Word of Mouth: Amsterdam
Our updated look at the creative Dutch capital and its "normal" approach to urban living
Much like the city's compact urban landscape, Amsterdam's creative history is also densely formed, and even a quick visit to the Dutch capital can be extremely inspiring. Interestingly, you often hear Dutch people say they strive to act "normal"—yet it's their dynamic way of viewing the world that has continued to make the Netherlands so unique and brimming with ingenuity. With its highly accepting population and ultra bike-friendly streets, Amsterdam is a fantastic place to explore nearly any time of year for any length of time. In addition to the picks in our previous Word of Mouth guide (which includes the notable Foam photo gallery) and our features on two newer Amsterdam locales, Magazin boutique on the burgeoning Czaar Peterstraat and the impressive Conservatorium Hotel, here are six more areas, museums, restaurants and shops that are not to be missed.
In the Netherlands, a hutspot is a traditional stew of boiled and mashed potatoes, carrots and onions. But in Amsterdam, Hutspot is also an appropriately named concept shop that melds together a variety of services for a casually sophisticated lifestyle. The large, bi-level store includes a café up top where they serve delicious sandwiches, press juices and coffee—which makes for a great place to sit down with a magazine or newspaper—while the bottom floor features a stylish barber shop and a retail store peddling a slew of unconventional brands. Created by a trio of friends in the summer of 2012, Hutspot is a place for discovery and relaxing, and its downtempo vibe perfectly encourages both.
Van Woustraat 4
Rather than leave a building empty during a transition period, in open-minded Amsterdam it's common to allow a form of legalized squatting in order to greater support social and community reform. Baut is the upshot of this kind of progressive thinking. The restaurant opened a year ago and has almost one more year to go before the building it's currently occupying (next to popular dance spot Trouw) is officially leased. A clock counting down the days and minutes remaining on Baut's website reminds potential diners of its impermanence, but the rush to eat there isn't in its potential disappearance. Chef Michiel van der Eerde's creative cuisine is as appetizing as the atmosphere is friendly, and the space's DIY design lends to artistic takeovers and imaginative meetings any time of day.
Whether you indulge in the mind-bending legalities Amsterdam offers or not, a walk through the wondrous Vondelpark is sure to inspire meditative thoughts and a fresh outlook on life. The largest of the city's many parks, this particular urban garden was awarded a national heritage status and boasts beautiful tree-lined cycling and jogging paths, lawns for taking a break, ponds, a music pavilion, cafés and more. The top of Vondelpark begins in the Museumplein area, and exploring its 120 acres is a great counterpoise to a day spent contemplating a bounty of art.
No visit to Amsterdam would be complete without a stop by the reputable concept store Droog. A household name among the design community, Droog—co-founded in 1993 by visionaries Renny Ramakers and Gijs Bakker—is an industry pioneer, supporting a diverse range of radical projects and products. Hôtel Droog is an all-encompassing manifestation of the way they consider the world. Boasting only one bedroom, Droog minimizes the sleeping aspect and instead amplifies other hotel features. Throughout the 17th century building are a whimsical garden, a homey dining area, an atypical beauty bar and spa, a fashion-forward clothing boutique, an exhibition space and of course, their beloved design store where they encourage visitors to explore and interact with the products.
The Nine Streets
The Dutch are famous for their design ethos and the entirety of Amsterdam has no shortage of enticing shops and cafés. But The Nine Streets (De 9 Straatjes) packs a great range of stores into a small area, making it ideal for an afternoon stroll. Standouts include denim mecca Denham, the "candy store for book aficionados" Mendo, the quirky design shop JAN, Rika—a sophisticated boutique peddling leather goods, John Derian plates and stylish accessories—and the Nationaal Brilmuseum, a small museum dedicated to the history of eyewear.
With its newly renovated, brilliant white bathtub-like exterior, the Stedelijk Museum stands out among its Museumplein neighbors, which includes the Rijksmuseum, the Vincent Van Gogh Museum and the Concertgebouw, all with Neo-Renaissance brick facades. As the city's home to an international collection of modern and contemporary art and design, its strange architectural structure (designed by local firm Benthem Crouwel) is a nod to its artistic mission. Inside the Stedelijk you'll find an impressive display of works spanning all scales and mediums. Especially exciting is the dedicated focus on historic graphic works and posters, illustrious examples of industrial design and iconic furniture, particularly that from Gerrit Rietveld, the Memphis group, Maarten Baas and Willem Hendrik Gispen. The museum also uniquely includes Edward Kienholz' 1965 sculptural installation, "The Beanery," as well as a Dan Flavin's neon installation in the upper hallway, originally created in 1986 specifically for the Stedelijk and called "Untitled (to Piet Mondrian through his preferred colors, red, yellow and blue)."
Photos by Karen Day. See more in the slideshow below.