Forget everything you think you know about the Netherlands’ capital: Amsterdam is a melting pot of modern art, history and cutting-edge cuisine
Amsterdam: it’s a city long associated with canals, clogs and cannabis (and not necessarily in that order). But Netherlands’ ‘Venice of the North’ is fast shedding its strong stag-do game to become a hip hub of contemporary-art lovers, connoisseurs of architecture and waterside-dwelling foodies.
Following a ten-year regeneration plan to gentrify the city’s infamous red-light district, weekend visitors are now more likely to ogle original Rembrandts through picturesque townhouse windows along the grachten than a sign for ‘happy endings’.
These days, careening over the city’s web of cobbled bridge arches on a vintage, basket-adorned bicycle is par for the course. As is world-class cheese tasting, antique hunting and big-hit museum hopping. In short, the Dutch hotspot has smartened up its act, and the design-savvy set has moved in to soak up its plethora of stylish offerings.
If you’re keen to stay in the thick of things, book The Albus – a designer boutique hotel that fuses contemporary, premium design with a prime location. Situated on the Vijzelstraat in the bustling heart of Amsterdam, The Albus is within walking distance of, well, pretty much everything the city has to offer and delivers a slice of modern art to boot.
Each of the 75 rooms has been designed by a different European artist and furniture from likes of Eileen Gray, Marc Sadler, Enzo Catellani and Per Weiss punctuate the opulent interiors. Following renovations earlier this year, gold-leaf-lined corridors and a pop-art pimped lobby now add a sense of drama to your stay, while the impossibly huge bathtubs, in-room Heineken-beer barrels and free Travel Buddy smartphones are all unexpected but welcome additions. The Albus is also Europe’s first hotel to produce zero CO2 emissions, so you can kick back and indulge with a clear conscience.
Amsterdam is teeming with buzzy cafes, candle-lit ‘coffee’ bars and leafy, canal-side eateries that are perfect for a spot of people watching. Try the utterly charming Café de Jaren, nestled between Muntplein and the Music Theatre, for unbeatable festoon-lit views across the River Amstel, or head to Satchmo – a seriously slick, underground cocktail bar in the De Wallen district that serves up live jazz and a mean martini.
Meanwhile, the city’s fine-dining destination is Senses: a boutique restaurant with a big reputation. Located in The Albus hotel, Senses by Lars Bertelsen is in the Lekker Top-500 list, as well as the Michelin Guide Netherlands, and has earned its stars with innovative textures and taste combinations – such as veal sweetbreads, cannoli, chicory, pata negra and PX jus, paired with a deliciously crisp glass of Roseal, Pinot Gris. Yep, a sommelier comes as standard with your three to six-course tasting menu at Senses, as does a visual veritable feast of seasonal, sustainable ingredients.
Amsterdam’s hottest happenings are situated along the banks of its man-made waterways, so hop on a boat and take in street scenes from canal-level to get a feel for what you want to explore on foot later. It’s worth hunting around for a smaller vessel, too – chic, cushion-clad boats depart from opposite the Anne Frank House in the city centre between 11am and 9pm each day – as they can enter a great number of canals and often serve up wine, cheese, beers and blankets as part of the cruise.
Culture vultures should hit the Stedelijk Museum in the aptly named Museum Quarter, which hosts off-kilter exhibitions and modern artworks from renowned artists such as Cezanne and Pollock, or go Dutch and discover a cavernous collection of Van Gogh’s post-impressionist pieces at his eponymous space. If a visit to the Anne Frank House is on your list, be sure to book tickets online well in advance, as it routinely sells out weeks in advance.
And don’t miss nightly live music sessions at Café Alto – a jazz and blues bar featuring performances from the likes of Jasper Blom and Suni Rangers, as well as hip, up-and-coming artists in the industry. This is Amsterdam’s answer to Ronnie Scott’s and the best news? Entrance is completely free. See, it really does pay to go Dutch right now.
Rooms at The Albus Hotel start from approximately £150 per night. To book, visit albushotel.com