101 GuidescityTravel

amsterdam guide

by Grace Bonney

[image by john lampard of disassociated]

today’s city guide is all about one of my favorite cities in the world- amsterdam. my best bud bryan lived there for years and we were fortunate enough to visit him a few years back for my birthday. the architecture, the gorgeous yellow light, all the public parks- it was such a gorgeous city to visit in the summer. today d*s reader jennifer wolfe is walking us through her favorite spots to eat, drink, shop and site-see in amsterdam. if you’re lucky enough to be visiting, be sure to check out jennifer’s guide and grab yourself a paper cone of fries with mayonnaise for me. that’s right- mayonnaise– i like the way the dutch think. thanks again to jennifer for sharing her recommendations with us. as always, if you have a favorite that’s missing feel free to add it in the comment section below.

CLICK HERE for the full guide after the jump!

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Amsterdam, with a population of roughly 762,000, is the financial and cultural capital of the Netherlands. The Amsterdam Stock Exchange, the oldest stock exchange in the world, is located in the city center. Amsterdam’s main attractions, including its historic canals, the Rijksmuseum, the Van Gogh Museum, Hermitage Amsterdam, Anne Frank House, and its red-light district and many cannabis coffee shops, draw more than 3.7 million international visitors annually.

Amsterdam is one of Europe’s foremost architecture and design cities, with its rings of 17th century canals and a rich architectural history leading back to the 1300s. Modern architecture has developed organically between the facades of historical structures, and modern architecture in the Netherlands is some of the most interesting in the world. Many celebrated Dutch architects have built in Amsterdam, including the Rotterdam-based Rem Koolhaas, Sjoerd Soeters, Wiel Arets, Benthem & Crouwel, Ben van Berkel and Ton Alberts. Foreign architects include Renzo Piano (the Nemo Museum, formerly the New Metropolis), Sven-Ingvar Andersson (the new Museumplein) and Antonio Cruz and Antonio Ortiz (the Rijksmuseum).

A breeding ground for cutting-edge design, Amsterdam is home to the internationally renowned Gerrit Rietveld Art Academy, and boasts some of the finest designers in the world. The city organizes several international design events throughout the year, including September’s Dutch Design Double, a month-long series of exhibitions and events highlighting design disciplines ranging from industrial and graphics to jewelry and architecture.

Getting Around

Covering only 137 square miles of land — about the same size as Carroll County, Kentucky — Amsterdam is a very compact city, which makes getting around pretty much a breeze. Trams and busses are clean, frequent, and easy to use, although they tend to shut down around midnight. Tram passes can be purchased at most convenience stores, making them very, well, convenient. There is also a Stop-and-Go shuttle, which costs only one Euro and travels back and forth along the entire length of the Prinsengracht canal. The city is also flooded with taxis, but because of one-way streets and other traffic restrictions, they are not always the most efficient way to travel.

Amsterdam is one of the most bicycle-friendly cities in the world and is a huge center of bicycle culture, with bike paths and racks pervading the city. In fact, bicycles have the right-of-way in Amsterdam, so be careful when walking across paths! Bikes are easy to rent and fun to use, and provide a great way to get around the city quickly.

The canals are a major part of Amsterdam, and there are several canal tours available to visitors, but I personally had the most fun when I found a small, private boat to take me out on the canals for a sunset picnic.

If strolling and shopping is more your style, Amsterdam is small enough that it is still easy to cover a lot of ground quickly and easily — just remember to wear comfortable shoes!

The Jordaan

This former working-class neighborhood, where Rembrandt spent the last years of his life, is home to many art galleries, cafes and specialty shops, as well as the Anne Frank House, where Anne Frank went into hiding during World War II. It has a quiet, neighborhood vibe with several open-air markets, including the Noordermarkt, a vintage flea market open on Mondays, selling fabric, records, second-hand clothing, and other assorted treasures. On Saturdays, the Noordermarkt is a biological, or organic, food market, selling a wide range of organic fruits and vegetables, herbs, cheese, mushrooms and other local produce.


