Cecily Layzell


  • Amsterdam, The Netherlands, EUR

Cecily Layzell is a correspondent who lives in Amsterdam and covers the city for Forbes Travel Guide. Born and raised in the U.K., Layzell traveled extensively in Europe, Africa and Asia while earning a bachelor’s degree and journalism diploma. A freelance writer and editor, Layzell has contributed to Time Out Amsterdam, Zagat, Condé Nast, CNN.com, Holland Herald and others. She specializes in food and travel writing and shares some of her culinary adventures — including a mild obsession with finding wine bars in a city dominated by beer — on the website Eat-Amsterdam.com.

  • On July 12, 2013

    For a taste of the Netherlands in the US, check out the Gagosian Gallery in LA, where the Dutch photography duo Inez van Lamsweerde and Vinoodh Matadin will be displaying Old Masters-inspired floral still lifes alongside their better known celebrity portraits. http://www.gagosian.com/exhibitions/inez--vinoodh--july-12-2013

  • On June 30, 2013
    Cecily Layzell answered the question: Cecily Layzell

    What are the best spas in Amsterdam?

    Pampering is not restricted to any one time of year, although the cold winter months make Amsterdam’s spas particularly enticing. Curl up in a fluffy bathrobe as we detail the Dutch capital’s best places to relax and recharge.

    It’s worth noting that the Dutch have a liberal attitude to nudity. Changing rooms and showers may be mixed and saunas are often clothes-free (although wandering around the premises in a towel is acceptable). If the thought of steaming in the buff makes you uncomfortable, check before you reserve.

    Sauna Deco. Surrounded by the clean lines and magnificent stained glass of the art deco interior—salvaged from a department store in Paris—enjoy the Finnish sauna, cold plunge pool, massage and beauty treatments at this spa facility on the elegant Herengracht canal.

    Koan Float. On the same canal is Koan Float, offering massages and sensory-deprivation flotation tanks designed for ‘maximum relaxation in a minimum of time.’

    Zuiver. Amid the green expanse of Amsterdamse Bos, a wooded common south of downtown, this tranquil and spacious spa runs the gamut of wellness treatments, from steam room and massages, to nutrition, yoga and tennis.

    Wellness 1926. In Amsterdam East, Wellness 1926 has a steam room, plunge pool, relaxation and beauty areas, a café and private south-facing garden overlooking a beautiful old church.
  • On June 30, 2013
    Cecily Layzell answered the question: Cecily Layzell

    What are the best places to see a play in Amsterdam?

    Amsterdam's many theaters play host to a busy and eclectic calendar of plays. The majority is in Dutch, but the high level of English in the city means that international companies are regularly invited to perform. Look out, too, for plays with English surtitles, the theater equivalent of foreign movie subtitles.

    The best place to find theater listings is the monthly TimeOut Amsterdam magazine, which details upcoming English-language plays or performances where language is no problem. Alternatively, peruse the websites of the following institutions.

    Stadsschouwburg. Housed in a beautiful 19th-century building on Leidseplein, the Stadsschouwburg stages contemporary music, dance and theater performances, usually by big national and international names.

    Koninklijk Theater Carré. Once a circus, this grand theater on the River Amstel hosts theater, cabaret and opera performances as well as Dutch versions of popular musicals such as Grease (you can still sing along to the tunes).

    De Brakke Grond, De Engelenbak and Frascati are all located on Nes, a narrow street running parallel to Rokin. De Brakke Grond promotes Flemish culture, you'll find productions by amateurs at De Engelenbak, while Frascati aims to push theatrical boundaries by bringing together trained actors, street performers and multimedia artists.
  • On June 30, 2013
    Cecily Layzell answered the question: Cecily Layzell

    What are the best bookstores in Amsterdam?

    Whether you are looking for the latest bestseller in English or a beautifully designed coffee-table book to take home as a souvenir, Amsterdam has a number of wonderful bookstores. Read on for our top five.

    American Book Center. Covering three floors on Spui square, ABC is where you'll find an extensive collection of English-language imports, from novels and biographies to travel guides and image-led design and fashion titles.

