36 Hours in amsterdam
1. Style Upgrade, 3 p.m.
One of the first things you’ll notice upon arriving in the city is how stylish Amsterdammers are. To upgrade your wardrobe to the locals’ level, visit De Pijp, a former working-class neighborhood now packed with cool boutiques. Start at Gathershop, a serene space opened in late 2014 that’s filled with beautiful art, clothing and more – pint-size potted plants, woven wall hangings, delicate rose-gold earrings – gathered from artisans around the globe. Then head to Hutspot to browse copper mugs, cashmere beanies and distill-your-own-gin kits. This two-level concept store encourages lingering with a spacious lunchroom, gallery space, photo booth and on-site barbershop.
2. Photo Fix, 5:30 p.m.
Dutch painters of the 17th century are renowned for their mastery of light, a skill that is now celebrated in a more modern medium at Fotografiemuseum Amsterdam, or Foam (admission, 10 euros, about $11.30). This photography museum, set in a handsome canal house, packs a fascinatingly wide range of works into its rotating exhibitions, which recently included a glitter-doused survey of contemporary Chinese photography, the artist Paul Bogaers’s spooky papier-mâché figurines and an immersive exhibition of contact sheets from photojournalists on the scene of historic events.
3. Far East Flavors, 8 p.m.
In the 1600s, the Dutch empire was fueled by trade in the Far East, and today several of Amsterdam’s hottest restaurants are returning to the region for inspiration. At Terpentijn, which opened last May, join groups of after-work Amsterdammers catching up over dishes like Donut Duck, a delicious bowl of roasted duck breast atop lemongrass-scented curry with sugar-snap peas and an oblong doughnut (€20). Or snag a table at Ron Gastrobar Oriental, a buzzy Asian-inflected restaurant from the star chef Ron Blaauw. Since opening in July, the bilevel space has been packed nightly with the crisply suited and stiletto-heeled, who come as much for the clubby scene as for the black-bean-dressed oysters (€7.50) and steamed dim sum (€15 for two baskets).
4. De Pijp Drinks, 11 p.m.
Avoid the after-dark debauchery of the central red-light district by heading south to De Pijp for drinks at a pair of neighborhood bars that opened last year. At the natural-wine bar Glouglou, the atmosphere is gezellig (untranslatably cozy) with dark wood walls, elegant Jugendstil-esque windows, and wooden tables at which to sip a glass of sparkling pét-nat. Continue imbibing at Tapzuid, where the beer bar’s name in lights, carnival-style, illuminates 25 taps that favor local craft breweries like Two Chefs Brewing and Butcher’s Tears.
5. Morning Roast, 9 a.m.
For a coffee shop experience that will clear your head with beans, not bud, visit Bocca Coffee, a Dutch roastery that opened its first retail location in October. Of the city’s many new third-wave coffee specialists, this is the finest. Baristas pull perfect espressos, accompanied by tasting notes for your beans, amid an eminently Instagrammable interior — wood-plank bar, hanging plants and parquet-wood benches.
6. Home Grown, 10 a.m.
Tulips aren’t the only things growing in the Netherlands. For proof, follow locals to Boerenmarkt, an organic weekly market on Noordermarkt. On this pretty square, Dutch farmers and food purveyors set up booths overflowing with the local bounty: veggie-packed quiches, live crayfish, wild Seussian mushrooms and giant wheels of Dutch cheese speckled with herbs and fennel. The best breakfast is a few freshly shucked oysters, popped open at the stand run by an oysterman (€2 to €3 each).
7. Superior Interiors, 11:30 a.m.
The sprawling Noord district, north of the IJ waterway, was once viewed as a wild no-man’s-land. But today the industrial environs, easily reached by free ferry, are home to upstart creative enterprises as well as two of the city’s coolest vintage design stores. At Neef Louis Design, enormous warehouses are packed to the rafters with everything from midcentury chairs and industrial light fixtures to giant spotlights for your next film shoot. The adjacent Van Dijk en Ko is equally vast yet slightly more organized, with an entire room of lampshades and a pile of antique sleighs among the multitudinous offerings.
