Colour and geometric shapes stand out vividly on the Amsterdam landscape
The city is fast becoming one of the leading hubs for street art in the whole world. Opening in summer next year, the Street Art Museum will hope to stand at the centre of this explosive artistic movement.
The area, a free 10 minute ferry ride away from Centraal Station, was once a hub of activity until NDSM – the largest shipbuilding operation in the world – ceased operating in 1979.
After standing abandoned for some years, the space began to fill up with tags, murals and colourful spatterings of imagination as artists flocked to the area to mark the spacious blank canvas.
Soon followed trendy bars and hotels – visit PLEK on a Friday night, a hip bar in an old shipping container, for dancing, cocktails and an open fire pit – and suddenly the abandoned NDSM wharf was a thriving hub of activity once more.
An excellent location for a few days marvelling at modern art
Our group were lucky enough to have a sneak peak into Street Art Museum based in a cavernous former shipping warehouse, twice the size of the famous Turbine Hall of the Tate Modern in London.
It is filled with over 100 artworks – all at least 12 metres wide and six metres high – by leading artists from all over the world, including Briton David Walker, Cranio and Hoxxoh.
In no means a traditional museum, the venue also allows visitors to bring their spray cans and paint the outside of the warehouse something you certainly wouldn’t experience at the Tate or Guggenheim.
In an excellent location for a few days marvelling at modern art, the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Amsterdam is the perfect place to stay and just a 15 minute drive from Amsterdam Airport Schiphol.
Amsterdam street art
The hotel have partnered with world-renowned street artists and let them let loose in a special selection of rooms. The artworks are one-offs and really make guests feel like they are not just visiting Amsterdam for the art, but are also a part of it too. Hotel manager, Rob, was utterly charming and on hand to make sure we had everything we needed.
Be it umbrellas for the rain, bottles of water, or a whisky and honey from the bar to ease a sore throat.
After spending a morning taking in the sights at NDSM wharf, a leisurely afternoon tasting fine cheese and sipping wine was on the cards. We headed to the Reypenaer Cheese Tasting Room in the Nine Streets area of old Amsterdam, renowned for excellent shopping, and sat behind old wooden desks, an array of potent smelling blocks of cheese positioned tantalisingly in front of us.
Our effervescent host made the hour and a half absolutely fly by, while keeping us entertained with anecdotes about “cheese throwing” and inviting us to make tasting notes, while gently nudging us in the right direction.
Our glasses were lavishly topped up and we could feast on as much cheese as we wanted, which for the €16.50 per head fee was tremendous value for money.
The best way to travel around the city is on two wheels
With nearly one million bikes in Amsterdam alone, it would be remiss to take in the sights of the city on anything other than two wheels. Make your way to Mike’s Bike Tours, around a 10 minute walk from Centraal Station and opposite the Nemo Museum.
Our guide, a Californian man named Aaron who conducted the whole tour in traditional wooden clogs, was a well of knowledge and interesting facts.
Our tour focused on local artists and street art with the occasional historical insight thrown in for good measure. We leisurely peddled past the famous Seven Sisters houses – known for their crooked appearance – while marvelling at a contemporary mural by London Police.
A three hour city bike tour costs €28 for adults and €25 for students, children and over 65s.
After covering around 10km – albeit at a very gentle pace – it was time for dinner. Instead of opting for a traditional meal out, we booked dinner at a local artist’s studio. Part of the ‘Eat With’ initiative, tourists can dine at a locals’ house with other travellers while exchanging anecdotes and learning about the culture.
The city is a colourful and inspirational hub
Our host, Petra Hart, has exhibited her art all over the world. After an intimate dinner of herring, soup, lamb with potatoes, poached peach and plenty of red wine, Petra gave us a tour of her house and sat down at her computer and demonstrated how she makes her surrealistic fine art.
Before heading to the airport on the final morning there was time for one more walk around the NDSM wharf. As I strolled I spotted Miel – from duo Telmo Miel – standing aloft a scissor lift and finishing up a portrait of the beloved mayor of Amsterdam, Eberhard van der Laan.
Two weeks before our visit the mayor had stepped down from his post due to health reasons. He died just one week after the touching portrait was completed.
There is something to wonder at on every corner and at every turn in Amsterdam.
And with just an hour-long flight from all London airports it’s worth booking now to see what makes this city such a colourful and inspirational hub.