Study Abroad Files: Amsterdam
Amsterdam is a wonderful place to visit and definitely caters to a younger, internationally-sourced crowd. From chic bars and coffeeshops to hole-in-the-wall cafes that seem to draw in all the locals, the city is built around cafe culture, an eco-conscious mindset and an appreciation for good design. Locals are stylish, easygoing and constantly mobile. Bikes outnumber cars and rarely adhere to local traffic laws, so be sure to look both ways before you cross the street! Whether you find yourself frequenting the many open-air markets scattered across the city, combing through vintage and antique shops, or enjoying a quintessential Dutch meal of broodjes and bier (sandwich and a beer), you're bound to find something you love!
Amsterdam does a great job of accommodating foodies with dietary restrictions, offering plenty of options for vegetarians, vegans and the like. STACHE food is a local chain with everything from fresh juices, to house-made sandwiches, soups (a Dutch staple), salads and other healthy snacks. They also have pretty good cookies and chocolate bars. Check out Deshima for even more health-minded eats. This fast-casual spot offers Asian fusion-inspired dishes that are vegan, "macrobiotic" and organic.
For something a little more formal and better suited for dinner and drinks, head down to the waterfront for local favorite Meneer Nieges. This chic bar and dinner spot features a ton of eccentric artwork, sofas, candlelit tables and a cozy fireside to chat with friends, meet locals and indulge in any of their savory menu options.
The lovely Hortus Botanical Gardens is also home to the beautiful and spacious Het Hortuscafé. Stop in for a late breakfast, lunch or coffee against the cafe's airy backdrop and the garden's lush surroundings. Finally, a trip to Amsterdam isn't complete without a bite from Patisserie Holtkamp, perhaps the city's most famous pastry shop. Their fruit tarts and cheesecakes taste as good as they look and you can't go wrong with any of their pastries or cookies either.
Vondelpark is essentially Amsterdam's equivalent of Central Park. One of the city's largest green spaces, Vondelpark offers plenty of spots to picnic and people watch in addition to its outdoor cafes and open-air theater. The Park is also adjacent to the world famous Rijksmuseum, which features incomparable collections of Dutch art, as well as a series of permanent and rotating collections that highlight both ancient and contemporary works from around the world. Don't forget to see the museum's beautiful reading room after you've finished touring the galleries!
A few steps away from the Rijksmuseum is a favorite photo-op at the "I amsterdam" sign (you might have to fight off some tourists to climb one of the letters for a photo, though). Also nearby are the Van Gogh Museum, featuring the world's largest Van Gogh collection, and the Stedelijk Museum, which specializes in contemporary art. Art lovers should also consider a tour of the Rembrandt Home Museum for an intimate portrait of the famed Dutch painter's life and career. The Anne Frank House is also an important stop, but tickets are hard to come by, so be sure to reserve a time slot in advance of your visit.
Don't forget to stroll through Amsterdam's city center for the most authentic portrait of the city's famed, sardine-packed townhouses and canals. While public transport is navigable and bike rentals are easily accessible, experiencing the city on foot is the perfect way to get a sense of the character of each unique district. Cafes are tucked away on almost every street corner and bridges offer the perfect vista point for overlooking the city's beautiful canals, so it's not hard to stumble upon something special here.
Thrifting and antiquing reign supreme in Amsterdam. Local laws privilege small businesses, so chain stores or restaurants are hard to come by throughout most of the city. De 9 Straatjes (The 9 Streets) is home to a handful of vintage stores, pop-ups and locally owned mom-and-pop shops. Open air craft and flea markets, flower markets and farmer's markets are also fairly easy to come by and are open almost everyday or weekend. The Grachtengordel neighborhood just south of city center is home to a string of cool antique shops and boutiques. For more upscale and luxury brands, head over to the fashionable museum district for shopping along Pieter Cornelisz Hooftstraat street.
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