So you are spending a short break in Amsterdam and are hoping for that quintessential Amsterdam experience. Apart from the obligatory Red Light District tour and what goes with it, what do discerning visitors turn to in order to discover the unique side of this marvellous city? Here are a few things you will be able to do only in Amsterdam…
1) Discover Belle, the world’s first (and probably only) statue in honour of prostitutes. It is located in front of the Oude Kerk (Amsterdam’s oldest church, get it??) on the edge of the Red Light District and honours prostitutes all over the world, not only the ones in Amsterdam. It was commissioned by the Prostitution Information Centre and depicts a full-breasted woman, who looks pretty self-assured. The statue is perched on a two metre high pedestal. Ironically, this is to prevent abuse.
2) Literally stumble over a very unusual piece of art at the Stopera opera house. Mind your step when you discover the partially engraved fiddler under the floor at the entrance of this monumental modern building. He’s been trapped there since the Stopera opened in 1991 and most tourists never get to see this marvel. It is definitely worth checking out if you are in the neighbourhood. A word of warning – this is one big fiddle player…
3) Indulge your inner voyeur and spy on the way Dutch folk conduct their family affairs. How? Simply wander the streets after dusk. Nobody closes their curtains. An especially good spot to snoop at ground level living or dining rooms is Prinsenstraat. You will see people gathered around dining tables of hugely swanky abodes. It will make you feel a bit guilty at first, engaging in this illicit activity, but nobody seems to mind and if you study the interiors of some of the places you get to see jaw-dropping interior design.
4) Take a bike ride. Rent a bike at one of the many bicycle rental places in the city. In case you want to go 100 per cent incognito, opt for Frederic Rent a Bike at Brouwersgracht, and demand a bike without number plates, so you can blend in.
5) Shop for Dutch food at the Italian. Go in search of a little shop called Il Mattarello. At first sight it’s an Italian sandwich, coffee and pasta shop at Westerstraat 77, but apart from pasta, it sells real local food items which are a gem, each and every one of them. The owners of Il Mattarello have very good connections with local purveyors of very tasty items such as honey, elderflower syrup and cheese, which you won’t be able to find anywhere else.
6) Have an apple pie eating contest. Order apple pie in every restaurant and coffee place you visit, and determine which is the very best. Apple pie is a typically Dutch treat and you will find it everywhere. A lot of people recommend a restaurant called Winkel at Noordermarkt 43. But can you find one that’s even better? What could be nicer than eating one or two apple pies every day and indulge in a spot of judging.
7) Check the state of Dutch design. If you are a bit of a sustainable design fan, head to Droog, which sells furniture, art and sculptures by top Dutch designers. The place is known for its trendsetting ideology and churns out the one young celebrity designer after the other. Great too if you are looking for a unique present that fits in your suitcase. You find Droog at Staalstraat 7B.