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Cities

Away Days: 24 hours in Amsterdam

Because it’s a city of artistry on and off the pitch, the Dutch capital offers an awful lot more than just football, from scenic waterways to chips with mayonnaise

WORDS Derek Brookman

The Ajax style reflects the character of the Dutch capital and its inhabitants: head up, chest out, facing the world with confidence and swagger. Amsterdam has the buzz of a major European metropolis, but also the compactness and ease of a provincial town, perfect for an away fan looking to get a taste of the place on a whistle-stop tour. 

Amsterdam has everything from chic 17th-century canal-side townhouses and world-renowned museums to colourful hipster cafés located in regenerated docklands. It’s also the place most closely associated with Total Football and pure dedication to sparkling, imaginative play. This is the city where Dutch masters such as Johans Cruijff and Neeskens, plus Marco van Basten and Frank Rijkaard, Patrick Kluivert and Clarence Seedorf, and – more recently – Matthijs de Ligt, Frenkie de Jong and now Ryan Gravenberch have bedazzled the footballing world. 

The centre of Amsterdam is ideal for exploration by foot. That said, in normal times the area from Centraal station through Dam Square to the Leidseplein, as well as the red-light district, can often feel choked by visitors. But it’s easy – and rewarding – to go a little further afield. 

Wander through the city centre’s UNESCO-listed canal belt for a taste of Dutch Golden Age opulence. The Herengracht, for example, was where many of Amsterdam’s social elite built their grand gabled houses several centuries ago, and that sense of prestige is still palpable. Almost every building is a work of art. The nearby Jordaan, a previously working-class neighbourhood that has been thoroughly gentrified, serves up an abundance of tight little streets, cafés, shops, galleries and bars. On the eastern side of Centraal station, a short walk will take you to Hannekes Boom, a wooden bar/restaurant with a large outdoor sitting area overlooking water, which has the feel of an old Mississippi gin shack.

Otherwise, hop on a free ferry behind the station and check out the EYE Film Institute, with wonderful views from its café back across the river. Or have lunch 100 metres up at the top of the A’DAM tower, which also boasts Europe’s highest swing. A different ferry takes you further out to the NDSM Wharf, where you can eat and drink at Pllek, cobbled together from former shipping containers and close to an artificial beach. And, while it may sound tacky, a canal tour really is a good way of getting to know the city.

So too, of course, are the ubiquitous bicycles. And among the many great places to cycle to (and in) is the Westerpark, where greenery mixes with culture, including a former gas factory now transformed into bars, restaurants, live music venues and a cinema. Or, for a different feel, don’t pass up the chance to drink local beer in a windmill. East of the centre, Brouwerij ’t IJ (Funenkade 7, also reachable by tram 14) boasts a vast selection of suds brewed on the premises and elsewhere, in a location reminiscent of a scene from a blue-and-white Royal Delft tile.

The Johan Cruijff ArenA on Amsterdam’s southern outskirts is worth a visit even on non-matchdays to catch a glimpse of the four shiny replicas of the European Cup/Champions League trophies in the club museum

The Johan Cruijff ArenA on Amsterdam’s southern outskirts is worth a visit even on non-matchdays to catch a glimpse of the four shiny replicas of the European Cup/Champions League trophies in the club museum, as well as other Ajax memorabilia. Then there’s always a pilgrimage to Akkerstraat in the Betondorp (Concrete Village) area of the city, and the house where Cruijff lived until he was 12. The old Olympic Stadium in Amsterdam Oud-Zuid, where Ajax played until 1996, is now a national monument and can also be visited.

After the game, jump on the metro at the Amsterdam Bijlmer ArenA, zip up to the Nieuwmarkt and celebrate/drown your sorrows in one of the many nearby bars, while the players are still going through their cool-down routines on the pitch. 

So much to do, so many choices to make. But don’t worry if you run out of time to see even a fraction of what Amsterdam has to offer. You’ll be back. 

Travel
Two legs good, two wheels better

In a country where there are more bikes than people, the cycling infrastructure is magnificent. You can rent them all over the city and zoom around on dedicated lanes, which even have their own traffic lights. Just don’t get your wheels stuck in tram tracks: the tram will win.

