There are lots of reasons to visit Amsterdam. And there are things to do in Amsterdam beyond visiting a coffee shop (and getting baked out of your gourd) or the Red Light District – Really! I go to Amsterdam a few times a year and have to say that it’s one of my favorite places to visit. Sure it can be a little cold and wet, but who cares when there are plenty of fantastic places to escape the weather and eat and drink.
I promise that I will do another post talking about all of the other things to do in Amsterdam, but this post is all about some of my favorite places to eat and drink. While there are many, and I have yet to have a bad meal in Amsterdam, these are the places that I always visit when I’m there.
Depending on which day of the week I arrive, I usually hit up one of the outdoor markets first. The Noordermarkt held on Saturday, near the Jordaan is one of my favorites. It’s a big fresh food market (Biological = organic) that carries everything from bread to fresh fish and lots in between. All of the fruits and vegetables look like they fell out of a Dutch Master’s painting (no wonder they were such good artists, their subjects were so beautiful). The smell of baking bread is everywhere, good luck ignoring it, and is only interrupted by the occasional smell of herring. Adjacent to the market is a bit of a flea market that has antiques, clothing and books to rummage through. It kills a good couple of hours and if I didn’t get enough to eat there, it’s about a 5 minute walk to The Pancake Bakery. (Thin pancakes the size of a garbage pail lid filled with sweet or savory ingredients you can top with syrup or from the giant pot of molasses. When in season, their pea soup is not to be missed.)
There are a couple of arguments that can be made about this favorite place of mine, Café Bern. The first is, this a bar or a restaurant? The second is, can fondue really be called Dutch? After visiting Café Bern, you can decide those answers for yourself.
We literally stumbled into this place the first night we were in Amsterdam, many years ago. That particular night it was freezing cold, it was late and the skies were pummeling us with a combination of rain and ice. Ordinarily, these conditions would have forced me to choose any place that was open and serving food, but I absolutely refused to eat Mexican or Italian food when I was in Amsterdam. For a change my orneriness paid off. Even though you’ll find Café Bern in the bustling Nieuwmarkt, just outside the Red Light District, this is really a locals place.
Big red pots of bubbling Gruyère and baskets of crusty bread adorn every table. You’ll also see many plates of sizzling beef and beautiful plates of tomatensla (sliced tomato salad) that taste as beautiful as they look. All this goodness can be washed down with wine or Heineken (the bars/restaurants in Amsterdam serve many kinds of beers but you won’t find both Heineken and Amstel at the same place…it will be one or the other).
Take your time and enjoy yourself here, and make sure you lap up every last bit of that fondue. While you won’t see many tourists in here, after spending 15 minutes in this place you’ll feel like a native. As this place is VERY popular, reservations are highly recommended.
So now that your warm and your belly is full of beer, cheese and bread it’s time for a little stroll through the adjacent Red Light District. Sure, there’s scantily clad women in red lit windows (hence the name) along with some ‘gentlemen’s clubs’ and the occasional adult toy store, but there’s a bit more than that and it’s not nearly as seedy in real life as what you might be envisioning in your head. There are some regular bars along the way that have been in their locations for hundreds of years. The canal, when it’s not under massive construction like it is now, is home to ducks and swans that seem completely oblivious to their surroundings and paddle gracefully through the waters and there are quite a few fashion designers that have located there (not designers of corsets and latex suits, but real local clothing designers).
After having strolled the banks of this historic district, settling your stomach, it’s time for a nightcap (or maybe this is the little sipper to really kick off your evening…your choice).
One of my favorite places to have a nightcap or just to soak up some atmosphere while imbibing in some great spirits is In de Olofspoort (just on the other side of the Red Light District). And in case you think I can’t hold my camera straight…that is the building leaning and not my camera position. Notice the line of the curb and the line of the photo match and are straight.
What’s so great about In de Olofspoort? How about I give you a little background on the place first? (The following is taken from a sign posted in the establishment.) The tasting inn “In de Olofspoort” is situated in the oldest part of Amsterdam in a unique, splendidly restored monument, dating back to 1619 (look at the beam in top of the above photo). The back of the house is even older and is decorated as it would have been in the 17th century Golden Age period. The tasting inn specializes in Old Dutch gins and liqueurs. “Bitter en Soet”was created specially for this inn on an orange liqueur, almonds and herbs. Nowadays, it is a cosy (sic) and informal place for cosmopolitan company.
The terra cotta bottles that you see hanging in the picture above are bottles of Old Genever (oude jenever). If you don’t know about Genever, it is the spirit that is responsible for the creation of Gin. (Yes, there is also a New Genever – Jonge Jenever.) In de Olofspoort also creates their own genevers, with lots of different flavors (those are bottles in the bottom of picture). Sitting at a table enjoying a glass of one of their Genever’s is a nice and quiet way to unwind after a long day of running around Amsterdam and a satisfying dinner. Oh, and if you find one that you particularly like, you can buy a bottle (or 2) to take home with you.
I could go on and on about the places to eat and drink in Amsterdam…there are LOTS of great places. But I thought that I would stop with this group as it lends itself to a nice day of eating and drinking. I will definitely do a write up of more places to eat and drink in Amsterdam. I’ll also have some future posts of other things to do in Amsterdam, besides eating and drinking.
I hope you enjoy this little break from cocktail Friday. Let me know what you think and if you’d like to see more posts about eating and drinking in other cities.
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