As much as I like to harp on about exploring Amsterdam and getting to know my new city, nothing quite makes you step out of your routine and try something new than having a visitor. Maybe it’s just me, but I feel a great sense of responsibility whenever someone comes to town, and I love planning a vague itinerary of things they might like to do, see and eat. This time, it was the turn of Z, a university friend who I hadn’t seen for far too long.
Z and her boyfriend (let’s refer to him as N for now) happened to be in the Netherlands for a cycling trip with her family, and when she suggested that they take a detour into Amsterdam for a couple of days I was all for it. Immediately I set to work, bombarding her with questions about her likes, dislikes and aims for Amsterdam. My course of questioning revealed the following:
- She is a foodie with a sweet tooth
- To say she likes cheese is an understatement
- Not much of a museum person
- Enjoys cute little shops of unique wares
- N is quite the walker and explorer – therefore Z is by association
We only had the pleasure of Z and N’s company for a day and an evening either side, so we had to fit quite a lot in in a short space of time:
- Drinks and bitterballen at Bar Brandstof. Even though Z and N had been to the Netherlands before, they’d never had the pleasure of a fresh plate of bitterballen, an error I quickly worked to resolve (I bloody love bitterballen).
- Dinner at Fuoco Vivo. I first met Z through our Italian course at university, so Italian cuisine was the natural choice for our reunion dinner. We’ve been to Fuoco Vivo a few times now, and their sourdough pizzas and bruschetta all’aglio never fail to disappoint. We’re still unsure if they quite manage to bypass Pazzi a few doors down, but nevertheless it’s firmly on our radar for future visits.
- Pannenkoken for breakfast. Fair enough these where just from the vordeel pack from Albert Heijn, but again we just couldn’t let our guests leave the Netherlands without some good ol’pannenkoken. These are like mini pancakes that are traditionally served with butter and a generous sprinkling of icing sugar, but we like to give them a twist with some Nutella – just like everything else we serve up for breakfast…
- A walk in the Vondelpark. It was a sunny enough day, so we decided to walk off our pannenkoken with a short wander through the Vondelpark, the largest park in Amsterdam and one of the most beautiful green spaces I’ve ever seen. Cyclists, pedestrians and dogs vie for space on the many paths and lawns throughout the park, and you can easily get from Overtoom to central Musemplein or Leidseplein without having to brave horrendously busy roads. It’s also a great spot for catching Pokemon, especially Doduo.
- CHEESE. After a short gawping at for beautiful facades of Museumplein, we set off towards the south in search of L’amuse, a cheese shop that my friends have been telling me about since time began. The shop must have hundreds of cheeses on offer, with knowledgable staff on hand to walk you through the flavours and let you try some out. There’s a pretty well-stocked charcuterie display, too, if you’re not that into cheese. Right next door, there’s Le Forunil de Sebastian, a bakery that has people literally queuing out the door onto the street at all hours of the day. The smell alone makes this one worth a visit.
- Cheese, bread and ham safely tucked away, we then set off back into town via spiegelgracht and the little lanes that lead off it. We poked our heads into little boutiques, cooing over home decorations, books and delicate gold jewellery. I picked up a new book on Amsterdam and its many eateries and sights from my favourite store we visited, the imaginatively named Spiegel – I could’ve spent the day (not to mention all of my money) here quite happily.
- We meandered our way through the streets and canals of Amsterdam, through the nine streets and over to the Jordaan. Exhausted after our wander (Google Maps tells me we walked more than 12 miles), we stopped off for a drink and some ice cream from Monte Pelmo IJs, a popular gelateria in the back streets of the Jordaan, just down the way from the best pizza in Amsterdam, La Perla.
- An evening at Troost. Nestled away in Westergasfabriek, Troost is a rather beautiful brewery that serves a multiude of beers for all tastes – the menu is arranged by colour, allowing you to point out the one that appeals to you most – and a wide menu of bar snacks and meals. It’s good fun, and the outside heaters and fairy lights – with live jazz on Wednesday evenings throughout summer – mean that you can happily stay here all night. We certainly did. Oh, and the food ain’t half bad either.
Phew. So that’s quite a lot of activities to cram into just over 24 hours, but we still made sure we had time for plenty of catch ups and pointless chatting. It was wonderful to see Z again – and to meet N too – and I really think we managed to show her a more personal side to Amsterdam.
What are your must-sees for visitors in Amsterdam?