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Category Archive for Netherlands

Amsterdam’s coolest fashion & art hotels! Hotel Lloyd & The Exchange, artist themed hotel rooms.

hotel the exchange amsterdam lobby

XXX marks the spot! We’re holding crosses because they’re the symbol of Amsterdam. But of course, I made them a tribute to Miffy the Dutch bunny (with her mouth shaped like an X).

My friends and I love experiences that weave together fashion, art and creativity. While in Amsterdam, we stayed in two boutique hotels with rooms customized by artists, ranging from one to five stars. Let us take you inside the stylish Hotel The Exchange

suzanne oxenaar artistic director hotel lloyd

…and Lloyd Hotel / Cultural Embassy, which feels like a living art installation!

At Lloyd Hotel, I sat down for coffee with co-founder and artistic director Suzanne Oxenaar. We immediately clicked over my Miffy bag, which led to lively conversations about meaningful art, the connection between Dutch and Japanese culture, and her projects around the world.

I loved hearing about Suzanne’s ground-breaking work: she did a pop-up Tokyo “LLove Hotel” with mood-themed rooms by artists, and established a residence for artists at a Netherlands psychiatric institution. 

Lloyd Hotel & Cultural Embassy

In the mid-1990s, Amsterdam was keen to rejuvenate the Eastern Docklands area, which had become abandoned to squatters. Suzanne and Otto Nan accomplished this by opening Lloyd, the world’s first 1-to-5 star hotel that doubles as a “cultural embassy.” They designed the public spaces to host creatives and guests from around the world, encouraging the exchange of ideas.

(Address: Oostelijke Handelskade 34, 1019 BN Amsterdam, Netherlands)

Suzanne Oxenaar artist exhibition art hotel

Artists from around the globe come here for residences, or to curate exhibitions. We met the Japanese photographer who created the portrait above. (All photography by Arina Dresviannikova)

Hotel Lloyd’s cultural programs let innovators from different countries connect and collaborate. Most of the works are presented in multi-use spaces that are free and open to the public.

hotel lloyd amsterdam netherlands

In love with the high ceilings and clean, modern design. Suzanne put care into each detail, such as chairs that were refurbished to be more functional and comfortable, while retaining the original skeleton.

I’ll have to come back to try a meal at Lloyd Restaurant, which serves classic European dishes made with sustainable and organic products.

cherry blossom tree art exhibition

Lloyd’s meeting rooms and halls are designed to inspire. Guests are encourage to use the spaces however they like, even as exhibition spaces or concert halls.

I felt like I was in Japan during sakura season, thanks to this “Under the Cherry Blossom Tree” installation by Eiko Ishizawa (made from silk screen on textile and wood).

– Outfit Details – My alien sweater is from Gypsy Warrior; it’s similar to this aliens top. Click the thumbnails for more intergalactic options:

historic lloyd hotel prison immigrant dorms

Suzanne walked me through the fascinating history of Lloyd Hotel. This historic building was originally commissioned by Royal Holland Lloyd (cargo ship line) to house immigrants. It later became a WWII detention center and refugee camp, and then a prison for young offenders. The space transformed into a collective of artist studios, and finally a design hotel.

Chikako Watanabe, the first artist in residence at Lloyd Culturele Ambassade, made a commemorative installation based on a 1920s room at Lloyd. Families slept on a tiny cot like this, while awaiting their journey on a ship.

8-person bed giant mattress

I’ve stayed in art / theme hotels before — but none were as creative as the ones at Lloyd Hotel! The 117 rooms are all different, designed by Dutch designers and ranging from 1 to 5 stars (to fit all needs and budgets).

I flopped down on this 8-person bed, inspired by the shenanigans of rock musicians. This “Rough Music Room” is by Joep Van Lieshout, and an example of a five-star deluxe double room.

modular movable hotel room furniture

Every room in Lloyd Hotel is unique. When you make a reservation, you can pick the “star category” (which has a corresponding price). The exact room you’ll be staying in is a surprise, unless you make a specific request in advance.

Some of the rooms are very experimental. The one above has a folding, modular hinged wall — which lets you re-arrange the bathtub, closet and partitions as you please!

hotel room with swing

Lloyd Hotel encourages you to let go and have fun. How could I resist swinging around this rustic attic-style room, with a built-in swing?

My Dutch vlogger frend Leyla, who runs LeylaFashion blog and @leylafashion YouTube channel, created a vlog about our tour of the hotel — you can see us playing around on these swings!

(If you like my alien fashion, check out the items below:)

 

weird crazy art design hotels

This is not just a dust ball. It’s “Dust Ball,” an art piece by Japan’s Suchan Kinoshita. Like the Katamari video game, she rolled traces of the hotel’s past into this mound — a preservation and reflection of the building’s many transformations.

lloyd hotel cultural embassy

Even a 1-star room (top right) is cozy and designed with flair. Each floor contains different room-types, so guests from all backgrounds can mingle.

