What’s new in Amsterdam?

Cecily Layzell

The Observatory on the roof of Felix Meritis has reopened to the public — and this time its telescopes are not pointing towards the skies.

Housed in an imposing neoclassical building on Keizersgracht, Felix Meritis has been an independent center for arts, culture, and science since it was founded in 1788. In celebration of its 225th anniversary in 2013, the center has reopened its astronomical Observatory, the oldest of its kind in the Netherlands.

In addition to offering superb unimpeded views, the lofty vantage point is the setting of an installation by Amsterdam-based artist Joseph Semah. Positioned on a specially designed granite floor, telescopes are no longer focused on the heavens but on quotes by leading thinkers, writers, artists and philosophers written in lights on 10 of the city’s most significant buildings. Titled “Amsterdam of Above, Amsterdam of Below,” the installation aims to connect past and present, stars and city.

The Observatory and art installation can be visited daily (except Sundays) until the end of October 2013. Admission is €6.50 per person and includes a guided tour that starts every half hour. Check the website for opening times, as these vary according to the season.

  • On August 1, 2013
    Cecily Layzell answered the question: Cecily Layzell

    What are the most romantic restaurants in Amsterdam?

    Few things are more seductive than an exquisite meal in an intimate setting. We’ve rounded up the Amsterdam restaurants guaranteed to make your amour’s heart skip a beat.

    Ciel Bleu. With panoramic views from the 23th floor of the Okura Hotel and a two Michelin-starred French menu, few restaurants in Amsterdam offer more sumptuous food in such impeccable surroundings. Finish the evening with an expertly mixed cocktail in the Twenty Third Bar next door. Definitely one to reserve for very special occasions.

    De Belhamel. Turn on the charm over a pre-dinner drink at this gorgeous art nouveau restaurant on Brouwersgracht, before indulging in predominantly French dishes that include elements such as truffle oil, honey marinade and candied orange. Save room for the Petit Grand Dessert, a decadent tasting plate that’s ideal for sharing.

    Blauw. Also ideal for sharing is the rijsttafel, a Dutch colonial interpretation of an Indonesian feast, at this modern yet intimate restaurant near Vondelpark. Meander through an assortment of almost two dozen dishes—meat, fish, vegetables and eggs impeccably prepared in countless blends of herbs and spices—during a leisurely meal that takes time but no effort.

    De Ondeugd. Dutch for ‘mischief’, De Ondeugd in De Pijp neighborhood offers a playful take on classic dishes. At one of the dimly lit tables for two, dine on tuna enlivened with a ginger-lime sauce and creamy panna cotta with strawberry coulis accompanied by a bottle of Venoge Brut, the house champagne.
  • On August 1, 2013
    Cecily Layzell answered the question: Cecily Layzell

    What are the most romantic restaurants in Amsterdam?

    Few things are more seductive than an exquisite meal shared in an intimate setting. We’ve rounded up the Amsterdam restaurants guaranteed to make your amour’s heart skip a beat.

    Ciel Bleu. With panoramic views from the 23th floor of the Okura Hotel and a two Michelin-starred French menu, few restaurants in Amsterdam offer more sumptuous food in such impeccable surroundings. Finish the evening with an expertly mixed cocktail in the Twenty Third Bar next door. Definitely one to reserve for very special occasions.

    De Behamel. Turn on the charm over a pre-dinner drink at this gorgeous art nouveau restaurant on Brouwersgracht, before indulging in predominantly French dishes that include elements such as truffle oil, honey marinade and candied orange. Save room for the Petit Grand Dessert, a decadent tasting plate that’s ideal for sharing.

    Blauw. Also ideal for sharing is the rijsttafel, a Dutch colonial interpretation of an Indonesian feast, at this modern yet intimate restaurant near Vondelpark. Meander through an assortment of almost two dozen dishes—meat, fish, vegetables and eggs impeccably prepared in countless blends of herbs and spices—during a leisurely meal that takes time but no effort.

