Every city reimagines itself, but few shed skins faster than Amsterdam. While the Dutch capital used to be a byword for fast, louche fun — all hash cakes and beefcakes — it has worked hard to rebrand itself in recent years and reclaim its title as one of Europe’s powerhouse cultural epicenters. Even the old emblems of sleaze have morphed. The Blue Boy Club, once a buzzing male bordello, has been reborn as Joya, an urbane Asian restaurant that teasingly plays off the Club’s past, with double-entendre dishes like “heaven on your tongue” (that’s scallops and foie gras). The gentrifying Red Light District is now home to a growing constellation of galleries and serious kitchens. And De Pijp, Amsterdam’s longstanding boho answer to Greenpoint, is suddenly turning posh; the Pestana Amsterdam Riverside, the city’s first big hotel opening of 2018, dresses up a reclaimed corner of the neighborhood’s anchoring Amstel River.
All this means that the city once known for bachelor parties gone wrong is now genteel enough for a downright classy, and very romantic, honeymoon. Where to start? The best place is the city’s western arc of canals, a sustained landscape of gabled, 17th- and 18th-century townhouses overlooking bow-backed bridges and flower shops. Gaze up and you’ll see the austere brick facades giving way to an army of stone gods, saints, and roof-adorning cherubs. The city’s luxe pivot has meant a surge of high-end hotels in the neighborhood, and though you’ll have a tough time choosing, the only real decision is selecting between the canal-side properties. The Andaz is a running showroom of Marcel Wanders’s playful (aka manic) interiors, the Pulitzer has undergone a recent top-to-bottom renovation, and the refurbished Ambassade, complete with a library bar, still offers the best view down the Herengracht. But it’s the big-splurge, canal-side Dylan, sitting in a prime historic landmark, that is basically a honeymoon in itself. While the hotel keeps opening sleek new rooms, the best ones are the beamed loft suites, located above the hotel’s Michelin-starred Vinkeles Restaurant. If you really want to pump up the romance, you can book a combination dinner and canal tour on the hotel’s private boat.
Or, instead, head out to one of the city’s fresh wave of serious restaurants, the sign of a culinary renaissance that includes the Rijks, known for locally sourced takes on global dishes, like a langoustine bathed in oyster cream. Alternatively, a ferry to the newly developed northern district will bring you to the revolving Moon restaurant, perched on the 19th floor of the A’DAM Tower. It boasts the best aerial shot you’ll find of the city.
Round out your stay with a visit to the city’s Museumplein, where all three of Amsterdam’s world-class museums have finally completed their massive, multi-million dollar renovations.
The Stedelijk is a showcase for contemporary art and the Van Gogh Museum features the finest curated collection of the artist’s work. But it is the airy redesigned Rijksmuseum — where all the Rembrandts, Vermeers, and Dutch Master canvases echo the gleaming cityscape outside — that offers the best proof of Amsterdam’s second Golden Age. — Raphael Kadushin