There was a time, shortly after I moved to Amsterdam, when I felt like breathing it all in. It almost felt like I was missing something. Like places existed or things were happening and I didn`t know about them. All I wanted was to be there, experience it and taking photos of it.
No matter how cold outside, I would go for long walks along the canals in the Centrum to gaze at the narrow gingerbread-look-alike houses; in the heart of Oud-Zuid to admire the amazing manor-like houses close to Vondelpark; all around Oud West as it was where I lived; to the Oost to search for differences between this area and the geographically opposite one; to De Pijp to experience the vibrant atmosphere praised in all guides about Amsterdam; all the way to Oostelijk Havengebied (Eastern Docklands), Ijburg or Java Eiland – almost never mentioned, but so full of surprises. All these because I was curious to see everything Amsterdam had to offer, because I knew it had to be more to it than the Red Light District and Museumplein and because I wanted to discover those places where I could find myself.
Time has passed and now, after more than two years of living here, I finally feel relaxed and quite satisfied with my discoveries. I might have not seen everything there is to see (mostly because some parts have never attracted me), but I have seen enough and there is plenty of time for the remaining.
What I like to do instead is going, time after time, to the places I have somehow connected to the most and that I would like to share with you. You may already know most of them if you live here or you may consider passing by when in Amsterdam.
If I am thinking of a simple walk in the city, the first thing that comes to my mind is Bilderdijkstraat (in the West) or Sarphatistraat (in the East). None of these streets has major attractions, but rather resident houses, local cafes and some shops. The atmosphere is however of genuine Amsterdam. I feel the same when I walk down the Overtoom or Haarlemmerdijk, the latter getting a bit too crowded at times and having a more commercial air due to the many shops.
A genuinely Amsterdam atmosphere may also be felt during a walk along the Entrepotdock, where old warehouse buildings were preserved, reinforced and transformed into basic looking, yet comfortable spacious apartments facing the water. If I ever buy a place in Amsterdam, I hope it`s going to be one of these.
If I feel like going to a park, then it`s definitely Westerpark (I can see the trains passing by, heading to or coming from Central Station, there is a big chance a food fair is organized in the open air or an art one inside the Gashouder building – to mention just a few) or Flevopark, in case I wish for something really quiet and relaxing and not very busy either. One thing is for sure: I wouldn`t go to Vondelpark. I just couldn`t develop any interest for this (all praised) park, where I always needed to watch out not to be hit by a bike, by a roller-blader or by any of the too many passers-by.
In case I fancy a brunch, then it has to be either at De Bakkerswinkel or at Dish Global Kitchen – my personal favorites when it comes to breakfast food. I prefer De Bakkerswinkel in Westerpark to the more central one on Zeedijk.
For a tasty lunch or dinner, I would most probably go to Thai Tiger in Javaplein, Los Pilones on Kerkstraat, Taste of Ethiopia on Overtoom, Rainarai (both Prinsengracht and Westerpark) or Small World Catering for a quick sandwich or take away.
In case I just want a good coffee in a nice location, then I head towards Brecht (the German livingroom-like cafe, unfortunately one of the most crowded in the city), Coffee Company, Two for Joy, Zola or on the stairs inside the EYE Film Museum.
Talking about movies, my favorite cinemas in the city are the just mentioned EYE, Studio K, De Uitkijk, Cinecenter and The Movies. The first on the list is situated in a new large and very modern building facing the river IJ, the second is rather unpretentious looking but very nice nevertheless, and the last three are small cozy cinema houses (The Movies being the oldest cinema in the Netherlands or so I heard). It is common practice for the cinemas in Amsterdam to have a cafe-bar area (in some cases even a restaurant), where you can have a cappuccino or a glass of wine that you can actually take with you in the projection room and take a sip, now and then, during the movie.
But there is no better place in Amsterdam than… a sunny day! No matter where you are in the city, if it`s sunny, then any place is the best place.
I am starting to think that Amsterdammers nowadays praise the sun just as much as the ancient civilizations used to! Just walk down the street on a sunny day and you will see people everywhere: on the water (number one choice, of course) – having a barbecue on the boat with family and friends, drinking prosecco and listening to music or just lying in the sun; in the park – lying on the grass, reading, having a glass of wine, having a picnic or just sleeping; on the street – sitting down on chairs they bring from inside their houses or simply down on the ground, with their eyes closed and faces directed towards the sun or quite awake browsing a magazine, talking with others, eating or whatever; inside the house – in this case, definitely on the little balcony, terrace or right on the window, relaxing on a pillow, eyes closed, getting their blessings from the sun.
Believe me, few things are better that a sunny day in Amsterdam and few people know better how to enjoy a simple sunray than these living here.
My favourite places to go if sun occurs are Hannekes Boom, Westergasterras, Zouthaven, Distillery, Pllek or Roest. They are all by the water (or by the pond, in case of Westergasterras within Westerpark) and you don`t even need to sit on a chair, as there is plenty of grass, sand, pillows or some other things to be used instead.
These are my top locations in Amsterdam and it`s hard to believe they will change any time soon.