Cart is empty
It should come as no surprise that ‘hygge’ was shortlisted by Oxford Dictionary as one of 2016’s words of the year. Thanks in part to our obsession with all things Scandinavian – fashion, beauty, food, interiors – hygge, the Danish word for cosiness and comfortable conviviality, is no new concept. But in a year in which 14 books have been published in the UK on the subject, have we reached peak hygge? Not likely – it’s impossible to tire of cold winter nights huddled around a table laden with fresh-baked cinnamon buns with our nearest and dearest. But while the concept itself will always give us a warm, fuzzy feeling, the bandwagon-jumping is no doubt wearing thin. Let’s press pause on hygge and make way for its Dutch counterpart: gezellig.
Gezelligheid (the Danish version of the noun is hyggeligt) is at the heart of Dutch culture. It’s as every bit unpronounceable as its Danish cousin: the guttural “g” renders the word something similar to ‘cheh-sell-ech’. Like hygge, there’s no direct English translation. Gezellig captures a feeling; a shared warmth and companionship, an enjoyable and uplifting atmosphere. It’s a night shared with close friends and good wine. It’s taking refuge from horizontal rain. In Amsterdam, sitting shoulder-to-shoulder in any newly opened foodie go-to, or working among a group of likeminded creatives at one of the city’s many co-working spaces also embodies gezelligheid.
SUITCASE explored the Dutch capital and found some of the best places to eat, drink, sleep and shop your way into gezelligheid.
Cafés to while away the morning
The bright, friendly Dignita in the city’s south has a brunch which is definitely worth travelling for, while Lot Sixty One serves what’s widely considered to be the city’s best coffee from its tiny roastery-meets-café on Kinkerstraat. It’s famed beans are sold by many Amsterdam coffee shops, but it’s also worth looking up Walter White’s Espresso, a roving espresso bar from enthusiastic and impassioned Amsterdammer, Nico. If you’re lucky enough to track him down, the conversation and convivial atmosphere that comes with any of Nico’s coffees are perhaps the finest example of gezellig.
Stores to lose an afternoon browsing
For a well-curated edit of sustainable clothing, vegan leather goods and fine jewellery which champions local designers, visit the newly opened Verse. Housed on the ground floor of a restored canal house on the picturesque Prinsengracht, it also has a coffee and smoothie bar. Around the corner is Skins, a beauty mecca housing cosmetics from RMS, Kjaer Weis and Ellis Faas, skin treats from Aesop and Susanne Kaufmann, as well as a lust-inducing selection of candles and fragrances by Diptyque, Byredo and Frederic Maille. Among your next beauty cabinet favourite, trays of tea and sweets are a store mainstay. In a typically narrow Amsterdam house on the corner of the rambling Spuistraat is the homely Athenaeum Boekhandel. Stocking a fine collection of independent titles, the staff are happy to oblige even the most far-fetched reading requests.
Restaurants to fill you right up
Located on the impressive Keizersgracht canal in the middle of the Nine Streets shopping district is newcomer Restaurant Jansz, combining a gezellig atmosphere with style and flair. Marble tables and copper accents collide with an open kitchen and some of the friendliest staff in town, with food to match. On a leafy street in De Pijp, Volt is a decidedly more low-key affair, with a small but seasonally changing menu; the Amsterdam equivalent of your favourite Sunday local. For a Dutch-meets-Spanish version of gezelligheid, you can’t miss Pata Negra, a tapas bar which erupts into a full-blown dance hall the minute the remains of the gambas have been cleared. Finally, tucked away on a tiny street in the Jordaan is Pazzi, a small restaurant that serves the kind of pizza you’d expect to find down a Neapolitan alleyway.
The bars to hole yourself up in
If you want to experience an authentic Amsterdam brown bar, you can’t ignore Café Nol. It’s drinks aren’t world class and the carpet is probably due for a clean but the embrace you’ll receive from the folk-signing beer-drinkers is amongst the most Dutch you’ll find in modern Amsterdam. Something a little less traditional is The Butcher, a secret bar concealed behind a burger joint, hidden behind the facade of a butcher. With some of the city’s best cocktails, the low-lit space definitely makes for one of the cosiest nights out – once you find it, that is. Honourable mentions go to the lively and relaxed Café Kostverloren in the west, and the hipster’s favourite, Bar Bukowski in the east which has a teaming terrace in the summer.
The boutique hotels to lay your head in
Rather than rooms, at Hotel Not Hotel in Amsterdam West you’ll drift off in one of nine private art installations designed in collaboration with designers from Design Academy Eindhoven. One room is accessible only through an antique bookcase façade; another’s bed is nestled in a restored tram cart. On the other side of town, the lofty 133-room Zoku blurs the line between hotel and home, providing a flexible co-working space for digital nomads. If you’re looking to stay in a prime canal-facing location, you can’t miss the Andaz. The fantastical Alice In Wonderland-inspired interiors (care of local export, Marcel Wanders) are unlike anything you’ve ever seen – they well and truly kick the cosy-metre up a notch.
You May Also Like
You know how you have that one incredible friend who knows their city inside out? That’s us. We take the world’s most dynamic destinations, hand-pick the best bits and give them to you in one place. This is the kind of guide that you don’t need to run by a local – it was written by one. Eat your heart out, shop until you drop, drink like a fish, dance your socks off, sleep – then repeat.
Embrace the adventurous appetite of the next generation with an annual subscription. SUITCASE Magazine challenges travel perceptions with thought-provoking photo journals, city guides and articles by award-winning international writers.
We'll tell you where you can find the perfect boutique hotel in Paris for under £150, if you tell us about the best dive bar in your city. Deal? Share your stories and photos with #SUITCASEtravels.