Suzanne brought us to the library, open to both guests and visitors for exhibitions, lectures, or plain relaxing and reading. The classical space contains a typewriter and furniture by De Bazel, a Dutch architect and contemporary of Frank Lloyd Wright.

art boutique hotels amsterdam

I couldn’t help but smile at “The Family Portraits,” an exhibition by Michiel Voet. His photos communicate family stories, and the impact that migration has on society.

amsterdam artist in residence program

The immigrant portraits are a study in friction and togetherness throughout the generations. Now I want to do a family portrait, standing on chairs and with spacesuit-jars over our heads!

hotel the exchange amsterdam

Leyla, Arina and I also stayed at Hotel The Exchange — another whimsical property run by Suzanne and her team.

What’s the deal with the XXX, which you’ll see all over Amsterdam? This symbol is from the city’s coat of arms, and represent three vertical St. Andrew’s Crosses. The saint was martyred on an X-shaped cross in the 1st century.

amsterdam xxx symbol sculpture

Amsterdam is known for adult entertainment in the Red Light District, which gives “XXX” a coincidental meaning as well. For me, it represents the X-mouth of Miffy, the Dutch mascot!

Hotel The Exchange’s name refers to the weaving together of fashion and interior design, making these rooms one-of-a-kind.

fashion blogger selfie

This boutique hotel’s location is ideal for travellers: right in the city center, and within walking distance of all the major sights. (Address: Damrak 50, 1012 LL Amsterdam, Netherlands)

In the spirit of playful collaboration, Otto Nan and Suzanne Oxenaar commissioned students from Amsterdam Fashion Institute to create rooms “dressed like models.” The lounge sets the whimsical tone, with has pillows made from fabric swatches and a selfie #nofilter mirror.

hotel exchange interior

Hotel The Exchange is actually made up of three narrow buildings (one dates back to the 17th century), which were connected while retaining the original framework. The winding staircases and unexpected passages make this a fun space to wander through.

(All photography by Arina Dresviannikova)

i amsterdam city pass card

Once we checked in, I spread out my belongings on my bed.

Details of my silver clutch by Makeup Junkie Bags, and I Amsterdam city card (which gave me free, unlimited access to public transit and all the major museums in Amsterdam).

classic Amsterdam houses

We stayed in the top-level Rembrandt Room, featuring this superb view and a bed surrounded by what looks like a giant, old-fashioned ruffled collar.

ghost hello kitty, dutch pikachu

Closeup on Leyla’s cute accessories: a Hello Kitty ghost ring, and Dutch Pikachu. She uploaded a vlog about our adventures at Lloyd hotel; The Exchange footage is coming soon.

fashion hotel exchange, Amsterdam

Hotel The Exchange has 61 unique rooms, each with its own theme and designed by a young graduate of AMFI. Like at Lloyd, they range from one to five stars (reflecting the amount of amenities, views and square footage).

fashion designer hotel netherlands

The rooms are dressed like models on a catwalk — draped in hand-crafted designs that reflect a particular vision of Amsterdam fashion. In a world filled with cookie-cutter hotels, it’s heartening to stay in a place where you wake up feeling stylish and inspired.

hotel the exchange theme rooms

I was impressed by the diversity of design. The “Mattress Room” by Roos Soetekouw deconstructs a bed into its foam, box-spring and textile parts. These pieces are re-worked into 3D furniture and textured decor. I think my Miffy purse looks quite at home on this hanger rack, made out of bed-springs.

art hotels amsterdam

Even the room numbers get a twist: each is a hand-embroidered disk, made up of X’s in the hotel’s signature orange-red shade.

hotel room noose hanging rope

Malu Gehner called her room “Epaulettes,” after the shoulder decorations found in military attire. Her room is decked out in braided rope trimmings.

Many of the artists incorporated special fabrics developed in collaboration with the Textile Museum in Tilburg for the project.

hotel the exchange rooms, suites

Roos Soetekouw created one of my favorite rooms, “Misunderstood Creatures.” This is not for everyone, but you can understand why Goths would feel right at home. 

The sinister fantasy installation includes portraits of three troubled yet lovely creatures. The black ceiling seems to be crying dark tears.

gothic goth hotel rooms

I love the dark side of fashion, and The Room of Misunderstood Creatures spoke to my aesthetics.

If you look closely, there are colorful sequins encased in the floor — adding a magical sparkle to the twisted gloom. 

themed hotels, decorated rooms

Sofie Sleumer was inspired by the tales of the brothers Grimm. She used the walls of her small room to tell the story: a collage of nature, insects, eggs and other fairytale imagery. She also sourced broken furniture from small markets, mending the broken parts to add to the feeling.

hotel the exchange sewing fashion

Hotel The Exchange has several common areas for guests. This one has a wide selection of fashion and photography books, and two working sewing machines, fabric and threads! 

cafe stock, amsterdam breakfast

Every morning, we looked forward to having breakfast at hotel’s Café Stock located next door. The well-lit space has illustrations from the room designers on the walls.

