SHOPPING in Amsterdam:
Jonett van Buyten and Cora Albers enjoy being talked to personally when entering a store. Jonett has made her own experiences with that while being a sales woman herself. She used these experiences with her partner Cora and applied them in their own concept store Maison NL in Amsterdam. Maison NL is a store for women by women offering clothes, shoes, jewellery, purses, living accessories, fragrances, vintage pieces and small pieces of furniture. You can also find garments for men and children but the customers are rather wives and mothers anyway. These are the ones who are known to be best and most persistent at shopping after all. That's also why the owners have precautionarily deposited some coffee cups in the store for a little small talk break in between - a smart idea! And afterwards the shopping spree can continue: through South Africa, India and Armenia. These are the countries where a majority of the goods that Cora and Jonett sell in their store come from. Some of these articles can only be purchased within Amsterdam at Maison NL, for other products that applies to the whole country.
Designing for H&M was not the worst move by the two Dutch designers. Since that time Viktor & Rolf, whose name could also be Freaky and Freakier, have been known even beyond the catwalk. Why freaky? You could describe them as style twins, not only wearing similar clothes all the time, but also the same horn-rimmed glasses. That much to their personal outfits. Their collections are more inspired though - they are smart, sportive and truly keen on details. So keen on details that sometimes small turns into big and something marginal turns into an eye-catcher. Then, the collar is more pronounced than the dress, the button bigger than the buttonhole and black-and-white anything else than classic. If you want to try and buy clothes you can do that at Van Ravenstein. There, you'll find the creations by Viktor & Rolf in close vicinity to Dries van Noten, Ann Demeulemeester, or Spijkers en Spijkers, among others.
Cindy and Frans love Amsterdam's Utrechtsestraat because in the ever-growing shopping street they can go shopping, have lunch and are close to their own store: Centre Neuf. It was opened five years ago, and the reason was Donna Karan. Which part did the American fashion designer play exactly? Well, the two have met twelve years ago in the DKNY store on P.C. Hooftstraat, that is the luxury shopping mile in the Dutch capital. According to Cindy they have become a good team and even better friends. Their similar taste in fashion and their understanding of service have probably contributed to that. They offer Jil Sander, Marc Jacobs and Acne in their 70s store - the pieces are presented in front of a brick wall and ordered according to looks. They have just opened a second store on the same street exclusively selling fashion by the Danish label Wonhundred.
EAT in Amsterdam:
No, you are not inside a Tim Burton movie. But it probably wouldn't surprise you if Willy Wonka stood behind the counter. Somewhere in between Charlie's cookie factory, Alice in Sugarland and a psychedelic stupor you are served the best cake you ever had. And you know that even before your fork reaches your mouth as what looks so good has to taste excellent as well. The two owners Siemon de Jong and Noam Offer do not only offer sweet temptations at their charming, extraordinary café but also bake by order - for any occasion you can think of. Their cakes have already been exhibited and eaten at the Rijksmuseum, the Stedelijk, and the van Gogh and Utrecht museums; they have also starred in films and enjoy great popularity with Vanessa Paradis - to refer to Willy Wonka once again.
If you are not hungry you should take out your spouse to IJ-kantine - it's worth the unique experience. The restaurant, which lies to the north of the city, is easiest reached by ferry. The ferry is free and takes you out of the city to an old and fascinating industrial area. The restaurant, with its high ceilings and huge glass windows, is probably the district's most beautiful building. And of course you have to pay for it as neither the delicious lunch nor the long drink is cheap. But the sunset above the harbour makes up for it, especially on Sunday afternoons which have a special flair enhanced by live music. Apart from business people who hold conferences here you will also come across families. While parents wine and dine in the restaurant, the kids can play in huge sand boxes or in the kids' corner. Our tip: Those who get seasick can also come by car or taxi. There's free parking available.
If you want to avoid the beaten tracks, visit the Café de Kroon. Tired tourists won't stumble in here by chance. If you want to find the Kroon you have to know it in the first place. While its location at Rembrandtplein is prominent, it lies on the first floor. During the day you get great coffee here and in the evening - from Thursdays to Saturdays - the place turns into a very cool lounge (having attracted even Mick Jagger and Jerry Springer already). The interior decoration is rich in contrasts, the large hall with industrial touch boasting leather chairs and chandeliers. You feel like visiting the living room of a factory, if something like that existed. The bar is massive; and you should ask yourself whether you really want to know what's inside the pharmacy vessels in the illuminated display cabins. It's a first-class insider tip you should rather keep to yourself.
