Category Archives: sights

westerpark in the snow (amsterdam)

The Westerpark is a park in the west of Amsterdam, to the left of Central Station and past the Haarlemmerstraat/Haarlemmerdijk. The park dates back to the 1870s, and in 1883 the Westergasfabriek, or gasworks (as seen in this post). Today, the Westergasfabriek is a cultural platform for exhibitions and fairs (like Kunstvlaai, and do you remember the Cool Globes exhibition?), festivals like the Amsterdam International Fashion Week as well as monthly Sunday Markets (see previous post).

The other day, right after it snowed, I went on an evening walk in the park. It was a Friday afternoon and parents were pulling kids along on sleds, children were making snowmen and throwing snowballs, men were skating on a small pond, dogs were rolling around in the snow…

The Westerpark is wonderful for any time of the day, any time of the year. For more events happening at the Westergasfabriek, check out their full program.

Click for more Amsterdam Insights, published every Wednesday, and here for previous Coming Up posts.


brouwersgracht (amsterdam)

A few months ago I posted about one of my favorite in places in Amsterdam, the Prinsengracht. In follow up of my latest post, Quiet Amsterdam, I thought I would post about the Brouwersgracht, just around the corner from the busy Haarlemmerstraat/Haarlemmerdijk.

It’s wonderfully quiet, and the crossing of the canals is just beautiful.

Click for more Amsterdam Insights, published every Wednesday.

quiet amsterdam (amsterdam)

In the craziness of this pre-Christmas time, I thought I’d share with a few “quiet places” in Amsterdam. The first is the Museum Willet-Holthuysen, found on the beautiful Herengracht, wedged between the Amstel river and the busy Utrechtsestraat. It’s a peaceful oasis in the middle of the hustle and bustle of the city. I recently just walked right by and decided to take a look.

It was so beautiful inside – dark rooms with candles burning…

And grand bouquets of flowers…

This 17th century canal house has been preserved over the years and is now a museum with a permanent collection (the history of the house) and often has temporary exhibits rolling through.

The Museum Willet-Holthuysen can be found on the Herengracht (605) and is open Monday to Friday from 10am to 5pm and on the weekends from 11am. Next is Zuivere Koffie on the Utrechtsestraat. Granted, the Utrechtsestraat is a very busy shopping street but I went to this little cafe right at 4pm, right before closing.

Sipping on a delicious cup of coffee, watching bikers go by…

There are plenty more coffee places on the Utrechtsestraat, including another favorite of mine, Two For Joy Coffee Roasters on the Frederiksplein (29) (see previous post here). Zuivere Koffie (Utrechtsestraat 39) is open Monday to Friday from 8am to 5pm and from 9am on Saturday.

And lastly, the Begijnhof behind Spui (remember the American Book Center?) It’s a courtyard that dates back to the 14th century.

It’s probably the quietest place in Amsterdam that I know of. You can’t even hear the trams passing through Spui. And it the courtyard is just beautiful…

The Begijnhof (and chapel) is open daily from 9am to 5pm.

Only after preparing this post did I find that there’s a book called “Quiet Amsterdam,” a beautifully illustrated photography book by Siobhan Wall. It looks as though it can be found at Waterstones (Kalvestraat 152) so I might have to pick up a copy!

Click for more Amsterdam Insights, published every Wednesday.

amsterdam-oost (amsterdam)

I’m going to try to cover more Amsterdam neighborhoods (see previous post Amsterdam-Noord) in the next few weeks. Here’s a spotlight on Amsterdam-Oost, or “Amsterdam East,” an area with so much history, beauty and things to do! Here’s a list of my favorites…

Visit the Dappermarkt, open Monday through Friday from 9am to 6pm with stalls overflowing with local and foreign produce. You’ll find great Turkish and other Middle Eastern delights here. After collecting goods at the market, head to the Oosterpark, the first park constructed by the Amsterdam municipality in 1891 and a quiet oasis in the city, perfect for a picnic on a sunny day. And warm up with a home-brewed beer at Brouwerij ‘t IJ (Funenkade 7), housed in a former bathhouse next to a windmill. Sample several brews or take a brewery tour.

