From its storybook canals to its tall, handsome residents whizzing around on bicycles, Amsterdam is an utterly magical place. One of the most well-preserved cities in Europe, Amsterdam is dripping in charm and history. Beyond the museums housing some of the world's most extensive collections of Rembrandt and Van Gogh, the city is pulsating with cutting-edge fashion and contemporary design. Here our editor-approved picks of where to stay, eat, and explore in the forever dreamy Dutch capital that's compact in size, yet vast in Instagram opportunities.
Where to Stay
Set within 25 interlocking Golden Age canal homes, Pulitzer Amsterdam is an architectural wonder with swoon-worthy interiors. (Think: Wes Anderson–like corridors with intricate details and art at every turn.) Situated within the historic Nines District in the UNESCO-protected canal ring, the hotel's location is as picture perfect as it gets, with artisanal cafés and local boutiques lining the streets just outside the hotel.
Pulitzer Amsterdam(it was founded by the grandson of Joseph Pulitzer) underwent a head-to-toe renovation in 2016—the first ever of its kind for a UNESCO World Heritage site. Under the genius of Creative Director Jacu Strauss, each guest room was individually redesigned with meticulous consideration for its original story and purpose. There are gems to be ogled over at every corner, but be sure to check out the courtyard garden (a zen place to relax that even has swings), the 1800s apothecary-turned-sitting-room next to Jansz restaurant, and the curvaceous book sculptures in the lobby.
The Conservatorium is a serenely sleek hotel in Amsterdam's famous Museum Quarter housed inside a landmark building by celebrated Dutch architect Daniel Knuttel. Once a 19th-century bank and a 20th-century music conservatory, the space was transformed by Milan-based architect and designer Piero Lissoni into the stylish hotel and masterpiece of sustainability it is now in 2011. The hotel boasts fourteen different room categories, but natural light, fabulous modern furnishings, and spaciousness are consistent throughout. Pro tip: Make time to marvel over the hotel's details; luxury spots especially worth perusing include the Conservatorium's boutiques (a favored jeweler of the Dutch Royal Family has a shop above the lobby) and Akasha Holistic Wellbeing, a utopia-like spa.
Located inside what was once a 19th century diamond factory in Amsterdam's hip De Pijp neighborhood, the Sir Albert Hotel has become a favorite of trendy locals and artsy tourists alike. The four-star hotel is adorned in quirky details and posh furnishings, including cowhide chairs, Taschen coffee table books, and room cards featuring punchy jokes and Indie art. Rooms at Sir Albert skew slightly smaller, but the price point is right; rates start around $125. Be sure to check out the hotel's brilliantly curated Sir Explore program, which connects travelers with off-the-beaten path experiences in Amsterdam, like a tour of Amsterdam's underground vintage stores, in-room hair styling and makeup, and a bar crawl to the hippest beer spots.
Where to Eat and Drink
Amsterdam’s first international food market, Foodhallen features more than 20 stalls ranging from Michelin star concepts to street food. When the tramway-turned-food-hall first opened in 2014, it was all the rage, and the hype hasn't worn off. Flocks of *local* foodies can be found here year-round, enjoying the upbeat, laid-back vibe. With so many mmmm-inducing offerings, Foodhallen is a particularly smart lunch choice for those traveling on a budget and/or in a group, as there's something to satisfy every type of diet restriction and budget. Note that some stalls only accept cash.
Vinnie’s is a cozy vegetarian spot open for breakfast and lunch with two airy locations in Amsterdam. In addition to serving mouthwatering, all-organic dishes (you'll want to lick your plate no matter what you order), the furniture is vintage and there's a free sample jar of homemade cookies that greets patrons upon entering.
This spot is the cat's meow of fine Dutch dining. Housed inside a former bank with enormous ceilings and stained glass details—and with food and service that rival the interiors—eating at The Duchess is a special occasion to be remembered. Get the zucchini noodles to start followed by the dover sole. Fellow chocolate lovers would also be wise to save room for dessert and order the aptly named chocolate explosion.
An art lover's dream themed bar, Bar Basquiat celebrates the legendary New York painter. Located in Noord, an up-and-coming neighborhood, inside a building that once housed a grocery store, the space is fascinating: Basquiat's motifs of hobo signs denote the bathrooms; neon signs with misspelled phrases illuminate a cage-like sculpture that hangs over the bar. The playlist is upbeat, the drinks are delicious (two words: coffee martini), and the bartenders are among the friendliest in the city.
Pulitzer Amsterdam's Pulitzer's Bar is no ordinary sexy lobby bar. For one, the warm and welcoming space gets just as much foot traffic from locals as it does from tourists. And then there are the interiors. With its dark walls, round hanging lights, and velvet bar stools, posh European daydreams come alive when the sun goes down. The menu features brilliantly themed cocktails that change twice a year—Ernest Hemingway is the current theme.
