For a relatively small capital city, Amsterdam manages to tick all the epicurean boxes and then some. I hold an inordinate affection for Holland. Not only because I think it’s one of the most visually pleasing cities I’ve ever been to, but also because of its wealth of sophistication, unambiguous culture and humbled disposition.
My first visit to Amsterdam was ten years ago, and my experience then was vastly different to the city I know now. As a tourist passing through, I was privy only to the Red Light District and a coffee shop that went by the name of “The Bulldog”. In recent years, I have become acquainted with an entirely different side to the Netherlands’ capital, which many tourists miss. And the reason for this is that the Dutch like it that way. The residents seldom visit the touristic areas, and remain happy the tourists rarely visit theirs; this is how they remain as charming as they are, by not being overloaded with sightseers and the string of effects that come with them – souvenirs, memorabilia, crowds.
With a pedigree native by my side, I experienced Amsterdam in its rawest form. I fell in love with Negen Straatjes, which true to its name is nine little streets filled with boutique shops and restaurants. I enjoyed the Jordaan, which is home to many art galleries and is dotted with chic cafes and markets. I rode on the back of a bike along the picturesque canals and admired the 17th and 18th century Dutch architecture, which resembles small toy houses and lines the water like eyelashes.
I sampled raw herring, a typically Dutch snack served with salt, raw onions and pickles, and for breakfast I had hagelslag – chocolate sprinkles (the type you would usually find on a cake) spread over my bread. I have spent treasured time with the Dutch, who are some of the friendliest, clever and candid people I have ever come across and I took photos, and photos, and photos…