one - you can adapt to your room's atmosphere via Mood-Pad. Always handy: flat screen, W-Lan, soft beds with designer linen, rain shower, sophisticated lighting and a secret toilet. If you want to thank us for the tip, thank Vitra, Philips, Commes des Garçons and Viktor & Rolf as well for the fantastic design. The price for one night in the double room starts from 79 Euros.
Victorieplein or Frederiksplein? It's the V that matters. They don't give a damn about dapper luxury there. The design, in fact, is all about creating a young and stylish hotel. Mission fulfilled: Aesthetes will enjoy themselves here. Small aesthetes even more so because - while the styling is wonderful - the rooms are anything but big. But Amsterdam is calling, anyway, and apart from a few hours of beauty sleep you should spend your holidays outside. Morning starts with a hearty breakfast, a rain shower and a tip from the friendly staff - in case you ask for it. If you are too tired to go out and too awake for bed you should treat yourself a drink at the lounge. There, the sofas are soft, the fireplace is open and the music is chilling.The price for one night in the double room starts from 109 Euros.
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.
SHOPPING in Amsterdam:
Even if you already know the colourful plastic bags, you will stare mouth open at the Kitch Kitchen Supermercado. Mexican plastic wherever you look; flowers, squares, fruits, colours. You will need at least one hour for browsing around. Too many items of too many shapes want to be bought right away. And there aren't only bags, shopping trolleys, laptop covers, saddle bags and manicure cases, but also seat reducers, convenient pads for dog bowls in the shape of a bone - and the perfect souvenir from Holland: the colourful saddle protection for bicycles. And if, in the light of so much optical overstimulation, you are crazy enough to feel like decorating your apartment on your own, you can buy the fabric from the roll here and do what you please with it. But beware: The fabric most likely does not do what your sewing machine wants, so buy a consolation bag as well - just to be on the sure side.
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.
To start off with: the Dutch are a fashion loving folk. This is proven - among other things - by the fact that there are seven fashion academies in such a small country. So much young fashion also needs space: Young Designers United takes account for that and as a collective it regularly presents a dozen of young national and international designers in their shop at the Keizersgacht. It's a fashionable win-win-situation: unknown designers can rent some space on the hanging rail. There are only four pieces of each design without fail. The fashion directress of the house, Angelika Groenendijk-Wasylewski, holds the upper hand concerning the choice of designs in order to provide for a selection that is affordable and wearable. For women interested in fashion - Young Designers United presents fashion designs for women - the collective is a rich source of fashion designers who might stand just before their breakthroughs.
EAT in Amsterdam:
Yes, it is kitschy. But if you want to feel like an emperor in China, you should afford yourself dinner at the Sea Palace. While it is not cheap to dine here, the ambience will surprise you: The restaurant in the style of a pagoda is floating on the water. Here, they will serve you anything you know from the China restaurant but in first-class quality: Dim Sum, for instance, Peking duck or Sichuan dishes. A specialty of the house is the seafood Cantonese-style. If, after so many culinary experiments, so much kitsch and numerous glasses of plum wine you get into a romantic mood, you can order your Chinese-style wedding here. The Sea Palace organises unforgettable weddings, from the invitation to the last drink.
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.
No, you are not inside a Tim Burton movie. But it probably wouldn't surprise you if Willy Wonka stood behind the counter. Somewhere in between Charlie's cookie factory, Alice in Sugarland and a psychedelic stupor you are served the best cake you ever had. And you know that even before your fork reaches your mouth as what looks so good has to taste excellent as well. The two owners Siemon de Jong and Noam Offer do not only offer sweet temptations at their charming, extraordinary café but also bake by order - for any occasion you can think of. Their cakes have already been exhibited and eaten at the Rijksmuseum, the Stedelijk, and the van Gogh and Utrecht museums; they have also starred in films and enjoy great popularity with Vanessa Paradis - to refer to Willy Wonka once again.
SIGHTS in Amsterdam:
Rent a bicycle
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!
A Gracht tour can't be compared to a gondola ride, of course, but it is much cheaper and the captain usually spares you the kitschy songs. Also, you won't have to queue up or start a fight for being admitted to the boat. As far as ambience is concerned, the Grachts can very well compete: It's exceptionally nice on the boats and you probably won't find a more relaxing way to see the town than gliding over the calm water and observing the hustle and bustle in the small streets. On an evening Gracht tour the many colourful illuminations are especially attractive, immersing the streets in a magic light. There are several Gracht tour providers, for instance.
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.