Amsterdam’s most unique bars
by CATHERINE LENEVEZ·
While Amsterdam‘s pulsating Red Light District and party hubs like Leidseplein need no introduction, the Dutch capital has some wonderfully diverse bars away from the raucous stag parties and tourist crowds.
Many offer dining too, although just stopping by for a drink is fine. Here are 10 of the city’s most unique places to drink.
Herengracht in Amsterdam at dusk. Image by Veronica Jones / The Image Bank / Getty Images.
Rising on stilts 22m above the IJ river, the fire-engine-red, oil-rig-like structure housing REM Eiland (www.remeiland.com) was a 1960s off-shore pirate TV and radio station, and, after that was outlawed, became a state waterways monitoring post. It was overhauled by ground-breaking Amsterdam architectural firm Concrete to become a one-of-a-kind restaurant and bar. The best seats to take in the views are on the rig’s wraparound platforms and by the helipad rooftop bar.
A vintage 1927-built vehicle and passenger ferry that once plied the IJ has a new lease of life as top-notch Mediterranean restaurant and bar Pont 13 (www.pont13.nl). The cavernous interior of the now permanently moored ferry has original timbers and handcrafted furniture; decks at either end are idyllic for a seafood antipasti platter and a sundowner, with a short but stunning wine list including by-the-glass options.
Café Restaurant Open
Atop a 1920 railway swing bridge, now positioned open, a glass box with pivoting windows contains Café Restaurant Open (www.open.nl). Centred on a fabulous open kitchen where chefs prepare contemporary Dutch dishes, there’s also a groovy lime-green lounge area and an outdoor terrace extending over the water where you can swill a kir royal or pastis.
Industrial heritage is at the heart of ultrahip bar Westergasterras, in the regenerated Westergasfabriek: former gasworks in the city’s west, which have been transformed into a cutting-edge cultural complex and park. Westergasterras’ massive decked outdoor terrace overlooks reed-filled ponds and a weir. Check the website (www.westergasterras.nl) for upcoming DJs, art exhibitions, parties and events.
Local hangout Hannekes Boom (www.hannekesboom.nl) resembles a beach shack on a deserted island, despite the city unfurling around you (including the dramatic green-copper hull of the NEMO science museum directly opposite) and boats coursing past. Built from salvaged and recycled materials, its rambling waterfront garden strung with coloured lights hosts barbecues and mellow live music. The site’s history dates back to 1662, when it was a guard post monitoring maritime traffic into the city.
Brouwerij ‘t IJ
Beneath the creaking sails of the 1725-built De Gooyer windmill, Amsterdam’s leading organic microbrewery, Brouwerij ‘t IJ (www.brouwerijhetij.nl), produces delicious (and often very potent) standard, seasonal and limited-edition brews. You can taste them on a 30-minute tour; alternatively pop in for a beer in the tiled tasting room, lined by an amazing bottle collection, or on the plane tree-shaded terrace.
The city’s Golden Age canal ring is a Unesco-listed wonder and on the beautiful Egelantiersgracht, the 18th-century former jenever (Dutch gin) distillery ‘t Smalle (www.t-smalle.nl) has the ultimate canalside stone terrace (you can dock a boat alongside it). Inside, ‘t Smalle’s antique porcelain beer pumps and lead-framed windows make it utterly gezellig (the quintessentially Dutch quality of conviviality/cosiness). And yes, it still serves jenevers.
Amsterdam’s canals are even more wondrous when viewed from above. Yet opportunities are limited in this low-rise city, which makes the 360-degree panorama from the 11th-floor, glass-walled SkyLounge (doubletree3.hilton.com), in the DoubleTree by Hilton Centraal Station hotel, a rarity. The daytime, sunset and glittering night time views get better still from its vast sofa-strewn SkyTerrace with an outdoor bar.
Twenty Third Bar
Just south of Amsterdam’s bohemian De Pijp neighbourhood, aerial views extend from the 23rd floor of the Hotel Okura Amsterdam at its Twenty Third Bar (www.okura.nl/en/okuras-gastronomy/twenty-third-bar). But even more unique than this classy, intimate bar’s plush window seats are the two-Michelin-star bar snacks, such as goose liver lollipops with apple syrup and roast pumpkin seeds, or filo-wrapped and fried Reypenaer Gouda cheese with quince mustard, from the adjoining restaurant Ciel Bleu. Champagne cocktails are a specialty.
Cocktails are the abiding passion of Door 74 (www.door-74.com). And while it’s hidden just off renowned nightlife square Rembrandtplein, you have to know it’s here: the door of this classy, dark-timbered, pressed-tin-ceiling speakeasy is unmarked and you’ll need to leave a voice message or send a text to gain entry. Door 74 shakes things up by changing its cocktail menu every three to four months, with themes as divergent as a Tarzan-style jungle or 1920s horror films. Its discounted drink of the day might find inspiration anywhere from fresh gooseberries in season to an Amsterdam Light Festival instillation or a satellite leaving the solar system. But never mojitos, the only cocktail it doesn’t (won’t) serve.
From canalside walks to sunset cocktails, explore the Dutch capital with Lonely Planet’s Amsterdam city guide. And find the perfect place to sleep – from barge hostels to boutique hotels – in Lonely Planet’s expert-reviewed accommodation in Amsterdam.
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