Jump on board for a foodie tour of Amsterdam?
There's much more to Amsterdam than bikes and tulips. Long eclipsed by its famously foodie neighbours Paris and Brussels, the Dutch capital is an underrated gastronomic gem, discovers food stylist Ajda Mehmet.
Having recently moved to Amsterdam, I've spent the majority of my time exploring and delighting in this new place I call home. I swapped my Suzuki for Surf Betty - a bright-blue, child-size bike I now cherish because I'm too short to ride a standard bike (or the Dutch are too tall, one or the other). I have also swapped my weekly food shop for daily trips to the market, bakery and butcher because my basket is not as big as my car boot was.
The best way to see Amsterdam is on a bike and from the water. I recommend you do a bit of each. Rent a bike, even if you haven't been on one in 20 years. It's easy to cycle here - bicycles have right of way, and cars stay well clear, but just remember to keep right - thus allowing Amsterdammers with places to go to overtake. Forget your map for a while and just cycle until you see something you like, then park up and take a look around: you'll cover far more ground and it is so much fun.
If you want to find out about a country, its people and its culture, try out its food. With much more to offer than just Gouda and Edam, Dutch cuisine is unassuming and delicious; you just need to know where to find it. Start by taking one of the Eating Amsterdam tours, on which they have done the hard work for you, selecting the finest purveyors of each Dutch speciality for you to taste. Unmissable, it's a super-fun and relaxed excursion with food and drink at every stop. You'll stroll through the beautiful Jordaan, take a private canal cruise on the prettiest 105-year-old boat, and come away enlightened with all there is to know about Dutch food - including two of my new-found loves: bitterballen and poffertjes. You'll wonder why you haven't eaten them sooner.
While you're in the Jordaan area, make sure to drop by the coffee masters that are Headfirst Coffee Roasters (Westerstraat 150) and Winkel 43 (Noordermarkt 43) for some apple pie. On a Saturday, call into the Noordermarkt, a beautiful organic famers? market and fleamarket. The pizza is perfect at La Perla (Tweede Tuindwarsstraat 14) but if you can't decide what you feel like eating, let the chef at Daalder choose for a really special treat (Lindengracht 90).
Don't miss De Pijp and its cute little concept stores such as Cottoncake (Eerste van der Helststraat 76). Wild! (Gerard Doustraat 71) will also have you hooked; its locale, Gerard Doustraat, is full of such treasures and see how the locals shop by strolling through the Albert Cuyp market. If you didn't get enough of the herring and poffertjes on the Eating Amsterdam tour, you can be sure to find these here too, as well as freshly made stroopwafel (syrup waffles) if you are in need of more sweet things.
For a cool coffee vibe and brunch, visit Scandinavian Embassy (Sarphatipark 34), Bakers and Roasters (Eerste Jacob van Campenstraat 54) and Hutspot (Van Woustraat 4). The Butcher (Albert Cuypstraat 129) will sort you out with the best burger in town. Try SLA (Ceintuurbaan 149) for seriously good salads, Boca's (Sarphatipark 4) for tasty tapas-like bites, and dinner at Spaghetteria (Van Woustraat 123) or Firma Pekelhaaring (Van Woustraat 127-129) will not disappoint.
When you're in the city centre (or Centrum), take the opportunity to lunch at Hollandaluz (Haarlemmerstraat 71). Ask for the tapas - the tortilla is heaven. Gartine (Taksteeg 7) or Vinnies Deli (Haarlemmerstraat 46) are super choices too.
If you're lucky enough to be visiting Amsterdam from May to September 2015, Vuurtoreneiland is not to be missed. Only accessible by boat, Vuurtoreneiland (or Lighthouse Island) is an hour's sail from Amsterdam. The food is local, seasonal, and thoughtfully sourced and prepared - a truly intimate and unforgettable dining experience in the most perfect setting surrounded by water.
So, ditch the guidebook and eat your way around the city to discover the real Amsterdam - just don't forget to pack your stretchy trousers! Eet smakelijk.