Travel

Left/back arrow
Amsterdam Canal Ring / Celia Sin -Tien Cheng

Amsterdam

December 14, 2016
Celia Sin-Tien Cheng

Amsterdam is sometimes overlooked as a destination worth visiting in Europe. When I tell people I am going to Amsterdam, I receive reactions ranging from “there’s no culinary scene there,” to “oh, are you going there to smoke?” I find both types of responses to be a bit out of touch with what is really going on there — I smell pot on New York City streets more often than I do on the streets of Amsterdam. And, in the two times I’ve visited the city in the last two years, I ate so well that I cannot wait to explore more. The city is also beautifully scenic, especially the city center, which is built around the canals. The architecture, interior spaces, and décor are inspiring – I get lots of ideas from just walking around and looking into the canal houses. The Rijksmuseum reopened in 2013, after a decade-long renovation, and it is one of my favorite museums, not just for the trove of Dutch Old Master works it houses, but also because it is actually a very manageable size for a museum, never overwhelming. Another favorite, the Van Gogh Museum, gives a comprehensive overview of the life struggles and astonishing work of this great artist. The Museum Quarter is also home to the Stedelijk Museum for modern and contemporary art. On this visit, Cyn and I also saw the Banksy “Laugh Now” exhibit at Moco Museum, and Ai Wei Wei’s #SafePassage exhibit at Foam Fotografiemuseum (in the City Centre district), both dealing with contemporary global issues, including political power struggles.

Banksy Ai Wei Wei #SafePassage Exhibit at Foam Fotografiemuseum in Amsterdam

What I love about Amsterdam is that while it has deep-rooted history and culture, it is so modern and innovative at the same time. On the one hand, you have Rembrandt and Vermeer, Dutch Masters from the 17th Century who were both original in their masterful use of light to illuminate their lifelike paintings. And on the other hand, you have Van Gogh, who’s expressive brushstrokes made him one of the most influential Post-Impresssionist artists. The Dutch are constantly at the forefront of design and lifestyle — one example is the hotel we stayed at, Zoku Amsterdam. First of its kind, Zoku is defining its own specialty hotel category where work meets play — think hybrid of AirBnB and WeWork. The rooms are designed as home offices, and the division of space puts focus on worklife balance and sustainable living. Located in East Amsterdam in a 70’s-style office building, the property doesn’t even look like a hotel. On the top floor of the hotel is the green garden and “social spaces,” where residents come to eat, drink, work, hang out and interact. Though the restaurant and bar have set hours, the social spaces are open around the clock, so it has an authentically cozy, communal feel. In short, Zoku succeeds as more than just a lodging place; it’s where global travelers can find connection, creativity and comfort.


For first-time visitors to Amsterdam, I recommend staying in the Canal Ring around the Jordaan and Nine Streets neighborhoods, where the density of restaurants and boutiques along the canal street makes it fun to walk around. The Anne Frank House is in this area, and it’s an easy walk or tram ride to the Museum Quarter. Jordaan is tourist-friendly, like the West Village of Amsterdam. De Pijp and East Amsterdam, where Zoku is located, are hip and less touristy. Wherever you stay, Amsterdam is easy to get around, by bike, foot, tram, or Uber. Oh, and watch out for the bikes. Bikers have the right of way over pedestrians and they ride fast!

Zoku XL Loft in Amsterdam / Celia Sin-TIen Cheng A. Zoku Amsterdam

First of its kind, Zoku is defining its own specialty hotel category where work meets play — think hybrid of AirBnB and WeWork. The rooms are designed as home offices, and the division of space puts focus on work-life balance and sustainable living. Located in East Amsterdam in a 70’s-style office building, the property doesn’t even look like a... full article

Flounder with Purple Cauliflower, Shiitake Broth and Coconut Foam at Daalder in Amsterdam / Celia Sin-Tien Cheng B. Daalder

On our last trip, dining at Daalder was such a memorable experience that it became one of my favorite restaurants in the world. Two years later, with a new chef, Daalder is just as good as I remembered it. Though the restaurant looks like an old bistro from the outside, once you get inside, it feels cozy and contemporary, with a staff that... full article

De Kas Restaurant in Amsterdam C. De Kas

Set inside a greenhouse in Frankendael Park outside of central Amsterdam, De Kas restaurant is simply magical. I had read about the restaurant and received recommendations from friends, but until I experienced it myself, I did not understand how stunning the place is. At lunchtime, the perfect autumn daylight illuminated the glass house with... full article

Tasting Menu D. Guts and Glory

Guts & Glory, opened by the former Daalder chefs Guillaume de Beer and Freek van Noortwijk, is a lively eatery serving a tasting menu that changes by theme every two to three months. Depending on current inspiration, the themes (or “chapters” as they call them) can be based on country, culture, or category. As I write this, the... full article

Cauliflower Soup with Corriander E. Soup En Zo

This little soup and salad takeout place is simple and lovely on the corner of a canal street not far from the Museum Quarter. With a selection of soups, vegetarian, vegan, and meat, the cozy atmostphere is enticing. We had a cauliflower soup with corriander (cilantro) and lentil salad on our way from the Rijksmuseum to Foam Fotografiemuseum, and... full article

Marqt Gourmet Grocery Store in Amsterdam / Celia Sin-Tien Cheng F. Marqt

While exploring the Jordaan neighborhood on our first visit to Amsterdam, Cyn and I chanced upon a Marqt supermarket, and fell in love. This gourmet market seems to have everything: breads, prepared meals, fresh seafood, cheese and cured meats — we even found our favorite verbena tea here, too. And self-serve fresh squeezed orange juice costs... full article

“Still Life with Fruit and Flowers” by Balthasar van der Ast / Celia Sin-Tien Cheng G. Rijksmuseum

The Rijksmuseum, the Dutch national museum, reopened in 2013, after a decade-long renovation, and it is one of my favorite museums, not only because of the trove of Dutch Old Master works it houses, but also because it is a very manageable size for a museum, never overwhelming. Some of the museum’s highlights from the Ducth Golden Age include... full article

Tags
Travel