One of the requirements to living in Amsterdam is the ability to successfully operate a bicycle. It’s a lovely city lined with canals, bike lanes, and patient car divers. It’s clear who rules the roads in Amsterdam, and that is the fit, bike-riding denizens of this fine city.
I thought that I had mastered two-wheeled transportation before my arrival in Amsterdam. Little did I know that bicycles in Amsterdam are a bit more basic (no gears, back peddle to brake) and heavy (think 57 Chevy versus 05 BMW). In every city I visit, I do my best to fit in, so bike riding the brick streets and canal bridges was something I had to try as soon as possible.
I arrive at the Dylan Hotel ( target=”_blank” class=”link”>www.dylanamsterdam.com)
at eleven thirty a.m. This place is fabulous—perfect for a solo Diva on the go! After being served a ginger aperitif, I checked into my delightful room. One of the Loft Rooms, it was decorated in calming creams and tans; the most adorable spiral staircase ever led to the bathroom. A few minutes after arriving, a handsome gentleman delivered a plate of fresh fruit to my room. I enjoyed the raspberries, mangos, strawberries, and melon while relaxing the bath before my big Amsterdam biking excursion. By one thirty p.m., I was out the door with a cute (albeit very heavy) bike provided by the hotel.
Three minutes into my harrowing bike ride, a fellow bike rider in front of me lost his groceries. Putting my own life in jeopardy, I stopped to help him. He thanked me in Dutch. When I responded, “You’re welcome!” he started speaking to me in English, and we peddled off, trying to avoid getting killed by oncoming traffic.
Hanging With the Locals
I learned that my fellow cyclist was a creative director and personal shopper. Harry offered to show me around that afternoon after my meeting with the Amsterdam Convention and Visitor’s Center. Harry took me around town, showing me all the trendy places to shop, dine, chill, and explore. Sometimes you have to trust your intuition about people and go with the flow, and I’m glad I was open to this new experience! That evening, we went to his favorite bar LUX (Marnixstraat 403, t 0204221412), where we met up with a few of his friends (all super friendly) and ended the evening doing oyster shooters and drinking champagne at Barok ( target=”_blank” class=”link”>www.restaurantbarok.nl).
Before midnight, Harry escorted me back to my hotel and we said goodbye. It had been the perfect day—staying at the perfect hotel, on a perfect canal, in this darling city.
Being a Tourist
The next day, I used my I Amsterdam card to check out a few of the local tourist attractions ( target=”_blank” class=”link”>www.iamsterdamcard.com). These great cards, sold at the Tourist Center at Amsterdam’s main station, are good for one to three days, depending on how crazy you are about museums and tours. I bought mine at the main station after devouring the most delicious cheese and pesto sandwich I have ever eaten. (If you stay at The Dylan Hotel, the café where I bought it is right around the corner, Runstraat 7, t 31.20.6233483, or email@example.com.)
After the sandwich and tram ride, I joined a canal tour. This is the perfect way to see Amsterdam without getting killed on a rental bike. The tour, which takes you by some of the most significant and historical places in Amsterdam (like Anne Frank’s annex) lasts about an hour.
After the canal ride, I jumped back on a tram and headed to the Vincent Van Gogh museum, which houses the world’s largest collection of Van Gogh. (After all, he was Dutch!) I was moved by the intense beauty and passion in his work, and had to catch my breath when I saw his Irises and Sunflowers just two feet from my eyes. If you love Impressionism, the exhibition is not to be missed. I was brought to tears by his dedication to his art, love for his brother, and his tragic death.
The College Hotel
After the museum, I headed to The College Hotel ( target=”_blank” class=”link”>www.thecollegehotel.com) to meet with Marjolein Smeets from The Dylan Hotel. The College Hotel, which, as its name suggests, was once a college, is now owned by the Stein Group, who have turbo-charged it with class and style—its bar is a new hotspot for people-watching, beautiful people, and insane cocktails like the Amsterdam College Swinger.
After dinner, Marjolein, Harry (who had joined us for dinner) and I biked over to The Mansion, an oh-so-hip nightclub and restaurant that’s decorated like Philip Stark on acid. (Hobbemastraat 2 1071 ZA, target=”_blank” class=”link”>www.the-mansion.nl). We then headed over to a wonderful local pub where everyone was signing and dancing in Dutch, and checked out Rain ( target=”_blank” class=”link”>www.rain-amsterdam.com), but nothing was happening on a Tuesday night. We ended the night with a walk on the wild side. Yes, the Red Light District. I can’t even try to explain that place. It was more seedy, scary, sad, and creepy than I expected.
Anne Frank Museum
If there is one place everyone who visits Amsterdam needs to see, it’s the Anne Frank museum ( target=”_blank” class=”link”>www.annefrank.nl). Get there by eight thirty a.m. because the line is down the street by nine o’clock when the doors open. Words cannot describe the emotions that welled up in me when I stepped into Anne’s annex. During the Nazi occupation of Amsterdam, this young girl lived for twenty-five months (two years!) in this tiny space with seven other people, all the time whispering and eating cold potatoes and kale. The feelings of grief and loss are overwhelming.
The Nine Streets
In the canal area, you can find the most darling shopping area the locals call The Nine Streets. It’s nine blocks of fantastic shopping—vintage, consignment, high-end fashion, shoes, cafés, and restaurants. If you go, plan on spending a whole day strolling and exploring the area.
My favorite stop was Laura Dols (Wolvenstraat 6-7 1016 EM, t 624.90.66), a vintage shop brimming with fun, frilly party dresses from years past, where you’re sure to find a pair of out-of-this-world shoes, or a to-die-for belt.
The Dylan Hotel
The fortunate thing about being a Tango Diva is that I get to stay at some pretty nice places around the world. And I must admit that The Dylan Hotel was one of my favorites. From the moment the cab dropped me off on in the courtyard of the Dylan Hotel, to the moment I left the city via a private driver (all organized by the hotel), I felt like a princess. Every morning, I would bound down to the lobby, where I would get the key to my adorable black bike with a cute license plate reading THE DYLAN, and rush out to discover more of this remarkable European city.
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Keizersgracht 384 1016 GB Amsterdam
t 126.96.36.1990.2010 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Renzo’s (my favorite café in Amsterdam, located near the museums)
Van Baerlestraat 67
Ennu (an insane clothing shop in the Old South district)
Cornelis Schuytstraat 15
t188.8.131.523.52.65 or email Pieter@ennu.nl
Amstel Haven (a great restaurant to meet people)
LUUKS (a great shoe store in the Old South district)
Jacob Obrechstraat 12
Morlang Café and Restaurant (A great local spot)
Odeon (a trendy nightclub and restaurant/bar)
Keizergracht 359 (a high-end local design botique)
Van Dobben (a great place to try a broodje sandwich)
Korte Reguiliersdarwsstratt 5-7-9