Arina and I couldn’t get enough of Cafe Stock’s Dutch apple pie, baked fresh and served with real hand-whipped cream.  We always ordered the XL sized lattes and cheese pancakes, and the national “stroopwafel” (two pieces of thin, baked waffle with caramel syrup in between) is a must-try.

large christmas lights sculpture

Cheers to Hotel The Exchange and Lloyd Hotel / Cultural Embassy for the inspiring stay. Hearts and stars to I Amsterdam for making these stories possible.

bright pink curled hair hairstyle

Would you stay in a fashion hotel like this one?

Don’t forget to check out Leyla’s vlog of our hotel tour, and more of my travel tips from the Netherlands here. And I’m now off to a new destination… check out my Instagram to see where I’ll be. Hint, yee-haw!

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Noord: a hidden, off-the-beaten-track Amsterdam hipster neighborhood! Eye Film Museum, restaurants, art studios.

long clothing dollskill dolls kill

This girl is all smiles (despite what my Long Clothing top says)… because I’ve discovered an Amsterdam district filled with inspiration! 

Have you heard of “Noord,” the waterfront area north of the city center? Home to EDM festivals, artist studios, and transformed warehouses, this is a side of Amsterdam that very few tourists see.

space goth fashion uchuu kei

Like intrepid astronauts (or… space cadets), my friends and I will take you to the most cutting-edge hangouts in Noord. It’s incredible to see how these run-down shipyards have been transformed into hipster heaven.

(Above, I’m wearing this Long Clothing Drippy sweatshirt.)

bbc radio the why factor goths gothic black friday

But first, a quick announcement: I had the honor of being interviewed by BBC Radio about Goth lifestyle and culture! The show “talks to Gothic blogger, La Carmina, about the extraordinary and extreme goth scene in Japan that includes body modifications.”

Here’s the link to my BBC Radio Worldwide interview, and you can hear my voice throughout in the entire program for “The Why Factor” show. Thanks everyone for the positive reception so far!

amsterdam alternative tour guide

Now, back to Holland. The team at I Amsterdam (the city’s tourism board) matched me with the perfect guide for an insider tour of Noord. I instantly clicked with Faustina, who shared my love of glamorous fashion and cat-eye sunglasses!

She met us at Hotel The Exchange, and did an introduction with maps to get me oriented. (Soon, I’ll take you around this stylish boutique hotel).

bicycle racks netherlands

We walked to Centraal Station, where Faustina locked her bike next to literally thousands. Notice the “parking lot” above her, filled to the brim. Amsterdam truly is the city of bicycles.

ferry to noord, uptown amsterdam

Noord is located only 5 minutes from the central station, making it a convenient yet off-the-beaten-path destination.

Anyone can hop onto the Buiksloterweg ferry. The ride is free, departs every 10 minutes, and can accommodate bicycles and scooters. Before you can figure out how to pronounce the ferry’s name, you’ve crossed IJ Lake and arrived at NDSM wharf.

noord bicycle rental

Step off the little ferry, and you’re arrived in northern, uptown Amsterdam. Right away, you can sense that Noord has an artistic, young vibe. (All photography by Arina Dresviannikova)

noord street art hipsters

“I see a little silhouette of a man”… that’s the one and only Freddie Mercury, next to a decorative wall overlooking the waters.

adam tower amsterdam edm

It’s impossible to miss A’DAM Toren, named for “Amsterdam Dance And Music.” This 22-storey tower looks over the waterfront, and was opened by a creative team that includes EDM pioneers. 

As you might expect, this is a one-stop place to party. ADAM Tower contains nightclubs, bars, cafes, hotel rooms, and a revolving restaurant (the square-shaped disc at the top rotates around). The top floor has a 360 degree panoramic terrace, and Europe’s highest swing that sends adrenaline junkies “over the edge.”

eye filmmuseum architecture building

There’s another space-age building nearby: EYE Film Museum.

Named after the river IJ (which is pronounced “eye”), this modern structure is a film buff’s dream. You’ll find four cinemas and a restaurant inside, plus an extensive archive, and rotating exhibitions about filmmakers. 

interior eye film museum cafe

The Eye is the vision of architects Delugan Meissl. Like a projected film, the building seems to be in constant motion. As the designers put it,  the concept is a “sustained encounter between urban reality and cinematographic fiction.”

film museum amsterdam movie posters

When I visited, EYE Film Museum had a fascinating exhibit dedicated to Hungary’s Bela Tarr, auteur of melancholic films about the human condition.

His films played in sets that re-created his world — including a decaying tree surrounded by barbed wire fences, with leaves blasting though the room. (We weren’t allowed to take pictures inside, so you’ll have to use your imagination — or better yet, visit for yourself).

north amsterdam waterfront

On the ground floor, the Eye has an open-plan cafe with spectacular views of the IJ harbor.

cinema museum netherlands

Eye Filmmuseum hosts frequent screenings and lectures. They have an annual Imagine Film Festival, dedicated to exploitation, cult and lower budget films.

