Notes on Amsterdam

This story originally appeared on my travel blog at 

The best sex that any classical music enthusiast can have in Amsterdam is at the center of the seventh row inside the Concertgebouw’s Grand Hall, listening to its orchestra play Beethoven’s Coriolan Overture, and then follow it with Jonathan Tavener’s Svyati. To experience this is to understand that you’ve misused the phrase ‘mind-blowing’ throughout your entire life. 

It is widely understood that no matter how you take your pleasure, the pinnacle of it can be reached here, in some fashion, on nearly every corner of a metropolis that looks like an enormous open-air modern wing dressed in Brett Helquist illustrated clothes. But if you travel to this city and you are under the age of thirty, neglecting to take advantage of the Concertgebouw’s 'junior ticket' discount could be the biggest mistake of your trip. Nowhere else in Amsterdam does a thrill that feels so good cost less than €12.50 and include complimentary drinks at intermission.

Of course there are plenty of things to love about this city, which it knows very well. And that is precisely why Amsterdam collects nearly 4 billion dollars in tourist-generated revenue every year. But if, like many young travelers, you arrive with the rain cloud of a tight budget hovering over your umbrella (an essential Amsterdam travel tool), rest assured, you can still indulge in several of its innumerable delights. Here are a few of our favorites:

Slouched at the corner of Ceinterbaan and Van Ostadestraat is a restaurant whose exterior is as rough as its concept is brilliant. The only menu you will find at the Couscous Club is the one in the picture frame behind its front window. There are only three entrees listed on it, and all of them are some variation on traditional Tunisian Couscous. The presentations of each are an artful marriage of vegetables and grain, and their aromas are as authentically rooted in Tunisia as their creator, Wouter Apituley. Doubling as the owner of this operation, Apitulely makes careful use of opaque crystal chandaliers, antique mirrors and Juliet Greco to create an ambience that is an obvious and effective salute to an earlier love affiar with Paris; where he lived for seven years before coming to Amsterdam to try his hand in the restauruant business. 

The wine menu at the Couscous Club also adheres closely to the rule of three; offering one white, one rose, and one tunisian red that is a particularly nice accompanyment to either of the two dishes served with lamb.

If there are a few extra pennies burning a hole in your pocket, though, they can be put to best use at Eetcafe Ven Beeren. The intimate space that it occupies at 54 Koningsstraat is far enough off of the beaten path to be missed by most of Amsterdam's tourists, but its unique Parisian spin on traditional Dutch cooking should not be missed by you. A meal for two that includes their house wine will set you back between 45-60 euros. And under no circumstances should you pass on the frittes. 

More music
If you are not truly, madly, and deeply in love with jazz music, do those that are the favor of walking straight on past Café Alto. This sepia-toned, poorly wall-papered venue is meant exclusively for junkies of the craft, and many of them gather here on Monday evenings to bask for a few hours in the exquisite talents of Caracas-born Jazz pianist Hein van der Gaag and his trio. Inexplicably, Café Alto charges nothing for this, nor the invaluable sentiments you will inevitably take away from just one evening spent here.  

Once you have managed to peel yourself away from the view at Rustland and Kloveniersbergwal, stop in at The Book Exchange, just 100 yards away.  This independently owned second-hand American bookshop is the greatest thing that has ever happened to a rainy day. There are thousands of titles here, many of which can be yours for an absurdly cheap price, or by trading in a book of your own.