STAYING AWAY FROM THE CLICHÉ IN AMSTERDAM

3rd March 2018

By Harriet Girgis

Hi, I’m Harriet and I am the newbie here at deVOL but previous to working here, I had been living and studying in Amsterdam, Netherlands. I spent a number of years over there and visited a lot of unusual design based places, so I thought it would be nice to share a collection of these with you. If you don’t just fancy hitting the main tourist hot-spots or you are planning on staying longer than a week or two then here are a handful of places as well as a couple of tips and tricks you might like for your time in the city.

As you probably know, in Amsterdam most people cycle everywhere and having been one of those people, I have to agree this mode of transport is by far the best way of getting around the city. Everywhere is flat, so you don’t need to worry about any big hills to conquer and it’s by far the most affordable in the long run. Also, by cycling, you can arrive literally right outside the door of your destination…very convenient.

There a few things that spring to mind when people mention ‘Amsterdam’ but amongst the controversial area of the city (we all know) is a coffee shop unlike any other. ‘Hill Street Blues’ a walking/cycling distance from Central Station, this coffee shop is covered in layers upon layers of graffiti.

hill-street-blues

Hill Street Blues’ coffee shop back room

Every imaginable piece of furniture is caked with signatures, doodles, stickers and souvenirs. Even the leather Chesterfield Sofas and up-cycled cable drums were not spared. Visiting a place like this and taking a seat amongst the vintage furniture whilst you enjoy a drink feels like you have entered some kind of time capsule. Messages are left from people more than 10 years ago, some simply sign their name, whereas others may offer up cool destinations. You never know what you’ll find by simply looking at the wall in front of you.

Do you ever crave that really weird place, somewhere you can honestly say you have never seen anything like before in your life? Well, look no further than ‘Electric Ladyland’. I stumbled upon this place while in my first year of university looking for inspirational images to take, and I’m so glad I did. Now don’t get me wrong, I thoroughly enjoyed the Van Gogh Museum and Anne Frank’s house but when you are looking for that really unusual and quirky place, then what’s better than the first museum of fluorescent art?!

electric ladyland amsterdam

Electric Ladyland’ museum 

It’s located in the Jordaan area of Amsterdam and unlike other museums, this museum prides itself on being interactive with the public so you can quite literally step inside a piece of fluorescent artwork and take some really odd photos.

Amsterdam is also full of some great concept stores, one of my favourites and a place that is definitely worth a visit is ‘Sukha’.

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Sukha’ concept store

It’s located a 10 min walk away from Central Station on Haarlemmerstraat. It is known for having a sustainable mindset, so they incorporate a lot of handmade, unique and eco-friendly pieces. Every item they sell adds to the overall feeling of the shop. The soft shades of greys and blues compliment the wood and crisp white backdrop of the store. ‘Sukha’ also offers one-off handwritten poems and doodles you can take away with you after lounging for an hour or two on their sofas. ‘Sukha’ actually means ‘joy of life’ in Sanskrit and I think this concept store beautifully represents exactly that, you will leave feeling relaxed and with a smile on your face. They also have an Atelier, which is a great opportunity to have a look at and potentially purchase sustainable Dutch designed clothes and interiors.

Markets are a definite must-see, not only if you’re visiting but if you are staying in Amsterdam for a while and need to kit your new home out at an affordable price. Waterlooplein and Albert Cuypmarket were two of the regular markets I visited. Amsterdam weather is not that dissimilar to British weather so if you, like me, arrive really underprepared for the winter then this is the perfect place to go.

Waterlooplein market, the oldest flea market in Amsterdam, is a blessing in times such as these. It consists of rows piled high with clothes, accessories every imaginable garment you could think of is thrown together, and each piece priced between 1 and 10 euros. So when you are after that fluffy jumper to keep you warm, you never know, you might come across an Armani one for 5 euros! Not forgetting Waterlooplein is great for antique furniture and little knick-knacks. If it’s also convenience you like, this market is an easy place to find a bike at a reasonable price.

waterlooplein market

Waterlooplein’ market selling shoes for 5 euros.

Albert Cuypmarket is not that dissimilar to Waterlooplein when it comes to its contents, but it does have a more ordered feel to it. If you’re not up for sifting through the mountains of clothes etc. then this market that is also considerably larger, is for you. Amongst the stalls selling an array of food, fashion, antiques and electronics are small cafes and boutique shops. An interesting cafe/restaurant to take a break from all the shopping is conveniently placed in the middle of the market.

