For visitors who have a few days to spend in Amsterdam, I tend to advise breaking things down into different areas – perhaps spending a morning in the Museum District to the South of the city, an afternoon (or even a day) wandering around the Jordaan and Canal Belt in the centre and for foodies, some time in West.
But one of my favourite areas for a magical morning or afternoon (or a full day if you have the time) is the magnificent area just to the East of Amsterdam known as The Plantage, on the right bank of the Amstel River.
The itinerary I’d recommend for this beautiful historic area is as follows (each link in this post will take you to a fuller description with everything you need to know about that hotspot). And this being Amsterdam, everything listed is literally just footsteps apart:
HOLOCAUST MEMORIAL OF NAMES
I’d urge you to start with a short visit to the newish Holocaust Memorial of Names. This Liebeskind Memorial includes a brick for Anne Frank along with 103,000 other bricks for each of the Dutch Jews, Sinti and Roma who were deported or killed by the Nazis during World War II. The memorial is outdoors and doesn’t take long to visit but is hugely worthwhile. Please do read more about it by clicking the link above.
The memorial is right next to what is probably the best place for breakfast, brunch or lunch or in the city – Dignita. I’ve never recommended this special cafe in The Hoftuin gardens to anyone who hasn’t absolutely fallen in love with it. You must book in advance to be sure of a spot in the magical glass interior. It’s one of those rare places where the stunning organic food tastes as wonderful as it looks and the setting is outstanding.
On the opposite side of the little Hoftuin Garden is the Dutch branch of the Hermitage Museum. Whilst the museum itself is a little random there is a gallery here which I maintain is one of the most extraordinary hidden secrets in Amsterdam. Rather than repeat what I wrote in my gushing post please click the link for a fuller explanation and visit the Portrait Gallery of the 17th Century. You won’t be disappointed.
The Hermitage also has its own courtyard garden and here, between 9.30 and 16.30 on Saturdays, you can find another of Amsterdam’s hidden gems. The Hermitage market sells fresh produce from some of the city’s best suppliers. Whilst tourists are falling over each other over at the Noordermarkt, here there is room to breathe and grab a bite to eat, a drink or something to cook up at your Airbnb. I’m a huge fan of this addition to the local produce scene, not least as you’ll find Amsterdam’s best bakery Fort Negen dishing up weekly specials including their legendary cruffins (although I’ve heard Bakery Noé might be taking over their spot); organic farm goods from MOMA (including cheese from legendary Kef); french spit-roast chickens from Style Culinaire and granola and ‘pinderkaas’ (Dutch peanut butter) from Kitchen Freaks.
Please do support this enterprise, its hidden away so not everyone knows about it and I’d love to see it thrive.
Those three activities make a pretty perfect morning but if you want to spend the whole day in this area why not add the following to your list:
MAGERE BRUG/SKINNY BRIDGE
The memorial, cafe and museum listed above are right next to Amsterdam’s famous skinny bridge. Do stop by for a photo-stop day or night.
The Plantage was traditionally the old Jewish area of Amsterdam and in this cultural quarter you’ll find the stunning Portuguese Synagogue along with other historic sites. Do check out the linked post which gives a guide to some of what’s on offer.
artis zoo and de plantage
Alternatively why not spend the afternoon at the incomparable Artis Zoo. Not only are grounds absolutely breathtaking, the buildings here are historic monuments and it also has one of the finest grand cafe’s in which to grab lunch or coffee afterwards.
But our favourite east-side terrace under the linden trees at the edge of the Amstel river is the classic Ysbreeker Cafe – enjoy the views in Summer or head indoors in Winter for one of the most beautiful and classic Grand Cafes that the city has to offer.
I often feel its hard to do justice to the wonders of Amsterdam’s finest corners in a blog post, but trust me, this little patch of land has so much to offer and even if you only spend a few hours in the The Plantage, I just know you will remember all its sensory highlights for a long time to come.