A!List Travel: Unraveling Amsterdam's Treasures
Known as one of the most beautiful cities in the world (a statement we can definitely stand behind), the stylish, chic and charming city of Amsterdam offers a collection of treasure-packed museums, alternative art, vintage-filled shops, beautiful boutiques and an eclectic, cool scene of bars and restaurants, filling bellies with Dutch delights, superfood bowls and powerballs, and modern, creative dishes.
With its 200-year-old canals, the sparkly city is no longer home to the trash stag do and instead plays host to plenty of picturesque townhouses, speedy cyclists bustling through the cobbled streets and an abundance of little bridges filled with well-dressed women and men moving between cute cafés, creative boutiques and hidden hotels with bellowing fire places. Amsterdam’s new and improved smarter self has replaced large parts of its former red-light district with art galleries and design-savvy hotels, bringing a new meaning of cool to this crafty capital of the Netherlands.
In fact, you can’t walk a mile without bumping into a masterpiece – from the largest collection of Vincent’s work in The Van Gogh Museum to the Rijksmuseum containing works-of-art from Rembrandt and all things Banksy at the Momo, the city is a treasure trove waiting to be discovered.
Stylish and sophisticated, the hotel scene has grown from strength to strength over the last few years and with the help of Design Hotels, we discovered the cool concept that is Sir Hotels, a home-grown hotel brand that has launched a collection of luxury boutique hotels quartered in some of Europe’s hippest hotspots. Housed in iconic and historic buildings, each Sir Hotel is built around its neighbourhood and integrates with the local culture through contextually rooted storytelling.
Embodying art, soul and love and housed in a towering testament to the Noord district’s renaissance, Sir Adam in A’DAM Toren is a glass-and-metal masterpiece comprising raw concrete pillars, exposed ceilings, floor-to-ceiling windows and iconic skyline views. Situated beside the futuristic EYE Film Institute in Amsterdam, the tower and surrounding neighborhood is home to an exciting mix of shops, cafés, a revolving rooftop restaurant, and an observation deck. Accessed by a complimentary ferry, Central Station is directly opposite the A’DAM Toren and Schiphol Airport is 30 kilometers away giving the hotel easy access to the rest of the city.
Offering 108 luxurious guestrooms dotted with curated works from local artists, and custom-made furniture and lighting, we loved the Crosley Cruiser record player and mirrors etched with song lyrics placed in each room. Bright rugs, bespoke wood furniture and bold artwork add character to each space whilst the bathrooms, outfitted in calacatta tile, offer rainfall showers, signature Dead Clean amenities and floor to ceiling windows (where you can only see out, and not where people can see in!).
Classy, quirky and cool, the communal areas and a vinyl library encourage you to make yourself at home whilst the disco dancing, karaoke-filled lifts will ensure your days always start and end with a song or a boogie.
Food was high on the list at Sir Adam and the Butcher Social Club with its avo toast, towering burgers, slow-cooked ribs and wholesome salads kept us fuelled from the cold from dawn to dusk. The industrial-chic hangout plays host to table football, ping-pong machines, a multitude of books, brightly coloured chairs and sofas plus an open kitchen from which heavenly smells waft around the lofty space.
On the mezzanine overlooking The Butcher Social Club, music junkies will truly find their tribe at The Hub, a co-working space-meets-concept store whilst Sir Adam’s Music Library will ensure the party never stops, featuring a curated collection of new and exclusive tracks all accessible by Bluetooth. From the first- floor lobby, a spiral staircase ascends to a rooftop drinking den that serves scrumptious beverages amid lush, landscaped greenery and sculptures.
Neighbouring it is The Decks, a creative studio and event space that is located between the tower legs and boasts a panoramic vista over the city, which is best seen from one of The Deck’s four hot tubs. There is also a fully stocked gym for those who fancy sweating out the night before, complete with weight racks, Technogym machinery and personal trainers. With a nightclub in the basement and viewing platform on the roof, this swanky Sir is definitely one to be reckoned with!
Just a short stroll from the hotel, make sure you visit the many inviting canal-side restaurants and chic cafes where the food matches the cool and quirky interiors. Found off the beaten track and away from the city’s main street, coffees are best sampled at Coffee & Coconuts, Screaming Beans and Rum Baba whilst lunches can be indulged alfresco at the fancy French born Café George or the home-grown Bakers & Roasters (the warm banana bread will definitely keep you toasty on a cold day!).
Feeling fancy? We loved Taiko, an award-winning restaurant in The Conservatorium hotel, created by executive chef Schilo van Coevorden to honour the beautiful flavours and textures from across the Far East. Inspired by modern Asian cuisine, Taiko is a Japanese collective name for several percussion instruments. With a live taiko player sounding harmonious rhythms every evening, Schilo’s explosive yet delicate Asian flavours are matched with a scenic and slightly sultry backdrop.
The combination of local produce and Asian flavours leads to an entirely new approach to the slightly tired ‘fusion’ concept and Taiko has a range of dinner menus to tantalise all taste buds. Diners overwhelmed by the wide choice on the a la carte menu can settle for a four-course or an eight-course set menu. If you’re leaving your evening in the team’s capable hands, make sure you try Chef Coevorden’s diverse and imaginative Omakase menu. Highlights were fantastically fiery smoked ikura, akami tuna with chuu toro and oo toro and a silky black cod with miso and celeriac. Desserts were delicate and imaginative – the black sesame and passion fruit pavlova provided a wickedly sweet end to a fantastic dinner. Taiko’s beat is one we’d gladly dance to again.
Whilst early evenings are best spent in front of the fire at The Hoxton or with a generous pot of tea at The Duchess, for casual dinners you can’t go wrong with Café Panache, one of the city’s best-kept secrets. Foodhallen is also an excellent indoor food-court offering on-trend street snacks from around the world such as dim sum, curries and banh mi.
Last but by no means least, our top tips on hitting the shopping streets. Rather than chains, independent shops dominate here with nine streets, a beautiful grid of shops rolling over the canals offering everything from soaps and scents to sunglasses. A city break that ticks all the best boxes, a trip to Amsterdam is never a bad idea.