If you’re in the area, you have to visit the Jewish Historical Museum (Nieuwe Amstelstraat 1), housed in the Great Synagogue, built by the Ashkenazi Jews of Amsterdam in the 17th century. The museum hosts the most spectacular temporary exhibitions (on display till November 13th is the exhibition, “Unguarded Moments: Photographs by Marianne Breslauer” and on display till March 4, 2012 is the exhibition, “Saul Leiter: New York Reflections“) as well as detailing the extensive history of the Jews in the Netherlands (between 1600 and 1900 and from 1900 to today) in their permanent collection.

Across the street is the Portuguese Synagogue (Mr. Visserplein 3), constructed in the years 1671-1675, 75 years after the Sephardic Jews arrived in the Netherlands (read more about the history of the Synagogue). Visit the Synagogue for a candle-lit Winter Concert until March 2012. And just around the corner is the statue of the Dockworker on the Jonas Daniel Meijerplein that commemorates the first major protest from the Dutch against what was happening in their country under Nazi occupation on the 22nd and 23rd of February 1941. There are many more “Jewish Amsterdam” sights around the city that I highly recommend visiting, including the Hollandsche Schouwburg (Plantage Middenlaan 24), Auschwitz Memorial (Wertheim Park) and Monument to Jewish Resistance (Amstel 1), also in Amsterdam-Oost.

A visit to the area isn’t complete without a walk along the Jodenbreestraat, where you’ll find the Rembrandt House Museum (Jodenbreestraat 4), where Rembrandt lived from 1639 to 1656 when he went bankrupt and had to sell all his possessions at an auction. Stop by the lovely Soup en Zo (Jodenbreestraat 9a) for delicious fresh-made soups served with hardy brown or corn bread. With a daily changing menu (think pumpkin soup with coriander, spicy spinach soup with coconut, Indian curry soup with chicken, etc.), you’ll never go wrong. Or grab a coffee and muffin (their apple cinnamon muffins are delicious!) at Tony’s NY City Bagels (Jodenbreestraat 15).

And of course, the lovely Waterlooplein around the corner (see previous post).

Then there’s the lovely Natura Artis Magistra (Plantage Kerklaan 38-40). The Royal Amsterdam Zoo is Europe’s oldest zoo, founded in 1838 and definitely worth a visit for family’s and animal-lovers. Next door is the De Hortus Botanicus (Plantage Middenlaan 2a), one of the oldest botanical gardens in the world, with more than 4,000 different types of plants in their greenhouses and gardens.

Hungry? Why not check out Burgermeester (Plantage Kerklaan 37) for delicious (and inventive) burgers, ranging from salmon to lamb burgers as well as vegetarian options like pumpkin with portobello mushroom and gorgonzola and goat’s cheese and caramelized onions and apples (see previous post for more photographs). Or grab a coffee or a glass of wine at the neighborhood bar Cafe Koosje (Plantage Middenlaan 37). They also serve lunch (choose from a variety of sandwiches) and dinner (from schnitzel to Greek salads).

Other notable visits include the Tropenmuseum (Linaeusstraat 2), or “Museum of the Tropics,” one of the leading ethnographic museums in Europe. Its permanent collectionscover Southeast Asia, Oceania, Western Asia and North Africa, Africa, Latin America, Man and Environment and Music, Dance and Theater, and they also host temporary exhibitions like “Death Matters,” on display now. And the newly opened Tattoo Museum (Plantage Middenlaan 62) by famous tattoo artist Henk Schiffmacher. I visited the opening on Museumnacht, or “Museum Night” on Saturday, November 5th. Check out my post about the event.

Head to the Amstel where you’ll find the beautiful Hermitage Amsterdam (Amstel 51), housed in the building that served as a home for elderly women in the 17th century, known then as the Amstelhof. The Hermitage Amsterdam has an agreement with the Russian government to produce exhibitions together with the State Hermitage Museum in St Petersburg. On display till March 16, 2012 is the exhibition, “Rubens, Van Dyck & Jordaens: Flemish Painters from the Hermitage.”

You’ll also find the prestigious five-star Amstel Hotel (Professor Tulpplein 1), dating back to 1867. The hotel has been visited by the likes of England’s Queen Elizabeth, Henry Kissinger, Gustav Eiffel, Walt Disney, Audrey Hepburn, Steven Spielberg and the Rolling Stones. With 55 rooms, 24 suites and 1 Royal Suite, rates range from €300 to €3,000 a night! Wine and dine at the French-inspired one Michelin star restaurant La Rive.

