I was recently surprised with a short trip to Amsterdam. As a designer the internet seems to have anything and everything you need for inspiration and research but nothing compares to travel to open up your mind to new experiences, aesthetics, styles and…the list is endless! I’ve always wanted to visit Amsterdam but it was never high on the priority list, when I needed a break and wanted some inspiration I usually booked a trip to London or Paris but I was so so wrong!
We spent a whole day exploring the more boutique shopping in the Nine Streets district. It was incredible for beautiful little boutiques - both formal and casual. As you stroll around the pretty streets and canals, you’ll notice the prevalent style is very casual and with perceived little or no effort. The Dutch remind me of Parisienne women in that they look like they rolled out of bed put on whatever was to hand and still look so beautiful stylish and nonchalant. Trainers or boots, skinny jeans, coats and sunglasses all in neutral colours seem to be the preferred uniform and the boutiques of Nine Streets reflect this. They have beautiful staple pieces that you want to pay a little extra for because it’s not a fashion piece and it’s going to have longevity. Contrast to this was the amazing vintage shops, they are so so good I really wish we have more like it in Dublin! There were the usual vintage type shops you find in the big cities like Episode, the shop floor almost crammed with stock and if you have the time to search you’re guaranteed to find something worthwhile. As well as these there were a few absolute gems definitely worth a visit. Two of my favourite were Bijons Vintage and Zipper. They had more selective quality stock still at really great prices, within two minutes of setting foot in Bijons I found the most amazing 80’s leather Hugo Boss men’s bomber jacket (pictured) and an impressive selection of nearly perfect condition leather over-sized carry-alls and bags. In Bijons you really feel like they took the time to select beautiful vintage pieces that represent the store’s aesthetic while the price tags are so reasonable and not like some vintage stores where the word vintage seems to entitle them to triple the price tag. If you’re looking for more well-know brands and high street shops head to Kalverstraat, it’s Amsterdam’s main street where you can find the likes of H&M and Zara and the beautiful De Bijenkorf department store that stocks designer labels.
Anyone who knows me will know I like my food and I like my gin & tonics. We were told on our arrival not to look for authentic Dutch food restaurants as they don’t exist but we did eat in some lovely places. We were recommended De Italiaan which is in Amsterdam West near where we were staying, it was really authentic with great wine and pizza. We had a great brunch in Bar Spek which literally translates as “Bacon Bar” so you know it’s good! And to top it all off -and it couldn’t be anymore hipster if we tried…- I found a new gin!! It’s a Dutch gin with “Indonesian spirit” named Bobby’s, we tried it in a delightful bar called Het Warenhuis, with a slice of grapefruit, cloves and Russel & Co tonic. The bottle is also of gorgeous design, check it out on their website. If you see it on your travels definitely give it a go!
There are so many galleries, museums and visitor attractions in Amsterdam and embarrassingly I only got to one! But one turned out to be enough, we visited the Stedelijk Gallery on our third day. Absolutely worth the €18 entrance fee, the permanent collection has huge variation from Mondrian to Matisse and a fantastic exhibition on the evolution of product design but the standout for me was their current exhibitions “Dream Out Loud - Designing for Tomorrow’s Demands” and “Jean Tinguely - Machine Spectacle”. I’m going to do a post on each so check back here for more!
Accommodation Real estate in Amsterdam is scarce, whether you’re looking to rent long term or rent a hotel, room prices are pretty expensive. I would recommend what we did which is Air BnB. We rented a charming apartment on the canal from a lovely Dutch girl called Quirine, it was a 15 minute walk (or cycle!) to anywhere we needed to go to, which was perfect.
Getting Around Any tourist website on Amsterdam will say to get the full experience you have to rent a bike and they are completely right. We were hesitant to rent bikes - I think I was considered a bit of cycling liability!! - we did eventually on our last full day and I really regret not doing it sooner! Amsterdam is renowned for how bicycle-friendly and flat it’s streets are and you do really feel like a local when you’re cycling around on your black Dutch bike hair flowing in the breeze…until you have to take your hand off the handlebar to signal right and start wobbling all over the place causing a build up of actual Dutch cyclists behind you… If cycling really isn’t your thing though, their city tram system is extensive, easy to use and very tourist friendly!