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Frank Frambach/My Shot

Keith’s Amsterdam

Welcome back city lovers to another Friday edition of I Heart My City. This week Keith Jenkins, traveler and writer behind the Velvet Escape blog, gives us his insider’s tour of Amsterdam. Read on to discover some of Keith’s great tips, like where to score the city’s best Flemish fries.

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Amsterdam is My City

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Amsterdam's Begijnjof (Keith Jenkins)

The first place I take a visitor from out of town is the Begijnhof or Nunnery in the heart of Amsterdam; a tranquil place with beautiful houses and trees. It’s simply a magical place.

When I crave Dutch (or Flemish) fries, with mayonnaise of course, I always go to Fleminckx (Voetboogstraat 31, a small lane between the Spui square and the Heiligeweg). Simply the best fries in town!

To escape the daily grind of blogging, I head into town for a leisurely stroll along the canals or an afternoon at one of the many terraces to people-watch. Any of the terraces at Rembrandt plein (square) is a good bet for an entertaining afternoon.

For complete quiet, I can hide away in the countryside just north of Amsterdam. There are many options but my favorites are the area around the little village of Schoorl (simply ‘Holland At Its Best‘) or the islands of Texel or Vlieland with their endless beaches and dunes.

If you come to my city, get your picture taken on the drawbridge that crosses the Groenburgwal canal. Amsterdam is very photogenic and there are many great spots for a memorable picture. When you’re on the bridge, keep an eye out for Amsterdammers on their bikes to avoid being run over!

If you have to order one thing off the menu from Saturnino (my favorite Italian restaurant) it has to be the sirloin steak with black truffles and porcini mushrooms.

Locals know to skip the canal tours and check out options for hiring a boat instead. It’s so much more fun to hire a boat, pack a picnic basket and cruise through the canals at your own pace. The canals of Amsterdam offer visitors a unique window into the history of the city and the lifestyle of its inhabitants.

When I’m feeling cash-strapped I go to my favorite neighborhood restaurant: Eten aan de Rijn. I love to cook but I enjoy eating out just as much. Eten aan de Rijn has a daily three-course menu for 25 euros. Excellent food and the owners Jaap and Nadja are great company!

For a huge splurge I go to one of the Michelin star restaurants in or near Amsterdam. My favorites include Ron Blaauw (in the village of Ouderkerk just outside the city) or ‘T Amsterdammetje and Tante Koosje (in the gorgeous village of Loenen aan de Vecht, about a 30-minute drive from Amsterdam).

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Keith Jenkins

Photo ops in my city include the bridge that crosses the Groenburgwal canal, the Begijnhof and my absolute favorite spot in the city, the intersection of the Keizers and Leidse canals. The best vantage point is the rooftop of the NEMO science center.

If my city were a celebrity it’d be George Clooney; sexy, mondaine and despite its age, far from past its prime!

The most random thing about my city is how cosmopolitan it is. Almost 200 different nationalities live here, making it a very vibrant town with a broad array of cultural activities every day of the year… and all that within a village-like setting!

My city has the tallest men. The Dutch are some of the tallest people on this planet. Honestly, I sometimes feel like a dwarf (and I’m not particularly short!)

My city has the most diverse, sexy women.

In my city, an active day outdoors involves cycling around town (a daily activity) or into the nearby countryside (I love the route that follows the Amstel River down to the village of Ouderkerk). Rowing (in the Amstel River) is also a popular sport among the locals.

My city’s best museum is the Van Gogh Museum (I’m a big fan of Van Gogh). Amsterdam is famous for its museums and rightfully so. There are many of them, from the Rijksmuseum (with its stunning collection of Rembrandts) to the Hermitage (a branch of its famous namesake in St. Petersburg), the Tropenmuseum (Tropical Museum) and the Museum of Bags and Purses. Did I mention the Sex Museum?

My favorite jogging/walking route is along the entire length of the Keizersgracht– my favorite canal. It’s an excellent walking route through the heart of the city center, a UNESCO World Heritage site. Start at the canal’s intersection with the Brouwersgracht. You’ll pass the wonderfully atmospheric Jordaan neighborhood, the shopping haven in the Nine Streets neighborhood and many stately houses before reaching the Amstel River. I can also recommend the route along the Amstel River to Ouderkerk. As you leave the city behind you, you’ll pass beautiful windmills, grazing cows and sheep, and historic mansions.

For a night of dancing, go to Jimmy Woo. Or, for live music, check out Muziekgebouw aan ‘t Ij (the Music Center at the harbor front) for an eclectic variety of musical performances and great views of the harbor.

The FEBO, a Dutch institution, is the spot for late-night eats. It’s a quirky experience as you eat ‘out of a wall’ but you have to try it!

You can tell a lot about my city from its different neighborhoods.

You can tell if someone is from my city if they’re on a junk-like bike.

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Keith Jenkins

In the spring you should head to the tulip fields a short drive outside Amsterdam around the town of Lisse.

In the summer you should join in the fun at the Vondel Park.

In the fall you should see the autumn leaves in the Amsterdamse Bos (the Amsterdam Forest).

In the winter you should catch a speed-skating competition along the canals (if the ice is sufficiently thick). It’s an unforgettable experience!

A hidden gem in my city is the Our Lord in the Attic Chapel in the Amstelkring Museum. It’s a hidden church with an intriguing history and a gorgeous interior!

For a great breakfast joint try Bagels & Beans.

Don’t miss the Holland Festival in June, the leading performance arts festival in the country. Visit IAmsterdam for info about events in the city.

The best way to see my city is to walk. Amsterdam is very compact so everything’s within walking distance.

Many things could only happen in my city. Amsterdam is (in)famous for its tolerant attitude, that acts like a magnet for many free-thinkers and progressives from around the world. Having lived here for twenty years, not many things surprise me these days.

My city should be featured on your cover or website because it’s arguably one of the most multi-faceted cities in the world. Its cosmopolitan landscape, liberal mentality, world-class museums, stunning canals and fascinating history merge to exude a unique charm that’s simply captivating.

Keith Jenkins writes the Velvet Escape travel blog. Follow him on Twitter @VelvetEscape.

Want to see your city on Intelligent Travel? Copy and paste our list of fill-in-the-blank questions into an e-mail, fill in your answers, and send your responses (with any photos, videos or links) to