Within these walls, there lies an extensive film archive with close to 40,000 Dutch and foreign titles. The collections also include posters, photographs, soundtracks and other archival material: a treasure trove for studies.

dutch films history museum

In the lower level, we saw historical cameras, projectors, and clips of Dutch films dating back to the late 19th century. This museum is a must for movie-lovers.

noord waterfront warehouses

We continued our walk through Noord, and Faustina told us about its history. In the 1600s, sailors and merchants moved to the northern banks, to work in the maritime industry and find affordable housing.

This was a shipbuilding area until the 1980s, when the industry declined. Before long, Noord turned into an industrial wasteland, filled with the ghosts of the past.

hip graffiti amsterdam north

Lured by low rents, artists moved in — followed by creative companies like MTV. They revitalised Noord, transforming these decrepit lots into a graffiti-covered wonderland.

Today, Noord is a lively neighborhood with a diverse population. Many tech startups and artistic firms are headquartered here.

street style amsterdam fashion blog

The Netherlands gives generous support to young artists, including providing studios for them to create.

Faustina took is to NDSM Wharf, a giant collective of creative minds. As we approached, the street art grew more and more vivid.

artist collective studios noord

NDSM stands for Nederlands Dok en Scheepsgebouw Maatschappij (Dutch Dock and Shipbuilding Company): one of the largest European shipyards before going bankrupt in 1980.

The abandoned warehouses fell into disrepair, until street artists from around the world turned them into colorful canvases.

space astronaut mural

We peeked into design studios, and posed in front of this intergalactic mural. There was even a cheeky, hot-pink installation called a “Barbie Peep Show.”

amsterdam hipsters, artist neighborhood

“Make art, not Euros.” That’s the DIY spirit at NDSM.

industrial cool north amsterdam

As we kept walking, I was impressed by the myriad of ways that locals turned industrial skeletons into art.

Crane Hotel Faralda Amsterdam

Case in point: Crane Hotel Faralda. In this old shipyard, an abandoned 50-meter-high crane was turned into a three-room boutique hotel! 

pllek shipping containers restaurant

I witnessed one of the coolest transformations at Pllek, a modern restaurant built out of shipping containers. (Address: TT Neveritaweg 59, Amsterdam)

It’s easy to mistake this entrance for a pile of rusting compartments. However, when you walk in, you’ll discover a spacious glass-front eatery by the river. 

hip restaurant noord amsterdam

Pllek continues the upcycled theme inside, with furniture made from salvaged maritime artifacts. Concrete floors maintain the industrial feel, while a disco ball adds fabulosity.

The diners tend to be young, hip foodies… an alien would fit right into the picture!

dutch desserts, apple pie

The menu relies on organic, sustainable meats and produce. I ordered a pumpkin ravioli, and it was one of the best meals of the trip.

Desserts are a must at Pllek: Dutch apple pie, creme brule, chocolate cake, ahh.

pllek beach NDSM wharf

Outside, Pllek has picnic benches and a strip of sand. When the sun shines, this is “the” place to hang out by the river.

Pllek also organises regular cultural events, ranging from photography exhibits to yoga and Tai Chi on the beach. At night, they bring in DJs for some of Amsterdam’s best dance parties. 

Restaurant Lt. Cornelis Amsterdam

Back in the city center, I had another spectacular meal at Restaurant Lt. Cornelis (Address: Voetboogstraat 13, Amsterdam).

As you might guess from the “chiaroscuro” portraits, they specialize in traditional Dutch cuisine, prepared with locally sourced ingredients.

dutch traditional restaurant amsterdam

However, a peek into the open kitchen, and you’ll see young chefs with tattoos working with flames. Restaurant Cornelis draws from the past, but gives all their dishes a modern flair.

holland fine dining, wine tasting menu

I recommend going for the “Menu Cornelis,” a four-course tasting that will surprise your palate. Each dish also comes perfectly paired with wine.

The friendly servers brought out dishes that I had never tried before, including melt-in-your-mouth bitterballen (Dutch croquettes). Everything was beautifully plated and prepared: highlights included the sustainable sirloin, and a chocolate/citrus/white chocolate dessert with foam.

alternative amsterdam underground tour

Cheers to all the new friends we made on this journey! I’m glad I got the chance to see the underground, alternative, obscure side of Amsterdam. 

If you’re planning a visit, check out the I Amsterdam website. You can find more suggestions for attractions in Noord and other areas.

weird bizarre amsterdam murals

What’s next… a space-disco journey throughout the galaxy? You’ll have to stay tuned to find out where I’ll be next!

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Amsterdam’s Weirdest, Strangest Museums! KattenKabinet cat museum, Dutch cocktail making & tasting tours.

katten kabinet cat museum amsterdam

Meow from Amsterdam! Welcome to my adventures in the Dutch capital.

