Amsterdam is known for its picturesque canals lined with grand Golden Age houses, but the capital of the Netherlands is hardly stuck in the past. This vibrant cosmopolitan city offers stylish modern eateries and swanky watering holes among its history-filled cobblestone streets. Here’s where to sample the best of both worlds.
The brightly wrapped Tony’s Chocolonely chocolate bars are a staple on Amsterdam supermarket shelves, but last fall the Fair Trade chocolatier opened a retail store at its headquarters in the Westerpark neighborhood. Choose a favorite from the wall-sized vending machine and pick up limited-edition varieties, too.
Wynand Fockink established his namesake distillery nearly 350 years ago in a narrow alley off Dam Square, and 60 or so varieties of liqueurs and genever (the Dutch predecessor to gin) are still produced here. Sample them at the historic tasting room, and then head to the adjacent shop to take home a bottle or two of Dutch courage.
Amsterdam’s most famous street market is the Albert Cuyp, but on Saturdays, locals head to Noordermarkt in the quaint Jordaan area. You’ll find organic produce, honey, fish (including the hallowed herring) and Holland’s famed caramel-filled stroopwafels.
For the city’s best views, head 22 stories up to the observation deck of A’dam Toren. This former office building on the north side has been transformed into a boutique hotel with multiple restaurants and an underground nightclub.
Beyond the grandeur of its 1888 neoclassical building, the Royal Concertgebouw is renowned for the superb acoustics of its 1,974-seat main hall. To see a concert here is a treat, made even sweeter by the free glass of wine served at intermission.
Get a peek at how the elite from Amsterdam’s Golden Age lived at the Museum Van Loon, an opulent canal house built in 1672 and filled with furniture and artifacts from one of the city’s wealthiest banking families.
An early entrant to the burgeoning craft-cocktail scene, Hiding in Plain Sight slings drinks inspired by the Prohibition era in a cozy speakeasy setting that’s just minutes from bustling Centraal Station. Reserve a table on a Thursday night, when you can sip a potent Zombie cocktail and enjoy live jazz.
Tucked inside the newly renovated Pulitzer Amsterdam in the chic Nine Streets area, Pulitzer’s Bar exudes clubby charm. It turns out signature updated versions of classic cocktails like an Old Fashioned made with genever and fermented pineapple syrup.
Wine bars are still rare in the city, but here are two to check out. In De Pijp, you’ll find Glouglou, which specializes in natural wine. Just around the corner, Wijnbar Paulus is bedecked with warm wood and offers retro-style seating. Pours here include wines from Santorini, Hungary, Germany and beyond.
While Heineken dominates city taps, local craft beers are gaining ground. On the east side of town, there’s Brouwerij’t IJ, a brewery and pub in the shadow of Amsterdam’s only windmill. In Westerpark, the newest outpost of Brouwerij Troost brews around a dozen beers in a former gasworks factory.
A stone’s throw from the Rijksmuseum, Rijks sources local and seasonal ingredients for its inventive, artfully composed dishes. Awarded its first Michelin star this year, the restaurant’s standout options include Dutch trout dotted with mussels, red caviar and radishes, and North Sea crab dusted with curry flakes.
The White Room boasts Amsterdam’s oldest dining room, a sumptuous white-and-gold affair that dates to 1885 and overlooks Dam Square. Chef Jacob Jan Boerma, recipient of three Michelin stars, creates innovative, jewel-like creations such as a delicate smoked macaron topped with chilled salmon and trout caviar, and a tartare of dorade dotted with wasabi and cucumber granite.
A recent addition to the trendy De Pijp culinary scene, Auberge Jean & Marie serves sophisticated Gallic classics like frog legs in a garlicky butter sauce alongside seasonal housemade pâté. It also offers a whopping 70 European wines by the glass.
4 Hour Getaway: Savor Seafood in Zeeland
The Netherlands is a small country that’s easily traveled by car. Head southwest to Zeeland, a province known as much for its coastal beauty as for its Michelin-starred restaurants.
Near the seaside town of Breskens, De Kromme Watergang, awarded two Michelin stars, stands out for its brilliant interplay of briny seafood and earthy veggies grown in the restaurant’s garden.
In Kruiningen, another two-starred spot, Inter Scaldes, offers fresh North Sea specialties like mussels, oysters and winkles in a grand country-manor setting.
Pure C may have only a single star, but it’s nevertheless the most in-demand reservation, thanks to Syrco Bakker’s hyperlocal, eight-course “full experience” menu that comes with stunning views of the dunes of Cadzand.