Many Amsterdam travel guides will tell you what to do and where to eat and drink while on holiday, but the likelihood is they will all say the same thing. If you want to go off the beaten track then my top tips below are a good place to start.
Websites and blogs will most likely recommend the Museum District, the Anne Frank House and the Heineken experience. They might even suggest the Erotic Museum in the Red Light District, or simply visiting the city’s famed coffee shops to sample substances that are illegal in most of the world.
I am not here to tell you not to bother with those places, they are all wonderful and worthy. I am simply offering a supplementary travel guide for a more unusual and authentic experience…
1. The first museum of fluorescent art
Immerse yourself in this rarely exhibited art form, and even become the art. Electric Ladyland is the only one of its kind in the world.
Rather than simply being a viewer, much of the work throughout the museum is participatory. You become the art.
The guided tour of the museum also includes demonstrations of large collections of Fluorescent Minerals from all over the world. These very common rocks burst into dazzling colours when seen under different wavelengths of ‘light.’
2. A museum of sorts…
The previous owners of Café Brandon closed their doors in the 1980s to retire, continuing to leave in their home above the pub – which they left untouched.
After they passed away the new owners reopened the doors without changing a thing or moving a single item. The pub remains as it was almost 40-years-ago, adorned with photos and wall fixtures.
I expected it to feel ghostly on arrival, having suspended the changes of time, or perhaps akin to a museum. Surprisingly, it feels wonderfully homely and you can easily settle in for a long night here with the jazz at a low enough level to chat the hours away.
3. Restaurant Bazar
Located in the heart of the very lively Pijp, in Albert Cuyp Street, you will find North African cuisine in the grand walls of a former church.
It is always busy despite tables going across two floors but it is immediately evident why. The enormous stain glass window of the former church remains its most beautiful feature to one side, with extravagant detail continued throughout.
The menu is enormous and the servings even bigger. If you go for lunch then you can visit the street market that runs outside during the day.
4. Home-grown hotel
During the 1960s – long before Air BnB – the famed founder of Mr Jordaan Hotel decided to advertise his couch at the local tourist agency and people loved it. The couch turned into a room, which turned into two; the founder continued to expand until even the house next door joined. Now stands a kitsch and quirky boutique hotel with many unusual features scattered throughout.
The rooms are adorned with endless detail: cacti in a rose gold cage, empty water bottles for you to fill and wood panelling around the room to give a rustic edge to the modern design.
The communal areas are equally extravagant with a coffee machine and take away cups, quirky postcards also available free of charge, and vintage items embellishing the hallways such as a record player in an old suitcase and a small ’60s television, with a rack of retro clothing to browse in the dining area after breakfast.
5. Distilleerderij ‘t Nieuwe Diep
Instead of going on the famous Heineken tour with every other tourist in the city, visit the distillery in the centre of Flevopark.
Another attraction in a converted church, it sits alongside a former mill with the pond to the front and grinder behind. The distillery is named after the water at the mouth of the adjoining mill. The mill was built in 1880 and restored by Landlord Stadsherstel in 2009 and 2010.
It now produces more than 100 products and you can sit on the terrace beside the pond and try a few.