The best and worst of Amsterdam (in my opinion)
Leather Pride is approaching, its less than a month now, and Im getting excited! Amsterdam is a great city, its my home, my playground and, in my opinion, the best city in the world!
However, we must keep in mind that Amsterdam is a Tourist City, millions flock here every year, people of all different nationalities, people with different interests and different expectations of the city. Being a major tourist destination, Amsterdam has its fair share of "tourist traps" you know, those restaurants with the waiter outside who is almost begging passers-by to come into a particular restaurant? Well, don't! In my blog post this week, I want to highlight some of the best places and worst places to go while you are here.
Places to avoid
At the heart of Amsterdam is a street called Damrak, it stretches from Central Station to Dam Square where the Royal Palace is located. Most str8 British Tourists think that this is the whole of Amsterdam, and not much exists further south than Dam Square! But I transgress! All along this street is a series of restaurants - mostly Argentinian and Uruguayan Steak Houses and a couple of Asian and Dutch restaurants - these places are to be avoided. The quality of food is poor, even though it may seem cheap - the only place you should eat on this street is one of the McDonalds located at the top and the bottom - avoid all the rest!
Generally the quality of Chinese and Indian food in Amsterdam is poor. There are a couple of exceptions, however Britswillnot be satisfied with the quality of Indian food, being spoiled with the quality present in their own country. There are one or two Indian restaurants listed below - these are the only ones I would recommend - avoid the rest. The Chinese resturants hereare plagued with the horror that is MSG! In 17 years I still have not found a good Chinese restaurant in Amsterdam :-(
For the culturally minded Amsterdam has many museums, most of them are excellent even the smaller, privately run establishments, but there are a few exceptions.
1) The Amsterdam Torture Museum : Although this sounds very appealing, the reality of the situation is that the museum is pretty poor. Yes - there are some interesting devices, and some cards with some fun history detailing how cruel the Dutch were in the 16th and 17th Centuries, but the quality and amount of equipment on display is pretty disappointing. The one exception is the truly cruel Jacobs Pyramid!
2) The Sex Museum on Damrak : To be avoided - focuses completely on what str8 people get up to in the privacy of their own homes - disgusting ;-)
Amsterdam is a city for walking around or taking a trip on a bicycle (yes, the rumors are true - Amsterdam is full of bikes!) we have a great tram system, a metro (or underground network) and busses so getting around is pretty easy. We have only one transportation issue - Taxi's! Taxi's in Amsterdam are expensive and many of the drivers will try to rip you off - avoid taxi's where possible. When necessary - follow these basic guidelines
- Try to use Taxi's with "TCA" on the top or Taxi Centrale Amsterdam. This is the main taxi company in Amsterdam and most of their drivers can be trusted. They are still expensive but they wont rip you off
- Try to avoid taking a taxi outside Central Station - this is where most of the rip-off drivers operate.
- Make sure that the meter is on in the taxi before he starts driving - a common ploy is to say "sorry, I forgot to switch the meter on, pay me <a large sum>"
- Make sure the meter says "2.65" when he starts it - this is the step in rate and many try to use "other systems" or explain they have a "different way" If this happens - get out of the taxi and take another one
- Those that say they have a different rate for different days or time of day - they are lying - such a system does not exist here
- Given the choice - take an older driver - usually its the younger ones that rip you off.
There is no increased rate for a large mini-bus/people carrier unless it takes more than 4 people.
Great things to see
Amsterdam has many fantastic places, and it is hard to recommend a short list as it really depends on what interests you. The following are a few highlights
A fantastic new film museum that opened this year - various film exhibitions on year round, and home of one of europe's only 4K Cinemas (VERY High Def - the successor of 1080P)
The Sister museum of the famous Hermitage in St Petersburg Russia. Currently home of the Van Gough Collection while the Van Gough museum is being renovated.
The most famous Dutch museum - home of Rembrandt's "Night Watch"
The Dutch Museum of Modern Art, just reopened after years of refurbishment
A fun day out - a tour of dutch history with Actors and an indoor roller coaster
A secret of Amsterdam - a small residential hamlet hidden in the depths of the city - if they had a cricket pitch you would swear that you were in an English Village!
Translates to "The 9 Small Streets" a unique area of Amsterdam just off the Prinsengracht. Some fantastic small stores and boutiques. You will find things to buy here that you will not find anywhere else! A great area to wander around.
Most people that know me, know I love my food. I was a chef for a few years in my youth and I love to cook - however even more important than cooking for me is eating out - I love good food and good wine. After 17 years in Amsterdam - this is my pick of the best:
This is truly a fantastic restaurant. The food is delicious, innovative, uses only the best of ingredients and the Chef's Five Course Surprise Menu is only just over 50 Euros per person! Just tell the waiter what ingredients you don't like or are allergic to and they will ensure the menu is tailored to your requirements. Not only is the food great, they have one of the best wine lists in Amsterdam with wines to suit all tastes and budgets.
Resturant De Vijf Vliegen
A beautiful "old dutch" restaurant serves what is called in Dutch "Nieuwe Nederlandse Keuken" Or New Dutch Cuisine. Amazing variations on classic Dutch Dishes - again, an excellent wine list. This restaurant has hosted many celebrities, and you will find small plaques on some of the chairs with their names. This establishment also is rumoured to be one of Henry Kissenger's favorite restaurant and he visited here many times
Spuistraat 294-302, 1012 VX Amsterdam, Netherlands Tel : +31 (0)20 53 04 060
The Netherlands is famous for Indonesian Food, and this is probably the best Indonesian resturant in Amsterdam, if not the whole Netherlands. The concept of the "Rijstafel" or "Rice Table" is a selection of dishes each served in a small quantity. Their signature "Rijsttafel Istemewa" is amazing - 25 separate dishes separated into mild, medium and spicy - start with mild and work your way up! Reservations here are essential - it is a small resturant and fills up quickly!
Utrechtsestraat 75, 1017 VJ Amsterdam, The Netherlands, Tel : +31 (0) 20 625 6718
Thai food is generally excellent in The Netherlands, much better than in the UK or Germany. Infact I have only ever eaten in one bad Thai restaurant (Na Siam on Kerkstraat - REALLY awful and very close to Take Thai - don't go to Na Siam!) This is a great restaurant - they use quality ingredients, presentation is very good and the service is amazing. The wine list is average, but this should not put you off the great food here.
Utrechtsestraat 87, 1017 VK Amsterdam, The Netherlands, Tel : +31 (0)20 622 0577
A great eatery with a varied menu. Good Wine List - friendly staff.
Utrechtsestraat 41- 45, 1017 VH Amsterdam, The Netherlands Tel : +31 (0) 20 622 6376
Great real Dutch Home Cooking - Their "Oma's Suddervlees" or "Grandma's Stew" is amazing, located near the "9 Straatjes"
Berenstraat 12, 1016 GH Amsterdam, The Netherlands, Tel : +31 (0) 20 623 2373
Every Day eateries
The following places are great for lunch and dinner - fantastic places - good food and good prices.
Akbar (The only decent Indian!)
A Decent British Breakfast
I hope this helps - and most of all - have a great time in Amsterdam!