    Waterstone’s. On the other side of Spui square is the Amsterdam outpost of this British chain. Alongside fiction and non-fiction, Waterstone's is the place to hunt out the latest offerings from the UK’s many celebrity chefs, including Jamie Oliver, Nigella Lawson and the grand dame of British cuisine, Delia Smith.

    Athenaeum. Across the street from ABC is arguably the most prestigious independent bookstore in Amsterdam. Although it has a more limited English selection, it is the place to go for academic titles, dictionaries and iconic Dutch children's books such as Jip en Janneke and Miffy. The attached Nieuwscentrum carries the main international daily newspapers and weekly magazines.

    The Book Exchange. Packed to the rafters with second-hand books, the quirky Book Exchange is a browser's paradise. Unearth a paperback classic or trade in your old titles for fresh reading material.

    Oudemanhuispoort. If you visit The Book Exchange, be sure to drop by this nearby book market. Occupying a covered alley near the central University of Amsterdam buildings, it is less a formal bookstore and more an informal gathering of second-hand book stalls. Dig through the dusty piles of mainly Dutch titles for beautiful old maps and out-of-print English cookbooks.
  • On June 30, 2013
    Cecily Layzell answered the question: Cecily Layzell

    What are the best tours of Amsterdam?

    Small-scale tours run by locals offer a unique insider’s view of a city. Go beyond the normal tourist itineraries with our suggested tours of Amsterdam.

    Boat tour. Plenty of boat companies ply Amsterdam’s famous canals, generally offering a similar one-hour tour with commentary. For a more leisurely view of the waterways, reserve a table on the Henry Schmitz, a beautiful antique riverboat that serves up an evening canal cruise with a three-course dinner. 

    Duration: 3 hours. Price: €99 per person.

    Photo tour. See Amsterdam from a different angle on a photo tour founded and led by professional travel photographer and Amsterdam native Tom van der Leij. In groups of up to six people, he teaches beginners and experienced photographers to see and capture his city through the lens of a camera.

    Duration: 4 hours. Price: €35 per person (including coffee and Dutch apple pie).

    Food tour. Feed your curiosity and body on an Amsterdam food tour. Explore the city’s streets and canals on foot while learning about the spice trade that made the city rich, sample Dutch cheese, bite into crispy Vlaamse frites (fries, topped with mayonnaise of course) and sip on a traditional spirit from a 17th-century distillery.

    Duration: 3 hours. Price: €36 per person (including four or five snacks and a traditional drink).

    Beer tour. Explicitly not a pub crawl, this beer tour eschews the global Heineken and Amstel brands for small-batch and seasonal beers produced by the city’s microbreweries and sold in a number of specialist bars.

    Duration: 3-4 hours. Price: €40 (participants must be 18 or over and able to prove it).
  • On June 27, 2013
    Cecily Layzell answered the question: Cecily Layzell

    What are the best concert venues in Amsterdam?

    From intimate music halls to cultural powerhouses, Forbes Travel Guide editors line up Amsterdam’s best concert venues.

    Paradiso. Take a pew in this former church for a memorable night of pop, rock and more. One of Amsterdam's busiest concert venues, the 1,500 capacity means you'll never be far from the action.

    Melkweg. A stone's throw from Paradiso, this cultural center programs theater performances, art-house movies, exhibitions and an eclectic mix of music acts in its two concert halls.

    Concertgebouw. Boasting world-famous acoustics and a grand setting, Concertgebouw is the city's classical music behemoth. Check the calendar for details of upcoming concerts by the likes of Dutch violinist Janine Jansen.

    Bimhuis. Jutting from the side of the futuristic Muziekgebouw aan’t IJ building, Bimhuis is one of Amsterdam's finest jazz venues. Expect a diverse mix of local improvisation talent and international stars.

    Tolhuistuin. Across the IJ from the Bimhuis—but a world away musically—is Tolhuistuin. Part of the regeneration of the waterfront area of Amsterdam Noord which includes the EYE Film Institute, this bar and performance venue hosts small pop, folk and indie acts in its lovely summer garden.
  • On June 25, 2013
    Cecily Layzell answered the question: Cecily Layzell

    What is the one must-do activity when visiting Amsterdam?

