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Amsterdam's Best Kept

Last Updated 14/09/2017

If there’s one thing you can say about Amsterdam, it’s ‘what you see is what you get’. The city wears its heart (and Red Light District) on its sleeve, but don’t be fooled – the capital keeps some cards close to its chest. We’ve gone and found them, and we’re sharing Amsterdam’s best kept secrets.

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01. Condomerie

www.condomerie.com Three tiled images of the Condomerie, Amsterdam - including two of the exterior and a line of condoms in the window

To put it in simple terms, the Condomerie is the world’s first museum dedicated to man’s best friend, Johnny. Set slap-bang in the Red Light District, sitting pretty as Amsterdam’s version of Boots, the museum come (hello) shop is home to the funniest window displays in the capital – drawing in more punters than those other windows… It’s all about protection and pleasure at the shop, offering studies of fitting and sizing, to intricate artwork on latex. Once you’ve past the gaggle of gawping tourists, you can get your hands on all manner of condoms – available to buy in all shapes, sizes, colours and flavours. You’re in luck if you want to surprise the wife with a ‘ride’ up the Statue of Liberty.

02. The Torture Museum

www.torturemuseum.nl Three tiled images of tools at The Torture Museum, Amsterdam

We love a good waterboarding as much as the next man. In fact, it’s part of our interview process – and you can find out more on our Careers page. Until a few centuries ago, it was commonplace to shop on the high street amongst a scaffold or two, or even come across a rack at the City Hall… This museum provides a detailed, albeit too graphic on a full stomach, image of this particularly painful past. The layout is a labyrinth of small, dark rooms – showcasing well-known torture tools. The international exhibition has over 40 devices on display, including everything from the ever-popular ‘Thumb Screws’, to the Skullcracker and Inquisition Chair.

03. Maximum Security Prison

Three tiled images - including one of a bridge in the day, one at night and a building by the water

You don’t get more secure than a prison under a bridge. Amsterdam is the ‘city of bridges’ (and canals, bikes, tulips, sweet Mary J…), with more than 1,200 in the capital alone. Built in the 17th century, The Torensluis may be the widest, but it’s hiding a seriously dark past. Look closely (from the safety of a boat), and you’ll spot barred windows and an arched entrance – leading to one of Amsterdam’s oldest and scariest dungeons. Originally used as an underwater prison, the dungeon is open for tours to the public today. However, with the rise of Human Rights and all that – it’s frowned upon to store criminals. The modern world…

04. The Butcher

www.the-butcher.com Five tiled images - including one of people dancing on a club floor, one of a burger, one of a band on stage, one of the interior of The Butcher bar, Amsterdam, and another of the restaurant at the front of the bar

The Butcher is Amsterdam’s newest Prohibition-inspired cocktail bar, moonlighting as a burger restaurant during the day. Surprisingly for a capital city, Amsterdam lacks genteel and sophisticated bars, which is why this is so popular and has gone straight to the list of ‘world’s best bars’. Head over to the city’s most famous market, the Albert Cuypstraat, walk through the doors to the slick burger joint, line the stomach for your stag and hen weekend celebrations and wait for entry to the bar. You’ll have to make a reservation to enter, as when you ring the buzzer – a hostess will ask you for a secret word, given at the time of booking. Once you’ve got past that adventure, a whole other one awaits. The interior of the bar is speakeasy-style (it’s made it all the way to Amsterdam) and hipster, with a central counter and atmospheric lighting. The cocktail list is what makes this place famous – serving the likes of The Butcher’s Nana (not really), Scofflaw and Spicy Crusta.

05. Door 74

www.door-74.com Four tiled images - including two of the bar at Door 74, Amsterdam, two of people in the club, a cocktail in a glass pipe

Following on in that same vein, Door 74 is another of Amsterdam’s secret, speakeasy bars, set between the centre and Leidseplein. With the requisite hidden door, antique barware, dimly-lit interior and tin ceiling – it’s a sophisticated backdrop to your stag or hen do. Whilst there may be no shortage of 20s-style bars, this bar boasts a relaxed and laid-back vibe. However, customers are expected to behave like ‘gentlemen and ladies’ – you’ve got it covered. The primary focus is that of alcohol, offering top quality cocktails. Choose from the classics, to the killer slug of Slivovitz or the White Zombie Doctor.