Bazar_Amsterdam

 

Bazar’ restaurant, where people are dining under the giant lanterns

‘Bazar’ is a Turkish restaurant, serving great food but also showcasing some really vibrant interiors. Traditional Turkish hand-painted tiles and oversized colourful ceiling lanterns mix well with the electric fairy lights hanging above your head on the ground floor.

Amsterdam is full of people throwing out perfectly good pieces of furniture and when I say throwing out, I mean quite literally putting their old furniture out on the street in front of their house. They won’t cost you anything and are usually thrown out because the last owner is simply upgrading, they don’t have enough space and need a quick and easy fix. In some parts of the city, this may look as if the streets are full of litter, but if you’re quick you can get your hands on some great pieces.

I was looking for some balcony seating for the summer but didn’t really want to splash out on anything new. I later ended up finding 2 wooden pallets on the street outside which I then converted into this cosy lounging area, perfect for those lazy Sundays in the sun drinking wine.

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The crates stacked up and covered in a duvet with matching pillows on my balcony

When it comes to food, don’t get fooled into thinking the best places to eat out are places in the inner circles of the city. As nice as some of the restaurants are in Rembrandtplein for example, people always forget about the ferries leaving Central Station, and one ferry in particular that leaves KNSM Eiland and heads 15 minutes over the water to North Amsterdam.

There you will find ‘Hotel de Goudfazant’, unlike its name may suggest, it is not a hotel but rather a restaurant serving Dutch/French cuisine. One of my favourite things about this place is its interior. The restaurant is inside one of the many metal warehouses that border the water. It looks like very little has been done to the inside, other than converting it into more of a garage with vintage cars on car jacks placed between the tables. There are no fancy chairs for dining, rather red plastic chairs and tables. The atmosphere of the whole place is really fun and energetic, the space is laid out like an industrial style, school dining room and the ceiling houses a huge milk bottle chandelier. Other rooms lead off from the dining area and contain table tennis tables and other games for when you’re bored between courses. It is a truly unusual, industrial place serving authentic Dutch food and well worth a visit.

Hotel-de-Goudfazant-Amsterd

Hotel de Goudfazant’ Amsterdam Noord

I’ll leave you with some travel tips that helped me considerably when I first moved to the Netherlands:

1) Definitely buy an ‘OV-Chipkaart’, this is similar to an Oyster card for when you’re travelling in London. You can upload money from your bank card onto the OV-Chipkaart and use it to tap in and out of trams, trains and buses. If you don’t decide on renting a bike to get around the city, then this is the second best thing. The topping up stations are hard to miss and are in every station and supermarket. The initial cost of the card is only about 14 euros and you can buy them from pretty much any newsagent type of place or if you want to get one ASAP, then you can buy one at Schipol airport.

2)Download the ‘9292’ app on your phone. The maps on tram stops in Amsterdam can be confusing, so if you want to find out the best way to get somewhere, this plans your route and gives you live updates which is great if a train you need to catch has been cancelled.

3)Pimp out your bike. The best idea I found for when I had my bike in Amsterdam was to strap a crate to the front of it (as my basket) and then invest in some panniers for the back. It’s by far the most useful thing if you’ve just done a food shop, for example, and need somewhere to put all your bags. I still remember how handy they were when I needed to carry home my full-size mannequin. I popped the torso in my basket at the front and the stand in my panniers. It made for a very interesting cycle home.

4)’ETOS’ train tickets. If you would like to travel around the Netherlands, train tickets can be quite expensive. The shop ETOS has been known to sell train tickets for €9.95 per person. This ticket allows you to travel on the ‘Sprinter’ and ‘Intercity’ trains from 11am in the morning and it’s a paper ticket so there’s no need for your OV-Chipkaart. It’s the perfect train ticket for when you want to spend a day together on a budget!

Image source: 1. Hill Street Blues coffee shop via TripAdvisor 2. Electric Ladyland via electric-lady-land.com  3. Sukha via Behance 4. Waterlooplein flea market via Brajdo  5. Bazar Restaurant Amsterdam via Flickr 7. Hotel de Goudfazant via Oui Oui

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