With spring in the air and the tulips in bloom, it’s a capital time to visit Amsterdam. And Europe’s eighth favourite city is still full of surprises with new Michelin restaurant hotels, scifi entertainment hubs and a Night Mayor keeping things classy after dark.
Belinda Beckett maps Vermeer blue canals to the edge of the IJ waterfront to discover a surreal new edge to the Dutch Golden Age city.
It could be for the Rembrandts and Van Goghs, the canal cruises and tulips or the best Indonesian grub outside Asia; or it could be to indulge in the freewheeling charms of a cycle-centric city pedalling all manner of liberties, like window-shopping for sex. So many people visit Amsterdam for so many reasons, its medieval heart is groaning under the beat of tourist feet.
One tenth the size of London with under one million inhabitants, Amsterdam welcomed five times that number of overnight visitors last year, not counting 16 million day trippers. And although the Airbnb Bubble has opened up quirky little canal lofts and some 22,000 lodgings in total – a nice little earner for as many as one in six homeowners – new hotels are hitting full occupancy as fast as the city can grant building permits.
Eurostar’s first direct train service from London, launching in late 2017, will bring a deluge more but the Dutch are used to dealing with floods. And, just as they created their Canal Ring to take merchant ships laden with treasures from the Dutch East Indies to the warehouse door, now they are diverting the tourist flow over the IJ waterfront that separates the city centre from the suburban north to ease the burden on the Binnenstad.
The Eye Film Institute, resembling an intergalactic starship, was the first major cultural institution to make the leap across the IJ (prounced like ‘eye’). With a museum of film, four cinemas, and an impressive events programme (a Martin Scorsese expo showcasing private archive material is coming up in May), its arrival was a crossing-the-Rubicon moment for the non-entity Noord.
It has since been joined by the A’dam Tower, a 22-storey mini city commandeering the old Shell HQ and if that’s not enough to entice visitors over to the north shore, there are free ferries…
Words Belinda Beckett