    De Ondeugd. Dutch for ‘mischief’, De Ondeugd in De Pijp neighborhood offers a playful take on classic dishes. At one of the dimly lit tables for two, dine on tuna enlivened with a ginger-lime sauce and creamy panna cotta with strawberry coulis accompanied by a bottle of Venoge Brut, the house champagne.
  • On July 31, 2013
    Cecily Layzell answered the question: Cecily Layzell

    What restaurants have the best wines in Amsterdam?

    Like the food in Amsterdam, the wine scene in the Dutch capital has undergone something of a revolution in recent years. We select the restaurants whose cellars stand up to their kitchens.

    Le Restaurant. Don’t be put off by the slightly stuffy interior: Le Restaurant’s Michelin-starred team serves wondrously inventive far with a wine list to match. That said, we recommend skipping the wine list entirely and letting the sommelier do the choosing for you. You may not remember much of the elaborate explanation accompanying each glass, but you will remember how smoothly they slipped down. If you do opt to peruse the wine list, look out for the big, aromatic Les Faïsses Chardonnay.

    Lastage. Another Michelin star earner, this unassuming Dutch/French restaurant near Nieuwmarkt is owned by Rogier van Dam and Elise Moeskops. He helms the kitchen while she oversees a 12-page wine list that emphasizes southern European wines with the occasional foray into Germany and Austria. There is also a Verdicchio made especially for the restaurant and a page of ‘cellar finds’—one-off vintages and wines from exceptional years.

    ANNA. Mixing bare brickwork and metal chairs with warm copper-colored lamps and crisp white table linen, restaurant ANNA brings sleek design and contemporary food to the oldest part of town. The wine list is similarly well-compiled, ranging from reasonably priced New World vintages to Old World heavy-hitters.

    Bussia. Named after the Barolo vineyards of Piedmont, it is little surprise that this restaurant on the Nine Streets has an exclusively Italian wine list. Try the Erbaluce di Caluso, a dry white wine with an unusual ‘toasted’ hue.
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  • On July 31, 2013
    Cecily Layzell answered the question: Cecily Layzell

    What are the best hotels in Amsterdam?

    Magnificent historical buildings and eye-popping views make a stay in one of Amsterdam's best hotels a memorable experience. And that’s before you consider the luxe interiors and sometimes quirky extras.

    Hotel de l’Europe. Overlooking the River Amstel, Hotel de l’Europe blends classic design—the building dates from 1896—with contemporary amenities in its 111 guestrooms and 42 suites. The recently opened Dutch Masters wing features replicas of paintings found in the Rijksmuseum, Coco-Mat beds and Arabesco-Carrara marble bathrooms.

    The Dylan. Reached through a courtyard on Keizergracht, this boutique luxury hotel offers 40 rooms and suites each with a different color palette, a secluded inner garden—famed for its High Wine concept, a cheeky alcoholic take on an English high tea—and the Michelin-starred Vinkeles restaurant.

    Hotel Pulitzer. Overlooking the beautiful Prinsengracht on one side and Keizersgracht on the other, Hotel Pulitzer extends across 25 restored 17th and 18th-century canal houses. The hotel's 250 rooms combine historic details and plush decor with modern comforts.

    Andaz. Under the watchful—and style-savvy—eye of Dutch starchitect Marcel Wanders, the Amsterdam outpost of Hyatt’s Andaz brand opened in the former Public Library on Prinsengracht in 2012. Comprising 122 rooms, Andaz emphasizes ease and personalization, from check-in via handheld tablet and a complimentary mini bar, to bicycle rental for urban exploring.
  • On July 29, 2013
    Cecily Layzell answered the question: Cecily Layzell

    What are the best places for fine jewelry in Amsterdam?

    From familiar international brands to one-off boutiques, you’ll find plenty of reasons to reach for your pocketbook at our recommended jewelry stores in Amsterdam.

    Galerie Ra. With some 50 international artists and designers on its books, this gallery-cum-store showcases highly original, contemporary jewelry in exhibitions that change every two months.

    Appenzeller. On a narrow street near the University of Amsterdam, Hans Appenzeller creates exquisite, paired-back jewelry for men and women.

