An Amsterdam-based artist's guide to the city

28 Apr 2016

Jonathan Rouah is an artist and graphic designer who fell in love with Amsterdam in his early 20s and has lived there for over six years.

Here, he takes us on a tour of his adoptive city and gives us an insider’s view of what makes Amsterdam such a special place.

I first visited Amsterdam when I was 22
and told myself I would come back and live here someday – which I did back in 2009.

The city’s very chilled vibe is the first thing I loved. It’s one of the most tolerant places I’ve ever known. Amsterdam has always been a trading city and the businessmen who ruled the city when it first prospered in the 14th century quickly realised that discrimination didn’t make for good trading relationships. Since then, tolerance has been one of the city’s core principles.

One thing that always appeals to me here is the buildings. The way the houses reflect in the canals and the fact they’re not completely straight makes it looks like they’re dancing.


A photo posted by I amsterdam (@iamsterdam) on

Amsterdamers always seem happy and take life as it comes. Maybe it has something to do with the canals and the constant presence of water. One thing I’ve learned though – never tell a local that their language is a mix of English and German. It’s one of the sure ways to offend them. And I talk from experience!

The Dutch are not famous for their food culture, so they adopt a lot of cuisines from around the world. There is an excellent Italian restaurant in the Jordaan district (one of the nicest neighbourhoods in the city), which is called Toscanini. There are more Italian restaurants here than there are Dutch ones!

However, if you want to experience a proper Dutch meal, go to De Moeders (The Mothers) restaurant. And if you are around on a Saturday morning you can find the organic market at Noordermarkt.

Try to visit Amsterdam around early June for the traditional Nieuwe Haring (new herring) season. This is the prime time for eating freshly caught herring that’s been lightly pickled and served on soft bread with onions and gherkins.

Jenever is the national drink – but, beware, it’s a strong one! Drink it with a beer chaser. The Dutch call it a “headkick” – I’ll let you discover why!

Amsterdam has more bikes than people. I own two myself – I had three back in the day. As you step out of Centraal Station, you'll find a huge and impressive 3-floor bike-parking area.


A photo posted by I amsterdam (@iamsterdam) on

If I had only one day left in Amsterdam, I would spend it on my bike and try to ride every single street without touching the ground with my feet. Riding my bike is my greatest pleasure in Amsterdam. Imagine never looking for a parking space even when you live right in the city centre, never taking any buses, trams or subways… Amsterdam is like a big village with all the qualities of a major European capital city.

Everybody who comes to Amsterdam wants to visit the Vondelpark. It’s a wonderful place, but also impossibly overcrowded. Instead, check out the Westerpark. It’s as green as Vondelpark and much less busy. Plus, you’ll find some old factories nearby that have been renovated into cool new venues like a cinema, a very nice café that roasts its own coffee beans, and illustration and design galleries… just take a peep, it’s really worth it!


A photo posted by Marlenne (@lenne1966) on

Plus, just at the back of Westerpark, you’ll find my favourite place to relax: de Buurtboerderij, literally “The Farm of the Neighbourhood”. It’s a community farm where you’ll find trees, goats, friendly people, nice beers and cheap meals.

The Rijksmuseum and Van Gogh Museum are must-visits, but I would add the Stedelijk Museum to the list. It’s Amsterdam’s modern and contemporary art museum. It’s in Museumplein, the same area as the other two. They have an impressive collection of international artists, a very good graphic design department and the building itself is as beautiful as it is audacious and surprising!

Finally, if you’re a photography lover I recommend two places: the Foam Gallery and Huis Marseille. They are near each other and offer high-quality exhibitions from Dutch and international photographers.


A photo posted by @kajajean on

5 Hotels We Love in Amsterdam

Park Hotel Amsterdam
City-centre, within walking distance of major museums.
Why we love it: This stylish hotel has been nominated for a World Travel Award every year since 2011. On-site MOMO Restaurant attracts locals as well as guests, plus there’s a spa, a fitness centre and a Gallery Zone where local artists exhibit their work.
Click here for rates and availability

Hotel de Hallen
In southwest Amsterdam, close to boutiques, museums, galleries and markets.
Why we love it: This 4-star hotel is housed in a renovated former tram depot from 1902. The new design smartly blends the building's industrial design with Scandinavian furniture and a contemporary art collection.
Click here for rates and availability

Hotel JL No76
In the buzzy Fashion & Museum quarter, near Vondelpark.
Why we love it: This boutique property is housed within two 18th-century townhouses. It’s a minute's walk from the high-end shopping street PC Hoofstraat, a 4-minute walk from the Vondelpark, and within five minutes of the Van Gogh Museum and the Rijksmuseum. All rooms and suites have free Wi-Fi & a Nespresso machine.
Click here for rates and availability

Andaz Amsterdam Prinsengracht
On Prinsengracht, one of Amsterdam’s most beautiful canals.
Why we love it: This Alice in Wonderland-themed design hotel is perched on one of the city’s loveliest canals. The Anne Frank House and chic Nine Streets and Jordaan shopping districts are within walking distance, and the Rijksmuseum is a cycle ride away on one of the hotel’s free-to-borrow bikes.
Click here for rates and availability

Hotel Okura Amsterdam
Pretty canalside location in the De Pijp neighbourhood, just outside the city centre.
Why we love it:
East meets west at the 5-star Okura Amsterdam, where you’ll find Japanese flower arrangements sitting alongside antique Dutch furniture in the vast lobby, and two Michelin-starred restaurants, serving Japanese Teppanyaki and fine French food. This is the tallest hotel in the city.
Click here for rates and availability

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