Exploring Centrum: Jenever, Fast Food, Mosiacs, and Jazz

Since we haven’t spent much time in the Centrum area of Amsterdam, our plan for the day was to visit several spots and sight-see in the area before our dinner that evening. We caught tram 24 near our apartment and exited at the next to last stop, Dam station. (Amsterdam has a great public transit system so there’s no need for taxis.)  Our first destination was De Drie Fleschjes (Three Little Bottles) where we could try a dutch gin called Jenever. We’d seen the place featured on an episode of “The Layover” with Anthony Bourdain and wanted to check it out. Centrum is the inner-most borough of the city and it encompasses over 3 square miles including  the old inner-city and the UNESCO-listed Amsterdam canal belt. It’s a maze of streets, many of which are pedestrian only, so finding a specific address can be challenging. Thankfully with the internet, one can virtually walk down streets anywhere in the world using Google street view. So even though I’ve never physically been in this neighborhood, I’d virtually walked the route and had the landmarks memorized. Exit the tram and go south. Take a right at the bank. Walk past H&M. Take a right at Dam Good Coffee and look for the bright orange door at the end of the alley. Three Little Bottles is just on the left. Destination found, Jenever tasted. While Rick sipped on his drink, I wandered around the small interior which oozed charm. A lovely stained glass window decorated one wall while another housed a display case of hand-painted decanters, glasses, and other bar memorabilia. Even if you’re not a fan of gin, the interior is worth a look and there’s outdoor seating to enjoy a beer and some people watching.

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Dating back to 1650, Three Little Bottles (De Drie Fleschjes) serves a wide range of Dutch Gins (Jenevers),  a variety of liquors, and a selection of beers and bar snacks.

The next stop on our agenda was the Prins Hendrik Hotel near Centraal Station and we took our time walking up the very busy shopping street of Nieuwendijk. Besides chain stores like Claire’s, The Body Shop, and Foot Locker, we wandered past several local cheese shops, and a FEBO Automat. This ultimate snack bar (actually snack wall) has been around for over 40 years and is a favorite with both locals and tourists. Who wouldn’t love a wall full of ready to eat munchies?

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Got the munchies? Find one of the twenty-plus FEBO locations in Amsterdam to fill your belly.

After FEBO, we continued towards Centraal Station and by chance discovered the amazing Beurspassage that runs  between Nieuwendijk and Damrak avenue. This impressive work of art includes a ceiling made of over 450 m2 (4,844 sq feet) of glass mosaic, a Terrazzo floor, and walls tiled with handmade stained glass objects. Titled Amsterdam Oersoep (‘primordial soup’), the passageway is both an homage to the Amsterdam canals and a narrative of how all life on earth originated from water. It is truly breathtaking and definitely worth adding to your “must-see” in Amsterdam list.

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The Beurspassage was transformed into a beautiful piece of art by artists Arno Coenen, Iris Roskam, and Hans van Bentem. (Photos courtesy of Kees Hummel)

Once on Damrak, we checked out several souvenir shops before arriving at our next stop, Prins Henrik Hotel. As a musician, Rick seeks out places of historical significance involving other musicians and as this was the place where jazz legend Chet Baker died, we stopped to pay our respects. Trumpeter, flugelhornist and vocalist, Baker’s muscial career spanned almost 40 years until his death in 1988. The room in which he was staying, No. 210, is named “The Chet Baker Room.”

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Chet Baker plaque outside Prins Hendrik Hotel. Artwork at the renewed Beurspassage. One of several cheese shops in Centrum.
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The Prins Hendrik Hotel where Chet Baker died on May 13, 1988
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