Welcome to my place . . . Amsterdam
‘You see everyone flying by on a bike - men in suits, women in stilettos, musicians with a double bass on their backs’
Bairbre Duggan in Amsterdam where she has lived for 20 years
Bairbre Duggan has been living in Amsterdam for 20 years. Initially drawn by the prospect of spending a few years living in another country, the easy way of life quickly seduced her and she ended up staying and raising her children there. She is an artist and teaches at an art academy in the city.
What do you like about living in Amsterdam?
My bike. Cycling here is a mode of transport, the quickest way to get from A to B. The bike is a big equaliser. You see everyone flying by on a bike - men in suits, women in stilettos, musicians with a double bass on their backs. Whole families are brought to school in cargo bikes and it gives teenagers so much freedom - they can just bike home from whatever party at 2 am, no taxi, no parent pick up.
Where is the first place you bring people to when they visit Amsterdam?
Out in a boat. They are easy to rent in several locations. It’s by far the best way to see the city. Sunday morning with a flask of coffee and some croissants, or in the evening with a bottle of wine and some nibbles - fabulous!
The top three things to do there, that don’t cost money, are . . . Amsterdam is beautiful to walk or bike around, but avoid the Red Light District. The city has a lot of parks where there is always something going on, especially in summer. When temperatures go up, take a freshwater dip in one of the many swimming spots outside of the centre - Amstelkwartier, Marineterrein or the Amsterdamse Bos, for example. Otherwise, a bike ride along the river to Ouderkerk aan de Amstel or out to Durgerdam and around Waterland is well worth it. Or take the free ferry to the north of the city to the creative heart of Amsterdam. For a fab free view of the city head to the top of the Central Library. Finally, the quirkiest market is the Noordermarkt on a Monday morning.
Where do you recommend for a great meal that gives a flavour of Amsterdam?
Scheepskameel is my new favourite restaurant, for excellent food, unusual waterside location and good service, which can be very hit and miss in Amsterdam. Other great places to eat are Balthazar’s Keuken, and for something special, De Kas in Park Frankendael, or be brought by boat out to Vuurtoreneiland for an evening to remember. Be warned, you always need to book well in advance for the last two.
Where is the best place to get a sense of Amsterdam’s role in history?
The second World War is a very tangible still in Amsterdam and for those interested, a visit to the Verzetsmuseum or of course the Anne Frank House (but be prepared for crowds) are a must. Walking around all areas of the city you might stumble upon brass plaques on the pavement, with names of families who were deported from each address. Obviously the Rijksmuseum and Van Gogh museum are world class, but for an intimate picture of how people lived in Amsterdam in the Golden Age, the Rembrandthuis is fascinating, while the Scheepvaartmuseum (Maritime Museum) gives a great overview of the Dutch East India company. And to enjoy how the rich trading merchants showed off their wealth, wander along the main canals of the Unesco World Heritage site canal belt. It is truly unique to walk around.
What should visitors save room in their suitcase for after a visit to Amsterdam
Cheese, stroopwafels (Dutch ones are best), a bike, tulip bulbs, old jenever (old Dutch gin).
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