Foodie walks, historical buildings and picturesque canal network: Discover Amsterdam

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Amsterdam is the ultimate city break destination

It’s a good thing that Amsterdam is so easy to explore on foot. I was only halfway through my foodie walking (or in my case, waddling) tour of the Jordaan neighbourhood, but I was already regretting that second helping of poffertjes (tiny pancakes drenched in advocaat, a Dutch licquer).

But the tour, thankfully, isn’t simply about food. It’s designed to provide an insight into Jordaan, one of Amsterdam’s oldest neighbourhoods. Once thoroughly working class, it’s morphed into Amsterdam’s up-and-coming foodie district, although reminders of its past are everywhere.

Take the façade stones, found above doorways. In the 17th Century, many of Jordaan’s residents were illiterate. Locals indicated the nature of their business using these intricately carved stones, adorned with images representing their line of work. A leg of lamb might indicate a butcher, and a needle would suggest a seamstress.

Today, Jordaan’s business owners keep this tradition alive and façade stones can still be spotted throughout the neighbourhood. 

Another Jordaan trademark is its hofjes. They’re hard to find, and without the help of our guide I would never have known they existed. Tucked off side streets, hofjes, or “widows’ courtyards” are clusters of houses surrounding small greenery-filled courtyards.

This early form of social housing was built for widows in the 17th Century, funded by wealthy Amsterdammers as acts of charity. Visit the most famous example, Karthuizerhof, and you’ll see the plaque listing the donors responsible for its construction.

Jordaan is a great example of Amsterdam’s diversity, and another is Amsterdam-Noord. Exit the city’s Centraal Station, walk a few metres to the nearby harbour side, and there it is, springing up across the water. Once an industrial area, it is now the city’s hippest neighbourhood and full of things to see and do.

It takes five minutes to get there, on the free ferry laid on for foot passengers, cyclists and drivers of Amsterdam’s tiny, two-person Canta cars, and I headed straight for its newest attraction Over The Edge. It’s Europe’s highest swing, and is part of A’DAM Lookout, a new rooftop observation platform. 

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Enjoy the beautiful colours of the city

Strap into the two-person seat and you’ll fly over the city, 100 metres above the ground. Afterwards, check out the sky deck for breathtaking city views – and a stiff drink, if required. If you’re feeling peckish, head to the nearby Butcher Social Club. This lively restaurant is famous for its fantastic burgers and delicious cocktails, which you can sip while playing vintage arcade games or rounds of table tennis.

Several huge brands, including MTV Europe and Red Bull, now have their headquarters in Amsterdam-Noord, which will receive a further boost with the 2018 opening of the Noord/Zuidlijn (north-south) metro line.

Another neighbourhood set to benefit is De Pijp. Creative types have been flocking to this park-filled neighbourhood since the 60s and I headed here to indulge in some retail therapy at the Albert Cuyp Market, which has 260 stalls selling everything from vintage clothes to homemade sweets. 

I fell in love with De Pijp’s Café Blond. Handmade plates illustrated with humorous quotations fill the walls (there’s even crockery in the toilet) and you can pick up your own personalised tableware in the café’s shop.

Amsterdam’s expanding transport network (there are also plans for a water taxi service) means that seeing its best bits is wonderfully easy. And while there’s plenty of new attractions to check out in 2017, its most famous ones are as popular as ever.

The Anne Frank House, with its secret room, accessed via the original moveable bookcase, will be expanded over the next two years, although it will remain open throughout. 

If you visit the famous Rijksmuseum between now and August 2018 you’ll be able to admire The Last Judgement, the 16th-century painted altarpiece by Dutch master Lucas van Leyden (below).

This priceless work of art has only left its permanent home (Leiden’s Museum De Lakenhal) twice over the past 450 years. But then again, if any city could lure this beautiful masterpiece out of hiding, Amsterdam would surely be top of the list.

Way to go

Rooms at the Hotel Pulitzer (pulitzeramsterdam.com) cost from £215 per night. Flights from London Gatwick to Amsterdam with easyJet (easyjet.com) cost from £30.99, one way.

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Get a caffeine fix at Pause, Hotel Pulitzer

Ten things you must do in Amsterdam

1 Grab a bite to eat at The Butcher Social Club in Amsterdam-Noord, which is famous for its burgers. 

2 Get a caffeine fix at Pause, Hotel Pulitzer. The café overlooks the peaceful gardens in this recently refurbished hotel, which comprises 25 beautifully restored historic canal houses connected by glass walkways. 

3 Visit De Pindakaaswinkel (the Peanut Butter Shop). Available flavours include raisin, white chocolate and sea salt caramel and tasting sessions are available. 

4 Check out De Beurspassage. This covered passageway connects Damrak avenue and Nieuwendijk street, and boasts an explosion of beautiful mosaics, stained glass tiles and wall-mounted ornaments. 

5 Spend an afternoon at the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam’s most famous art museum. There are a host of attractions in 2017, including an exhibition of Jurriaan Andriessen’s paintings. 

6 Dine at Blue Pepper, a restaurant inspired by traditional Indonesian feasts. It is famous for its “rijsttafels” (rice tables), elaborate, traditional Indonesian meals adapted by the Dutch.

7 Shop until you drop. The biggest high street brands can be found in the streets that fan out from Dam Square.

8 Take a day trip to Naarden, one of Europe’s best-preserved fortified towns to the east of Amsterdam. 

9 Fill up at a food festival. Amsterdam has some of Europe’s best, including Amsterdam KOOKT, with its food trucks and live music, and Trek Food Truck Festival, famous for its international cuisine.

10 Sign up for an Eating Amsterdam food tour, which offers an insight into Amsterdam’s hippest neighbourhoods. And make sure you try the poffertjes (below) – tiny pancakes drenched in advocaat.

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Daily Express :: Travel Feed

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