Amsterdam The ultimate guide

Amsterdam the ultimate guide

I thought I’d written about Amsterdam several times…..apparently not!

Amsterdam is a lovely place to visit, and if you’re lucky enough, as I was for 18 months, it is a lovely place to live as well.

The old part of the city is arranged around several horseshoe canals – study your map to find out where you’re REALLY going and you could save yourself a long walk or an expensive taxi as one-way streets abound alongside the canals – but it’s a difficult place to get really lost.

T and I went to Amsterdam on the Jubilee four day weekend nnnnmpf years ago, and while there we went to a few of my old haunts.

In no particular order, these are some of my favourite places in Amsterdam –  I hope they’re still in business:


  • Gollem Bar (the one I know is on Raamsteeg, just off Spuistraat)
  • Bar Hoppe
  • Spui generally
  • Brouwerij Het Ij
  • Rasta Baby


  • Supper Club – it looks to have moved from where I think it used to be on Jonge Roelensteeg
  • Chips from near the Help Sign
  • Humphrey’s restaurant (reasonable)
  • de Vijf Vlieghen (pricey)
  • Puccini Bombini – great chocolate shop near the Stopera
  • Pea and Ham soup in the Cafe Oorlam.
  • Bagel and Beans near the Albert Cuypmarkt
  • Nam Kee Chinese Restaurant (reasonable)


  • Begijnenhof – Sunday mornings, an oasis.
  • Help sign – this will make you pause, cry, but go anyway
  • Bloemenmarkt
  • The square on Museumplein – in summer there’s even a pool to dip your toes in.
  • Holland Casino – a very ‘normal’ experience
  • Jordaan
  • Rijksmuseum
  • Stedelijk Museum
  • Anne Frank House – this will leave you empty
  • Magere Brug – it seems unfair to put this after Anne Frank House, as it’s just a bridge, but it has a strange beauty.
  • The boat tour – most are really good and will show/tell you things that you’ll miss from street-level – Jan Smuts house for instance.


  • Amsterdammetjes – these little bollards will catch you right in the …unexpected
  • Bikes – they’re everywhere
  • Trams – mercifully confined to tracks but beware – they’re quiet
  • Taxis – you’d think they’d be on the roads, but no – they’re on the tram-tracks too!!!! At least they make a noise!
  • The area known as De Waag around Nieuwmarkt had a reputation when I was there. It may be better now, but I would still be cautious about being there deep into the night.

The places above might not float your boat, but in their own way, they all floated mine at some point or another.

You should also visit the Red Light District after dark as it’s another world – just be sensible and you’ll be fine.

If you do decide to indulge one of Amsterdam’s temptations and visit a coffee shop, don’t make the mistake and think that ‘edibles’ are less potent than smoking stuff. They’re often stronger…allegedly. You should certainly expect a delay of 2-3 hours before any edible takes effect, so *if* you indulge, beware of thinking that it isn’t working or isn’t strong.

But in Amsterdam, the best thing I can recommend that you do is just to ‘be’. If the weather is up to it, hire a boat and cruise (or row) the canals, but beware – it can be very chilly down on the water. Also, resist the temptation to peek into houseboats…you are VERY close when you row past. Hang about on Museumplein or in Vondelpark. Go and watch the guys near Leidseplein playing giant chess, or just wander. It’s a nice city to wander in, as the canals give you a map and the trams will almost always get you back to Central Station. And everyone (everyone!) speaks English.

Even Brexit will not (bold prediction here) permanently harm the love that the Dutch have for the British. If you have ever been to Holland you know it’s deeper than politics – may it ever be so. The Dutch are certainly my favourite foreign race – I have some very dear American friends, but as a country, Holland and the Dutch edge it.

Take more money (or a loaded card) than you can imagine you can spend, because you may just find yourself going from cafe to cafe, having a beer or two or maybe something stronger, and the temptation to just try one more bar is quite strong.

On a morning, head to an ‘eetcafe’ (cafe that does food) and ask for an Uitsmijter “Owwt-s-might-er” (literally, a ‘clearer-outer’*) which is the perfect hangover cure. It’s a fry-up basically, and will put you back on top form.

*I’m not sure whether this is so-called because it clears your system of bad stuff, or if it’s clearing the fridge of the things on your plate, but  suspect the latter.

The more delicate might prefer pancakes – Mijnheer Pannekoek does some lovely things, but there are many places selling pancakes. To be honest….if you can’t find pancakes in Amsterdam, you need new glasses!

As with all of my posts, this is badly put-together but it has made me revisit some lovely old (and some not so old) memories of Holland, the Dutch, and Amsterdam.

Oh, and go read the plaque under the Help sign. There are plaques commemorating things that happened in WWII that do not make pleasant reading but now, more than ever, we should not allow memories of times past to be forgotten.

Read all the plaques. Some will make you teary, but read them anyway. Read how this nation has overcome. And will survive.

I will edit this because I have forgotten stuff, but if you’ve not been….you should go. Really.

Language idiot’s 5(6) things to know in Dutch:

A.U.B. = “please”

trekken = pull

duwen = push

heren = gents

dames = ladies

There aren’t many words you’ll see written down that you need to tell apart 🙂

“tway bee-er al-stu-bleeft” – this should get you two beers and the barman replying to you in English.

Last thing – look both ways when you cross the cycle-path, tram track, bus lane or road!

If you read this, and go to Amsterdam, please let me know if anything needs updating! Thanks

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  • Ah, I’d forgotten about the Gollem Bar! I do hope it’s still running successfully. It’s years since I visited Amsterdam too. It’s one of my favourite places – must have been fab to spend 18 months there.

    • Hi Nell, Gollem seems to have two or three locations now so they must be doing something right. My favourite memory is going there to join friends, making five in total.

      People moved along to make room for us to sit together without a word being said.

      As memories go I guess it’s not earth-shattering, but the little things stick with you. It was just a lovely moment.

  • I’m just back you have pretty much summed it up perfect , I only just survived the amount of bikes