    It may seem like an obvious answer, but cycling should top your list of must-do activities when visiting Amsterdam. There is a great sense of freedom that comes with having your own (two) wheels in a city waiting to be explored.

    With few inclines and kilometers of dedicated cycle paths, Amsterdam is a biker’s paradise, even if your cycling skills are as rusty as some of the frames chained to the bridges. Bikes can be rented at locations across town. Macbike is probably the best-known rental company and offers the option of "standard" brakes on the handlebars or Dutch back-pedal brakes, which can take some getting used to. The likelihood of being offered a helmet, however, is slim. The good news is that the roads are generally very safe and most traffic moves at a sedate pace.

    Amsterdam is a compact capital and getting around is easy, even on foot. But on a bike you can whistle from one attraction to another in a matter of minutes. Or delve into the city's less visited corners, safe in the knowledge that your trusty fiets will get you home again even after public transport has stopped running.
  • On June 25, 2013
    Cecily Layzell answered the question: Cecily Layzell

    What are the best outdoor activities in Amsterdam?

    Years of battling the wind and weather on their bikes have made the Dutch a generally robust and outdoorsy bunch. Get in on the action with our roundup of the best outdoor activities in Amsterdam.

    1. Walk. Compact and light on traffic, Amsterdam's historic center is a joy to explore on foot. Put away the map and wander the narrow streets at will.

    2. Cycle. Rent a bike and join the throngs of locals on two wheels. Or pedal out of town along the River Amstel to Oudekerk aan de Amstel, a pretty village surrounded by farms and pastures. There’s even a windmill along the route.

    3. Skate. For a different kind of wheeled experience, rent a pair of in-line skates and explore the network of paths in Vondelpark. Skilled skaters should check out the Friday Night Skate, which heads out of the park and into the city on streets closed to traffic for the event.

    4. Swim. Taking a dip in Amsterdam's canals is not recommended, no matter how enticing they look on a hot day. Instead, cool off at one of the city's outdoor pools, such as the Olympic-sized Flevoparkbad in Amsterdam Oost or Mirandabad in Amsterdam Zuid.

    5. Canoe. For a day outdoors and out of the city, take the bus to Broek in Waterland, about 15 minutes north of Amsterdam. Rent a canoe and paddle the peaceful dykes of Waterland nature reserve.
  • On June 25, 2013
    Cecily Layzell answered the question: Cecily Layzell

    What are the best indoor activities in Amsterdam?

    Amsterdam’s sometimes inclement weather is the perfect excuse to seek shelter in the city’s magnificent museums, historic buildings and cozy cafes. Here are our top five indoor activities.

    1. Rijksmuseum. It would be easy to spend an entire day exploring the extensive and recently restored Rijksmuseum. Alongside works by Rembrandt and other Dutch Masters in the glorious Hall of Honor, five floors offer room after room of exhibits spanning 800 years of Dutch history.

    2. Anne Frank House. On a much smaller scale but no less engrossing is the Anne Frank House. A monument as much as a museum, the original building shows the secret annex where the Frank family hid from the Nazis, while a newer extension deals more broadly with the horrors of the Holocaust and continuing anti-Semitism.

    3. Boat tour. A boat tour is a fantastic way to see Amsterdam’s famous waterways and picture-perfect canal houses up close. The boats are low slung to fit under the many arched bridges, so opt for a craft with a glass roof for 180-degree views and protection from the elements.

    4. Brown café. Amsterdam’s wood-paneled and formerly smoke-stained “brown cafes” come into their own on a gloomy day. Find a table in one of the cozy corners and settle in with a vaasje (half pint of beer) or mulled wine.

    5. Sauna Deco. Amsterdam has few covered malls, but you can get close at Sauna Deco. The beautiful Art Deco interior was salvaged from a shopping center in Paris that was about to be stripped and renovated. Today, the building on Herengracht is a sauna and spa, offering modern pampering in authentically retro surroundings.
  • On June 24, 2013
    Cecily Layzell answered the question: Cecily Layzell

    What new museum exhibits are in Amsterdam?

    Few collaborations spawned as many iconic images as that between British fashion photographer Brian Duffy and chameleonic pop artist David Bowie.

