Who knew that Amsterdam was a hub for denim aficionados? Erica Firpo, Fathom's Rome-based contributing editor, shopped hard (and happily) for the blues.
AMSTERDAM — I am going to be honest. In all these years in Europe, including the requisite study abroad months of debauchery, I never experienced Amsterdam. Nope, I never met up with all my college friends for a long and deliberately forgotten weekend, and, sorry, Professor Minott, I never bought a ticket just to see my coveted Dutch Masters. For some reason, I am missing the genes that drive one to The Netherland's naughtiest city that almost everyone whose adolescence pre-dates Weeds and legal dispensaries has.
Maybe I don't have the genes. But I did get the jeans.
Backstory: It's late November when my friend Sarah decides it's about time I see The Night's Watch, permanently on loan to Rijksmuseum, in person. She also needs to top up her CBD oil supply. We decide to go Dutch (ha ha), splitting the trip down the middle, including our king-sized bed at Hotel Pulitzer, the most stylish labyrinth I've ever seen.
The canal-side Pulitzer is like a very cool Escher painting, a composite of 25 townhouses restored to show off their glorious 17th and 18th century architecture. (And, yes, the original family was related to the prize-giving family). You get the vibe as soon as you walk in: The Pulitzer is saucy. Dark indigos and an open lobby stretch out to a garden and more canal houses, with gorgeous design furniture and clever contemporary art inspired by Dutch masterpieces. On the ground level are the gorgeous, Scandi-chic restaurant Janz and very sexy Pulitzer bar. The Extraordinary suites are hot. Of special note is the Music Collector's suite, which has a wall of wacky 1970s, '80s and '90s record covers. We climb our way through a wooden stairwell to a canal-facing suite on the top level of one of the original townhouses. Cyclists pass below, it's raining, and I could leave it at that — but we have plans.
It's good to have plans in Amsterdam, and even better to forget about them, which we learn as soon as we start walking around the city. Amsterdam is like an organized Venice, neighborhoods around canals and canals around neighborhoods. De 9 Straatjes ("the nine streets") quickly becomes our neighborhood, and we only leave it for the Rijksmuseum and Boerejongens. The 9s is a busy area, packed with strident bicyclists, clueless tourists, schoolchildren, and residents. Design shops, vintage shops, and food shops are tucked away on cobblestoned streets. Sarah and I decide we're coming back to upgrade our lives (and I do just that a month later). We want cool, Dutch designs in our homes — from the amazing furniture to the Cool Club playing cards. We want to be styled by any of Amsterdam's designers, from Dutch streetwear to Netherlands minimalism. We want cat socks and personalized perfume. But more than anything, I want to be decked out in denim.
Amsterdam is one-third of the denim city triumvirate, along with Tokyo and Los Angeles. Beautifully curated denim boutiques are everywhere. So many labels are born and headquartered here that the city hosts Amsterdam Denim Days, a jeans-centric fair. And Amsterdam is home to the world's first Jean School. Jean-lovers, bookmark this Denim map by Amsterdam Denim to find the best of the best in Amsterdam.
Aside from the jeans, these were my other favorite finds in Amsterdam:
Athenaeum Boekhanel is not in the 9s, but that doesn't matter. This is could be the best magazine shop in Europe, with hundreds of publications from standard newsstand fare to those gorgeously-produced and hard-to-find 'zines.
Mendo, the ultimate art/coffee table bookshop with every single beautiful art book you have ever coveted: Taschen SUMOs, Phaidon food books, limited editions, everything. Apparently, you can order the entire library of books in one click on their website, no questions asked. I can't even fathom that possibility.
Cowboys2catwalk for Acne Studios, Comme des Garçons, Lemaire. Yes, it's high-end fashion, but it's all about the selection.
Frozen Fountain, an Amsterdam-townhouse stripped down and filled with design furniture, knickknacks, games. All are incredibly stylish.
Lekker: eye candy for cyclists. Retro-inspired luxury two wheelers and plenty of accessories.
Rain Couture, because it rains a lot in Amsterdam. No surprise that the inventive Dutch have made good-looking, well-priced raincoats for all seasons.
Bar Centraal (not even remotely near the 9s). My friend Sarah is a natural wine fanatic, and she should be because she's a sommelier who organizes wine adventures (among other things) in Georgia and Rome. Bar Centraal was the only place we could not miss — a tiny local bistro with a menu of modern Dutch tapas and lots of great natural wines.
For a better-versed Amsterdam, the peripatetic Frankie Thompson narrows down her home base in a series of city-centric articles on her site As the Bird Flies.