One Day in Amsterdam
I had a list of topics I wanted to write about. Awesome coffee-table books, a recipe I wanted to try from one of my favorite cookbooks, my latest fashion uniform… All, under the nervously flickering light of the elections in Turkey became so fundamentally irrelevant that I felt paralyzed with what seemed to be an absurd parody that is my life.
Newly found perspectives, emotions that zig-zag between despair and hope, actions that need to be taken, ideologies that we battle with, anxious future plans… I think a short break is needed. To calm the soul, to de-clutter the mind, collect some energy and to move ahead with confident steps. As Elizabeth Taylor once advised, “Pull yourself a drink, put on lipstick, and pull yourself together.” (An advice for women, but gents get the git).
And I would have loved to take that breather in Amsterdam. Not because of pot, I swear! It’s only because when I first visited in November, it turned out to be a city that made me feel incredibly at ease. So if I had one day in Amsterdam, this is how I would have loved to spend it:
With its original Neo-gothic foundation, it is strangely possible to imagine that this building used to be a bank at the turn of the 19th century. Decades later, the building was used as a Music Conservatory, hence the clever name. And now it has been reincarnated into a luxurious hotel.
Luxe in its simple yet meticulous design with clean lines, it welcomes you with a pleasantly surprising ease and comfort. The buzzing lounge feels almost like a living room, with leather couches, wonderful coffee table books and a beautiful display of ceramic sculptures that veils the always busy brasserie behind.
From the rooms to the spa to the bar, every part of the hotel tells its architectural story. Designed by the legendary Milanese Piero Lissoni, the design preserves its sophistication while still being playful with different design elements and materials, which makes the hotel all the more welcoming, other than the helpful staff.
Right at the center of the museum district, it is walking distance to all the major museums (below). Even if you are not staying at the Conservatorium, drag your tired, museum walking feet into the entrance, have a bubbly under the high glass ceiling and take a well-deserved break while munching on the yummy fritters.
BREAKFAST / LUNCH
With several locations throughout Amsterdam, they are proud to emphasize that they are not a chain restaurant. Every café is designed by staying loyal to the feel of its neighborhood. They may differ in style, but they are most certainly consistent with their cozy lay-out that feels like home and delicious light-fare menu, that is decadent in its carefully picked ingredients and simple in its preparation, allowing the flavors to shine.
After a leisurely breakfast or lunch, one can’t help but indulge in a tasting frenzy from the overwhelmingly delightful display of pastries, my favorite being the scones with devon cream & jam. Maybe one to go with coffee on the way to the museums….
Literally walking distance from one another, these three museums are ought to be seen at least once in a life-time. For additional information, you may entertain yourself with this wonderful article from New Yorker, about how Amsterdam puts its own cultural stamp with its museums.
When we were at the the Rijksmuseum last November, it was so packed that it was as if they were giving away the art for free. Little did we know that the museum had recently been opened in April after a decade of renovations. And let me tell you, it is truly worth the wait.
The Rijksmuseum is one of finest national museums around the globe. Going in and out of the 100 rooms, it is a remarkable journey that takes you from unspeakably beautiful pieces of Delftware to intricate large-scale doll houses to such treasures like Vermeer (the famous painting Milkmaid resides here), Rembrandt and other Old Masters. It carries under its roof centuries of symbols that represent the Dutch history and culture with great refinement.
Having the largest Van Gogh collection in the world, it is Amsterdam’s top tourist attraction. Rightly so! It is a pleasantly gradual and equally informative introduction to the life and work of the influential artist. Varying from his early drawings to water colors to the most famous oil paintings, the extensive collection also possesses many of his personal items and letters, which glimpses at a more intimate perspective on the great artist. My favorite being the copies he made of other artists’ works to explore and practice different styles and techniques.
The shop itself is filled with wonderfully creative and functional items, which would make perfect gifts for the loved ones back home. Also, if you happen to be there on a Friday, the museum is open till 10 pm with live music and bar service.
This one is for modern art lovers. Behind its recently renovated glass-fronted entrance and stone doorways, it houses various classic and contemporary art dating back to 1895. This museum shows major artists from Kooning to Kandinsky, Warhol to Mondriaan, Picasso to Matisse. Having been open only for the past two years after 10 years of renovations, it is a true pleasure to leisurely walk up and down its famous staircases. To read more about the tale of the staircases featured in the New York Times, just click here.
STOP & SMELL THE ROSES
C’mon, not all clichés are bound to be bad. When will you ever going to see a floating flower market? Since 1862, Bloemenmarkt has offered an experience of beauty, colors and fragrances. Scientifically proven that fresh flowers make you happy, the overwhelmingly abundant bundles of flowers with infinite variety is bound to put a smile on your face.
Occupying two adjacent canal houses, Van Puffelen offers best of both worlds. On one side is a down to earth brown café & bar where the locals meet after work for drinks and snacks. The other, equally cozy yet more sophisticated restaurant that offers dishes like herring salad, steak with truffle sauce, goat cheese and pumpkin lasagne. Both spaces rooted in traditional Dutch cooking use local organic produce and free-range meat. The menu changes seasonally and occasionally plays around with Mediterranean flavors like olives and feta as well.
Without feeling stuffy, the ambiance is perfectly nostalgic with timber-panels, wooden-floors, impressionist paintings of game and chandeliers. And if you are lucky to come upon a generously nice weather, the canal-side terrace overlooking the Prinsengracht will be incredibly pleasant, yet naturally in demand. Before you leave for a night-stroll by the canal, make sure to try their famous homemade chocolates accompanied by liquer coffee.
Stationed at the effortlessly elegant Dylan Hotel, this bar is the perfect spot to say farewell to Amsterdam in style. Earthy and gracefully laid-back, it is the perfect combination of cool and comfort. With nonchalantly opulent furnishings, you can enjoy their signature High Wine and other decadently prepared cocktails with ease. In summer, make sure to grab a seat at the beautiful courtyard, which is at the heart of the building.
Red light district is always an obvious option. But for me, maybe I’m getting older, what makes me truly happy and relaxed these days is to be able to take long walks within a city, see breathtaking art, and have good food & drinks in the company and chatter of my friends. Doei!