I got married in Amsterdam last summer. ‘Is your husband Dutch?’ was the refrain from not-so-close friends and acquaintances. No, and indeed, I had no personal connection to the city, other than the profound love for it that bloomed on my first visit, in the depths of winter and before the age of Google Maps, when I wandered the canals aimlessly and skipped every single tourist sight deemed must-see – from the Rijksmuseum to the red light district. I’m no local, but when I chose the city for my nuptials I wanted everyone I love to fall in love, too – to eat at farm-to-table restaurants that are more humble than hipster; to poke through flea markets and secondhand shops overflowing with well-worn silver and blue-and-white Delft pottery; to ride a bicycle and breathe in air that is crisp and cool no matter the weather or season.
Here, we meet five locals who share their hometown secret spots. Places, as shoe designer Bianca Blom says, that give you that real ‘Amsterdam feeling’. Our bicycle awaits.
Bianca founded her brand, Linja Shoes, in response to a void she saw in the market for intelligently designed heels – stylish footwear that’s comfortable enough to handle walking and cycling daily through Amsterdam’s cobbled streets
Every time I arrive back from a work trip, the first thing I love to do is ride my bike – in heels, naturally – along the canals to my shop, House of Artisans. This, to me, is the ultimate Amsterdam feeling. Spiegelgracht is one of my favourite canals, I ride along it to the Rijksmuseum. There’s a bike lane that goes underneath the museum and I love hearing the street musicians. On the other side, you look over Museum Square. One of my favourite places for coffee or lunch is round the corner, in the hidden courtyard of the Conservatorium Hotel. Hotel Pulitzer on Prinsengracht also has a secret garden.
Anne van Midden
Anne is a stylist and floral designer for photoshoots, weddings and events, who lives in a picture-perfect town called Amersfoort, 45 minutes from Amsterdam
I studied in Amsterdam for four years, and every time I come back I rent a bike. It’s the best way to get around – stop for pretty scenery when you want, visit vintage shops or stroll around the flower market. Another gem is the Hortus Botanicus, a beautiful old greenhouse. It’s the perfect place to slow down in the city. I always leave inspired – and with loads of photos. But I’m more of a nature girl than a city dweller. My favourite places to explore are the forests and sand dunes in Soestduinen, De Hoge Veluwe national park and my husband’s birth island of Texel – all great for day trips or weekend getaways.
Jeroen Oude Sogtoen
Jeroen is the founder and creative director of lifestyle brand Zenology, whose luxury room scents and body products are available at high-end hotels and department stores around the world, as well as perfume house Maison Mona di Orio
My favourite place in town is the proeflokaal – the Dutch for ‘tasting tavern’ – Wynand Fockink. It has retained its 17th century character and is a place where my friends meet over quality homemade jenever (similar to gin, and a local speciality). As a creative director I blend and combine beautiful raw materials, and this place inspires new creations: the Mykonos cocktail has a freshness that triggers the palette along with sour, spicy and bitter notes. Tasting is done the old-fashioned way – bowing to the drink and slurping the first sip from a traditional tulip glass. Sip and taste – it’s not a shot.
Valerie Soh and Sascha Speckemeier
Marketing consultant and food writer Valerie founded Amsterdam-based Munchienomnom to explore the world of food, and is a ‘tastehunter’ for the World’s 50 Best Restaurants. Sascha is the restaurant manager of two-Michelin-starred Spectrum. They met and fell in love in Amsterdam, where they will marry this summer
There’s something in the air in Amsterdam. Every time we arrive back after a trip, we feel an immediate need to go for a walk along the canals and settle back into the city. Utrechtsestraat is a quiet street with an amazing curation of little shops. It feels like home, whether we stop for apple pie at Patisserie Kuyt, or head to the little Simon en Evert food stall for the most delicious herring in town (and the best views over the river), or cosy neighbourhood butcher Slagerij De Leeuw to buy fresh truffles and wagyu beef by the gram. It’s a street where you’re able to build relationships, because only regulars go there – we even got our wedding bands made at the local goldsmith, Esther.
Isabelle is the host manager at the Conservatorium Hotel, and joined during its pre-opening phase in 2011. She manages guest relations and the concierge, advising guests where to find the best hidden gems
My all-time favourite hidden gem for comfort food in Amsterdam is definitely Bagel Nosh. The interior is basic but it’s the perfect spot for breakfast and lunch, and offers the best hangover brunch in town (topped off with one of its homemade pies). The owner is so passionate and friendly and welcomes me back with a smile even if I haven’t been for a while. It’s just outside the city centre in the south part of Amsterdam.