Consider this a "Where I went, what I ate, and what I spent in Amsterdam." It's a list of my favorite places when Nick and I visited last month when we also visited Berlin and Prague. To be honest I fell in love with Amsterdam. I loved the energy, the aesthetic, and the friendliness. So of course this travel diary was my first pick to put together after being able to come up for air at my day job at WIRED.
WHERE I ATE
If you’re tired of all the decadent dishes you’ll definitely want to stop by SLA. They are located in a less touristy part of town that is nonetheless charming. I paid €30 for two organic salads, a coconut water, and a mint tea.
Frou Fow Ramen
Rated 5 stars and packed! So get there early. Super quick service, delicious noodles. We spent €40 for 2 giant bowls of ramen and two bottled beers.
If I didn’t stay at the Pulizter the first time around I would probably like to have stayed at Hotel V. It’s like an Ace hotel but without the try-hard attitude that comes with the Ace. The decor is California, masculine, and modern. The two times we went to breakfast here it was superb. The only downside so far is that it wasn’t on the canal and it was a little too close to the clusterfuck of the downtown square in Amsterdam. The French toast is incredibly decadent and the eggs Benedict are completely worth it. The Extra Spicy Bloody Mary will save your life if you overdid it on all the goddam Jeniver from the night before the every Dutch in Amsterdam is so eager for you to try. Prices: each time (2 coffees, and a breakfast) is roughly €25-35
If you're out by the Van Gogh Museum do yourself a favor and stop by for lunch or happy hour at Seafood Bar. It's delicious seafood and lovely cocktails. €115 for the biggest King Crab leg of my entire life, a salad, 6 pieces of Chef’s choice sashimi, delicately cooked Sole, and some alcoholic beverages (white wine, gin and tonic, a beer).
This is by Hotel de Hallen and appears to be quite the local restaurant meeting spot. It's loud, packed, and full of young people sitting around giant wooden communal tables ordering from a tightly edited menu of pasta dishes. Was it the most mind blowing pasta ever? No. Not even close. But I felt a little more like a local just by being next to them in a communal setting. €90 for two pasta dishes, two glasses of happy hour wine while we waited for our table, and two glasses of wine during dinner.
WHERE I DRANK
Pause at Pulitzer Cafe
The decor at the Pulitzer Hotel is unbelievably beautiful. So beautiful that I considered real options for stealing these emerald green velvet chairs. Look at them, they are splendid. The sleek black marble floor cafe and beautiful photo books (like my favorite photographer Slim Aarons) compliment the super chill vibes. We sat at the cafe while we caught our breath after our 10 hour flight and no one even dared rush us. The service is friendly and the view of the garden and outdoor courtyard is peaceful. Pricy? Yeah. YOLO tho. €25 for 2 cappuccinos and some toast, butter and jam.
This is a hot tourist spot due to its location right next to the main square. Despite this, there is a lovely lady that explains to you their sweet liqours, craft distilled gin varieties and digestifs. She will pour you samples and make you a drink for less than 10 Euro. €8 for 2 Jeniver and spirit cocktails
Beer place with over 50 beers on tap and a friendly staff. They let you grab beers and take them out to the canal. €25 for 4 tasty craft beers
A V Wees
Jenevir great knowledgeable staff. Canal side. Honestly I wish I remembered more things to say here but I drank way too much and don't recall details. So I guess go here because it's that awesome. €50 for way too many drinks to count. 😅 and maybe some pastries?)
This Peruvian bar by the canal was a great place to sit down and enjoy the summer like weather. Just sit down anywhere you see an open table and someone will come out and greet you with a menu. €20 for 4 beers on the canal
This cute little bar apparently has quite the history. If I read Dutch I could tell you about it. (And if I had the energy to Google it for you I'd summarize it here. But I don't. Sorry!). This is on the border between touristy Amsterdam and where it starts to get a lot quieter and more local. I loved it here. We initially sat outside by the canal but it was so cold that we ended up coming inside, which was a much better decision. The building is ancient and the bar staff is super friendly. I wouldn't recommend eating here because it's pretty traditional Dutch bar food—raw meats, sausage, mustard, giant cubes of cheese—unless you're into that sort of thing (I'm not) then go nuts.
Cafe Van Puffelen
Do you like sitting in front of the canal, sipping on a Dutch craft beer, enjoying some cubes of cheese, and watching a sea of bicyclists rushing home? Then this is your spot. Get here right before the rush (around 6pm) to snag a seat outside in the sun. You'll be able to people watch and take in the canal just a short walk from other cafes, restuarants, and hotels.
My favorite bar in Amsterdam. Why? Well first, the decor was insane. It is still part of the Pulitzer hotel, which means the stellar decor I saw in the hotel, in the cafe, and their other restaurant is pretty much carried over here. It looks like the dark bar that the men on the Titanic excuse themselves to congratulate one another on being masters of the universe. It's rad. Second reason why this is my favorite bar is because of the drinks. One of my favorite cocktails is the Old Fashioned and they do many variations of it that literally blew my mind. There is one with Crown Royale and sherry that was expensive AF at €20 each, but it's so so worth it. There is another version that has black pureed sesame seeds and a rosemary garnish for €18 that is nutty, herbaceous, and somehow still complex and sweet like an Old Fashioned should be. I highly recommend it. Also, they give you snacks for free. We spent about €80 here for 4 drinks carefully sipped over two hours on their most comfortable velvet couch, staring out at the canal, and enjoying their free WIFI.
