Visiting the historical centre of Amsterdam and its touristic highlights, one could easily forget that Amsterdam was and still is a harbour city. With the construction of the Central Station at the end of the 19th century, the city centre was cut off from the river IJ, but since the 1980s, the city is developing the old docklands to bridge the gap between the city and its main stream. A stroll along the banks of the IJ, one of my favourite Sunday's tours, now shows a very different Amsterdam. It is a bustling 21st century part of town with renovated industrial architecture from the turn of the 19th and 20th century, and new buildings by famous Dutch and international architects. But above all, there is a lot of water, plenty of space and open skies.
My favourite tour begins at the Central Station. Inside, on the first platform, you will find the 1ste Klas restaurant, an old Victorian first class waiting room. A morning coffee and a croissant in the midst of the waiting and hurrying crowds is a delightful start of the day. Then, if you don't have your own bike, rent one at the Station. I prefer to cycle to the west first, across the Haarlemmerstraat, with lots of small shops selling Italian delicacies and fashion. Cross the Bicker's Island, the old and intimate 17th century dockland with its small wooden bridges, and head for the newly built Westerdoksplein. On the old revolving railway bridge you can now have lunch at the Open restaurant (Westerdoksplein 20, www.open.nl). It is spectacularly located with a view over the neighbourhood and the IJ.
I love to take a ferry at the rear of the Central Station to the other side of the IJ. This short boat trip gives you a salty smell of the still bustling harbour. The view from the other side on the old city and the new apartment buildings and offices gives you a sense of the spacious waters around the city. I mostly take the ferry that brings me to the IJ-plein, and have a break in restaurant Wilhelmina Dok (Noordwal, www.wilhelmina-dok.nl), a small modern building, partly built into the river. The more romantic souls among you should consider taking the ferry back to the Central Station and visiting the small restaurant called Pier 10 (De Ruyterkade, Steiger 10, Pontplein, www.pier10.nl) right on the quay. It's a cosy place and from the tables at the windows you can follow the Amsterdam crowds crossing the river on the many ferries.
Then I usually head to the east, the area where the reconstruction of the riverbanks started in the 80s. First stop is the new Muziekgebouw, a venue for jazz, baroque and contemporary music and for experimental music theatre. In the huge glass foyer, with its breathtaking view on the river, you can have a snack at the Star Ferry restaurant (Piet Heinkade 1). The sunset viewed from this building or on the spacious terrace outside is one of the most beautiful sights in Amsterdam. I continue on the Piet Hein Kade, strolling through some shops for design and fashion. Then, having reached the old warehouse Pakhuis Willem de Zwijger, I turn left and take the bridge to the Java Island and KNSM Island. The latter is cramped with housing blocks from renowned Dutch, German and Belgian architects.
From the KNSM Island, I take the second bridge back to the mainland. A special stop is the Lloyd Hotel. It was built at the beginning of the last century for emigrants from Central Europe heading for the United States. Later if became a youth prison and then a venue for artists, who used the cells as ateliers. Now it is a hotel and restaurant with an interesting cultural embassy, a meeting point for all kind of artists from all over the globe.
I never skip the roof of the Nemo Museum for sciences, built by Renzo Piano. From there the view over old Amsterdam is fascinating. And finally, the recently opened Grand Hotel Amrath - it is either a cup off coffee or some deep sleep for me. The hotel is located in the old Scheepvaarthuis building which once housed the central administration for the Amsterdam harbour and is constructed in the so-called Amsterdam School style, a Dutch variation of the Modern Style movement; it is actually regarded as one of the finest examples of architectural expressionism. Its red brick sculptural exterior and the stained glass foyers are unique. It is here that the Amsterdam seaman's soul stranded... 'Dans les ports d'Amsterdam,' as Jacques Brel once sang.
Keywords: Amsterdam, restaurant, restaurants, concert hall, concert halls, hotel, hotels