Click for more Amsterdam Insights, published every Wednesday.

prinsengracht (amsterdam)

One of my favorite places in Amsterdam…

The Prinsengracht canal. You can see the Westerkerk off in the distance, which is right around the corner of the Anne Frank House. And of course, the coloring of the leaves this time of year, it’s so beautiful, especially when contrasted with the dark bark of this tree…

A better view of the Westerkerk, can you spot the blue crown on top of the church?

I took these photographs quickly right before meeting Olivia Rae of everyday musings for a coffee (and they sampled traditional Dutch pancakes) at Pancakes! Amsterdam (Berenstraat 38). Click here for her beautiful photographs of Amsterdam.

Gotta love the house boats…

And their reflections in the water…

My number one tip for Amsterdam: just wander. Wander the streets. Wander the canals. Get lost.

Click for more Amsterdam Insights, published every Wednesday.

blijburg (amsterdam)

Welcome to Amsterdam Insights, the October edition! You can see a roundup of all my September posts for more ideas of things to do in Amsterdam, but I’m excited to keep exploring the city and sharing events/ideas with you. Previous Amsterdam Insights have mainly featured things in the city, and now I want to share with you something a little ways out, a short bike ride from the city center… the IJburg “strand” or beach, Blijburg! The other weekend I biked with a few friends out to Blijburg (about a 45 minute bike ride from my apartment in Amsterdam West), and we were surprised to find a “Kofferbakmarkt” or car trunk market on Sunday afternoon…

There were lots of great things for sale and this market felt very different to the other flea markets in Amsterdam, like the Noordermarkt and Waterlooplein flea market

Here’s a photograph of a couple sitting in their car trunk, with a display of old trinkets/goods laid out in front of them…

I loved this purple van, they were selling homemade apple pie and coffee!

And there were plenty of children out to play…

We then walked towards the beach…

Where families were spread out on picnic blankets, children were playing in the sand…

And we had a lovely lazy afternoon complete with a picnic (and more homemade apple pie!)…

I don’t think you’ll be seeing sights like this in the upcoming months…

But Blijburg stays open in the winter. On Friday through Sunday, the restaurant (featuring a winter menu) will be open from 10am for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Be sure to check out their agenda for upcoming events in the weekends. And for information on how to get there, click here.

Click here for more Amsterdam Insights, published every Wednesday.

amsterdam-noord (amsterdam)

Even though I’m living in Amsterdam for a substantial amount of time (my masters programme is a year and a half), I still feel like I’m only here temporarily, like a lot of my friends here who are exchange students. But I felt this way in Montreal too, and took every opportunity to explore everything the city had to offer. So on Tuesday last week, a group and I took a free ferry from Central Station to the NDSM wharf, up north.

You can find the ferry behind Central Station, look for the one that leaves to “NDSM-werf.” Click here for the ferry times (from Central Station to NDSM-werf and from NDSM-werf to Central Station). The 14-minute ferry ride is an adventure in itself, with great views of the IJ river and the architecture built around it.

A former shipyard on the northern banks of the IJ and larger than 10 football fields, the NDSM wharf is now a center for underground culture in Amsterdam. Read more about the history of the NDSM wharf here.

I had come across this article, “The Noord District’s Hip Rebirth” by Joel Weickgenant of the Wall Street Journal this summer, and it inspired me to visit Amsterdam North. Unfortunately we went on a Tuesday and most of the art galleries (listed in the article) were closed.

After exploring the area, we stopped for lunch and drinks at Cafe Noorderlicht (T.T. Neveritaweg 33)…

According to Weickgenant, this is one of Amsterdam’s hidden gems, “a neon-decked Quonset hut-like structure on the waterfront, where bands and DJs perform on a stage set between the harbor and a large, open fireplace.” The next event will take place on Friday, September 30 at 21.30, called “Dicht op het Vuur” or “close to the fire.”

From there we explored some more…

A few weeks ago I mentioned the IJ-Hallen market (September 17-18), a large indoor/outdoor flea market of 500+ stalls that took place in Amsterdam North. There’s another one coming up! Be sure to check it out October 7th & 8th from 9am to 4pm at T.T. Neveritaweg 15. You might have just missed HAVENsafari, an exclusive boat trip through the undiscovered areas of the Port of Amsterdam, it’s last tour was this past weekend, but be sure to check it out next year. Other events can be found here.

There’s so much to do in the north of Amsterdam, can’t wait to go back and explore some more. Click here for more Amsterdam Insights, published every Wednesday.