From the slightly wonky architecture to the intriguing Red Light District, Amsterdam was full of spirit, personality and hidden gems, once you get past the difference between a coffee shop and a "coffee shop" of course. It was my first time in the city but with some help from friends, Instagram and internet scouring I set about finding the best of the best in the Dam for a short city break.
When I visit a new city I always use my feet as the transport, you never know what you'll find on your adventures and most of the time that is when the best treasures come to light. Two and a half days of fun-packed shuffling later and my feet weren't thanking me but my my mind and notebook certainly were. The city is full of inspiration and absolute forceful figures - that's you Anne Frank (book in advance online to avoid queueing). That said, we didn't make it too far east due to sore tootsies so apologies for those staying on the other side. Nevertheless, here are a few of my discoveries, feel free to tell me yours too as it's a certainty that I'll be returning again.
The Good Hotel, Westerdoksdijk 38.
So, I'm in love. The Good Hotel is the perfect pop-up social enterprise with design and simplicity at it's heart. Floating on the canal in the perfect location (ten minutes away from the central station) this hotel has taken all the details into consideration and the small yet functional rooms are cosy enough to keep you in bed for a little longer than you might wish. The industrial designed lounge features furniture from Dutch favourites Moooi and Lensvelt, while Brazilian street art fills the hallways. One of my favourite details actually being the stairways which genuinely made me feel like I was on a cruise. To make things even better, the place is actually a social enterprise, one that gives back to young entrepreneurs, so you can feel great investing in this not-for-profit institution and having that third dutch beer before heading off out. Hurry though, Good Hotel won't actually be resting on the river for much longer as it will soon be shipped off to Rio, just in time for the Olympics. Get booking if you're planning on a trip and try the damn fried cheese sticks, they ARE glorious.
TOKI, Binnen Dommersstraat 15.
I'd seen TOKI plastered over Instagram so knew it was a must visit for a coffee aficionado like myself. We left it to the end of our trip as it was just around the corner from the hotel and I'm so glad that we did make it for a pre-flight coffee and photo session. Yes, we did even move seats to take over the Max Lamb x dzekdsekdzek designed composite seating - hello, who wouldn't? Sipping on one of the most tasty flat whites I've ever encountered while browsing the selection of cultural magazines dotted around the place, I was in cafe heaven and I can't tell you how much I need a TOKI near me. They actually sell beer from Crate Brewery in Hackney so here's hoping for a UK takeover, one that involves selling the Go Slow tapestries. DO NOT MISS OUT ON IT.
Restored, Haarlemmerdijk 39
Restored is the most gorgeous little shop on a wonderful shopping street, again just around the corner from our hotel. The curation of the shop is out of this world and you're likely to find the love of your life in some form of homeware accessory, here's looking at you Nina+Co. The designs are pure, clean and minimal and you'll find everything from jewellery to magazines to clothing. Don't be pulled in to the interior of the store too soon though as if you look up outside you'll see a remarkable building facade too!
Hutspot, Rozengracht 204-210
Do I even need to talk about this one? You can clearly see from the interior how beautifully thought out this concept store is. Hutspot was created by three childhood friends back in 2012 and the concept has since grown from a small pop-up to a series of stores with a main flagship on van Woustraat. The store above is actually the second biggest setting, which is still four floors tall I might add. In the store you'll find a selection of beautiful stationery, jewellery, clothing and interior brands and you guessed it, you might be adding a suitcase to your journey home as everything is pretty lustworthy and affordable (design letters, design letters, design letters!)
SPRMRKT, Rozengracht 191-193
SPRMRKT is one of those places that you go into and just know that you probably won't be able to afford anything but hey, sometimes that's all part of the fun right? We all like to see if we can pass off as rich occasionally. Trekking through trees and an exhibition to get into the actual store itself added to the concept and actually there were some affordable books, publications and most importantly coffee inside that made all that pretending worth it. The shop has specific ideals for the creative community and therefore functions as a platform for inspiring ideas in fashion, arts and design. They regularly host events showcasing upcoming talents and exhibitions as shown above so do check out their website to see what's on before your visit.
T.I.T.S, De Clercqstraat 78III
This Is The Shit. That is the meaning of T.I.T.S and that is exactly what you think when walking into the store and admiring each and every item they have on offer. My biggest regret of the trip - not getting the tits t-shirt, because who doesn't need heart shaped nipples to spread female empowerment and defy the rules of Instagram? I did walk away with a rather cute patch instead though. As with most design-led stores in Amsterdam it sells good coffee and there's even a mirror to tell you that you're the tits too. This store has guts and I like it.
I won't go in to too many details about where to eat as that ain't what I'm here for but I did seriously have some good grub in the Dam and it would be a shame not to share. Of course the waffles, french fries and free cheese all over the city do just the trick too. Try the dutch sharing plates and delicious fries at Boca's, the refreshing salads and fresh mint tea at SLA, the mexican at Rose's Canteen and get the glow with the Cold Pressed Juicery. For the journey home get your mitts on some Stach chocolate and macaroons, although you may end up hooked - someone tell me if anyone does this stuff in the UK?!
Well that's all folks, stay tuned for the even bigger guide to Berlin!