1. Where to Stay
Indulge your sweet tooth at Cake Under My Pillow (from $150), a newly renovated three-room bed-and-breakfast located above a kitschy bakery in the colorful De Pijp neighborhood. The rooms—decorated with porcelain plates and other relics of the building’s past as a nineteenth-century merchant hall—boast contemporary comforts like king-size orthopedic mattresses, wireless Internet, and flat-screen televisions.
Settle into 750 square feet of stylishly appointed space at Miauw Suites (from $200), which offers four suites and a prime location in the trendy Nine Streets shopping area.
Rent a bike ($10.50 per day) at Hotel Aalborg (from $75), a modern three-star lodging where the best of the 36 understated rooms sport balconies and views of Sarphatipark, a small urban oasis where locals picnic. For lunch, ask the friendly staff to recommend their favorite ethnic-food stalls at the Albert Cuyp Market, just two blocks away.
2. Where to Eat
Slurp oysters ($16.50) on a rustic ferry built in 1927 at Pont 13, a quirky French restaurant in the industrial waterfront area. Sit at a vintage wooden table while taking in an unmatched view of the city and dining on specialties like Dorado bruschetta and expertly cooked duck with cheesy potatoes and bacon (both $26.70).
Get a taste of Indonesia when you order the Rijsttafel, or rice table ($40), at destination restaurant Blauw. Presented in more than a dozen brightly colored ramekins, the meat, vegetable, and fish dish displays the scope of flavors in Indonesian cuisine. Two people can easily share one order, but request an extra side of Sate Oedang (grilled shrimp skewers; $14.70), and try the Spekkoek layer cake for dessert ($12.30).
Gear up for a night out at the year-old bistro Braque, which becomes more bar than restaurant as the night rolls on. Start with seared scallops with celeriac-truffle cream ($15.75) followed by the peppery entrecôte ($26), then stick around to share a bottle of prosecco ($34.20) before heading out to one of De Pijp’s watering holes nearby.
3. What to Do
Disappear behind a door painted like a bookcase to join the dance party at De Nieuwe Anita ($3.40 to $9.60 cover), an avant-garde club packed with vintage furniture, model airplanes, and an alternative crowd. The five-year-old cultural space is known for booking experimental acts like Ariel Pink and a popular sixties night called Amsterdam Beat Club.
Skirt the law at the raucous underground venue Schijnheilig, where you can catch free concerts, art exhibitions, or foreign film screenings depending on the night. Formerly a genteel city-center building, the Schijnheilig collective transformed it into a creative space earlier this year. The police aren’t too keen on the building’s new incarnation, but a pending court case is keeping them out—for now.
Clink martini-filled teacups among blonde wood tables and dark wallpaper at Vesper Bar’s boozy High Tea ($32 per person), a brunchlike event that begins at 2 p.m. on weekends and sometimes lasts until the next morning. For snacks, the bar brings in small fare like sashimi with avocado and slices of pizza from nearby restaurants in the Jordaan neighborhood.
Stay up late in a former printing press at TrouwAmsterdam ($13.70 to $23.30 cover), an industrial-chic club complex that books au courant electronic acts like Caribou. Take a break from partying with a bite at the in-house organic Mediterranean restaurant, which stays open until 2 a.m. on Friday and Saturday.
4. Insider’s Tip
Windmills are synonymous with the Netherlands, and Amsterdam is home to eight. Happily, the easiest one to get to (via tram) is also the most fun. Brouwerij ‘t IJ (open every day from 3 p.m. to 8 p.m.) is a traditional microbrewery inside a windmill dating back to the eighteenth century. Watch the stainless-steel brewing system through the windows while sipping a Belgian-style organic beer, like the coriander-and-lemon-flavored IJwit ($2.75). The pub is tiny, so arrive early to score a place at the bar.
5. Oddball Day
Visit Haarlem, an unspoiled city twenty minutes away by train ($9.50 round-trip) and imagine you’re stepping into a painting of a Dutch town circa 1850. Start your day with a look at the work of Haarlem’s most celebrated Golden Age painter: Frans Hals. The impressive collection at the Frans Hals Museum ($9.80) contains the somber portraits that he painted well into his eighties, as well as works by other Dutch masters. Pause in the idyllic seventeenth-century garden before you head to the Grote Markt, the city’s main square, for lunch at the historic Grand Café Brinkmann. Choose from light fare like melted goat’s cheese on dark bread with honey and arugula ($10.30) or heartier plates, like steak with pepper sauce ($22.60). Across the square you’ll find the small, boundary-pushing modern art museum De Hallen Haarlem ($3.50 to $6.85). The current exhibition by Nathaniel Mellors involves a pair of head casts arguing in British accents, with creepily roving eyes. The quirkiness continues at the Teyler’s Museum ($12.30), the oldest museum in the Netherlands. Opened in 1784, its collection of fossils and machines conjures images of mad scientists and Indiana Jones. Afterward, swing by the orange and white awning of tiny local favorite De Haerlemsche Vlaamse (Spekstraat 3; 023-5325991) for a cone of crispy frites ($2.50) and your choice of more than a dozen different sauces (try the rosemary-garlic mayo). After that, head to In Den Uiver, an eccentric pub with green wood paneling and leather wallpaper that carries the tasty Haarlem-brewed Jopen four-grain Bokbier on tap ($5). For dinner, head over to the elegant bistro Jacobus Pieck and ask for one of three tables in the handsome glass conservatory room. Trains back to Amsterdam leave often throughout the night, so there’s no need to rush.
The excellent new digital and print magazine Unfold Amsterdam is a one-stop shop for information about the best musical events, film screenings, and art openings going on in Amsterdam.
Amsterdam Unlike provides lively reviews of the trendiest clubs, restaurants, coffee shops, bars, shopping, and museums.
Eat Amsterdam reviews the latest and greatest in the city’s restaurant scene.
Spotted by Locals: Amsterdam puts together detailed maps that display crowd-sourced picks in every neighborhood.