Windmills, tree-lined canals, plants spilling over every doorstep, 400km of cycle lanes, organic cafes on every corner; Amsterdam might appear to be doing well in the sustainability stakes. And yet with a population of just 821,000, Amsterdam receives over 14 million tourists each year. In the first Antibad Sustainable Travel series Daisy Allsup teams up with the team at MUD Jeans to uncover ways to visit the city consciously, without being a burden to its resources. Here’s the Antibad Guide to Amsterdam:
This Easter will see the arrival of the Eurostar, connecting London St Pancras and Amsterdam Centraal in just 3 hours 50 minutes. A Eurostar journey emits 80% less carbon than the equivalent short-haul flight* which is reason enough to take the train.
Rent a bicycle and zoom about with the locals. Frederic’s Rent a Bike is under 10 minutes walk from Central Station. Ottobikes on Overtoom, and Ajax Bike in De Pijp are also recommended. The city is small enough to walk to many places, or you can hop on the tram for €2.90 a journey.
The Dutch diet of processed meat bitterballen, starchy Oliebollen donuts, sugary Hagelslag sprinkles on sliced bread, and huge wheels of plastic cheese might seem off-putting, but there are plenty of ways to eat well in Amsterdam. Markets spring up on Saturday’s selling local organic produce, try the Noordermarkt farmers market for fruit, flowers, cheese, and Dutch pancakes. The supermarkets are excellent, think mineral waters with fresh ginger and mint, raw veg juices and squeeze-your-own orange juice at the in-store juicers.
Eat out at InStock, the restaurant that designs and produces its menu entirely from surplus food waste from the major grocers including Albert Heijn. SLA serves up delicious organic salads and vegan veggie bowls at several locations across Amsterdam. Take the 20-minute ferry from Centraal across to Noord and visit Pllek, a restaurant and bar built from shipping containers with it’s own beach with views over the IJ. Café de Ceuvel is another sustainable hangout on the waterfront, with a café as well as workspaces and studios, workshops and yoga classes.
For a smarter option, eat inside a 1920s glasshouse at Restaurant De Kas, the former Amsterdam City Nursery where the fixed menu is made with ingredients grown on-site. From May to October you can also tour the nursery and garden or attend growing workshops in their field in the Beemster.
Stop at Amsterdam’s own Marie-Stella-Maris for chic fragrances, soaps and candles as well as mineral water. The brand donates a fixed amount towards clean drinking water projects worldwide; for every care product purchased, €1 goes to the Marie-Stella-Maris Foundation.
Haarlemmerdijk is a lovely shopping street particularly towards Haarlemmerplein. Look out for Six and Sons, a concept store selling utilitarian clothes and great vintage posters, antique maps and prints. Also on this street find Sukha which stocks handmade ceramics and notepaper.
On a weekend, head to De Hallen, a converted tramshed and stroll through the Maker Market before stopping for lunch at the Foodhallen with its myriad of street food stands. On nearby Kinkerstraat stop in at Gekaapt, the ideal spot for picking up presents and homewares.
Amsterdam is saturated with Air BnB’s but they’re unpopular with locals and often end up as expensive as staying in a hotel. QO Hotel in the Amstelkwartier, due to open next month is set to be one of the most sustainable in Europe, complete with greenhouse on the top floor supplying veg and herbs for the restaurant. Or try award-winning Zoku, the Japanese word for family or tribe, that opened last May. Part hotel, part apartment it offers a home/office hybrid with communal workspaces making it an ideal base for exploring the city. For those on a budget, EcoMama is a design-focused sustainable hostel right in the centre of town.
The Dutch are very laid-back and tend to dress down, even to work. Trainers are acceptable everywhere, and be sure to pack a raincoat - it rains an average of 217 days a year.
Things To Do
Cruising the canals by boat is a must, but make sure it’s electric. Book a private tour or join a public group with Those Dam Boat Guys, whose small electric boats only take up to 10 passengers.
Wander around the Nine Streets and the smaller canals of Jordaan and soak in the gabled Golden Age architecture, complete with wonky windows, outward sloping facades and intricately decorated doorways.
Museum Square is tourist heavy, so it’s a good idea to plan what you want to visit in advance. The Rijksmuseum is huge and warrants at least a few hours; it’s filled with national treasures including Vermeer’s Milkmaid and Rembrandt’s Night Watch and the great Cuypers Library. Then there’s the Van Gogh Museum (advance booking essential), the Stedelijk for Modern and Contemporary art, Moco for Banksy and friends, and Royal Concertgebouw for music concerts both classical and contemporary.
For a mixture of traditional and modern, visit FOAM, a photography museum housed within an ancient merchant’s house on Keizersgracht. Look out for the Lucas Foglia exhibition, Human Nature from 2 Feb–15 April, a series of photographs documenting stories about nature, people, government, and the science of our relationship to wilderness.
If the sun shines take a walk through Vondelpark, Amsterdam’s prettiest park or dip into the Hortus Botanicus, one of the oldest botanical gardens in the world.
In spring a bike ride through the flower fields around Keukenhof is a must, tulip season is generally the last two weeks in April and first week in May.
Words by Daisy Allsup in association with MUD Jeans. MUD Jeans are the circular Dutch denim brand with sustainability at it’s core.
Shop MUD Jeans here.