06. The 9 Streets

www.de9straatjes.nl Three tiled images of streets in Amsterdam

De Negen Straatjes (The 9 Streets) are the quaint and quirky thoroughfares that make up the city’s most photogenic, and alternative, micro-neighbourhood. This city within a city (straight out of Inception) is bursting with vintage and designer stores, cosy cafes and cool venues. This is more for the locals, than tourists – but you can get bargain buys and souvenirs for that all-important fridge door. You’ve got Reestraat and Hartenstraat, where fashion dominates the cobbles. Gasthuismolensteeg features a small museum, Berenstraat is for food, Wolvenstraat for male fashion and Oude Spiegelstraat for second-hand designer clothing. Runstraat is busy at all times of the day, Huidenstraat is a mixture of eateries and fashion stores and Wijde Heisteeg takes you back to the Middle Ages.

07. The Bulldog

www.thebulldog.com Four tiled images of The Bulldog, Amsterdam - including one of a van, two of the exterior and one of a door in the cafe

This one may not be so secret, but we are in Amsterdam, the ‘land of coffeeshops’, and this one is the original. Established in 1975, the hey-day of the hippie era, this coffeeshop is housed in a former police station. Interestingly enough, a collection of police and criminal artefacts can be viewed whilst enjoying a joint… The Bulldog chain has steadily grown over the years, spreading to Canada, and encompassing a hotel, a 150 seater café, and wine bar. The grand Bulldog Palace is set in the hugely lively Leidseplein, famous for nightlife, boasting the downstairs coffeeshop – specialising in all types of Mary J – and even a souvenir shop. This venue has also been known to attract international celebrities in its wake.

08. Vondelbunker

www.vondelbunker.nl Three tiled images of Vondelbunker, Amsterdam - including two of bands performing in the bunker and one of the exterior

The Vondelbunker started life as a bomb shelter, ready to hold 2,600 civilians during the war. Afterwards, this hideout – Amsterdam’s most secret venue, in fact (but is located in the world-famous Vondelpark) – became a nightclub, a live music venue mecca (one that saw the likes of Pink Floyd perform) and hippie mecca. Today, it’s run by a dedicated team of volunteers that host weekly events. People flock from all over to the bunker for concerts, art exhibitions, private cinema experiences, performances and even meals. Not that we’re trying to tempt you, but Vondelbunker even has its own micro-brewery, Bunkerbier. Bunker Beer is so exclusive that it can only be consumed in the actual bunker, at one of the many festivals, and is forbidden to be sold outside.

09. De Engelse Reet

Three tiled images of the interior of De Engelse Reet, Amsterdam

De Engelse Reet, roughly translating as The English Ass, is a pub like no other pub. As far as we are aware, it’s the only venue in Amsterdam that operates as it does - set just a short stroll from Centrum and close to the Amsterdam Dungeons. Alcohol is poured out in the small and narrow backroom, leading to the front room, or parlour. Here, the eclectic pub doesn’t allow you to do anything but ‘drink and talk’. It’s family-run, with four generations propping up the ‘bar’ and entertaining customers for 85 years. They also serve local gin from the city’s distillery, De Ooievaar, which has been around since 1782.

10. Hiding in Plain Sight

www.hpsamsterdam.com Five tiled images of the interior of Hiding in Plain Sight, Amsterdam - including two of bartenders, one of a band performing, one of a cocktail and another of a sailor's hat in the window

Hiding in Plain Sight lives up to its name. Set in Centrum – on the banks of the Rapenburgwal - the bar is situated in an unassuming ground-level venue. The bar is somewhat of a rarity in Amsterdam, focused on the art of mixology. Chemistry notations take centre stage on the chalkboard lined walls, above plush leather couches, worn bookshelves and smart bartenders. This space may be compact, but there’s plenty of room to sample the cocktail concoctions. The Walking Dead, a variant of the dangerous Zombie and served in a skull shaped glass, and The Flying Dutchman – a complex mix of brandy – are enough to keep you comfy until the next morning.

So, now we've revealed all of Amsterdam's best kept secrets (oops), you can go straight to our Amsterdam stag weekends or hen weekends page and book your weekend. Sorted.

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