    Beaufort Sieraden. In their atelier and store on the same street as Hans Appenzeller, Rita Burgersdijk and Bep Peters craft necklaces, rings, earrings, bracelets and cufflinks often combining precious metals with gemstones, such as an 18-carat gold choker trimmed with aquamarine.

    Tiffany & Co. For movie-worthy dazzle – and a little blue box – head to Tiffany & Co, which set up shop on PC Hooftstraat in 2009. Alongside pendants, cufflinks and diamond-encrusted engagement rings, the store carries statement jewelry—the face of which is currently Dutch supermodel Doutzen Kroes—and exclusive pieces from leading gem designers such as Jean Schumberger and Paloma Picasso.
  • On July 29, 2013
    Cecily Layzell answered the question: Cecily Layzell

    What are the best places to buy shoes in Amsterdam?

    Step out in style with our recommendations for the best places to buy shoes in Amsterdam.

    United Nude. On the backlit ‘Wall of Light’ in United Nude’s sleek flagship store on Spuistraat, find spiked soles and towering carbon fiber heels you are unlikely to see anyone else wearing. Except Lady Gaga, who has been seen sporting some of the brand’s extreme architectural designs.

    SHOEBALOO. Founded in the seventies by Dutchman Hartog Streim, SHOEBALOO has built a reputation over the decades as a purveyor of high-end designer shoes and bags, from Lanvin holographic backpacks to Jimmy Choo bejeweled suede pumps.

    Daniele Dentici. A self-styled ‘shoe salon’ with several branches around town, Daniele Dentici’s Fiori Francesi wedges and limited-edition studded Buttero boots will have your little piggies squealing with joy all the way home.

    Sneaker District. A Walhalla for sneaker fans, Sneaker District currently sells a small but stylish collection of shoes by global brands, including Nike, New Balance and Stripes. The range is soon to be expanded with Adidas Vintage, Undefeated and others. Accessorize your purchase with a selection of caps, T-shirts and jackets.
  • On July 29, 2013
    Cecily Layzell answered the question: Cecily Layzell

    What are the best day trips near Amsterdam?

    The Netherlands’ small scale and excellent public transport system puts most of the country within easy reach. Head out of town with our recommendations for the best day trips near Amsterdam.

    Broek in Waterland. Rent a bike and cycle the eight miles north to Broek in Waterland. There is little to do in this once wealthy merchants’ village, but that’s part of its charm. Admire the elegant 17th and 18th-century architecture and refuel on apple pie on a waterside terrace before peddling back to Amsterdam through fields dotted with black and white cows.

    Keukenhof. Opened in 1949, the Keukenhof Gardens have blossomed into one of the Netherlands’ premier attractions. Located in Lisse, about an hour southwest of Amsterdam, the gardens are the largest of their kind in the world. For eight weeks between March and May, seven million flowering bulbs including, of course, tulips burst into magnificent display.

    Kinderdijk. A UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1997, Kinderdijk can be reached in about 90 minutes from Amsterdam. Although the village’s 19 traditional windmills, build in the mid-18th century to drain the surrounding polder (reclaimed land) are the main draw, the area also offers a fascinating insight into Dutch water management.

    Kröller-Müller Museum. Set amid the woodland and heathland of the Hoge Veluwe National Park about two hours from Amsterdam, the Kröller-Müller Museum is renowned for its extensive collection of 19th and 20th-century art, in particular its paintings by Vincent van Gogh. Free bicycles are available within the park for wheeled exploring.
  • On July 27, 2013
    Cecily Layzell answered the question: Cecily Layzell

    What are the best festivals in Amsterdam?

    There's little down time in Amsterdam's busy festival calendar, which reaches a peak in the summer. Here are five of our favourites.

    Taste of Amsterdam. In June, Taste of Amsterdam entices epicures to Amstel Park for four days of food, drink, culinary demonstrations and an artisanal market selling lovingly made, regional goodies.

    Grachtenfestival. The ten-day Grachtenfestival (Canal Festival), held in August, has grown beyond its original roster of stages on and around Amsterdam's central canals to include unusual locations, such as the pedestrian tunnel below Central Station, for progressive classical and world music performances by young talent.

