Filmmaker Floris Leeuwenberg’s Insider Guide To Amsterdam

Filmmaker Floris Leeuwenberg’s Insider Guide To Amsterdam

The filmmaker, photographer and director of High Cuisine, a psychedelic dining experience and TV series, takes us on a cycle around his hometown, with stops at a smart store, island restaurant and art deco cinema along the way

in Amsterdam, Floris Leeuwenberg spent most of his early
years on a boat. Living on a Dutch barge his parents had restored
until he was 11, the photographer and filmmaker describes his
childhood as “alternative”; a free-spirited upbringing he cites as
one of the reasons for his interest in legalising psychedelics. Now
an award-winning photographer and filmmaker, Leeuwenberg’s most
recent project, High Cuisine, is a multidisciplinary experiment
introducing psychedelic ingredients to a fine-dining

“Psychedelics should be treated like medicine. We need to
educate ourselves on what nature has given us,” says Leeuwenberg.
“I wanted to do something a bit crazy, so I approached a few chefs
and together we created a menu that would elevate diners into an
altered state over three courses.” Kicking off with sashimi infused
with high-THC weed to give guests the munchies, the climax of the
meal was a pork cheek seasoned with psychedelic truffles, followed
by a high-sugar sorbet to bring diners back down. The experience
was developed into a TV series, and the team have since released
two psychedelic recipe books – Bites and High Cocktails.

Floris Leeuwenberg, left, and the Jordaan district. | Photo
credit: Kevin Faingnaert (left)

Here, Leeuwenberg shares his favourite spot for a morning
coffee, lets us in on his tips for experimenting safely with
psychedelics and walks us through the best harbours just outside
the city.

An alternative guide to Amsterdam

What’s your favourite neighbourhood in Amsterdam, and why
should we go?

The Jordaan, where I’ve lived for the last 40 years – it’s one
of the oldest and most diverse parts of the city. Head to any
neighbourhood café in the area and you’re just as likely to come
across locals in their dressing gowns as you are hipsters in
head-to-toe vintage. It’s the perfect mix.

When’s the best time to visit?

I love all seasons, so for me there’s a different kind of appeal
to Amsterdam throughout the year, but spring is particularly
beautiful as there are so many parks in the city. A new law has
recently been passed that allows residents to plant mini gardens on
the pavement just outside their homes in a bid to reduce litter, so
Amsterdam is looking greener than ever at the moment.

Where should we stay?

There are plenty of great hotels around the city, but I’d pick
the Grand Hotel Amrâth for its history and sheer grandeur.
Shaped like the bow of a ship and located in a former shipping
house, it’s one of the earliest examples of the Amsterdam School –
a socialist style of architecture that was often applied to
working-class housing estates between 1910 and 1930. Now a lavish
205-room hotel filled with art from all over the world (some 40 or
50 woodworkers from Indonesia were involved in its design), it’s
ideally positioned just opposite the central station, and a
must-see for any architecture enthusiasts.

How should we get around?

On foot or by bicycle. If you’re new to cycling, make sure you
go for a spin in the nearest park first to get a feel for your bike
– us Amsterdammers can spot tourists on bikes from a mile away!

Tell us about a secret spot only locals know about…

Vuurtoreneiland, a magical small island that’s about
an hour’s boat ride from the city, just off the coast of Durgerdam.
It’s home to the only lighthouse left in Amsterdam, and an old
bunker that’s been turned into a spectacular sustainable restaurant
with its own organic kitchen garden.

Kokopelli | Photo credit: Kevin Faignaert

We’re interested in safely experimenting with psychedelics, far
from the partygoers. Where should we go?

I think Kokopelli is the most reliable smart store in
Amsterdam – it was one of the first in the city, and staff are
informative and always on hand to talk you through the safest
dosage. Experimenting with psychedelics in a city isn’t for
everyone, so my best advice would be to have your first dose in
nature. Amsterdamse Bos is a great place to start, or you could
take the train out to Zandvoort beach and go for a walk among the

Where should we head for breakfast?

My favourite place to pick up a coffee and freshly baked bread
in the morning is Bakkerswinkel in Westerpark. It’s a
cantina-style café in a light-filled former power station, where
everything is baked in-house each day.

Any favourite restaurants in the city?

If I’m after something quick, Ladybird – a funky, American-style diner that serves
delicious artisanal fried chicken – is my go-to. If I’ve got a work
meeting, I’ll usually head to Cradam – a spacious café-restaurant with a
great casual lunch menu. My family and I usually eat dinner at
home, but if there’s a special occasion we might go to De
, a beautiful art deco-style restaurant on the

It’s Saturday night. Where should we head for drinks?

I love cocktails, so I always recommend starting the night off
with a negroni at Flying Dutchmen. It’s a great bar right in the centre
of the party district, just next to the flower market. If you’re
into karaoke, make sure you end your night at Duke of Tokyo.

The Flying Dutchmen

We’ve got 12 hours to spend outside of the city. Where shall we
go for a day trip?

The best way to experience Holland beyond Amsterdam is on the
water. I’d take a bus and meander through the pretty harbours of
Edam, Volendam and Marken, which all used to be on the sea before
the land was reclaimed into a freshwater lake.

Where’s your favourite place to catch a film?

Royal Theater Tuschinski, an Amsterdam School-era
theatre that’s full of magnificent art from the 20s and 30s. Make
sure you see something in the Big Room if you can; it’s a
mind-blowing space in which to watch a film.

We’ve just got a new camera. Let us in on the best spots for
taking photos of the city…

If you’re after a city skyline view, climb the Westerkerk tower.
Otherwise, I think the best street photographs always come about
unexpectedly, so you can’t beat a spontaneous stroll through the

Finally, what’s your favourite thing about living in

In one word, freedom. It’s so easy to get around – I go
everywhere on my bike and so do my kids. Despite how quickly the
city is growing, you can be anywhere on a bike within 15-20
minutes, and in that way Amsterdam still feels like a village. A
lot of streets in the centre don’t allow cars, so it’s much quieter
than other capital cities, too. More importantly, Amsterdam is a
city that allows you to be who you want to be – whatever your
gender, race, class or sexuality.

Read about the city of Amsterdam’s pioneering spirit in
Vol. 40: Visionary

Discover More
A City Guide to Amsterdam