A week in Amsterdam– a not so finctional diary
What’s not to love about Amsterdam, city of water, love, bikes and dykes. To explore it in the best way, please find underneath a not so fictional diary, perfectly fitted for spending a couple of days in Amsterdam and having a local experience of the city – from a lesbian, slightly feminist and most definitely arty point of view.
A must-do in the early morning is a visit to the Noordermarkt, a really nice flea market with a great vintage clothing selection. The perfect beginning of the week.
As it’s actually quite a non-happening day, happily Amsterdam’s recently renovated Stedelijk Museum is open. Under the direction of a strong-minded female director, Beatrice Ruff (and her predecessor Ann Goldstein), the museum makes room for more queer experiments such as an interesting public programme featuring artists such as Emily Roysdon, Wu Tsang and boychild. But the vast collection offers plenty of good works as well with highlights such as Wolfgang Tillmans and Marlene Dumas.
Since we’re talking days, also check out Weekday, a nice store with mostly unisex clothing.
Up to a craftwomanship evening, where we recommend strongly going visit the Butcher’s Tears brewery. This amazing ‘Proeflokaal’ opened in 2013 after brewing its own beers for a couple of years. The actual proeflokaal is only open from Wednesday through Sunday, but hosts occasional workshop evenings presented by the great curator Maria Guggenbichler. All Monday September evenings they for instance the HOW TO evenings, kicking of with HOW TO #1: How to make a website? All workshops are catered specifically to women and mix work and pleasure in a perfect way.
Tuesday is a perfect day for visiting the North side of Amsterdam, which went through a metamorphosis during the last year, with a lot of impressive new buildings catering to a creative public such as NDSM-wharf and Tolhuistuin. We specifically recommend the fantastic EYE, a museum dedicated to films, with great retrospectives and exhibitions.
A good dinner option would be a hamburger at Getto, one of the oldest gay restaurants in town. Slightly on the kitsch side, it’s still a pleasure to taste one of their great cocktails and try one of their burgers, named after Amsterdam’s infamous local drag queens, such as the Jennifer Hopelezz beef burger with guacamole and bacon, or the Dolly Bellefleur lamb burger with tzatziki and grilled courgette.
Another great day for some cultural exploring in the context of a great building. Amsterdam’s public library (the OBA), opened a couple of years ago in a new urban area close to the Central Station. It’s a very open building, with libraries for books, but also CD’s, video’s and magazines for instance. And free computers all through the building. Make sure to head up to the 6th floor for ILHIA, the lesbian & gay archives. They also have a small exhibition space.
Wednesday is our preferred squatter’s day. Head for a yummy vegan dish to Vrankrijk, one of the oldest surviving Amsterdam squats. You have a dinner for around 7 EUR, and stick around for their by now quite legendary WTF party. Starting at 10 PM and closing 2 PM already, it’s the perfect location for some midweek dancing (and flirting). A mix of all gender breeds and classes, it’s recommended.
Time for a break from the indoors, and out to one of the beautiful parks in Amsterdam. There are the usual suspects like Vondelpark or Sarphatipark, but we recommend a visit to two lovely botanical gardens. The first one is the Hortus, rather small, but very centrally located. The second one is the VU Hortus, on the city border, but a real secret gem (featuring Europe’s largest cacti collection!). Recommend!
We talked about Butcher’s Tears on Monday already. If you’re up for beers only, listening to Swedish metal played on an old record player and mingling with art school students, hipster beer aficionado’s and old big bellied beer lovers; this is the place for you. It’s fun, you’ll see.
Quite boozy as well is Saarein. Amsterdam’s oldest surviving women run café, a nice option for a drink or to play some pool. Thursday evenings can be rather quiet, but there’s a chance one of the local women’s groups is have a gathering, or they are celebrating ‘Oogstfeest’, the day the new weed is being harvested, so pretty much never a dull moment over there.
The real gallery hopping happens on Saturday afternoon, but to get in the mood, go visit 2 neighbouring places in the cosy Pijp district. We love Amsterdam’s Kunstverein, who exhibits a lot of feminist exhibitions and thrives on a DIY ethic. Neighbour Juliètte Jongma is also a nice spot, with artists such as Ursula Mayer and Melissa Gordon.
Friday night it’s time for some old school lezzer mainstream, with a noisy and smoky get-together in Bordo. Situated in one of the old town pedestrian alleys and housed in an old fashioned ‘brown bar’, we don’t need to say much more. Blonde bimbo’s mingle with their butches and well… everything in-between.
Staying in the easygoing mainstream vibe, one could check out Flirtation. A Friday night affair at the exotic Panama theatre. Strictly women-only, and catering more to the small-town and villages than real Amsterdammers, it’s a good flirt occasion. But not happening that often, so make sure you check their website for exact dates.
Saturday afternoon is the perfect moment for some gallery hopping. Here’s a small selection of places definitely not to be missed.
Make sure to go visit Stigter van Doesburg, one of Amsterdam’s most renowned gallerists (and the sister in law of acclaimed filmmaker Steve McQueen) to check out some art. Her artist roster is quite big, but she works with some favourites such as Jimmy Robert and Yael Davids.
The project space Rongwrong is also worth a visit. Tucked away in a small street behind the Nieuwmarkt, the curators try to show up & coming artists a bit away from the beaten path. More galleries we recommend are Martin van Zomeren Katja with artists Katja Mater, Anne de Vries and Fiona MacKay. Annet Gelink featuring Yael Bartana. From the young ones, we really like Nispen Boetzelaar who represent Anouk Kruithof.
A nice place for dinner, busy and bustling and a real Amsterdam brasserie classic is Café Restaurant Amsterdam, where a cool bunch of lesbian girls will be serving you the best shrimp croquettes and French fries in town.
Saturday night options are plenty. You’d be very lucky to happen to be in town when YARRR, another lesbian collective organizes one of their Saturday evenings. Quite eclectic in their taste, they attract a mixed crowd of Girls & Boys. A different option would be Girlesque, the burlesque inspired lesbian night, which also throws parties on a regular basis.
For a really nice brunch we recommend Worst. We know, maybe a bit graphic, but a perfect price/quality ratio, and delicious.
Sunday afternoons are not bad for art either. Maybe more on the experimental side. Try to check out Kunstenaarsinitiatief Beyonce, a recently opened project space run by a bunch of queer artfags and girls. Another option would be to attend a reading by Amsterdam based feminist art collective If I Can’t Dance I Don’t Want To Be Part Of Your Revolution. With a knack for the modernist and performative, they organize happening and get-togethers on a regular base.
We keep the best for last. Amsterdam’s longest running club (well… club) evening Trut opens at 10 AM already and make sure you’re standing in line at least 15 minutes beforehand. Based on a 1 in/1 out principle, you might spend the rest of the night in the line instead of on the dance floor. On that note, the dance floor is fun, but since the club (well… club) is in a by now regularised squat, the music unfortunately must remain at a pretty low level. Make sure you stand next to a subwoofer while dancing. And otherwise, there’s plenty flirt options going on, definitely helped by the very cheap bar policy. A nice detail. The place is still completely run by volunteers. The money made goes to the Trut Foundation, who donates it to the bigger LGBTQI cause. Dancing with a conscience.
Jessica Gysel is an editor and consultant living between Brussels and Amsterdam. She's the founder and publisher of Girls Like Us magazine, a bi-annual publication that explores new routes towards a more feminist and less capitalistic future. With a background as a marketing consultant specialized in scenes and communities, she knows the whole spectrum – from corporate hell to DIY utopia and everything inbetween.