Emilio Brizzi has been a professional photographer most of his life, and one of his favorite subjects is the city where he lives: Amsterdam. His love for the Dutch capital — from its detailed-oriented architecture and modern take on tradition and history to the laid-back independence of its citizenry — is palpable. See if you don’t fall in love next.

Follow Emilio’s story on his website and on Twitter @EmilioBrizzi

Amsterdam is My City

When someone comes to visit me, the first place I take them is the Oude Kerk (Old Church) and the Buddhist temple on the Zeedijk.

Public art outside the Rijksmuseum (Photograph by Emilio Brizzi)

Public art outside the Rijksmuseum (Photograph by Emilio Brizzi)

Summer is the best time to visit my city because days are long and, if the weather is nice, evenings out are a delight.

You can see my city best from either a small boat or on foot, slowly.

Locals know to skip the Warmoesstraat and check out the Haarlemmerdijk instead.

The Spiegelstraat and the 9 Straatjes are  the places to buy authentic, local souvenirs.

In the past, notable people like Spinoza and Descartes, Rembrandt and Rietveld, and Anne Frank have called my city home.

My city’s best museum is the Rijksmuseum because of Rembrandt and Vermeer.

If there’s one thing you should know about getting around my city, it’s not to walk in the bicycle lanes.

The best place to spend time outdoors in my city is the Amsterdamse Bos.

My city really knows how to celebrate King’s Day because it’s a huge party and lasts all day and night.

You can tell if someone is from my city if they brag about it.

For a fancy night out, I go to the opera. When it comes to fancy nights out, Amsterdam doesn’t offer much compared to some European cities. The opera came to my mind as it is if not grand at least grand-ish on the local scale of things.

Local dish: Raw herring and chopped onions (Photograph by David Smith, Flickr)

Local dish: Raw herring and chopped onions (Photograph by David Smith, Flickr)

Just outside my city, you can visit Zaanse Schans, a quintessential Dutch village along the river Zaan that makes you feel like you’ve traveled through time to the year 1900. The open air museum — a collection of historical houses and windmills — has been executed so well as to escape being perceived as corny or fake. You can also snap up far better souvenirs than you’ll find in the city.

My city is known for being morally loose, but it’s really entrepreneurial and quite friendly.

The best outdoor market in my city is the Noordermarkt.

Hema Nieuwendijk is my favorite place to grab breakfast, and Brasserie Bark is the spot for late-night eats.

To find out what’s going on at night and on the weekends, read the Saturday supplement of Het Parool.

My city’s biggest sports event is an Ajax soccer game. Watch it at Amsterdam Arena.

When I’m feeling cash-strapped, I shop at Hema stores.

To escape the crowds, I take a ferry to Amsterdam Noord.

If my city were a celebrity it’d be Goldie Hawn because it’s pretty, clever, congenial, funny, sexy, and wealthy without taking on airs.

The dish that represents my city best is raw herring filets with diced raw onions, and beer is my city’s signature drink. (On the topic of beer, the old Heineken brewery is in town. Tourists flock there for the “Heineken Experience” only to emerge inebriated by if not enlightened in the art of the brew. Dutch pils is generally light in color, five percent alcohol, and served cold in two kind of glasses called vaasjes and fluitjes. Different in shape, they hold almost exactly the same amount of liquid. Nevertheless disagreement and debate regarding the respective merits of these glasses can flare up without warning inside a brown café and last for the better part of an evening.)

 

A glimpse of Amsterdam's weeklong gay pride celebration (Photograph by Emilio Brizzi)

A glimpse of Amsterdam’s weeklong gay pride celebration (Photograph by Emilio Brizzi)

The Central Public Library OBA is my favorite building in town because it is home from home.

The most random thing about my city is its mercurial weather. As the saying goes: if you don’t like the weather, wait a few minutes. Often the sun plays hide and seek with the clouds. Monumental white clouds, sun rays piercing through hail, snow, and rain, brightly lit foregrounds of houses and countryside against the backdrop of the blackest of skies — can occur in the span of an afternoon. “Dutch light” is a spectacular phenomenon — capable of stopping even the most cynical of locals in their tracks — that has inspired landscape artists from the Baroque period to this day.

Bimhuis is the best place to see live music, but if you’re in the mood to dance, check out Escape.

The gay parade on the water could only happen in my city. The celebration lasts for a full week at the end of July, culminating in the boat parade on the first Saturday of August. Along a trajectory that includes the Prinsengracht and the river Amstel a miscellany of boats, rafts, and barges goes by, each with music, dancers and so on while parties take place all over the city center — a reflection of the local attitude of general acceptance in regard to sexual preference. The gay pride celebration is endorsed by the city mayor, sponsored by high-profile companies, and supported by hordes of people, many from the provinces, who wear pink in solidarity with the gay community.

In the spring you should see the flowers. Beautiful, colorful beds are to be found all over town, especially in the parks.



Winter must: ice skating on the canals (Photograph by Emilio Brizzi)

Winter must: ice skating on the canals (Photograph by Emilio Brizzi)

In the summer you should dance barefoot in the park. Live music is played in many parks, often spontaneously but at times performed professionally to celebrate special days like Liberation Day (May 5), which marks the end of the occupation of the Netherlands by Nazi Germany during WWII. As soon as temperatures rise the Dutch eagerly shed their shoes and wear toe-slippers (flip-flops) or nothing at all on their feet. Perhaps dancing barefoot is an expression of sensuality — or a wish to touch Mother Earth directly after enduring the rigors of winter.

In the fall you should enjoy the Dutch light. It is a  phenomenon that can be experienced anywhere. Amsterdam is not the place of grand monuments, but rather consists of millions of endearing details. They express in my opinion individuality in conformity, meaning that a common construction style — congenial to both climate and geology — is played out in  thousands of minute variations. Seen as a whole a street in the center sparkles at times like a firework of white enamel window frames against the dark bricks and roof tiles of the buildings.

In the winter you should ice skate in the canals.

If you have kids (or are a kid at heart), you won’t want to miss Artis Royal Zoo.

The best book about my city is The Undutchables. Second best? My photo book, Amsterdam in More Than 150 Images (soon to be out in print!).

When I think about my city, the song that comes to mind is Jacques Brel’s “Amsterdam.”

In 140 characters or less, the world should maybe heart my city because Amsterdam is relatively small and  fragile, in need of constant care. Its very existence testifies to the ingenuity of the Dutch people.

Beg to differ? Share your thoughts about the best of Amsterdam by leaving a comment.

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Comments

  1. Katy Nikolaou
    http://tripandtravelblog.com/
    June 18, 10:47 am

    Hi Emilio,
    The article is very well drafted : )
    I went to Amsterdam many moons ago and because I had my kids with me, they loved the Artis Royal Zoo. Also, we took the ferry for an unforgettable rid.
    Katy