Amsterdam made me an expert picnicker; I always give credit where credit is due. Not only does this city provide free picnic blankets in parks, its grocery stores are full of ready-to-go, delicious picnic snacks. Every time I arrived to an Albert Heijn grocery store with the intention of picking up ingredients for a meal I planned to make, I would leave with pre-packaged picnic salads, sausages, cheese, baguettes, crackers and stroopwaffles. I lived my life always ready and prepared to eat in the open air.
When I first arrived in Amsterdam, a group of expats invited me to a picnic. As a picnicking amateur at the time, I wasn't sure if I was to pack my own picnic dinner, or bring something that everyone would share. I ended up going with sausages and cheese (An obvious success). I thought I had the hang of Amsterdam picnicking etiquette and said "I got this" to myself when I was invited to another shortly after. This 2nd picnic was put on by an organization, not a group of friends. Here, I was surprised to learn that coffee and tea cost 1 euro, but beer and wine were free. I don't know who paid for the tea and coffee, but I can tell you it wasn't me...Not that I remember much.
When I wasn't picnicking or choosing free beer over stale and expensive coffee, I was enjoying incredible food and drinks in the city. Here is a list of my favourites:
1. Moeders ("Mothers"): This restaurant offers its customers an affordable and traditional home-cooked Dutch meal. My favourite dish was "the Hotchpotch" as I got to try a little bit of everything. Guests are also invited to bring a picture of their own mothers, or a picture of themselves and their own child(ren) and post it anywhere in the restaurant. Gotta love moms!
2. 'T Blauwe Theehuis: This blue tea house runs out of an old windmil and is located in Vondel Park. They offer delicious drinks and snacks in a great atmosphere on their fantastic patio.
3. Groot Melkhuis: Like the Blue Teahouse, The Great Milkhouse is also located in Vondel Park and offers a variety of delicious snacks and drinks in a great atmosphere. This place steps it up a notch with their amazing children's playground.
4. Cafe De Dokter: This pub (The Doctor) is hidden in a little alley right by Dam Square and is so proud to be the smallest pub in Amsterdam. One time I visited this bar and missed Rod Stewart in it by one hour. Have I told you lately that this was especially disappointing? Since the bar was so small, I definitely would have been sitting right beside him! The first cut is the deepest.
5. Brouwerij 't IJ: In case you wanted to check this place out for any other reason than their beer, The IJ Brewery is located beside the oldest wooden windmill (De Gooyer) in the Netherlands. After you check out the impressive 16th century windmill (which was rebuilt in the 18th century), you will likely want to tour it. It is unfortunately not open to the public, but the pub next door is! You can either take that tour you wanted and check out the brewery or you can just taste test their beer on flutes and admire the windmill from next door.
6. Reypenaer Cheese Tasting Room: If you like wine and cheese, this is the place for you! Located on Singel 182, you can learn about wine and Dutch cheese while taste testing ridiculous deliciousness and quantities of both! It is best to book ahead online. You also receive a certificate once you become a wine and cheese expert. I'm obviously a wine and cheese expert as you can see by my notes below...
7. Lokaal Edel: This restaurant is located right on a canal. The outdoor space is decorated with mismatched tables and chairs, beautiful carpets and strung lights. The food is delicious and it is here that I tried my first raw herring.
8. Cafe Thuys: I honestly can't say if it is because of the fresh flowers on their outdoor picnic tables, the strong drinks, the hot bartenders, their trivia night, or their tendency to play Justin Timberlake, but I just love this place. You should go.
9. Mint Tea: When in doubt, wherever you are and whatever you do, just order a peppermint tea and a stroopwaffle! Enjoy!