We broke up. My (former) favourite city and I.
I didn’t fall out of love, it just became too difficult to maintain a long-distance relationship. Our love affair began in 2001, at University. We grew up together, formed a deep connection, an unbreakable bond… or so I thought. But then it was graduation and time to get a real job – I moved to Surrey. It was a sad farewell. We tried to make it work. I visited at weekends, whenever I could and we kept the sparkle going for longer than anyone expected… but as the years went on, we drifted further and further apart.
We had a good run, Brighton and I.
But things change, relationships move on, and you can only have one favourite city.
So, here’s the story of how Amsterdam wooed me…
Sex appeal || Street Art
You can go to the Van Gogh and Rijksmuseum when it’s raining! If it’s not – walk. Amsterdam is a piece of art in itself!
The architecture, the canals, the people, the Street Art. Spend a day walking around Amsterdam and you’ll learn just how damn sexy it is. And I’m not even talking about the red light district!! Walk the entire length of the Prinsengracht (one of Amsterdam’s three main canals) and you’ll experience countless pieces of modern art. Thought provoking, fun and above all: brand spanking new! These talented artists see a bit of blank wall or a garage front and create masterpieces. Not so great if you happen to own that garage or piece of wall, but hey, it’s all in the name of art.
One of my favourite pieces (pictured) can be found just 300m away from Anne Frank’s House. As you can *just* see, it’s number 185 on Prinsengracht. (Fingers crossed it’s still there!) This particular piece has suffered a bit of graffiti, but then again, what is graffiti and what is art?
If you’re really into it, you can even go on a Alltournative (ha ha!) Street Art and Graffiti Walking Tour.
Sense of humour || King’s Day
Amsterdam isn’t afraid to be playful or to take the piss out of itself. The best day of the year to visit Amsterdam? 27th April. Without a doubt! On Koningsdag or King’s Day, aka Europe’s biggest street party, the whole city turns orange, otherwise known as oranjegekte (orange crazy). Yep, that’s right – lots of people will be dressed head-to-toe in orange! The sillier the better! Even the more modest people will bring / wear / buy at least something orange. Some people even dress their pets in the colour. Seriously.
The whole of the Netherlands is a massive party on this day, but nowhere more than in Amsterdam! The main roads are closed off to cars and trams so that crowds can party in the streets and there’s live music, LOTS of booze and an electric atmosphere wherever you go! You could even call it gezellig! 😉
To add another level of craziness, the whole city turns into an open air flea market for the day. Time to get rid of some old tat, or let the kids test their budding entrepreneurial skills!
The biggest and most atmospheric vrijmarkt (free market) is in Vondelpark. Can’t visit for King’s Day on 27th April? There’s a flea market on Waterlooplein 6 days a week. Buy some crazy orange stuff ready for next year!
The other amazing thing about King’s Day (even despite the date being moved – it was formerly Queen’s Day on 30th April) is that the sun always shines!! Now, I don’t want to jinx it… so work with me please, weather gods, but the last five King/Queen’s days have benefited from glorious weather, making it even more gezellig! (If that’s even possible!)
Good teeth || Food
The third and probably most attractive quality of Amsterdam is the food. It’s a real food lovers paradise!
The Netherlands doesn’t have the best reputation for its grub, but in Amsterdam you’ll find culinary delights to suit every taste and budget! To try some traditional borrelhapjes (borrel is drink and hapjes is small bites – so snacks to accompany an alcoholic drink) head to Nieuwmarkt. My absolute favourite area of Amsterdam!
Here you’ll find tons of cafes and kroegen (pubs) serving:
- oude kaas (‘old’ mature cheese)
- leverworst (liver sausage)
- kaasstengels (literally: cheese sticks) or kaassoufflés (both based on deep-fried cheese)
- vlammetjes (spicy ground beef enveloped in a little parcel and deep-fried)
- and of course bitterballen!! (Yup, you read the name of the blog, right?)
My favourite places to go are Gewaeght Cafe, Cafe Del Mondo and Cotton Club. The latter only serves drinks, but be sure to check out the toilets which are floor to ceiling tegeltjeswijsheid (Dutch wisdom tiles) very traditional and very funny!
Looking for something more sophisticated? Try Woo Brothers at Jodenbreestraat 144. (They don’t have a website because they are TOO COOL and they don’t need to!) Asian food at its absolute best.
Oh, and don’t even *think* of leaving the country until you’ve tried patatje mayo (chips with mayonnaise). Get them from a street vendor; they’ll come in a cone, drowned in mayonnaise! Lekker!
What’s your favourite thing about Amsterdam? Or, if you haven’t been yet, what are you most looking forward to checking out?