Aspen Times Weekly: Amsterdam Now
If you haven’t already heard, Amsterdam is the fast rising star of Europe. Often overlooked for the big three — London, Paris and Rome — this smaller European capital with unique charms, art, history and architecture is reacquainting itself with today’s traveler.
For better or worse, Amsterdam’s reputation for fun and acceptance precedes itself. For many, the first things one thinks of are coffe shops that serve joints and space cakes, and the Red Light District that serves up prostitution. These are the things that make it the world’s “most tolerant city,” but also because of this, Amsterdam is the Stag Party capital of Europe, attracting young men and women from around the continent to let loose.
Amsterdam officials are the first to admit this not only presents an image problem, but a fundamental roadblock that has held Amsterdam back from attracting larger sections of tourism, opening itself up to more sophisticated and multigenerational audiences interested in food, art and design — all things the city has in abundance. To fix this, and address even bigger problems such as human trafficking and money-laundering, Amsterdam is taking a bold step by initiating Project 1012, a reconfiguring the city’s famous Red Light District to make it smaller and safer by way of closing many of its coffee shops, sex shops and window brothels.
Of course there is controversy around this — from the backlash against sterilizing the city, to young entrepreneurs who say the city isn’t doing enough to create affordable spaces, but if the reduction (not expulsion) of excess in Amsterdam means safer environments for sex workers, more legitimate locally owned businesses, and it can breed new places to show and create works of art, or corner cafes filled with ideas and vibrant conversation, I think it’s a good move.
As for now, if you are heading to Europe this summer, make Amsterdam part of your plan. If you are traveling with children, sure, stay away from the brothels and the coffee shops, but there is the rest of this one-of-a-kind city to explore. Here are six places to eat, drink and see on your next trip to the ‘Dam.
STAY: Canal Huis 58. If you’ve been to Crested Butte in the past five years, you’ve probably heard of Eleven Experience which operates both Scarp Ridge Lodge and the cat skiing operation at Irwin. Recently, they opened Canal Huis 58, a stunning boutique hotel located at the juncture of two waterways, and its first urban experience. What was once an 18-century Golden Age merchant’s canal house is now basecamp for eight to 10 guests who are privy to private art collections and their own canal boat for transportation and sightseeing.
EAT: Foodhallen – Take me back! Foodhallen is an indoor food market in the Oud-West neighborhood. Among other ventures inside this former tram depot, Foodhallen has been reimagined as a food and drink bazaar. Here they can choose from more than 20 restaurants and bars serving everything from Korean fried chicken to the Dutch specialty, bitterballen, local beer to gin and tonics, sitting communally with friends and family.
Villa Zeezicht — “Apple pie is more Dutch than American,” my neighbor in Basalt told me, and she should know, as she calls Amsterdam home. So I had to research her claim for myself. Villa Zeezicht is a quaint little café on a bustling corner near the Anne Frank House, where I stopped for a mint tea and mile-high appletaart topped with a generous, dare I say, obscene amount of whipped cream, which I wholeheartedly welcomed, appreciated and devoured.
Kantjil and de Tijger — Thanks to its history of exploration and colonization, Indonesian food culture is probably stronger in Amsterdam than actual Dutch cuisine. While locals may not consider Kantjil to be the very best Indonesian food in the city, it is authentic, delicious and fast. Without time to order the rijsttafel or ricetable (an elaborate setting of a dozen or more small dishes to share) I went with some amazing quick bites like mackerel in tomato sauce and stir-fried spicy eggplant.
SEE: Rijksmuseum — A spectacular collection of art and history housed in a beautiful landmark building. After 10 years of repair and restoration, The Netherlands’ national museum is back and open to its people. Works on display span from the middle ages to present day, demanding one spend an entire day walking amidst historical pieces, crafts and artwork by Dutch masters like Vermeer (The Milkmaid!) and Rembrandt (The Night Watch!). Afterward, linger in the museum gardens with a glass of wine or explore across the street where local artisans and food trucks set up shop.
EYE: Film Institute — Inside one of the coolest pieces of architecture in the city is a museum dedicated to film. The waterfront location also hosts a bar and restaurant, four theaters and an exhibition space. And just opening this month, next door to EYE will be A’dam Toren, a temple to music, dancing and fun that is open all day, every day with clubs, cafes, offices, eateries and the Sir Adam Hotel, scheduled to open later this year.
Amiee White Beazley writes about travel for the Aspen Times Weekly. Reach her at email@example.com or follow her @awbeazley1.