8. Food Hall Fame, 2 p.m.
To be a cutting-edge European capital these days, having an impressive indoor food hall is practically a prerequisite. Enter Amsterdam’s Foodhallen, which opened in a former tram depot in 2014 with about two dozen stalls, many occupied by well-known local businesses. For lunch, hit the highlights, starting with De BallenBar’s truffle bitterballen (traditional Dutch croquettes) and a local craft beer like the chile-and-coriander-infused Thai Thai Tripel from Oedipus Brewing. Then proceed to Viet View for a stupendous banh mi with caramelized pork belly with cucumber, pickled carrots and daikon. Finish with a drink at the gin-and-tonic bar, where the made-in-Holland Vording’s Gin is served in a Spanish-style goblet garnished with red-apple slices and a cinnamon stick. Lunch for two, about €30.
9. Wall Works, 4 p.m.
The rich tradition of Dutch art didn’t end with Mondrian and Neoplasticism, as contemporary galleries along the Prinsengracht will attest. Bright Side Gallery, housed in a former garage looking over the canal, features rotating exhibitions like a recent solo show of somber paintings from the up-and-coming Dutch artist Wouter Nijland. Farther north at GO Gallery, the city’s pre-eminent street art space presents genre-busting works ranging from provocative to psychedelic, and is across the street from a cute multistory mural by the London Police group.
10. Dinner Distilled, 7:30 p.m.
On the waterfront near the central station, a 100-year-old former distillery has been transformed into a multipurpose space containing a clubhouse for creative professionals, and for the rest of us, a ground-floor restaurant with a similarly imaginative bent. This airy bistro, Choux, opened last year serving multicourse menus (from €33) with mysteriously terse descriptions that bloom into complex dishes like a recent entree of vacherin melted atop wood blewit mushrooms with crisp artichoke thistle and purslane. For a digestif, walk to nearby Porem, a year-old speakeasy serving classic cocktails, whose only sign is a discreet golden plaque beside a buzzer.
11. Center Stage, 11 p.m.
You shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, but music venues are a different story. At least that’s the sense one gets while admiring the ornate wooden facade brightened with bold primary colors at Occii (Onafhankelijk Cultureel Centrum In It). This alternative music space is a former squat that hasn’t shed its underground spirit. Programming is decentralized, so various independent groups command the stage nightly with events that hit nearly every note on the musical spectrum, from death metal to jazz trios and post-punk to East-European folk. Times and ticket prices vary; check the website.
12. Brunch Scene, 10 a.m.
A 1920s-era building that formerly housed a cinema hasn’t lost the drama in its latest incarnation as CT Coffee & Coconuts, a bustling all-day cafe. During brunch, the three-story space hums with activity as fashionable couples sip water from fresh coconuts on oversize beanbag couches and at tables suspended by ropes from the soaring ceiling. But be prepared: The casual surfer-hangout vibe means you might wind up eating your dukkah-and-beet avocado toast (€7.50) or almond-and-buckwheat pancakes with roasted coconut (€5.80) from a plate on your lap.
13. Art Masters, 12:30 p.m.
Explore the area around Museumplein, where three venerable art institutions have undergone recent changes. Start with paintings by the Dutch Masters at the renovated Rijksmuseum, which reopened to much fanfare in 2013 after a 10-year closure (admission, €17.50). For modern art, dip into the Stedelijk Museum, where a recent expansion included an annex by the Dutch architect Mels Crouwel that resembles an enormous bathtub (€15). Sandwiched between these two titans is the formidable Van Gogh Museum (€17), so if there’s energy and time to spare, proceed through the new entrance hall to tour the largest collection of the Dutch artist’s works.
where to stay?
Andaz Amsterdam Prinsengracht
The Dutch designer Marcel Wanders created the fantastical, color-splashed interiors of the Andaz Amsterdam Prinsengracht (Prinsengracht 587; amsterdam.prinsengracht.andaz.hyatt.com; from about 300 euros, or about $345), which opened in 2012 with 122 art-filled rooms, many featuring canal views.
W Amsterdam (Spuistraat 175; wamsterdam.com; from about €300). Opened last fall by the central Dam Square, the property offers 238 stylish rooms and suites, plus a rooftop pool with views of the neighboring royal palace.