There are two strolls I like to take through the Jordaan, one of them up and down Rozengraacht to see all the latest fashions and designs, and another, more leisurely one winding south through the neighborhood to discover the galleries and shops tucked here and there, and culminating in a visit to The Frozen Fountain.


SMBA — Stedelijk Museum Bureau Amsterdam
Rozenstraat 59 / www.stedelijk.nl

Located in a former clothing workshop, the Bureau Amsterdam is the Stedelijk Museum’s project space, showcasing new trends in painting and sculpture, video, photography, performance, installation, design and new media.


De Kasstoor

Rozengracht 202- 210 / www.dekasstoor.nl

High-end concept store for European interior design; adorable refrigerators — in three sizes — in bright, saturated hues make me want to move to Europe immediately.

The Frozen Fountain

Prinsengracht 645 / www.frozenfountain.nl

What can I say about this beautiful and amazing store that hasn’t already been said? Maybe this: I want to marry it. On my most recent visit, I actually said, “Oh my god, this completely makes up for Lladro,” and then discovered that it was Lladro, thus resolving at least three separate childhood traumas. (Lladro has a new fantasy collection designed by Jaime Hayon. It’s pretty mind-blowing.) They also have the incredibly gorgeous fauna bowls from Hella Jongerius for Studio Nymphenburg (I had no idea how large the animals were), and the lovely “Made in Holland” souvenir bowl series from Anne-Marie Jetten. There were bent-plywood Eames elephants, Piet Hein Eek’s “Crisis Sofa,” an entire section devoted to Droog Design, and an amazingly complicated tea service, ”Victoria No. 10,” from the “Grandmother’s Treasures” series by Vika Mitrichenka. And that was just the first room…

Kitsch Kitchen

Rozengracht 8- 12 / www.kitschkitchen.nl

Imagine an entire world made from brightly patterned oilcloth and melamine. Now go there and shop.


Rozengracht 196 / www.nolita.nl

Great design shop specializing in European home accessories, including a large selection of Tord Boontje tableware.


Rozengracht 191-193 / www.sprmrkt.nl

I can’t believe how much I love SPRMRKT; this store is so much more than a store, it’s like Dutch weirdness incorporated. If you desperately need to see shoes that are a cross between boots, spike heels and platforms, this is the place. Showcasing conceptual fashion, art, photography and design, SPRMRKT is the holy Mecca of the disenfranchised.

Wonen 2000 Bed & Bath

Rozengracht 215- 217 / www.dekasstoor.nl

High-end European bed and bath design

The Negen Straatjes (The Nine Streets)

This grid of nine short streets makes up Amsterdam’s most eclectic, boutique-laden shopping district. A lovely area abundant in boutiques, including Paul Smith, Paul Frank, and any other Paul you can think of, cafes, specialty and second-hand shops, the streets are located in a beautiful part of the city and offer something for everyone. Take a stroll, have coffee or lunch, do a bit of shopping, and be sure to stock up on provisions for a picnic on the canals…


Bakkerij Paul Annee

Runstraat 25

One of the best bakeries in Amsterdam, this unassuming-looking shop also specializes in pan forte — I always stock up on enough to take home!

Chocolaterie Pompadour

Huidenstraat 12

Amazingly fancy and delicious chocolate shop and café — the financiers just melt away…

De Kaaskamer

Runstraat 7 / www.kaaskamer.nl

A true cheese-lover’s specialty shop selling some 400 different cheeses from all over Europe. Dutch cheese is purchased directly from local farmers, with particular attention to “biological,” or organic, cheeses. Besides cheese, they also sell wines, homemade salads, olives, salad dressings, tapanades, hams and other assorted charcuterie, sandwiches and freshly baked nuts.


