Eyewitness Jessica Lipowski in Amsterdam

Author Jessica Lipowski is half German half Polish and moved from Detroit in the USA to Amsterdam in the Netherlands. She works on a book about expat Amsterdammers. The book focuses on a variety of restaurants and details of the lives of 62 people, from childhood to present day.

Here Jessica tells us about the capital city of the Netherlands. Learn about a UNESCO World Heritage site, Negen Straatjes, drip coffee, stroopwafels and

THE TOURISTIN: Three words that characterize Amsterdam?

Jessica Lipowski: Charming, diverse, historical.

THE TOURISTIN: How do you get around Amsterdam?

Jessica Lipowski: I am an avid biker, following the saying, “Do as the locals do.” Amsterdam is synonymous with biking, as this method of transportation is culturally embedded. According to iamsterdam, the Amsterdam Tourist Board, the city is home to an estimated 881,000 bicycles and only 811,185 inhabitants, more bikes than residents. On average, 58 percent cycle daily. 

At first, I was intimated by the Dutch, making their way from Point A to Point B while chatting on their cell phone, holding hands or even riding with an extra passenger side-saddle on the back. Out of shape, I couldn’t comprehend biking 6 kilometres (3.7 miles) to commute to work or meet up with friends. My first biking experience in Amsterdam was a disaster, almost colliding with a tram and losing a ballerina flat, twice. Now, after living in the Netherlands for four years, I can keep up with the best of them. On an average outing, I bike 8 kilometres (5 miles) one way and weave my way through the city, knowing the fastest route.

While I learned to ride my bike as a young girl around the age of six, it was strictly a fun activity in the spring and summer months. For the Dutch, however, biking is ingrained at a young age. It’s viewed as an efficient mode of transportation, not necessarily promoted for being green or as exercise. Of course, those two aspects are added benefits, most certainly helping the Dutch maintain their slim figures. The bicycle is also a great way to drop off and pick up children from school, do grocery shopping, meet up with friends or get to work. I am proud to say I’ve integrated myself in this society.

THE TOURISTIN: What is the best-kept secret about Amsterdam?

Jessica Lipowski: Amsterdam is home to 178 different nationalities, making it one of the most diverse cities in the world.

THE TOURISTIN: What is your best-loved borough/suburb/area in Amsterdam and why?

Jessica Lipowski: One of my favourite areas in Amsterdam is the 17th-century canal ring, spanning from the Singel to the Prinsengracht. A UNESCO World Heritage site, I love strolling along the main waterways and meandering up and down the tiny little side streets, exploring all the nooks and crannies. During the day, little boutiques open their doors to shoppers. Families, friends and tourists pass by the grandiose architecture, admiring the gables at the top of the houses. After the sun sets, this area radiates a magical vibe. The beautiful bridges are lit up like a fairy-tale and lights twinkle inside residences, creating the perfect ambience for a romantic evening walk. Additionally, photo opportunities are abundant, providing postcard-worthy pictures.

THE TOURISTIN: The best place for a hot chocolate or coffee in Amsterdam?

Jessica Lipowski: One of the places I recommend to get a great cup of coffee is Scandinavian Embassy (SE), a quaint little rustic café situated next to Sarphatipark in De Pijp. Known for their drip coffee, SE uses coffee from Drop Coffee Roasters in Stockholm, Koppi Fine Coffee Roasters in Helsingbor, The Coffee Collective in Copenhagen and Tim Wendelboe in Oslo. Nicolas Castagno, one of the owners and head Barista, knows how to do it up right, as he won the 2013 Sweden Brewers Cup Championship. If you prefer, the team also serves hot chocolate. The open kitchen and sleek wooden bar area creates a communal feeling, but there are plenty of spots to converse with a friend, as well.

THE TOURISTIN: What is one restaurant we must try out while in Amsterdam?

Jessica Lipowski: Pannenkoekenhuis "Upstairs" is famous for a Dutch favourite, pancakes. Perfect for a late lunch or early dinner, this tiny restaurant only has four tables and is situated in an old canal house at the top of a steep set of stairs. The walls are decorated with pictures of the Royal Family and cute teapots dangle from the ceiling. Run by Arno and Ali, the couple is wonderfully friendly and make the best pancakes in town.

THE TOURISTIN: Where would we meet you on weekends?

Jessica Lipowski: Occasionally we bike to Brouwerij t’IJ, a brewery situated at the foot of a windmill, and meet up with friends for a drink.

THE TOURISTIN: Do you have a preferred museum/gallery we all have to visit when in Amsterdam?

Jessica Lipowski: My two favourite museums are the Anne Frank House and the Rijksmuseum. The Anne Frank House is an emotional experience, but worth visiting. Walking through the secret annex, discovering the place where the entire Frank family remained in hiding for all those years, is heart wrenching and moving. Especially in the peak tourist seasons – spring and summer – I recommend you reserve a time slot and purchase your tickets online ahead of time.

The Rijksmuseum, on the other hand, features incredible Dutch masterpieces, like The Nightwatch by Rembrandt van Rijn and the self-portrait of Vincent van Gogh. With three floors and multiple wings crawling with history and art, you can easily spend days in the museum. The interior architecture is especially breathtaking. The second floor, home to the Gallery of Honor and Great Hall, is a piece of art in itself, from the perfectly hand-painted designs on the ceiling and majestic archways to the stunning stained glass windows. The library is spectacular, as well.

THE TOURISTIN: What are some of your favourite places to shop for A) groceries and B) clothes?

Jessica Lipowski: We usually do our grocery shopping at the Albert Heijn. For special occasions, as it’s a bit of a bike ride from our house, I absolutely love browsing the Albert Cuypmarkt, one of Europe’s largest open-air markets filled with mouthwatering fresh seafood and produce. In terms of clothing, I love perusing boutique stores in the Negen Straatjes, or the Nine Little Streets. The area is filled with fun finds.

THE TOURISTIN: What souvenir shall we bring back from Amsterdam?

Jessica Lipowski: One word: stroopwafels! These sweet treats are thin waffle-like cookies filled with gooey caramel.

THE TOURISTIN: Thank you so very much for your time Jessica. I can’t wait to buy your book. 

If you would like to know more about lovely Jessica from Amsterdam simply connect with her on social media. Jessica Lipowski

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From Berlin with love