Museums galore

Jump on tram 3, 5 or 12 to Museumplein and take your pick. The Rijksmuseum houses a stunning collection of Golden Age paintings; the Van Gogh Museum has works from all stages of the artist’s life; while the Stedelijk focuses on modern and abstract. Book well in advance if you want to visit Anne Frank House (Westermarkt 20).

One-club city

Ajax are in the relatively rare position of being the sole professional team in a major European city. At renowned Ajax bar Café de Waard (Leidseplein 14), proud regulars will happily regale you with other club-related facts.

Deep-fried Dutch 

You must try something from the famous ‘wall of snack’ vending machines dotted around the city. Experience the old-school satisfaction of dropping a couple of coins into a slot, pulling a lever and opening a little window, behind which sits a deep-fried delight such as a cheese soufflé, goulash croquette or frikandel: minced-meat hotdogs that are inexplicably popular in the Low Countries.

Chip shot

As anyone who has seen Pulp Fiction will be happy to tell you, the Dutch delight in slathering their chips with mayonnaise. But that’s only the beginning. Order a friet speciaal and your mayonnaise will be accompanied by curry sauce (or tomato ketchup) and sprinkled with raw chopped onions. Or you might decide to go all in and ask for a Kapsalon: fries topped with kebab meat, melted cheese, shredded lettuce, garlic sauce and a spicy chili purée. Eet smakelijk!

The Ajax style reflects the character of the Dutch capital and its inhabitants: head up, chest out, facing the world with confidence and swagger. Amsterdam has the buzz of a major European metropolis, but also the compactness and ease of a provincial town, perfect for an away fan looking to get a taste of the place on a whistle-stop tour. 

Amsterdam has everything from chic 17th-century canal-side townhouses and world-renowned museums to colourful hipster cafés located in regenerated docklands. It’s also the place most closely associated with Total Football and pure dedication to sparkling, imaginative play. This is the city where Dutch masters such as Johans Cruijff and Neeskens, plus Marco van Basten and Frank Rijkaard, Patrick Kluivert and Clarence Seedorf, and – more recently – Matthijs de Ligt, Frenkie de Jong and now Ryan Gravenberch have bedazzled the footballing world. 

The centre of Amsterdam is ideal for exploration by foot. That said, in normal times the area from Centraal station through Dam Square to the Leidseplein, as well as the red-light district, can often feel choked by visitors. But it’s easy – and rewarding – to go a little further afield. 

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Wander through the city centre’s UNESCO-listed canal belt for a taste of Dutch Golden Age opulence. The Herengracht, for example, was where many of Amsterdam’s social elite built their grand gabled houses several centuries ago, and that sense of prestige is still palpable. Almost every building is a work of art. The nearby Jordaan, a previously working-class neighbourhood that has been thoroughly gentrified, serves up an abundance of tight little streets, cafés, shops, galleries and bars. On the eastern side of Centraal station, a short walk will take you to Hannekes Boom, a wooden bar/restaurant with a large outdoor sitting area overlooking water, which has the feel of an old Mississippi gin shack.

Otherwise, hop on a free ferry behind the station and check out the EYE Film Institute, with wonderful views from its café back across the river. Or have lunch 100 metres up at the top of the A’DAM tower, which also boasts Europe’s highest swing. A different ferry takes you further out to the NDSM Wharf, where you can eat and drink at Pllek, cobbled together from former shipping containers and close to an artificial beach. And, while it may sound tacky, a canal tour really is a good way of getting to know the city.

So too, of course, are the ubiquitous bicycles. And among the many great places to cycle to (and in) is the Westerpark, where greenery mixes with culture, including a former gas factory now transformed into bars, restaurants, live music venues and a cinema. Or, for a different feel, don’t pass up the chance to drink local beer in a windmill. East of the centre, Brouwerij ’t IJ (Funenkade 7, also reachable by tram 14) boasts a vast selection of suds brewed on the premises and elsewhere, in a location reminiscent of a scene from a blue-and-white Royal Delft tile.