Prinsengracht 381 / www.envy.nl

Delicious small plates in a sleek, modern interior


Runstraat 14 / www.lustamsterdam.nl

A nice, informal place to have lunch, dinner or just a drink


De Weldaad Antiek en historisch Bouwmateriaal

Reestraat 1 / www.weldaad.com

For anyone craving a piece of Delft tile to take home, this shop is a must. Pricier tiles are prominently displayed, but there are large bins with lovely bargains to rummage through as well.

DR Wonen

Hartenstraat 27

Cardboard candelabras, pendant lamps wrapped with images of birch forests, and earthenware cups printed with tongue-in-cheek Delft-style windmills are just some pieces at this home accessories store.

Galerie Boekie Woekie

Berenstraat 16 / www.xs4all.nl

Contemporary art gallery and bookstore run by artists.


Oude Spiegelstraat 6 / www.kauppa.nl

A Finnish specialty shop in the heart of Amsterdam with tons of wonderfulness from Merimekko, tonfisk, Jatta Lavi, and more.


Berenstraat 11 / www.mendo.nl

Super-amazing luxury bookstore/graphic design agency specializing in books on architecture, interior, fashion, photography and, yes, graphic design.

The Otherist (formerly Egg Mercantile)

Leliegracht 6 / www.otherist.com

Formerly known as Egg Mercantile, The Otherist is a true cabinet of curiosities, and one of my favorites — an amazing shop full of home accessories, books and jewelry, all featuring the unconventional and the “other.”


Utrechtstraat, a busy thoroughfare in this otherwise quiet and pretty neighborhood, offers a little bit of something for everyone. There are various bars, restaurants and cafés, as well as clothing boutiques, house wares, music and bookshops, and one of the finest patisseries in the city. In addition, there are several very affordable, modest yet pleasant hotels located on either side of the Prinsengracht canal; many of them provide free Internet, and rates often include breakfast.


NEL (formerly Janvier)

Amstelveld 12

This old favorite has new management, and a new name, but still delivers delicious drinks and snacks in a pleasant and relaxed indoor/outdoor setting. Several “Art Elephants” dot the tree-lined brick paths leading to the canals, creating an urban playground.

Patisserie Kuyt

Utrechtsestraat 109-111 / www.patisseriekuyt.nl

One of the finest patisseries in the city!



Keizersgracht 609 / www.foam.nl

Photography museum featuring work from world-renowned and up-and-coming artists.


BeboB Interior Design

Prinsengracht 764 / www.bebob.nl

New and used modern interiors and furnishings

Sissy-Boy Homeland

Utrechtsestraat 81-83 / www.sissyboy.nl

This Dutch chain store’s tagline is “Special Basics” — it’s the NL version of Bed, Bath & Beyond, but oh-so-much better.

Mobilia Woonstudio

Utrechtsestraat 62 / www.mobiliawoonstudio.nl

Multi-story shop featuring modern and contemporary European furniture and lighting from Vitra, Gelderland and others. Check out the “Polder Sofa” by Hella Jongerius!

Oud Zuid (Old South)

One Amsterdam’s posher neighborhoods, the Oud Zuid includes the Albert-Cuyp market, the Vondelpark and Museumplein, or Museum Square, where the Stedelijk Museum, the Van Gogh Museum, and the Rijksmuseum are located.

The Museumplein is currently undergoing reconstruction, under the auspices of Swedish architect Sven-Ingvar Andersson, but is still of course very much worth visiting. Among the usual sights — world-class museums, spacious lawns, giant “i amsterdam” tourism sign — are nestled several “Art Elephants,” a handful of the over 100 elephants painted by various artists and scattered across the city to raise awareness about elephants in Thailand. Kind of like the Angel Project in Los Angeles, but way, way cooler.


Cobra Café

Museumplein / www.cobracafe.nl

Nice little café where you can grab a drink or bite to eat while out seeing the sights. The toilet will cost you an extra 50 cents, so have some change ready!

