Decades since her splashy entree into the fashion world in the 1980s, when she dominated the catwalks (Victoria's Secret) and the pages of glossy fashion magazines (Vogue and Cosmopolitan among them) as a youthful cover girl, Dutch supermodel Frederique Van der Wal has continued to pad her ever expanding CV with stints as an actor, TV host, entrepreneur, and most recently, founder of Frederique's Choice, an e-ecommerce boutique and lifestyle brand selling gorgeous floral arrangements throughout Europe—and as of late 2015, the eastern seaboard of the United States—bringing the Holland-born beauty ever closer to her roots. Here, Van der Wal shares her favorite places in Amsterdam for divine truffled eggs, the best canal-view hotels, unique concept shops, and the only venue you need for a perfect night out in The Netherlands' capital city.
What neighborhood in Amsterdam are you from, and how long have you lived there? How often do you go back? I was born in The Hague and left Holland when I was 18. But Amsterdam was always the place to be. For a year—in 2009—my daughter and I lived in an area called the Jordaan, and that’s where I bought our home. It’s right on one of the canals, and it is one of my favorite spots in the world. Amsterdam is magical: the architecture, the canals... and the light is phenomenal. There is really nothing like it. Watching all the boats passing by from my window is a true pleasure. I try to go back every six to eight weeks for at least a week at a time.
Where would you put up friends visiting town? I always recommend staying on the canals. My favorites for visitors include the Dylan (Keizersgracht 384; 31-2/0530-2010; dylanamsterdam.com), a five-star boutique hotel in a 17th-century canal house in the center of Amsterdam. It’s walking distance from the Anne Frank House and the Van Gogh Museum. Or Seven One Seven (Prinsengracht 717; 31-2/0427-0717; 717hotel.nl), situated in a historic 19th-century building, with breathtaking views of the canals. Fun fact: Seven One Seven’s suites are named after classic writers, composers and artists, like Dickens, Mahler, Picasso, Shakespeare, and Tolkien. And then The Toren, which is actually located in two buildings (both original 17th-century canal houses), separated by a couple of canal houses in between. It’s within walking distance from the Royal Palace and several museums.
What’s your hometown’s signature dish, and where is the best place to try it? Amsterdam has such a mix. You can go traditional Dutch, with something like meat and potatoes, but Indonesian cuisine also has a very strong presence in the city. A popular way to go is the Rijsttafel, which means literally “rice table.” Think of it as tapas but with Indonesian-style small plates. Absolutely delicious! Coffee with a cookie is also a signature Amsterdam snack. Another light meal that is a Dutch favorite is a borrel (drink) with a bitterbal (meatball).
What is your favorite restaurant to take visitors? I just visited a new one that was great, called Morgan & Mees—it’s part of a brand-new hotel of the same name (Tweede Hugo de Grootstraat 2-6; 31-2/0233-4930; morganandmees.com). Every seat in the restaurant offers a view of the garden, which adds to the tranquil setting. If we want something that is a little more of an adventure, I will take them to Hotel de Goudfazant (Aambeeldstraat 10H; 31-2/0636-5170; hoteldegoudfazant.nl). You must take a ferry to get there—and contrary to the name, there’s no hotel; it’s just a restaurant, which is open and airy, because the building is a renovated garage. It is always special and fun to rent one of the beautiful old saloon boats, many built in the early 20th century, and have dinner there while riding through the canals. Or when we’re looking for something very casual, I’ll take friends to Van’t Spit (De Clerqstraat 95; 31/2-0358-3878; vantspit.nl). It offers chicken roasted on a spit, along with sides such as corn on the cob, fries, cole slaw, applesauce. All very fresh and simple.
