Secret Destinations: Amsterdam

Today, we're starting a new series on the blog exploring some of the Secret Destinations around the world that our 58,000+ members have shared with us. Want to know where to get the best BBQ in Bali? Tastiest mojito's in Montreal? Savvy explorers keep reading.

Today, we're starting a new series on the exploring some of the Secret Destinations around the world that our 58,000+ members have shared with us. Want to know where to get the best BBQ in Bali? Tastiest mojito's in Montreal? Savvy explorers keep reading.

As one of our team is heading to Amsterdam this weekend, I think we'll start off there. It's both the most populous city in the Netherlands as well as the capital, however it is not the seat of the Dutch Government. That privilege is reserved for The Hague. Starting off as a small fishing village in the late 12th century, then later becoming a centre for finance (Amsterdam Stock Exchange is the oldest stock exchange in the world) and diamonds in the 17th century, the city is now rated as the 2nd best city to live by the Economist Intelligence Unit.

How does one dive into all that Amsterdam has to offer? Eschew the collegiate tourist side of the city (marijuana cafés and the red light district) in favour of canals, museums, and tasty delicacies.

When you fly into Schipol Airport, the fastest way to get to the city centre is by taking the Intercity train directly from the airport into Amsterdam Centraal. You'll most likely be hungry, but don't settle for anything served inside the station. Caffé Toscanini should be the first place you grab a bite once you step off the train, and it's only a 7 minute bike ride away. Known for its authentic Italian dishes, you can sample fresh bread from their own bakery, home-made pastas made daily, a menu that changes every season and one that changes every day. Spoil yourself with the six course tasting menu and the Italian wine pairings recommended by the sommelier (€47.50)

How about a place to drink that is not heaving with tourists? Try out MOMO for some oriental elegance if the heavy European dining is putting a toll on your vacation silhouette. The restaurant takes its name from the Japanese, meaning blossom and beauty. That ideal embodies their cocktails, i.e. the Tokyo Rose with Hendricks Gin, Elderflower, Rose syrup with apple juice and fresh raspberries. Sit at the 360-degree bar and snack on oysters and aromatic duck rolls.

Start off the next day with an elegant breakfast at Café George by a canal. Describing itself as the "proverbial French-brasserie-in-New-York…In Amsterdam" is actually rather accurate. One can enjoy the heartiness of a French meal in a cool urban environment (while still protected by white marble walls). Tuck into the Eggs Norwegian (poached eggs with smoked salmon & hollandaise sauce) or something healthier like the muesli & yoghurt. Your travel companions will approve of your knowledge of the ever hard to find "great breakfast place".

Now that your stomach is full, it's time to satiate your brain with some culture. Head over to to the Stedelijk Museum. It's a 15 minute walk away so you can feel good about all the morsels you've had for breakfast. The museum and its modern entrance is located in the Museum Square of Amsterdam South, where it is near the Van Gogh Museum, the Rijksmuseum, and the Concertgebouw. See some of the great modern and contemporary art from the brushes of van Gogh, Kandinsky, Chagall, Matisse, Pollock, de Kooning, and Gilbert & George. One could spend several days taking in all the museums, so plan accordingly.

By now you've had your fill of culture and food, so you better get back to your Love Home Swap property, which is located in the centre of town, as you pass flocks of tourists heading to their overpriced hotels on the outskirts of town.

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