One glance at my blog, and you know that I love all things bizarre, unusual and quirky.

To my delight, Amsterdam has museums that veer gloriously into this territory… including a cat-themed museum, Katten Kabinet!

rainbow painted walls, wallpaper

As a cocktail-lover, I also adored the creative, interactive tours at The House of Bols and Wynand Fockink. My friends and I got to taste Dutch spirits, and mix our own cocktails.

Ready to explore Amsterdam with me? Read on for a prowl inside the cat museum, and then we’ll get tipsy.

fashion blogger airport outfit, suitcase

I teamed up with I Amsterdam, and they put together an itinerary that was tailored to my offbeat interests. (How do you like my flying outfit?)

I had a smooth direct flight from Vancouver to Schiphol Airport on KLM, the Dutch blue airlines known for its comfortable service. They’re one of my personal favorites, and even sell a Miffy bunny toy dressed in a flight attendant uniform.

● Outfit Details ● I’m wearing MySwear customized Hoxton creepers from Farfetch, which I designed to be shiny pink with an LC monogram. I’m towing this pink Samsonite suitcase, and you can see more photos of my faux fur coat here.

amsterdam canals travel blogger

Before long, I was strolling through Amsterdam, a city known for its iconic bicycles and canals. Spring-time is also a great time to visit, as the weather is warming up but the tourists have yet to arrive.

● I’m wearing a sweater that belonged to my friend Rose — but you can find a similar star sweater by Wildfox (also sold in white), and a pink knit top with stars by Acne. Check out more below:

kattenkabinet cat cabinet museum

I reunited with my local friend Leyla, who runs LeylaFashion blog. (Remember when we visited the Miffy museum in Utrecht together?) Together with photographer Arina Dresviannikova, we were ready for an epic girls trip.

The fun started at KattenKabinet, a cat-themed museum. My friends and I donned pointy-eared headbands, and walked over to the centrally-located building that looks over the canals. (Address: Herengracht 497, 1017 BT, Amsterdam, Netherlands).

cat themed collection museum

The black kitty sign beckoned us to enter.

(Watch Leyla’s travel vlog about Katten Kabinet to see us exploring).

cat faced girl photograph art

Most tourists stick to the popular attractions (Anne Frank House, Rijksmuseum), but I was keen to get off the beaten path, and discover a lesser-known collection — featuring nothing but cats.

toulouse-lautrec cat ads

The museum is small (two floors) but the cat artwork is beautifully presented, with original pieces by masters including Pablo Picasso, Rembrandt, and Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec. 

interior kattenkabinet museum

We went up a winding staircase, and found ourselves in this Baroque-style room finished in red and gold.

This collection of cat-themed objects is not at all kitschy or tacky. The works are masterpieces, carefully chosen and arranged in royal style. 

cat posters france 1800s

KattenKabinet was founded in 1990 by Bob Meijer, in memory of his red tomcat John Pierpont Morgan (named after the American banker J. P. Morgan). To this day, Meijer and his family live in the upper floors of this house.

dutch sleeping cat

Several of his cats roam freely through the rooms. At  first, we weren’t sure if this lazy fellow was real, or a stuffed kittycat!

cat statues collection

Katten Kabinet’s collection includes depictions of all types of cats (various species, colors), in a variety of mediums. I had a stare-down with this grumpy gold statue.

cat cabinet art museum

Many of the works are from the family’s personal collection, which gives De KattenKabinet a pleasingly non-commercial feeling.

dutch 17th century ceiling art

This classic Amsterdam house once belonged to a 17th century merchant. Look up, and you’ll see a restored ceiling painting from this era.

However, there are contemporary works as well. In one corner, I found a spectacular costume from Andrew Lloyd Webber’s “Cats” musical.

holland katten kabinet artwork

Without taking itself too seriously, the Cat Cabinet lets visitors learn about the role of felines in culture, over the centuries. These works range from advertisements for household products, to fine porcelain figures.

chinese lucky cat statue

The gallery has partnered with famous museums like the Van Gogh, in order to present special works by famous artists. The “Cat-A-Logue” includes pieces from all over the world, such as this antique Chinese lucky cat statue.

maneki neko statues

You can’t help but smile as you walk through the exhibitions. I’ve never seen so many cats in one place! 

rembrandt cat art

Arina played a few songs on the grand piano. Behind her, it took us a minute to find out why this sprawling painting was cat-related.

cat ears girls headbands

Movie buffs may recognize this as a filming location for “Ocean’s Twelve.”

(If you like my star sweater, click for more designs below:)

charlie chaplin cat

The gift shop is just as joyful. The perfect place to pick up a unique souvenir for a cat enthusiast.

cat postcards, cats prints

Isn’t the wide range of kitty-designs inspiring?

If you’re a fellow cat-lady, come on down to KattenKabinet. This funny Amsterdam museum has our paw-stamp of approval.