    Pluk de Nacht. Also held in August, Pluk de Nacht ('seize the night') sets up a big screen on Het Stenen Hoofd just west of Central Station for ten evenings of free, open-air screenings of worthy independent productions passed over by mainstream distributors. Movies are in English or have English subtitles.

    Amsterdam Fringe Festival. Following the summer break, the Amsterdam Fringe Festival kicks off a new cultural season in September with ten days of edgy theater at more than 30 locations throughout the city, including a restaurant and boxing ring. Don't speak Dutch? Look out for the extensive line-up of shows marked 'LNP' (language no problem) that are in English or dialogue-free.

    IDFA. For 12 days each November, the International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam (IDFA) attracts thousands of filmmakers and film fans to this visual feast based at the beautiful art deco-style Tuschinski movie theater.
  • On July 27, 2013
    Cecily Layzell answered the question: Cecily Layzell

    Where is the best architecture in Amsterdam?

    The 17th-century gabled canal houses of the historic center are Amsterdam’s calling card. But the city’s rich mix of architectural styles entice visitors far beyond the Canal Belt.

    Reopened in April 2013 after a ten-year closure, the Rijksmuseum has been beautifully restored. Eight hundred years of Dutch art—including Rembrandt’s Night Watch which hangs amidst the arches and murals of the magnificent Gallery of Honour—is displayed across five floors of airy galleries.

    Combining elements from expressionism, Art Deco and Jugendstil, the Amsterdam School style of architecture emerged around 1910 and is characterized by rounded contours, decorative brickwork, wrought iron and stained glass.

    One of the most stunning examples of the style is the Scheepvaarthuis near Central Station. Originally serving as offices for the city's largest shipping companies, it now houses the luxury Grand Hotel Amrâth. The hotel’s extraordinary stained-glass stairwell—as well as the bar and restaurant—are open to non-guests.

    Other examples of Amsterdam School design can be found in the houses of the genteel Oud Zuid district, where the ARTZUID sculpture route is organized every two years.

    Not all of Amsterdam’s architectural highlights come with a history lesson, however. Newer kids are appearing on the block too. The Stedelijk is worth a visit as much for its building as its collection of contemporary art. The original museum, dating from 1895, has been expanded with a new 98,400-square-foot wing, a dazzling white composite structure with a wide lip that some locals have likened to a bathtub.

    Equally dazzling is the EYE Film Institute. A multi-layered edifice of glass and white tiles in Amsterdam Noord, its design echoes the concept of movies as a combination of light, space and motion.
  • On July 22, 2013
    Cecily Layzell answered the question: Cecily Layzell

    What are the best art galleries in Amsterdam?

    Amsterdam's art galleries form a vibrant counterpart to the city's many museums. What's more, entrance is invariably free and lines non-existent. It's advisable to check opening times before your visit, though, as many galleries don't open before midday.

    Galerie Fons Welters
    Located on a residential street in the Jordaan neighborhood, Galerie Fons Welters is an unlikely hotspot for cutting-edge contemporary art. Local and foreign talent is promoted in the gallery’s main exhibition space, while the smaller Playstation project area is reserved for young artists at the start of their careers.

    Torch Gallery
    Torch Gallery has blazed a trail for emerging artists and photographers since it opened in 1984. Dutch celebrity snapper and filmmaker Anton Corbijn got his start here, as did German artist Loretta Lux, best known for her surreal portraits of young children.

    Annet Gelink Gallery
    Founded in 2000, Annet Gelink Gallery embraces drawing, painting, photography, installation and video art by established Dutch and international artists. Its project space, The Bakery, exhibits up-and-coming talent.

    Akinci Gallery
    Housed in a complex on Lijnbaansgracht with several other galleries, Akinci focuses on contemporary visual art, from Esther Tieleman’s spatial installations to Anne Wenzel’s large-scale sculptures.

    Edward Pranger Oriental Art Gallery
    In the Spiegelkwartier, Amsterdam's antiques quarter, Edward Pranger Oriental Art Gallery presents work by internationally recognized Asian artists, such as painter and illustrator Wei Guangqing, as well as talent rarely seen in the West.
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