    A new exhibit in Amsterdam’s FOAM photography museum celebrates that collaboration with an exclusive selection of photographs, album covers, contact sheets and Polaroids.

    Duffy worked with Bowie on five photographic projects between 1972 and 1980, a period that saw Bowie experiment with several personas, including Ziggy Stardust, Thin White Duke and Aladdin Sane. The latter, shot for an album cover in 1973, shows a heavily made up Bowie with a blue and red flash of lightning streaking across his face. Inspired by the flash on a National Panasonic rice cooker that was lying in the studio, the image is one of the most recognizable in pop culture and has become known as “The Mona Lisa of Pop.”

    Duffy began his photographic career at British Vogue in 1957, before going on to capture and define the Swinging Sixties. Bowie was one of a string of celebrities who appeared before his lens, alongside Jane Birkin, John Lennon, Jean Shrimpton, Michael Caine and William Burroughs.

    The exhibition, titled “Bowie by Duffy: Photographs ’72 – ’80,” runs at FOAM until October 6, 2013.
  • On June 24, 2013
    Cecily Layzell answered the question: Cecily Layzell

    What are the best museums in Amsterdam?

    Culture vultures can sate their artistic appetites at dozens of museums in Amsterdam. The “big three”—Rijks, Van Gogh and Stedelijk—around Museum Square are rightly some of Amsterdam’s most visited attractions, but the city also boasts numerous smaller, more intimate institutions that are worth seeking out. Here are Forbes Travel Guide’s top five.

    1. Rijksmuseum. Reopened in April 2013 after a decade-long closure, the Rijksmuseum has restored its magnificent interior and reorganized its world-class collection of exhibits—including Rembrandt’s imposing Night Watch— into chronological order, spanning 800 years of Dutch art history.

    2. Van Gogh Museum. Also reopened in 2013, the Van Gogh Museum houses the largest collection of paintings by the eponymous Dutch painter in the world. These hang alongside works by Van Gogh’s friends, contemporaries and those who inspired him.

    3. Stedelijk Museum. Nicknamed “the bathtub” for its gleaming, tub-shaped roof, the Stedelijk Museum is the home of modern art in Amsterdam. The permanent collection includes works by Wassily Kandinsky, Marc Chagall, Jackson Pollock, Karel Appel and others.

    4. FOAM. This small but ambitious photography museum displays works by national and international talent in the airy, high-ceilinged rooms of a former canal house. Previous exhibitions have featured Henri-Cartier Bresson, Diane Arbus and Anton Corbijn.

    5. Museum Amstelkring. In the heart of Amsterdam’s Red Light action is this unexpected gem. The lower floors of the wonderfully preserved 17th-century building offer a glimpse of what life was like at the time, while upstairs is Onze Lieve Heer Op Zolder (Our Lord in the Attic), a secret church built during the Reformation when Catholics were prohibited from worshipping openly.
  • On June 24, 2013
    Cecily Layzell answered the question: Cecily Layzell

    What are the best parks in Amsterdam?

    Amsterdam is a remarkably leafy city. Streets and canals are lined with elm trees whose seed pods drift through the city in May and June. For those in search of more extensive patches of green, however, read on for our pick of Amsterdam’s best parks.

    Vondelpark. Amsterdam’s answer to Central Park, this features on numerous tourist itineraries. Popular year-round with joggers and skaters, the park turns into a heaving mass of sunbathing, barbecuing bodies in the summer. It’s a fantastic place to people-watch, but you may want to head to one of our other suggestions for something quieter.

    Westerpark. To the west of the center, the aptly named Westerpark is the site of Amsterdam’s former gasworks and many of the historical buildings remain. Just inside the main entrance, the Regulateurshuis, which regulated the gas pressure to the city, is now a branch of the excellent Bakkerswinkel bakery. Other buildings house Het Ketelhuis independent movie theater, the Espressofabriek and a couple of industrial spaces host the monthly NeighbourFood Market.

    Frankendael. Among the elegant villas of Watergraafsmeer is Frankendael Park, created in the 17th century as a country estate before the city surrounded it. The park is also the location of two fine restaurants: Merkelbach in the former coach house and De Kas in a greenhouse.