The Johan Cruijff ArenA on Amsterdam’s southern outskirts is worth a visit even on non-matchdays to catch a glimpse of the four shiny replicas of the European Cup/Champions League trophies in the club museum

The Johan Cruijff ArenA on Amsterdam’s southern outskirts is worth a visit even on non-matchdays to catch a glimpse of the four shiny replicas of the European Cup/Champions League trophies in the club museum, as well as other Ajax memorabilia. Then there’s always a pilgrimage to Akkerstraat in the Betondorp (Concrete Village) area of the city, and the house where Cruijff lived until he was 12. The old Olympic Stadium in Amsterdam Oud-Zuid, where Ajax played until 1996, is now a national monument and can also be visited.

After the game, jump on the metro at the Amsterdam Bijlmer ArenA, zip up to the Nieuwmarkt and celebrate/drown your sorrows in one of the many nearby bars, while the players are still going through their cool-down routines on the pitch. 

So much to do, so many choices to make. But don’t worry if you run out of time to see even a fraction of what Amsterdam has to offer. You’ll be back. 

Travel
Two legs good, two wheels better

In a country where there are more bikes than people, the cycling infrastructure is magnificent. You can rent them all over the city and zoom around on dedicated lanes, which even have their own traffic lights. Just don’t get your wheels stuck in tram tracks: the tram will win.

Museums galore

Jump on tram 3, 5 or 12 to Museumplein and take your pick. The Rijksmuseum houses a stunning collection of Golden Age paintings; the Van Gogh Museum has works from all stages of the artist’s life; while the Stedelijk focuses on modern and abstract. Book well in advance if you want to visit Anne Frank House (Westermarkt 20).

One-club city

Ajax are in the relatively rare position of being the sole professional team in a major European city. At renowned Ajax bar Café de Waard (Leidseplein 14), proud regulars will happily regale you with other club-related facts.

Deep-fried Dutch 

You must try something from the famous ‘wall of snack’ vending machines dotted around the city. Experience the old-school satisfaction of dropping a couple of coins into a slot, pulling a lever and opening a little window, behind which sits a deep-fried delight such as a cheese soufflé, goulash croquette or frikandel: minced-meat hotdogs that are inexplicably popular in the Low Countries.

Chip shot

As anyone who has seen Pulp Fiction will be happy to tell you, the Dutch delight in slathering their chips with mayonnaise. But that’s only the beginning. Order a friet speciaal and your mayonnaise will be accompanied by curry sauce (or tomato ketchup) and sprinkled with raw chopped onions. Or you might decide to go all in and ask for a Kapsalon: fries topped with kebab meat, melted cheese, shredded lettuce, garlic sauce and a spicy chili purée. Eet smakelijk!

The Ajax style reflects the character of the Dutch capital and its inhabitants: head up, chest out, facing the world with confidence and swagger. Amsterdam has the buzz of a major European metropolis, but also the compactness and ease of a provincial town, perfect for an away fan looking to get a taste of the place on a whistle-stop tour. 

Amsterdam has everything from chic 17th-century canal-side townhouses and world-renowned museums to colourful hipster cafés located in regenerated docklands. It’s also the place most closely associated with Total Football and pure dedication to sparkling, imaginative play. This is the city where Dutch masters such as Johans Cruijff and Neeskens, plus Marco van Basten and Frank Rijkaard, Patrick Kluivert and Clarence Seedorf, and – more recently – Matthijs de Ligt, Frenkie de Jong and now Ryan Gravenberch have bedazzled the footballing world. 

The centre of Amsterdam is ideal for exploration by foot. That said, in normal times the area from Centraal station through Dam Square to the Leidseplein, as well as the red-light district, can often feel choked by visitors. But it’s easy – and rewarding – to go a little further afield. 