Where to Explore
Recognized by historians as the oldest building in Amsterdam, the Oude Kerk is a stunning 800-year-old church that has been dually repurposed into part house of worship, part contemporary art museum and music venue. The museum commissions international artists to create site-specific installations inspired by the church and surrounding Red Light District twice a year, and concerts take place here most Friday mornings. Despite the building's history, the spot remains under-the-radar (read: no selfie stick–yielding tourists).
The Stedelijk Museum
The Stedelijk Museum is an obligatory stop for art and design lovers. Programming at the Stedelijk Museum is consistently cutting-edge, and an effort to present immersive exhibitions differentiates the museum from its old master neighbors (it's situated on the Museumplain, just a stone's throw away from the Van Gogh Museum). The newest wing (nicknamed "the bathtub" for its funky shape) is also home to the museum's permanent collection, where you'll find works by the likes of Piet Mondrian, Marc Chagall, Roy Lichtenstein, Barbara Kruger and Damien Hirst.
Museum Van Loon
Located on the Keizersgracht canal right across the street from the Foam museum for photography, Museum Van Loon is a grand canal house dating back to 1672 that's been generously preserved by the Van Loon family. Entering the under-the-radar historic gem feels like stepping back in time and getting to play bourgeoisie for a half hour. Be sure to check out the space's beautiful courtyard.
The Anne Frank House
That the Anne Frank House is must-visit should go without saying. An emotional experience that I imagine impacts every visitor differently, the museum presents both the horrors of the Holocaust and the bravery of a young Jewish girl who dared to dream about love and a life after the war. Tickets to the Anne Frank House sell out months in advance, but a handful of tickets are released on the museum's website each day.
The Canals Via Boat
One of the best ways to experience Amsterdam is by boat, and Hotel Pulitzer's 110-year-old ship, The Tourist, is the chicest saloon vessel to do so. Queen Wilhelmina took Winston Churchill aboard The Tourist in 1946 to celebrate the end of World War II, so you can expect to be impressed. Hour-long tours by the boat's owner, Imco Bruné, are offered twice a day and a posh selection of wine, beer, and snacks are available for purchase aboard.
Where to Shop
I'd argue that Amsterdam offers the best boutique shopping to be found in Europe. Given the city's walkability, the abundance of cute and quirky shops in the Nines District and the area surrounding the Albert Cuypmarkt in De Pijp, and the fact that most of the womenswear stores I wondered into presented an actual range of high to low, definitely budget some money for chic souvenirs ahead of visiting Amsterdam.
X Bank is a meticulously curated concept store and art gallery showcasing emerging Dutch designers and talent. Art exhibitions change every six to eight weeks and the invite-only opening parties consistently see Amsterdam's most fashionable in attendance. The retail space has fascinating womenswear, menswear, home furnishings, and accessories available at every price point.
This interior design mecca is located near the Waterlooplein, a tourist-heavy area famous for its flower markets, but I'd skip the markets and just come here for Droog. Originally founded as a design collective in 1933, Droog has since expanded its high-end offerings to include designer fashion, a stunning restaurant with canal views, garden cafe, and a one-room hotel.
Atelier Sukha is a gem of a boutique tucked away in Jordaan (right near Vinnie's) selling artisanal home objects and apparel. The vibe is earthy and minimalist with white, oak-paneled floors, lofty ceilings, and an inviting swing chair in the center of the store. Objects are curated from all over the world, and the price point begins at six euros with nothing really exceeding 300. My sister and I picked up a delicate paper dragonfly for our mom handmade with Lokta paper in Nepal.
Anna + Nina
It began as a small jewelry store a few years ago, but has since expanded into three outposts with chic womenswear, home decor, and accessories. Brands carried include Ganni, Love Stories, and an in-store jewelry and womenswear label. If you're looking for a special souvenir that won't set you back, Anna + Nina is a solid bet.
- Amsterdam's streets are mostly cobblestoned, so unless you fancy blister-inducing sandals or wobbling atop uneven surfaces, lean into being your chillest self and just wear sneakers with everything. Wearing heels at night is a dead giveaway that you're a tourist. See more helpful packing suggestions below.
- If you're planning on doing a lot of shopping and have a flexible calendar, note that sales occur during the end of July and the end of January.
- An Uber to the city center from the airport might set you back $50, whereas the very clean and easy-to-understand bus option only costs about 5 euros. Save your money for important things (like waffle cookies and jewelry).
Our Travel Favorites for Amsterdam
This under-eye concealer is my be-all, end-all favorite product. It'll be helpful to have on hand after a night out so you won't look hungover in your vacation photos.
A relaxed floral print is obligatory if you're visiting Amsterdam in the spring or summer.
Taking a transatlantic red-eye? Keep your face moisturized with this light and hydrating moisturizer that's suitable for sensitive skin types.
Bring a versatile viscoe jumpsuit that can pass as formal at a nice dinner when styled with jewelry and mules, or casual when worn during the day.
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Jaimie Potters is the Commerce Content Manager at Hearst Magazines Digital Media, where she covers fashion, beauty, tech and more.
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