By Holly Rubenstein, Holly is a writer and broadcaster, specialising in travel and entertainment. Find her on Instagram @thetravelflamingo and Twitter @HollyRubenstein
Tuesday 2 Oct 2018 8:00 am
Stunning architecture, hipster hangouts, and village-like charm – theres so much more to Amsterdam than coffee shops, the Red Light District and queues. You just need to know where to find it.
Its never been easier to enjoy a little bit of Dutch luxury thanks to the introduction of the new direct Eurostar route earlier this year.
Arriving at St Pancras International station 45 minutes before departure, I was wandering out of the Central Station in the heart of Amsterdam a mere 3 hours 45 minutes later.
And then it was a short hop onto a tram towards Soho House Amsterdam, my luxurious abode for the weekend.
Soho House Amsterdam, part of the private members club Soho House, opened its doors at the end of July, and has proven an instant hit.
What many people dont know, though, is that you dont need to be a member to stay in one of its 79 stylish bedrooms.
This is the ultimate Amsterdam hangout, with a rooftop pool, cinema and vast gym. A lavish Cowshed spa will shortly follow.
The water-side house is located on the edge of the prettiest micro-neighbourhood in Amsterdam – the 9 streets – overlooking the canals and their many quaint bridges.
If youre after an oasis with an optional buzz, this is it. And youd be pushed to find a rooftop bar with views of Amsterdams historic quarter anywhere else in the city.
The best way to familiarise yourself with Amsterdam is by water.
Rather than piling onto a touristy canal tour, explore the waterways in style, and indulge in a trip on Private Canal Cruises magnificent sloop-style boat, complete with a handsome local captain and a decadent mahogany bar stocked with champagne and other drinks.
A glass of rose in hand, we puttered around the capitals famous canals with the added bonus of being able to sneak into the arguably even prettier smaller canals, which are inaccessible on the bigger boats.
We drifted past the citys 17th and 18th century houses; tall, skinny and oh so wonky – the characteristic architectural style of Amsterdam which our captain lovingly referred to as the dancing ladies.
He explained that these houses are actually leaning forward for a reason.
In fact, until the start of the 19th century, construction regulations in Amsterdam specifically stated that all houses needed to lean.
Look up and youll see why. Most have a beam and hook protruding from the gable at roof height. These were used to hoist possessions and merchandise into their upper floors and the forward incline helped to prevent any collisions with the buildings facade.
Having familiarised ourselves with the city by water, we set off on foot, being sure to keep an eye out for those speedy local cyclists.
The 9 Streets neighbourhood next to Soho House is only a stones throw from the heart of tourist central, but this hip district, spread across (you guessed it) across nine adorable streets – is packed full of individual clothes and homeware shops, quirky cafes and trendy restaurants, and feels as though it may as well be a million miles away.
This is Amsterdam at its most photogenic, straddling the citys grandest canals. No chains here – its indy fashion at its finest.
In the heart of 9 Streets is Pluk cafe. For foodies, this is the most Instagrammable eatery in Amsterdam.
Healthy dishes are given a unicorn or mermaid spin with colourful breakfast bowls and for something more indulgent, there are irresistible unicorn horn-topped miniature cakes and doughnuts.
You can even stock up on fashionable homeware downstairs.
From 9 Streets, explore the wider Jordaan district, offering a similar hipster vibe with galleries, design stores, and indie boutiques.
Its also home to the Houseboat Museum. Wandering over its many bridges, lined with brightly coloured flower boxes, its no wonder that Amsterdam is dubbed the Venice of the north.
An afternoon stroll in Vondelpark, just beside the citys popular museums, is another peaceful escape – aside from the screech of the green parakeets that live there, that is.
Retreat here if youre tired of jostling for a glimpse of Van Goghs Sunflowers. Its best explored the Dutch way – by bike – and there are numerous guided tours you can join.
There are endless eateries in Amsterdam, but however long your trip, dinner at Momo is an absolute must.
For years, its been one of the citys best known fashionable hotspots, serving up mouth-watering Japanese and South American fusion cuisine.
Try the signature sushi rolls, the scallops and edamame with XO sauce, and the extraordinary manjan chocolate pot with matcha ice cream and sesame – the epitome of decadence.
Another gem is De Kas. Again, not on the tourist trail, but its worth seeking out (a 20 minute Uber ride from the city center).
Housed in a former greenhouse, at De Kas, vegetables are the stars of the show.
The tasting menu, created daily, is based on the harvest of the produce grown on site.
Although the Netherlands are not known for their wines, be sure to try the delicious and extremely rare local wine from Limburg.
How to get to Amsterdam and where to stay:
Soho House Amsterdam has rooms from £130 per night.
Tickets for the Eurostar from London to Amsterdam are from £35 one way.
(Top picture: Getty)