Wander through the city centre’s UNESCO-listed canal belt for a taste of Dutch Golden Age opulence. The Herengracht, for example, was where many of Amsterdam’s social elite built their grand gabled houses several centuries ago, and that sense of prestige is still palpable. Almost every building is a work of art. The nearby Jordaan, a previously working-class neighbourhood that has been thoroughly gentrified, serves up an abundance of tight little streets, cafés, shops, galleries and bars. On the eastern side of Centraal station, a short walk will take you to Hannekes Boom, a wooden bar/restaurant with a large outdoor sitting area overlooking water, which has the feel of an old Mississippi gin shack.

Otherwise, hop on a free ferry behind the station and check out the EYE Film Institute, with wonderful views from its café back across the river. Or have lunch 100 metres up at the top of the A’DAM tower, which also boasts Europe’s highest swing. A different ferry takes you further out to the NDSM Wharf, where you can eat and drink at Pllek, cobbled together from former shipping containers and close to an artificial beach. And, while it may sound tacky, a canal tour really is a good way of getting to know the city.

So too, of course, are the ubiquitous bicycles. And among the many great places to cycle to (and in) is the Westerpark, where greenery mixes with culture, including a former gas factory now transformed into bars, restaurants, live music venues and a cinema. Or, for a different feel, don’t pass up the chance to drink local beer in a windmill. East of the centre, Brouwerij ’t IJ (Funenkade 7, also reachable by tram 14) boasts a vast selection of suds brewed on the premises and elsewhere, in a location reminiscent of a scene from a blue-and-white Royal Delft tile.

The Johan Cruijff ArenA on Amsterdam’s southern outskirts is worth a visit even on non-matchdays to catch a glimpse of the four shiny replicas of the European Cup/Champions League trophies in the club museum

The Johan Cruijff ArenA on Amsterdam’s southern outskirts is worth a visit even on non-matchdays to catch a glimpse of the four shiny replicas of the European Cup/Champions League trophies in the club museum, as well as other Ajax memorabilia. Then there’s always a pilgrimage to Akkerstraat in the Betondorp (Concrete Village) area of the city, and the house where Cruijff lived until he was 12. The old Olympic Stadium in Amsterdam Oud-Zuid, where Ajax played until 1996, is now a national monument and can also be visited.

After the game, jump on the metro at the Amsterdam Bijlmer ArenA, zip up to the Nieuwmarkt and celebrate/drown your sorrows in one of the many nearby bars, while the players are still going through their cool-down routines on the pitch. 

So much to do, so many choices to make. But don’t worry if you run out of time to see even a fraction of what Amsterdam has to offer. You’ll be back. 

Travel
Two legs good, two wheels better

In a country where there are more bikes than people, the cycling infrastructure is magnificent. You can rent them all over the city and zoom around on dedicated lanes, which even have their own traffic lights. Just don’t get your wheels stuck in tram tracks: the tram will win.

Museums galore

Jump on tram 3, 5 or 12 to Museumplein and take your pick. The Rijksmuseum houses a stunning collection of Golden Age paintings; the Van Gogh Museum has works from all stages of the artist’s life; while the Stedelijk focuses on modern and abstract. Book well in advance if you want to visit Anne Frank House (Westermarkt 20).

One-club city

Ajax are in the relatively rare position of being the sole professional team in a major European city. At renowned Ajax bar Café de Waard (Leidseplein 14), proud regulars will happily regale you with other club-related facts.

Deep-fried Dutch 

You must try something from the famous ‘wall of snack’ vending machines dotted around the city. Experience the old-school satisfaction of dropping a couple of coins into a slot, pulling a lever and opening a little window, behind which sits a deep-fried delight such as a cheese soufflé, goulash croquette or frikandel: minced-meat hotdogs that are inexplicably popular in the Low Countries.

Chip shot

As anyone who has seen Pulp Fiction will be happy to tell you, the Dutch delight in slathering their chips with mayonnaise. But that’s only the beginning. Order a friet speciaal and your mayonnaise will be accompanied by curry sauce (or tomato ketchup) and sprinkled with raw chopped onions. Or you might decide to go all in and ask for a Kapsalon: fries topped with kebab meat, melted cheese, shredded lettuce, garlic sauce and a spicy chili purée. Eet smakelijk!

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