Feduzzi Mercato Italiano

Scheldestraat 63 / www.feduzzi.nl

Italian deli and market with delicious freshly made sandwiches, a good selection of wine, and other Italian treats. Perfect for a picnic.


Ferdinand Bolstraat 149ha

Coffee & Tea House with a Delft-inspired interior

Pisa Gelato

SW corner of Wielingenstraat & Europlein

Hands-down, the best gelato I’ve ever had. And it’s right outside the RAI Convention Center!

Sama Sebo
P Cornelisz Hooftstraat 27 www.samasebo.nl

There are many, many Indonesian restaurants in Amsterdam, but this is one of my favorites. Warm, friendly, affordable and a great Reistaffel experience, whether for two, or a group of 12.

Solo Eten & Drinken
Van Baerlestraat 35- 37 / www.soloetenendrinken.nl

This restaurant is the perfect balm to the weary traveler. Located in a former firehouse in the theater district, the décor is comfortable, clean and modern, and the service is top-notch. The food — based on seasonal availability — is fresh and well prepared, with just a hint of decadence, and the wines are plentiful.


The College Hotel

Roelof Hartstraat 1 / www.preferredboutique.com

I haven’t stayed here yet, but my friends did, and when I stopped by to visit them, I was frankly jealous. High ceilings, giant windows and oversized doors with lush design touches, all housed in an amazing and ancient brick building.

Conscious Hotel

De Lairessestraat 7 / www.hotels.nl

This is a new hotel, and I haven’t stayed here yet, but it comes very highly recommended, has a great location, and an ecological sensibility that will make eco-conscious travelers happy.

Hotel Piet Hein

Vossiusstraat 51-53 / www.hotelpiethein.com

Affordable and comfortable hotel with a clean and modern look.

Hotel Toro

Koningslaan 64 / www.hoteltoro.nl

Bordering the Vondelpark, this lovely little hotel is hidden away from all the hustle and bustle of the city. The service is warm and friendly, and the sitting room honor bar a godsend. The view outside my window was straight out of some Merchant & Ivory movie, complete with waterfowl and friendly cat.


The Rijksmuseum


Stedelijk Museum


Van Gogh Museum




Ferdinand Bolstraat 93 A / Nieuwendijk 174/176 / Kalverstraat


Great everyday Dutch design — no trip to Amsterdam is complete without a trip to the HEMA store!

Rijksmuseum Museum Shop

Museumplein / www.rijksmuseum.nl

Museum shops are always a lot of fun, but the most exciting thing here is the collaboration between the Rijksmuseum and HEMA, a typical Dutch department store. The allure of old masterpieces combined with everyday objects has resulted in surprising designs applied to practical articles.


Albert-Cuyp Market

Albert-Cuyp Straat

A daily open-air market offering everything from fish to knock-off fashion, the Albert-Cuyp Market provides a first-hand look at local life in Amsterdam.

The Centrum

The Centrum, in the center of Amsterdam, is the oldest part of the city, dating back to the 14th century. The area includes Centraal Station, Dam Square, the Nes, the Rokin, the Red Light District, and the Bloemenmarkt, or Flower Market.

Traffic restrictions discourage driving in many parts of the Centrum, making trams and bicycles favored methods of transport.


Brasserie Harkema

Nes 67 / www.brasserieharkema.nl

I love this restaurant. Housed in a former tobacco factory, Harkema provides stunning interiors featuring a large, open dining area with an overlooking mezzanine, private dining rooms and a separate bar. Open for lunch and dinner, Harkema is a Parisian brasserie serving seasonal fare with a modern twist, and a local favorite hotspot.

Puccini Bomboni

Singel 184 & Staalstraat 17 / www.puccini.nl

Delicious chocolate confections in exotic flavors.


290 Square Meters

Houtkopersdwarsstraat 3 / www.290sqm.com

Dope sneaker and clothing store for guys + accessories, magazines and art — recommended by the friendly staff at Droog Design!