    Sarphatipark. In the heart of De Pijp, small Sarphatipark is where local residents go to walk their dogs, feed the ducks or read a book in the shade of a tree. Pick up some picnic supplies from nearby Albert Cuyp Market and join them.

    Wertheimpark. Smaller still is Wertheimpark, a sliver of land in the old Jewish Quarter between a canal and the Hortus Botanical Gardens. The main reasons to visit are the cherry blossoms in the spring and the Auschwitz Monument, sheets of shattered mirrors that commemorate the thousands of Dutch Jews who perished in the concentration camp during the Second World War.
  • On June 24, 2013
    Cecily Layzell is now following the question:
  • On June 24, 2013
    Cecily Layzell answered the question: Cecily Layzell

    What are the best farmers markets in Amsterdam?

    A growing interest in fresh, healthy produce has seen a corresponding growth in the number of farmers markets in Amsterdam. Pick up breakfast, picnic provisions or an original food gift at any of the farmers markets that pop up weekly or monthly around the city.

    Organic Market on Noordermarkt. Held every Saturday, this is Amsterdam’s oldest and busiest organic farmers market. Come rain (which is frequent) or shine (which sadly is not), local and regional producers fill the square with fruit and vegetables, cheese, meat, fish, artisanal breads and pastries. A number of specialty stalls dedicated to mushrooms, olive oil and salt make interesting browsing.

    Organic Market on Nieuwmarkt. Also on Saturday and with a similar range is the organic farmers market on Nieuwmarkt. What makes this market different, however, is its scale. Fewer stalls and shorter lines mean producers have more time to chat—something they are generally eager to do.

    ZuiderMRKT. Established in 2011 by health-conscious Oud-Zuid residents, the weekly ZuiderMRKT has a gezellig (cozy), community feel. In addition to the essentials, you’ll find sustainably caught fish, English pies and Brandt & Levie’s dangerously addictive sausages.

    Pure Markt. Appearing in different neighborhoods on different Sundays each month, this moveable feast has perhaps the most eclectic selection of all of Amsterdam’s farmers markets. Mustard, smoked eel and even Dutch grapes can be found alongside Iberian ham, Chilean empanadas and Hungarian champagne.

    NeighbourFood Market. Selling prepared food and drink—so not strictly a farmers market—newcomer NeighbourFood encourages you to linger at long tables over plates of Spanish pintxos, Chinese pork buns, sushi, waffles and more, washed down with freshly brewed coffee and glasses of wine.

  • On June 24, 2013
    Cecily Layzell answered the question: Cecily Layzell

    What are the best kids activities in Amsterdam?

    Mention that you are visiting Amsterdam with kids, and you’ll likely be met with raised eyebrows and some comment about coffee shops or red lights. But behind the clichés of adult pleasures is an extremely child-friendly city. Follow our recommendations for fun for all the family.

    Canals. Amsterdam’s winding waterways and crooked houses hold just as much appeal for children as adults. Cruise the city’s canals in a glass-topped boat, or combine sightseeing with a meal on the Pancake Boat, which leaves from behind Central Station.

    Museums. Many of Amsterdam’s museums have excellent kids programs (Rijksmuseum, Jewish Historical Museum, Tropenmuseum), but NEMO has to be the most fun. The target audience of this science and technology museum—housed in what looks like the hull of a giant ship and with a fantastic rooftop deck—is six through sixteen and almost everything is interactive, so touching is actively encouraged.

    Parks. Let your kids blow off steam in one of Amsterdam’s parks. Vondelpark is popular with families, particularly Het Groot Melkhuis (The Big Milkhouse) café with its adjoining playground. Or head out to Amsterdamse Bos, an enormous wooded common that also boasts a goat farm where children can pet the animals.

    Cooking. Located near Vondelpark, the Kinderkookkafe (Children’s Cooking Cafe) is a great rainy-day option. Kitted out with aprons and chef hats, under-12s whip up all sorts of tasty creations, from pizzas to pastries. The best part? Mom and dad don’t have to clean up afterwards.

    Dining. Amsterdam’s restaurants are often small and by default intimate. For a little more elbow room, and in some cases paper and crayons to keep the little ones entertained between courses, try Amsterdam Café, NEL and Bazar.