(You can watch Leyla’s video about our day here and above.)

house of bols amsterdam museum

Now, let’s get trippy at The House of Bols! Once more, this is not a typical museum. Bols is better described as an interactive cocktail / liqueur experience for all five senses.

(I’m wearing this Long Clothing Drippy sweatshirt with side pockets.)

cocktail liqueur museum netherlands

House of Bols is located on Amsterdam’s Museumplein — where the major museums are — and was recently renovated. (Address: Paulus Potterstraat 14, 1071 CZ Amsterdam, Netherlands)

The new design is modern and intriguingly lit, and each room is designed to stimulate the senses. In the rainbow-colored “hall of taste,” I got to squeeze the bottles and guess the liqueur aromas, ranging from green apple to butterscotch.

house of bols brewery, history

Using various media (video, sound, sculpture, photography), the museum tells the story of the Bols family, who started producing bottles of liqueur in 1575. Lucas Bols is the world’s oldest distilled spirits brand, and remains popular worldwide today.

klm blue houses collection

Bols currently has 48 creatively flavored spirits, as well as genever: the neutral or juniper-flavored national liquor of the Netherlands. This is a 35% alcohol that can be a bit similar to gin, and ideal for mixing cocktails.

I thought these blue houses were toys, but they actually are bottles with a cork on top — and contain Dutch Genever!

gin KLM Delft Blue houses

Starting in 1952, KLM Airlines has given these “Delft Blue Houses” to business and royal class travellers. There are 96 different styles, and collectors are keen to have one of each.

lucas Bols Cocktail & Genever Experience

What lies behind Door #2? I received a small jar of liqueur, and went inside to find out.

Suddenly, I was transported into an interactive experience called “The Art of Flavour.” Lights flashed and swirled, the floor buzzed, and music played. The taste on my tongue shifted along with these sensory changes — amazing.

bols fruit liqueur flavors

In the distillery room, I learned about the extraction process and distillation of flavors. The Bols portfolio includes more than 20 brands including liqueurs, genever, gin and vodka.

long clothing drippy sweatshirt

Guests are encouraged to dip their hands into these bins, and smell the various natural ingredients that go into the century-old recipes.

The 48 infusions include berries, fruits, herbs and botanicals. Ginger, peppermint, blueberries, dates, amaretto, and more. 

house of bols cocktail bar, lessons

The final stop: Bols’ Mirror Bar. You can ask the professional bartenders to shake you a delicious cocktail (they are graduates of a special in-house training program)… or create one yourself.

I chose the latter, so I picked and printed out a cocktail recipe on the touch screen. I selected the “Dutch n Stormy,” which combines fresh lime and ginger beer with genever (instead of rum).

learn make cocktails, amsterdam netherlands

Time to shake, shake, shake! I had never made a professional cocktail, and it was fun to test out various recipes using jiggers (the measurement device) and shakers.

Visitors can also come here for group cocktail-making lessons, or book a Bols tastings or food pairing.

wynand fockink dutch tavern

On another evening, we tried a variety of spirits at Wynand Fockink, a Dutch tasting tavern (proeflokaal). Established in 1679, this is the oldest tasting room and distillery in the city.

The bar is located not far from the Red Light District (address: Pijlsteeg 31 & 43, Amsterdam, Holland).

chocolate dessert liqueur

We took part in a tasting session, but you can also walk into the adjoining Wynand Fockink bar any time for a drink. It retains the 17th century atmosphere, and serves the liquors in the traditional fashion: filled to the top, in a tulip glass. 

The “proper” way to take your first sip is by putting your hands behind your back, leaning over, and slurping the head off the top. Not even the royal family can get out of bowing to the drink — if you try to pick it up, you’ll inevitably spill it!

Wynand Fockink Tasting room

We tasted a variety of liqueurs and genevers, which are still made using the same 17th century traditional craft methods. The Dutch distillery produces more than 70 varieties in small batches, which preserves the high quality of the product.

genever distillery amsterdam

Our guide took us into Wynand Fockink’s distillery — which had a “Breaking Bad” vibe! There were rows of flasks, filled with fruit and herb infusions. Everything is hand-brewed in this small space, just as it was centuries ago.

steampunk liqueur alcohol machines

The equipment has been updated (and has a steampunk look), but the process of making these traditional Dutch liqueurs is exactly the same.

weird flavored liqueurs

Back in the tasting room, our guide entertained us with stories about the spirits while we tried them. For example, the Dutch would historically serve “Naked Belly Button Liqueur” at parties, where a pregnant mother would show her growing belly!

Wynand Fockink is not afraid to experiment with limited-run flavors. They created a pine-infused Christmas tree one during the holiday season, and a charred red pepper flavor that was unexpectedly delicious. (We picked up a few flavors at their candlelit shop next door).

i amsterdam iamsterdam museum card pass

I hope you enjoyed this first taste of Amsterdam! Coming up, there’s a visit to the Miffy store and more… stay tuned.