Droog Design

Staalstraat 7a/b / www.droog.com

The holy grail of fabulous, high-concept Dutch design, the Droog flagship store is the home of the Droog collection and the venue for dozens of high-profile events. The clerks are all very knowledgeable and friendly, and will happily provide recommendations for design-related activities all around the city. Seeing objects such as the St. Petersburg Chair by Jurgen Bey, Tadaaki Narita’s “Lucky Cat,” or the “Push and Store” cabinet by Chung-Tang Ho in person is an incredibly inspiring experience, and one no design enthusiast should go without.

Nijhof & Lee

Staalstraat 13a / www.nijhoflee.nl

Bookstore specializing in new and out-of-print books on architecture, photography, graphic design and typography.

Suggested For You


  • The Netherlands is such a small country that, on a longer visit, you can easily see other cities with different atmospheres. Eindhoven and Rotterdam have been mentioned, they’re all about current design. The most ‘gezellig’ are Maastricht (far south, max 2 hrs from A’dam) and Groningen (far north, just as close by)!

  • If you’re going to the Netherlands, most def. visit Maastricht..it isn’t as touristy and overcrowded, but way older, nice hillside landscape, great shopping and food! A must :)

  • If you need cheap and want to party stay at the Flying Pig Downtown Youth Hostel. Cultural hot spots such as Dam square, the Royal Palace and the Anne Frank house are just around the corner from the hostel . The main shopping street in Amsterdam is just outside the hostel’s front door, but for great bargain shopping go to the outdoor market at Waterlooplein (square). Can’t wait to go back!

  • I’ve been there in 2008, it’s absolutely amazing. I most likely will go back one day. It was really a pleasure to read and to see all the material about Amsterdam .

  • I’ve visited Amsterdam a while ago. interesting place indeed. wish I had this guide at that time… my husband and I rode a scooter around. we would find ourselves in some back alley. LOST! ;)

  • Anne Frank House is not in the Jorrdan, it’s across the Prinsengracht from the Jorrdan.yet since the gentrification/yuppivifaction of the Jordan, and exodus of the many long standing Dutch family residents, everyone now wishes to be part of the Jorrdan. Soof recent businesses and residents of the main canals Prinsengracht, Herengracht, Kiesersgracht and Singel attempt to associate themselves with the area. Anne Frank house is on the wrong side of the Prinsengracht to be in the Jorrdan.

    • ash

      i’m afraid we don’t have one for reykjavik yet, but if we hear from a local who’s willing to help we’ll get on one right away :)


  • I agree with Ann, above – I’m sure I’d love to live in Amsterdam, but I’m an Australian in Eindhoven – which is the design capital of the Netherlands. I even keep an indie site to prove it, called The Dossier where I collect creative files around the city. But maybe for Design*Sponge fans, an Eindhoven guide is a good idea!

  • Great guide! I am heading to Amsterdam next week (sadly only for three days) and this will prove very handy. Any locals have updates? New design shops?

  • Just back from a few days in Amsterdam and want to recommend a great bakery we came across when strolling through Albert Cuypmarkt….it’s called Bakken met Passie. The lemon meringue is to die for! Had a lovely morning munching on it in Sarphati Park. Duikelman is a shop you’ll want to visit if you like baking…it’s unreal and also located near by Albert Cuypmarkt.

  • p.s. we visited the zoo it was really great! I’ve been to zoo’s, aquariums, etc. when on other city breaks and been seriously disappointed (e.g. Paris and Barcelona) but Amsterdam’s zoo was a great day out. It’s one of the oldest zoo’s in Europe and is laid out like a park, a beautiful day out! DO IT!!

  • I visited Cobra Cafe in the Museum Quarter this week as recommended by this guide and was VERY disappointed. The food was terribly average. Not worth being noted on the Design Guide City Guide.

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