SIGHTS in Amsterdam:
Whether you like or don't like the taste of the famous Dutch beer with the green label and the red star, visiting the Heineken Experience is worthwhile anyway. On four floors you won't only be shown how the beer gets in the bottle but also how Heineken became the trade name it is today. There is an interactive adventure world catering to all the senses. The range of topics includes the individual production steps, the development and philosophy of the company as well as Heineken's definition of fun and entertainment. The fascinating show is accommodated in proper style in the building that once housed the old brewery. It is, in fact, more than just another brewery where you press your nose on smudged glass pane. You will also be able to taste the beer, of course, and almost forget the slogan: Enjoy with responsibility!
A Gracht tour can't be compared to a gondola ride, of course, but it is much cheaper and the captain usually spares you the kitschy songs. Also, you won't have to queue up or start a fight for being admitted to the boat. As far as ambience is concerned, the Grachts can very well compete: It's exceptionally nice on the boats and you probably won't find a more relaxing way to see the town than gliding over the calm water and observing the hustle and bustle in the small streets. On an evening Gracht tour the many colourful illuminations are especially attractive, immersing the streets in a magic light. There are several Gracht tour providers, for instance.
Nomen est omen: Amsterdam Eco Tours guide you through the city and the canals without burdening the environment. That functions via low-emission canal boats that are powered by CNG, compressed natural gas, pedal boats for the sporty ones among you and walking tours through the canals. The sustainability begins at pier 6 itself: while waiting for your boats, the little restaurant serves organic drinks and snacks. Moreover, the Eco Tours employees help you to find restaurant and bars in the city that also think about the protection of mother nature and live after these principles. Last but not least: there are nine electrical boats at pier 6 each of them offering seats for twelve guests. The advantages: the environment is protected and there is practically no noise pollution. Furthermore, the little green boats can land at any place where the big canal boats may not stop (day ticket 22 euro). The Canal Company, which stands behind Eco Tours, was the first boat company being awarded the Green Key for their activities in the field of environmental protection
STAY in Amsterdam:
Don't tell anyone else: The Jordaan quarter is one of the best in town. The former working-class district turned into a favourite hangout for artists and intellectuals. Today, dreamers will adore its old-fashioned charm, and shoppers will love the hip stores around. The hotel is right here, in the immediate vicinity of the Anne Frank House. And right here you should check in if you are a fan of the authentic. The 17th-century Gracht house has been renovated to accommodate eight rooms, all of them of pretty, albeit plain interior. Don't go on a search for details, you won't find any. Just content yourself with being able to sleep in such a charming historical ambience. And believe us: You won't need more than that. The price for a night in the double room starts from 139 Euros.
Do you know what the Japanese are good at? They do without plastic, use a lot of wood and create the kind of architecture that render any Yoga programme unnecessary in the first place. Add lots of comfort, perfect service, the eternal smile and out comes the sole European branch of the Japanese Okura noble chain, one of the leading hotels in the world. Not without reason the Japanese are known to be excellent business people. And the Okura accommodates the probably most expensive suite in town, which is also the largest in the Benelux States. The price per night goes beyond the 1,000 Euro limit. And if you run away screeching now, please do come back. There are cheaper rooms as well, attracting the target group of wealthy Japanologists. You can relax with Japanese soaps via satellite, before you treat yourself to dinner at Ciel Bleu. The hotel restaurant lies at 75 metres, breathtaking view included. The price for a night in a standard room starts from approx. 200 Euros.
Victorieplein or Frederiksplein? It's the V that matters. They don't give a damn about dapper luxury there. The design, in fact, is all about creating a young and stylish hotel. Mission fulfilled: Aesthetes will enjoy themselves here. Small aesthetes even more so because - while the styling is wonderful - the rooms are anything but big. But Amsterdam is calling, anyway, and apart from a few hours of beauty sleep you should spend your holidays outside. Morning starts with a hearty breakfast, a rain shower and a tip from the friendly staff - in case you ask for it. If you are too tired to go out and too awake for bed you should treat yourself a drink at the lounge. There, the sofas are soft, the fireplace is open and the music is chilling.The price for one night in the double room starts from 109 Euros.