People watching is a sport most of the English can sadly only engage in at train stations. And although an essential activity for some, the professionals strutting the platforms don’t necessarily inspire any crazy fashion ideas.
All the world really becomes the proverbial stage when you visit the many Amsterdam outdoor cafe terraces. It is here that people watching stands a chance of becoming a serious pastime. You hang out at cafe terraces to find out about the latest fashion trends as interpreted by your fellow human beings. The way passersby are dressed, have slapped on the make up, what boots, sandals, pumps they are wearing, the handbags, hairdos and sunglasses, none of it escapes the latte-sipping voyeur. If you’re shy, my advice is to avoid locking eyes with the terrace population when strolling by, as it’s the prerogative of the onlooker to do the examining.
Amsterdam is rife with lovely terraces, and of course some are better than others. It really does not matter what season it is; every cafe owner knows that so long as they operate an outdoor terrace, custom improves. The sun only has to give the slightest hint of promise and there will be takers for cappuccinos, cool beers, herbal teas and of course the quintessential Amsterdam delicacy apple pie.
So where do the locals go? Well, when the sun is out, most people let go of all their biases and simply dash for one of the few empty seats, but in case the choice is yours, these are some of the best spots:
Winkel at Noordermarkt 43 is as quirky as the name ‘Winkel’, ‘Shop’ in English, suggests. You can enjoy a timeless breakfast/brunch/coffee and dinner here. The owners say that theirs is the most sunny terrace in Amsterdam, so avoid this place when it is searingly hot and show up when the sun puts in an unconvincing performance. This is a great spot for people watching, as the stream of passers by is neverending. Good service by waiters with excellent people skills.
NeL is also in this district. The terrace is lovely, both when it is hot weather and when it rains, because it is right underneath leafy trees. When the weather gods really have it in for you, just head indoors. This is one of the most stylish bars in Amsterdam. Family friendly.
Werck is a cafe just next door to the Westerkerk. The roof terrace of this place is a great place to hang out in case the weather is unpredictable, because the interior of this cafe is really cool too. If you thought All Bar One owners were inspired somewhere, this might have been the place. It is always busy so if you are outside, you will still be able to watch people. Don’t think that Werck is only for coffees – there are cocktails and you might even get to dance late at night. Splendid views over the roofs of Amsterdam.
‘t Blauwe Theehuis (the blue tea house) in the centrally located Vondelpark is lovely in all weather conditions. When it’s cold, the terrace of this 1930s place is heated. The building is shaped like a flying saucer, and it is not easy to miss as it is located in the middle of the park. This place, which has a seating capacity of 700, attracts creatives and is especially fun to visit on Sundays as professional DJs perform. In case you want to study the Amsterdam locals, this is the spot.