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The Insider Guide to Amsterdam

Visiting the Dutch capital has never been easier, thanks to the launch of Eurostar’s direct service from London, and some local knowledge, says Gillian Tans, CEO of booking.com.

With a sparkling start-up culture and an abundance of design hotels and quirky eateries, the capital of the Netherlands has not only been ranked the best city worldwide for millennials, it is also fast becoming a sought-after base for international firms. But where should you eat, drink and hang out once you’re there? Amsterdam resident and booking.com CEO Gillian Tans opens her address book for THE STAND.

Gillian Tans, CEO of Booking.com

Gillian Tans, CEO of booking.com

Amsterdam is home for me. I’ve been living and working in this beautiful city for a very long time, and I really love the energy and the atmosphere here. It’s a great place to explore on holiday, but also to settle down and build a life. Everyone is so approachable and down to earth, and the city is constantly evolving. Even walking through my own neighbourhood brings surprises – there’s always somewhere new to try or to discover.

There are so many great breakfast places in Amsterdam. Bakers & Roasters has a great vibe, and the food is amazing. Brunch lovers are spoiled for choice, but one of my favourites is Dignita. Not only does it serve brunch all day long, but it also supports Not For Sale, which fights modern slavery.

I’m a coffee person, and my favourite go-to spot is Coffee Concepts in the middle of one of Amsterdam’s most photogenic neighbourhoods, close to the Vondelpark. They serve excellent coffee, and it’s a truly local hangout.

There is a really strong local and seasonal food movement in Amsterdam. Two of my favourite restaurants are De Kas (located in a renovated greenhouse – much of their produce is grown on site) and Restaurant Gebr. Hartering, with its stunning canal-side location and elegant yet simple fare. If I’m going out with friends or family, we’ll choose Ron Gastrobar or Kaagman & Kortekaas. Both are sophisticated, welcoming, very Dutch and feature seasonal products. I’d also recommend Moon, the rotating restaurant on the 19th floor of the A’DAM Toren in Amsterdam Noord. It has spectacular 360-degree views of the city.

De Kas Restaurant

De Kas Restaurant

If you want to treat yourself to a stellar dining experience, I’d suggest either Ciel Bleu, an iconic Amsterdam favourite with two Michelin stars located on the 23rd floor of the Hotel Okura, or Bord’eau, (one Michelin star) at the historic Hotel de l’Europe – it has beautiful views of the Amstel river. For business dinners, I like either RIJKS or The Duchess. Both have great service and a wonderful ambience.

Amsterdam is constantly evolving. Even walking through my own neighbourhood brings surprises – there’s always somewhere new to try or to discover.

Amsterdam is known for its cosy neighbourhood “brown” bars. They might look a little dark, but they’re a great way of soaking up local culture. For cocktails, I simply adore Izakaya in De Pijp. It’s trendy and has a great buzz. It serves sublime Japanese fusion dishes alongside creative, Asian-inspired cocktails.

When you come to Amsterdam, a visit to the Rijksmuseum is a must. Even if you’re not interested in the works of the Dutch Masters inside, the architecture of the building is stunning both inside and out. I’d also recommend a private boat tour of the city, especially when the weather is nice. Amsterdam is full of canals, and it’s a really relaxing way to see the city from a different perspective. We’re lucky to have several beautiful parks in Amsterdam, but my all-time favourite is the Vondelpark. Not only is it beautiful in every season of the year, but I live nearby and my children grew up playing there, so it provides lots of great family memories. If you like classical music, make sure to take in a concert at the beautiful Concertgebouw, which has world-renowned acoustics.

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One of my favourite parts of the city is Jordaan. With its charming boutiques, local markets and lovely terraces, it’s one of Amsterdam’s oldest neighbourhoods. Wandering through the tiny, picturesque side streets is a wonderful way to while away an afternoon. For the super-hip side of the city, head to Amsterdam East, (or Oost, as we say in Dutch) – it’s trendy and has great energy.

You can’t return from Amsterdam without cheese! Also, your family will thank you if you pick up a couple of packets of “stroopwafels” – small waffles filled with caramel. I also think authentic blue and white Delft pottery makes a beautiful souvenir.

My three hidden gems:

  1. One of my favourites is the Woonbootmuseum (Houseboat Museum). It’s a small, quirky museum where you can explore one of Amsterdam’s houseboats – a famous sight in the city – for yourself.
  2. If you want to try genever (Dutch gin) in a truly historic setting, check out In de Olofspoort. It’s been around for hundreds of years, the ambience is unique, and the selection is impressive.
  3. And for a classic bar in the heart of Amsterdam, I’d suggest Bar Oldenhof. It’s upscale yet quiet and cosy – and thankfully not on everyone’s radar yet.

A leading figure in the travel industry, Gillian Tans has been CEO of booking.com – the world’s largest accommodation booking site, with more than 15,000 employees in 70 countries worldwide – since 2016.