Is this really the best of Amsterdam?

The results are in! Big 7 Travel, the international travel media company, has announced its ultimate ‘best of’ lists for Amsterdam. The lists range from the best coffee spots and the best burgers to the best co-working spaces the city has to offer. Big 7 Travel has based its judgments on three elements: its own panel of expert judges, surveys of its community of 1.5 million users, and Instagram analytics (basically, how many hashtags each place has accumulated).

As well as the ‘best of’ lists (more of which later), Big 7’s study concluded, rather predictably, that Amsterdam is the most Instagrammed city in the Netherlands, but we also learned that it is also the 17th most Instagrammed city in the world. Judged by country, the Netherlands as a whole didn’t do too badly either, coming in at the 19th most Instagrammable country in the world. What’s so important about being Instagrammable? Well, Big Travel 7 says that 33% of the people surveyed said they use Instagram for holiday research.

So what about those lists, then? As an Amsterdammer of more than ten years, I’m going to take a totally subjective look at whether the analysis has truly come up with the very best my city has to offer.

Best coffee in Amsterdam?

Coffee is always a good place to start, right? Gone are the days when the Coffee Company chain seemed to have a monopoly on coffee salons across the city. Now there’s a plethora of characterful places where you can get your coffee. Unfortunately, I’m unaware of Big 7 Travel’s top coffee performer, Naked Espresso – I guess because it’s based in the Red Light District, not really a part of town I visit very often. But there’s one on the list I’m very fond of: Lot Sixty One Coffee Roasters. It’s pretty small inside, as most of the space is given over to the big roasting thing, but it’s on a corner spot where the Kinkerstraat meets the Bilderdijkgracht, so there’s lots of light coming through big windows on two sides. On a sunny day, it’s glorious to sit by the window or on a bench outside with your flat white.

Caffènation Amsterdam (placed fourth) has also been recommended to me by a friend, so it sounds like they are a good bet for your coffee. According to Big 7 Travel, Belgian owner Bert Van Wassenhove’s customers are more fans than customers. Surprisingly, lovely local chain De Koffee Salon was not included on the list. The café on the Utrechtsestraat is a haven for thoughtful posing on a Saturday morning shopping trip (all those local writers with their laptops can’t be wrong).

Most Instagrammable spots?

Of course the most Instagrammable spot in Amsterdam was always going to include a canal, right? Yes: the Big 7 Travel report puts the Staalmeestersbrug (the “Bridge of Love”) in first place. But it could equally have been the seven bridges along the Reguliersgracht. But how exciting, the relatively new tourist attraction A’DAM Lookout has shot in at number two already. You can get a pretty cool panoramic shot for your Instagram from the top of the A’DAM tower (the old Overhoeks building), but it’s not so clear whether all posters will have braved the ‘Over the Edge’ swing on top.

The Damrak is in third place. Seriously guys, the Damrak? It’s the busy street that leads out from Amsterdam Centraal train station down to Dam Square. It’s pretty unremarkable to be honest, and best known for the tacky tourist shops. It’s been given the nickname Rode Loper (Red Carpet), but with all the glamour and style that implies, it’s really just wishful thinking.

I agree that the Rijksmuseum should make the list (it’s at number four), but then it gets weird. At number five we have Dignita, which is a very nice brunch stop (with two locations), it’s true, but that’s just it, there’s no cultural or local significance. It’s all about the amazing food I suppose, which is totally Instagrammable: the menu includes the essential avo on toast as well as many other photogenic dishes.

The other two spots on the most Instagrammable list are the typically touristy Bloemenmarkt, as well as the Iamsterdam sign. However, the main letters have been moved off Museumplein now, of course, so that might affect its standing as an attraction in future years. There are still Iamsterdam letters to be found in more obscure locations, but I expect they will generate far fewer hashtags. And it’s all about the hashtags, right folks?

Best bars?

The interesting thing about Big 7’s most popular bars is that it includes cocktail bars and brown bars, craft beer spots and fancy hotel bars. The Pulitzer Hotel Bar and Tunes Bar at the Conservatorium hotel are two solid examples of the latter, but what about Floor 17, the rooftop bar at the Ramada Apollo, or the SkyLounge at the Doubletree Hotel? They both have stunning views over the city and a good range of cocktails, if that’s your thing. Speaking of cocktails, it wouldn’t be a proper best bar list without out Hiding In Plain Sight, I concur.

The seven best burgers in Amsterdam?