We found so many conflicting articles on whether or not to tip in Amsterdam, but we found that in most cases tip is included. It is nice, however, to add an additional 10% or so to give to your server if they were great.
WHERE I SLEPT
Listen, I knew this hotel looked nice as I was researching it online, but I was blown away byit in person. Anyplace that has carrera marble and LeLabo Santal 33 as the guest toiletries is alright in my book. The location is right in the middle of the old town, with canals and boats passing right by the front of it. The Anne Frank house is just down the block and there is no shortage of things to see--if you can manage to leave the hotel that is. You should know it is a little noisy with neighbors going in and out through the the night, and their church nearby will ring their bells every half and hour all night long. So bring ear plugs!
Hotel de Hallen
This used to be an old train station! That's the first thing they'll tell you when you book and it's the first thing they'll tell you when you check in. It's charming. There is a distinctive interior design here that leans heavily towards the quirky, but still expensive. The rooms are tiny in a charming way that those modern tiny homes are — our room had a bathroom that literally looked like it was placed where a small closet once was. The breakfast each morning is casual and DIY. Just grab your plate from your chosen breakfast table and help yourself to cereals, yogurt, precooked eggs in a variety of styles, toast, jams, coffee, fruit, etc. It's located in a much quieter part of town with a lot of local residences, which is a nice change of pace after spending a lot of time downtown. I highly recommend it!
WHERE I WENT
Oud de Kirke Church
I can't tell you much about the history of this church, but I can say that it's nice and cold in there due to all the tombstones in here. There is a giant organ and crazy pretty stained glass windows. Also, there are restrooms in it and somewhere near the center is where Rembrandt's wife Saskia is buried. There's also a modern art exhibit thing in it as well (the shattered glass panes were part of one?) and that's cool too I guess.
€20 for two.
Be polite when you visit this garden. Don't speak too loudly and don't take too many photographs — especially of its current inhabitants!
Aeintwater Cafe (near the Red Light District)
Just beyond that bridge in the photo and to the right is the Red Light District. I had no plans or desire to visit the famous and explicit street in the night time so I took a walk with Nick during the day. Everything is closed during the day, but it's quite crowded! I can only imagine what a shitshow it is at night. Photography is strictly forbidden here, so just keep your phone in your bag. Otherwise, the people working the shops threaten to snatch your camera or phone from your hands and throw it in the canal.
If you're wanting a drink before making your way to the District I suggest enjoying some drinks on the canal at Aeintwater Cafe. They've got a great location on the water. Just sit down wherever you see an empty seat and someone will be with you when they notice you.
€12 Cash only.
Koko (in the Red Light District).
Cute cafe with some interesting urban and minimalist clothing and accessories from the likes of Wood Wood and other quirky brands. The cafe is situated right smack in the middle of the Red Light District. If you had to pee (like I did) I highly suggest taking a stop here for a drink and a snack. The service is friendly and the atmosphere is cozy with leather couches, ornate layered rugs on the floor, and interesting art pieces on the walls. €10 for a sparkling water and a banana bread
Van Gogh Musuem
Listen. I love Van Gogh. He's one of my biggest influences when I do my paintings and I adored his work ever since I was a kid and saw "The Mulberry Tree" in person at the Norton Simon Museum in Pasadena. But this museum is just okay. It's crowded, it's smaller than expected, and it's not as big as I thought. Was it good to see in person? Yes. I have zero regrets since I had more than enough time to spend an afternoon here. But Van Gogh is so famous you can find his work at literally any museum around the world now. If you're looking for the definitive collection of early works, letters, and sketches, then come here. Just remember to bring your brain camera since real photos of any kind are not allowed.
If you're feeling fancy
Chanel's storefront in Amsterdam is pretty famous for it's creative use of glass bricks that ombré their way to the top with regular bricks. It's definitely a sight to see as it's an artistic take on traditional Dutch buildings. While you're window shopping down this famous street just remember that the VAT is a delightful incentive to shop in Europe since you'll get that refund at the airport or at home. I would recommend stopping by Dior. The staff is super friendly and they have stock of all the great stuff most US stores sell out of immediately — like those Maria Grazia Chiuiri ribbon shoes or the fencing dresses which I may or may not have picked up and had tailored in SF.
Let me tell you that it's a nightmare at the airport. Make sure you leave an extra hour or two early to if you want to get the proper stamps for your paperwork in person. If you've done this before or have very high self confidence in doing paperwork correctly you can also opt to drop your receipts and signed forms in a dropbox. I wouldn't do that because I am too paranoid that I'd done it incorrectly thus voiding the potential refund I was owed by the EU. Make sure your receipts are all in order, your Passport is ready, and your ticket back home is also readily available. If you have a spouse or a partner or a best friend who is willing to wait in one of the two lines for you while you stamp your paperwork DO THAT. It will save you like an hour.