PS: If you’re a museum-lover like me, I highly suggest you pick up the I Amsterdam City Card, which is what we used during this trip. It’s an unlimited travel pass for 1, 2 or 3 days, with tons of benefits.

The IAmsterdam card includes free public transport and entry to all the major attractions, including quirky museums and canal cruises. The perfect way to maximize your visit, and visit tons of places for a much lower price than if you bought individual entry tickets.

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Visiting the Miffy Museum in Utrecht, Netherlands! Nijntje Pleintje statue, traffic lights & Schiphol airport shops.

miffy museum, utrecht holland

As a hardcore Miffy fan, it was a dream come true… to visit the Miffy Museum in Utrecht, Holland!

The recently-opened Nijntje Museum is dedicated to the X-mouthed bunny (that’s her name in Dutch).  I took advantage of a brief Netherlands stopover to visit with Leyla, my fashion blogger and vlogger friend (who made a video of the trip on her LeylaFashion YouTube.)

Get ready for Miffy Madness. We’ll take you inside each room of the museum, as well as the Nijntje Pleintje plaza, traffic lights crossing, and gift stores dedicated to this adorable mascot!

miffy museum netherlands

We couldn’t resist posing with X-fingers to mimic her mouth. However Leyla’s son, Danny, seems ready to go inside…

Address and directions: The Miffy Museum is located at Agnietenstraat 2, 3512 XB Utrecht, Netherlands. Utrecht is the hometown of her creator, illustrator Dick Bruna, and a 30 minute train ride from Amsterdam. The museum is open every day except Mondays, from 10am to 5pm.

How to get here by train: I came straight from my stopover in Schiphol Airport (Amsterdam). I rode the train —  track 1 or 2, direction Heerlen or Nijmegen — and arrived in half an hour at Utrecht Centraal Station. From there, you can walk 15-20 minutes or take a short bus ride. You can also come here direct from Amsterdam Central or any major station.

nijntje miffy museum entrance sign

When you arrive, look for the giant statue of Miffy in a red sweater, and the sign “Nijntje Museum” next to a light-up outline of her head.

Earlier in 2016, the museum reopened after a significant renovation. Now, the two-level building brings Miffy’s universe to life, with colorful and interactive displays for kids and adults.

miffy parade statues, 60th anniversary

The human-sized statue is from the Miffy Art Parade in 2015, a project that celebrated her 60th anniversary.

Sixty artists decorated a gargantuan Miffy statue, in a variety of styles ranging from creepy Goth to rubber ducky. (There are photos of these statues at the end of this post, so keep reading). The works went on display all over the Netherlands and Japan.

nijntje museum kids

Many people mistakenly think that Miffy is Japanese, because of her “kawaii” and minimal look. In fact, she’s Dutch and older than Hello Kitty. (Sanrio even got sued for copying her design; the court ordered them to discontinue their “Cathy the bunny” character.)

Her name, Nijntje, is a shortening of “konijntje,” which means “little rabbit.” Dick Bruna released his first bunny book in 1955, followed by over 30 more. She’s also the face of many fashion and home good products – shop a selection below.

miffy family, bunny characters

Dick Bruna’s storytelling and bright drawings have proved to be timeless. Even today, children are charmed by the Miffy universe he created — including her family, Grunty the pig, and Boris the bear.

The Nijntje Museum puts his deceptively simple illustrations front-and-center. For example, the lockers are decorated with different drawn objects, for easy remembrance.

japanese miffy cafe, restaurant

The Japanese characters spell out “yokoso,” or welcome — because visitors from Asia (especially Japan) are plentiful!

People from all over the world are flocking over to see Miffy’s museum, which has quickly become one of Utrecht’s most popular attractions. I recommend getting tickets online in advance, and arriving early to avoid crowds (doors are open from 10am to 5pm, Sunday to Tuesdays).

miffy exhibition, museum art

The Miffy Museum is designed as a series of magical miniature worlds. There are 10 rooms, which look like scenes from the picture books come to life.

In this one, her star-mouthed mother stands over the family kitchen. Children can pretend to cut vegetables, cook, and even climb through the cabinets.

big miffy stuffed toy rabbit

There are all sorts of interactive displays for fans of all ages. Leyla and I snuggle up to the plush bunny and Snuffy the dog. 

(PS: I’m selling some of my Miffy fashion and accessories here; email me if you’d like anything! My sandals are this Joanie Mule by Sorel Footwear.)

visiting miffy museum utrecht

The museum’s displays encourage you to “play house” and let your imagination roam free. 

We helped Miffy work in the garden. I must have done something wrong because her dad seems to be watering me with his can…

dick bruna, dutch artist illustrator

I’ve been a Miffy obsessive for years, but I developed a deeper appreciation for artist Dick Bruna after seeing his full oeuvre. 

The museum’s figurehead is his white bunny, his most popular creation (her books are translated into 50 languages and sold more than 85 million copies).

dick bruna doctor nurse illustrations

However, Dick Bruna wrote more than 100 other picture books for children, and also did graphic design for organisations including hospitals. I got to see these lesser-known yet equally impressive works for the first time.

