Tue 26 October 2021

Want to forget the world isn’t a giant flaming dumpster fire for a few days? Then fall into this storybook European city

Current Mood: Escapist

Want to forget the world is a giant flaming dumpster fire for a few days? Like Brexit and Trump don’t exist? Then fall into this storybook European city replete with world-class museums, spectacular sites and endless experiences all enhanced by their very special treat: space cakes.

What to Expect:

When most people think of Amsterdam, they think of pot and the “red light district.” The latter is shrinking dramatically and the former – while at one time was Amsterdam’s novelty – has faded in its exceptionalism with the wave of legalisation in large parts of the world. As such, the “oh my gosh I’m smoking weed in the street” factor has dissipated and that has opened up the ability of people to see Amsterdam more holistically: a spectacularly beautiful European capital with “big city” amenities and “small town” feel. But be careful while you explore. Bicycles have the right of way ALWAYS and cyclists are militant about owning the road, pavement and anywhere else they want to claim as their own. This is especially true a few hours after you’ve indulged in a “space cake.”

Before Sunset:

Every Amsterdam day should start with a massive 30cm pancake at the aptly named “Pancakehouse Upstairs.” Reserve a table and turn up a few minutes early to ascend the vertigo-inducing ladder into the cosy dining room. Pick from an incredible selection of sweet or savoury pancakes (I recommend the brie, bacon and honey – it’s divine) then sip a coffee and look up at the dozens of teapots suspended from the ceiling while you wait

You’ll need a second coffee to avoid a pre-midday food coma. Fortunately, De Laatste Kruimel café and bakery is just a few doors down. They brew the best coffee in Amsterdam and also offer an incredible selection of sandwiches and baked goods. Grab enough for a picnic lunch. Before you go to far, pop right over the road to Kadinsky Coffeeshop (important note: “Coffeeshop” means “Marijuana shop” in Amsterdam. Be warned, and get excited) for the best space cake weed brownies in town. Ask for their tips on dosage.

Next, it’s time for a little culture while that brownie does its magic. Zig-zag your way through the canal streets to The Van Gogh museum, which can’t be missed. It’s also the perfect midway point to picking up your very own boat – the best way to see the city. Keep wandering past the Royal Opera House and the Hermitage to Mokumboot Amsterdam Amstel’s Mauritskade location to pick up your electricity-powered chariot on the water. Four hours is a solid amount of time to book. Don’t forget to pick up some beverages before you board and remember someone needs to stay sober to drive!

From this location you can first shoot out of the city into the nature-lined canal paths that bob and weave through the country. There’s no better spot to let the space cake wash over you and follow your munchies into those sandwiches and baked goods you grabbed in the morning. When you’ve had enough of nature, turn around and explore the inner city by boat. This is a truly unique perspective.

The author on the Amsterdam Canals

When time’s up, turn the boat back in and head directly to Brouwerij ‘t lJ – a craft beer brewery located INSIDE a centuries old Dutch windmill. Their extensive list of house-brewed beers are divine, as is the cheese and sausage plate you can get to accompany it. This is the perfect way to say farewell to the day: combing the tale end of a space cake with delicious beer and balls of cheese.

By now it’ll be time for a pre-evening recharge. AirBnBs in the Jordaan neighbourhood will give you the best local feel as it’s a stunningly beautiful residential neighbourhood just minutes from the centre of town. Alternatively, for a more unique experience, rent a houseboat and sleep on the water! If a hotel is more your thing, the funky, chic Toren Hotel is sublime. Their hotel bar is also too cool in the best possible way.

Before Sunrise:

The evening has got to start with some bitterballen, which is the Dutch answer to the dumpling. It’s important to note that the Dutch aren’t really foodies. That said, bitterballen are a ball-shaped carbohydrate-covered wonder snack made of mince meat mixed with broth, butter and flour coated in bread crumbs and deep fried. They’re usually served with mustard for dipping and are best enjoyed with a beer. My favourite are at Café de Doffer. Stay for dinner or wander a few blocks north to Restaurant Jansz if you’re feeling classy. It’s important to leave room for dessert because the apple pie at Winkel 43 is perfection. This place also gets pretty lively a bit later so it’s a perfect pre-clubbing venue to have a few drinks.

At this point, it’s decision time. There are two very different late night paths in Amsterdam. The first is the “only in Amsterdam” route where you head to a “coffeeshop,” consume marijuana in some form and then eat tons of food before a blissful sleep. Almost all “coffeeshops” close by 1am so you’re time limited.

The second is the more traditional route and while it could theoretically come after visiting a coffeeshop, it’s unlikely your vibe will be “dance ‘til dawn” after smoking a joint. In which case, after pie move on to Café Brandon for another beer then make your way to Club Church (not before midnight) to dance until dawn at one of Europe’s most open and inclusive club venues. Expect nudity on stage and some incredible, niche show that leaves you feeling like maybe we can all just get along. Doors close at 5am on Saturday nights, which means you’ll be emerging to radiant sunshine if you’re there in summer.

No matter how you finish your night, when you wake up again head directly to van Wonderen Frieten from noon for the best bucket of chips you’ll ever eat, followed by van Wonderen Stroopwafels to finish your visit with the national sweat treat – gooey, delicious caramel sandwiches between two sweet waffle biscuits. Pick up some tulips from the flower market on your way to the train station or airport and you’ve got yourself a perfect mini escape from all the bad to so…much…good.

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