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How To Spend: 24 Hours in Amsterdam

Amsterdam altogether isn’t huge. I always say it feels like the lovechild of a picturesque Dutch village and a bigger cosmopolitan European city. It operates at the pace of a village but with the pulse of a bigger city. There seems to be less pressure and stress in the air here compared to other European cities. People take more time to enjoy life’s little pleasures. It’s that pace and atmosphere – so hard to capture in words – that I want everyone who visits to experience.

 

So instead of trying to cram as many activities as possible into 24 hours, I thought I’d recommend a route that leaves room for aimless wandering and exploring – a route that distills the true taste of Amsterdam and its unique scale, pace and culture.

To get started, you could get yourself a bike at one of the many rental shops, or a 24-hour OV-chipcard on a tram or a bus. But if the weather allows, I recommend walking. Just stick to the sidewalk and don’t cross the street without looking left and right if you care for your life.

 

Start your day with a coffee and a smile, courtesy of the TOKI crew. TOKI’s a little neighbourhood coffee shop (one that sells actual coffee) with great breakfast and lunch bites. It’s one of those joints that feels like it’s been there forever; a go-to spot to strike one up with a stranger and make new friends. You’ll stumble upon an interesting mix of cool expats and Jordaaners (the OG Amsterdammers born and bred in the neighbourhood known as the Jordaan; the western bit of the Canal Belt).

Jordaaners will happily let the world peek into their homes. Head towards the Brouwersgracht and aim for the Palmstraat and Goudsbloemstraat, then work your way back up and admire the 17th century houses’ cluttered window sills. After gazing at a series of Delftware collections, plasticky faux tulips and lilies, life-size china cats and Golden Age-inspired tapestries, head past Café Papeneiland. Nestled in a crooked canal house, this family-owned cafe is as Amsterdam as it gets. Sit out on the terrace for some people watching — that canal intersection is always busy and particularly pretty in the morning. I often make an espresso pit stop there on my way to work and soak up the sunrise.

 

Continue your stroll past Pompon flower shop, located right next to Papeneiland, and browse their selection of large-scale flowers and plants. Cross the Noordermarkt square (home to an organic farmers’ market on Saturdays and antique market on Monday mornings) and check out De Weldaad, a quirky furniture store carrying new and second-hand pieces and other curiosities from around the world. Just off the square, tucked away in a quieter little street, you’ll find the second-hand clothing store Kolifleur with its selection of curated, pre-loved gems. I recently got my hands on a shirt by local label Rika Studios (worth a visit, too, right next to The Hoxton, Amsterdam) for a third of the price there.

• Noordermarkt
• Pompon Flowershop

There seems to be less pressure and stress in the air here compared to other European cities. People take more time to enjoy life’s little pleasures.”

Once you’re ready for lunch, pay a visit to Toscanini Deli; the most-respected Italian establishment in town. Located right next to the restaurant, this little sister eatery offers a variety of quality Italian staples (their ragu is epic!) and a menu of uncomplicated and tasty dishes. You’ll probably leave feeling pretty full, so go for a little digestive walk towards the Egelantiersgracht and the Bloemgracht — a series of smaller inner canals. They’re the most picturesque and home to some of the prettiest houses and interiors of Amsterdam. On your way (slightly out of the way, but well worth the detour), you’ll find the Karthuizerhof, one of Amsterdam’s many hidden ‘hofjes’ or courtyards built in the 17th century. There’s something really special about these old communal gardens in the middle of such a compact and dense living environment. Very few people know about these yards, as they’re hiding behind what looks like locked doors. Just confidently push the door (it might take a few awkward tries) and find the most charming and peaceful courtyards. Keep it down and enjoy the quiet.

• Toscanini
• Egelantiersgracht and Bloemgracht area

Now, head towards Huis Marseille, a contemporary photography museum in a bright and manicured 17th-century merchant’s house — the opposite of an intimidating white cube gallery experience. Reward yourself with a glass of natural wine and a few bar bites at Bar Parry before heading back to The Hox. Don’t forget to chat to strangers and say hello to the people that cross your path. Remember, Amsterdam’s a village.

• Huis Marseille
• Bar Parry

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