Dick Bruna is known to be a very kind man, and his children’s books promoted the acceptance of everyone, including those who are different or disabled — very progressive themes for his time. This room encouraged children to help others in need of medical treatments.

snow white seven dwarfs dick bruna

Dick Bruna was inspired by Matisse, and his works are tied together by simplistic forms and blocks of primary colors. This room shows his interpretation of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. (Danny loved running up and down the ramp!)

vintage retro miffy nijntne

As we moved through the rooms, we got to see Nijntje’s evolution. In the first books, she looked a plush toy with floppy ears. From the 1960s onward, her face got rounder and her ears stood up.

The rabbit’s simple look and narratives are key to her appeal: anyone can project their imagination onto her. In my case, she’s a creepy-cute minimal Goth icon with her mouth sewn shut, hence the X!

netherlands kids museum toys

Dick Bruna always portrayed Miffy as a regular little girl with universal experiences such as making a new friend (the brown bunny Melanie), or suffering the death of a grandmother.

The museum is full of play areas: matching games, puzzles, funhouse mirrors. As Bruna said in an interview, “The most difficult thing is keeping it simple, to leave plenty of room for the child’s imagination.”

dick bruna museum, exhibit

Danny fell in love with this spacious room, beautifully designed with cars and trains that you can push or ride. 

Bruna’s world keeps children engaged while helping them learn. He wrote a book about safely crossing the road, illustrated in minimal orange and grayscale.

miffy crosswalk, street lights

But as you can see from our funny Instagram shuffle... navigating roadways is a lesson for all ages!

(There’s actually a working Miffy traffic signal, in Utrecht. Keep scrolling down to see the real deal.)

miffy museum shop, toys

Whether you’re a toddler or grown-up, you can’t help but smile as you explore the Miffy Museum. Her world is all about creativity, positivity and imagination — expressed in bold primary paints and outlines.

dick bruna animals, zoo lion

On the upper level, there’s a space that represents a zoo and farm. These two parrots repeat your words when you speak into a microphone. Danny loved crawling through the cages and going down the slide.

utrecht netherlands tourism attractions

Dick Bruna has a genius for conveying the essence of an animal, with only a few brushstrokes. His simple forms add up to a warm, minimal style that’s unmistakably his own.

miffy tshirt, fashion, clothing

The only negative about the Nijntje Museum… It’s hard to say goodbye! Leyla and I felt like this crying child, when it was time to go. We’ll simply have to come back again soon.

(My Miffy top is for sale on my Depop shopand my shoes are the Sorel Joanie Mule.)

miffy art parade statues amsterdam

Thankfully, there are more Miffy sights to see in Utrecht, making it the ideal day trip from Amsterdam.

Right across the street from the statue is Centraal Museum, which features a range of artwork including by locals.

dick bruna's studio, workshop

In the atelier of Centraal Museum, you’ll find an exact replica of Dick Bruna’s studio. Everything from his original workshop has been set up here, from his drafting table to a modern chair in primary colors.

The circular painting shows his simple yet powerful design of the black bears (zwarte beertjes).

dick bruna drawing miffy

I watched a fascinating video of Dick Bruna at work. To this day, he continues to draw with brush and ink: it takes many precise strokes to create the seemingly simple X of Miffy’s mouth. The slight shake in the hand-drawn forms results in what he calls “a line with a heartbeat.”

centraal museum utrecht

Dick Bruna always appreciated his fans, and kept displays of the mementos that they sent him. The studio let us get a closer look at his creative process, and I recommend visiting Central Museum too (it’s just across the street from the Miffy Museum).

miffy traffic lights, street pedestrian crossing

You can’t leave Utrecht without seeing Miffy’s crosswalk. The bunny shows up as the pedestrian traffic signal: red for “Don’t Walk,” and green for “Go.”

Look for the rainbow colored crossing called ‘Regenboogzebrapad’, and you’ll find her directing traffic. (Location: it’s in front of the shopping mall at St Jacobsstraat 1A, 3511 Utrecht, Netherlands.)

nijntje pleintje utrecht address

A short walk away is Nijntje Pleintje, a dark Miffy statue created by Dick Bruna’s son, Marc Bruna. (Address: 1e Achterstraat 1, 3512 VL Utrecht, Netherlands).

black miffy statue, utrecht holland

Nijntje Pleintje is located in this little grassy square, at the beginning of the Van Asch van Wijckskade. It looks like a flat, black metal, cut-out Goth version of the bunny — which matches our style rather well.

(You’ll laugh when you see the Boomerang Instagram video we did, next to this statue!)

goth miffy statue, art parade

But wait — how can you take Miffy home with you? There are several Netherlands gift stores that you can’t miss — they even have vampire Gothic versions of the bunny. Keep reading the rest of the story below…

More here!