Well, they certainly got it right for the burgers. The very best burgers in Amsterdam are for sure to be found at The Butcher, there’s no disputing that. Ask anyone. Maybe my love for The Butcher shows because I haven’t even considered most of the others on the top 7. I’ve only ever strayed from The Butcher to eat at The Thrill Grill (placed fifth); they are great and a good option if you want a sit-down meal and a milkshake rather than a more casual burger.

Best Amsterdam hotels?

For those that can afford the hotel prices in Amsterdam (they are the most expensive in Europe according to cheaprooms.com), Big 7 Travel has come up with a mix of the modern and monumental. I was expecting places like the Waldorf Astoria, W Amsterdam or The Conservatorium to come top of this list, but instead, the Lloyd Hotel does. It’s a little out of the center by the Eastern docklands and neither a classic not an exciting newcomer, I’d say, but this “design heaven” seems to be hitting all the right buttons with the people who count (i.e. not me).

However, it’s not surprising to see the Crane Hotel Faralda high on the list. The hotel (or rather three luxury suites) on top of a crane in the middle of an old shipyard is just too much of a great gimmick to go ‘Unstagrammed’. It’s possibly also the only hotel with a hot tub in the city.

I can vouch for The Student Hotel (sixth place) as a buzzing location that mixes hospitality for visitors with meeting spaces for locals. I was surprised though that The Hoxton didn’t make the list. It is a great location on the Herengracht and the large but cozy bar on the ground floor is one of my favorite places in the city to meet friends. They also have a lively events program, so it’s good for visitors and locals alike. And those luxury hotels I mentioned earlier: the Waldorf Astoria, W Amsterdam and The Conservatorium? Not even a mention.

Unmissable in Amsterdam?

It’s not the Rijksmuseum, the Van Gogh Museum or even the Anne Frank Museum that takes the top spot in ‘Seven unmissable things to do in Amsterdam’, but the Electric Ladyland museum. At this point, I’m beginning to wonder about the people whom Big 7 Travel contacted for this survey, frankly. A museum of fluorescent art? I’m guessing this one is pretty popular with the stoners and that may account for it doing so well in this survey. Even more randomly, the second-most unmissable thing to do in Amsterdam is not even in Amsterdam. “Bike through the tulip fields around Haarlem in April” readers are advised, and I would absolutely agree that this is one of the top things to do in the Netherlands, and in Haarlem. It just wouldn’t make my best of Amsterdam list because IT’S NOT IN AMSTERDAM.

The Jordaan district is no imposter at third place; but most of these kinds of lists include the vibrant culture developing in Amsterdam Noord, while on this list it’s conspicuous by its absence. Further down the list, the Anne Frank House (number four) and canal boat trip (number five) make the cut, but surprisingly the Van Gogh Museum and the Rijksmuseum do not make the list at all. However, I’m not surprised to see De Hallen and the Foodhallen in particular in sixth place; it’s always buzzing with both locals and tourists. The Big 7 Travel list even includes tips for “highly Instagrammable photos” to be made at the Foodhallen, which include Petit Gateau, Dim Sum Thing and Yoghurt Barn. But remember! These are not tips for the best food there, but what looks best in a square photo – a very different thing indeed.

The best coworking spots?

According to Big 7 Travel, the top coworking space in Amsterdam is B.Amsterdam. It’s certainly one of the biggest, but I’m not sure whether I would say it’s the best. It spans a massive 40,000 square meters across three buildings and is geared up to support start-ups, prizing itself as the “biggest start-up ecosystem in Europe”. However, it’s a huge schlep out to the west of Amsterdam (outside the A10 ring road), and there’s not much else in the neighborhood. It’s great that its has its own restaurant, but it could soon get boring, if you ask me.

Their third choice is a big yes from me: the A Lab in Amsterdam Noord is one of the most creative spots in the city. It’s another pretty big space, with 5,000 square meters. It holds regular events and when I visited I liked the laid-back vibe. I have a friend who shares a room there with other video editors and filmmakers, down the corridor from documentary makers and photographers. He’s pretty happy, although sadly, some of his film equipment was stolen not so long ago.

I’ll admit, my favorite co-working space, Stellar Amsterdam, is probably a little bit too new and small to make Big 7 Travel’s list. It only opened in June 2018 on the Kinkerstraat in Oud West, but its cozy interior and lovely international team have already created a great family atmosphere for a lucky bunch of local freelancers.

So according to Big 7 Travel, we’re all obsessed with beer, art, burgers and coffee (locals and tourists alike). But take my advice: take their advice with a grain of salt. Feel free to find your own way, and post photos that speak to you. That’s perfectly fine. Just remember to hashtag them.

For more information: www.bigseventravel.com