Where can you find the best cocktails? Beer list? Wine list? I love Door 74—which is a speakeasy-style bar, complete with a hidden door (Reguliersdwarsstraat 74I; 31-6/3404-5122; door-74.com). And Mystique Amsterdam is another favorite of mine (Utrechtsestraat 30A; 31-2/0330-2994; mystiqueamsterdam.nl), as well as Café Brandon (Keizersgracht 157; 31-2/0362-9921). And for a little history with your pint, Café ’t Smalle is definitely worth a visit (Egelantiersgracht 12; 31-2/0623-9617; t-smalle.nl). It’s the oldest bar in Jordaan, and it offers a really cozy atmosphere right on a canal.
Where would you choose to splurge on a night out? The Dutch don’t really splurge... just kidding! It’s all about gezellig—which is the Dutch way of life. It doesn’t even have an English equivalent; the closest is “cozy” or “spending time with loved ones.” So, a great restaurant to go to for a gezellig night out is De Kas (Kamerlingh Onneslaan 3; 31/2-0462-4562; restaurantdekas.nl). The property once belonged to the Amsterdam Municipal Nursery; now the restaurant serves food made from organic fruits and vegetables grown on site. Such a great concept!
Do you have a go-to after-hours bar? Holland is famous for its DJs and festivals. If you can catch one of those, I highly recommend it. Look for Paradiso—it has some amazing events (Weteringschans 6-8; 31-2/0626-4521; paradiso.nl).
What’s the best way to spend a Saturday afternoon in town? Saturday afternoons are perfect for slenteren—that’s the word the Dutch use for wandering around. Amsterdam is made to wander, preferably on a bicycle. Watch out for the Dutchies on their bikes, though—it can get crowded. Or you can just walk through the little streets and stop for a beer at one of the many bars.
What is your Sunday morning routine in your neighborhood? I love sleeping in a bit. Then I’ll have a coffee and watch the boats pass by. And I will take a yoga class at Delight (Weteringschans 53; 31-2/0428-1091; delightyoga.nl).
Where is the best breakfast or brunch? I recommend Buffet van Odette—the truffled eggs are amazing (Prinsengracht 598; 31-2/0423-6034; buffet-amsterdam.nl).
Where do you go for the perfect cup of coffee? For the most amazing little store with coffee and tea, there’s Archipelago (Prinsengracht 827; 31-6/5187-7757; archipelagoamsterdam.com); also the bouquets there are incredible.
What’s your favorite view in town (that tourists might not know about)? Seeing the lights lit up at night around the canals, whatever the season. And the Noordermarkt on Saturdays is a wonderful thing for visitors to see (noordermarkt-amsterdam.nl).
What’s your favorite path or trail to follow on a walk? I love to go to the Dutch beach. It’s stunning at any time of the year. But if you are in Amsterdam in the spring, you have to go to the amazing gardens at Keukenhof—known as the Garden of Europe (Stationsweg 166A; keukenhof.nl). It is absolutely stunning. I also highly recommend visiting a flower shop or two, which can be quite amazing in Holland, because flowers mean so much to us.
What are your favorite off-beat cultural attractions? I would go to the Noordermarkt on Saturday morning or the Westerstraat market on Mondays—these both provide a real insider perspective on Dutch culture (jordaanmarkten.nl). A visit to the Aalsmeer Flower Auction to see the amazing blooms shows, which you’ll also get if you can make it to the Keukenhof (it’s so amazing that I must mention it twice). The Tropenmuseum is always a lot of fun—and its collections based on the study of ethnicities is fascinating (Linnaeusstraat 2; 31-8/8004-2800; tropenmuseum.nl).
What’s your favorite shop or boutique? I love Amsterdam’s concept stores: Hutspot is located on two spots (hutspotamsterdam.com), Maison NL is in the Utrechtsestraat (Utrechtsestraat 118; 31-2/0428-5183; maisonnl.com), and Sukha is in the Haarlemmerstraat (Haarlemmerstraat 110; 31-2/0330-4001; sukha-amsterdam.nl). And there’s a little store I love called Outras Coisas (Herenstraat 31; 31-2/0625-7281; outrascoisas.nl). I also love all the flower stands in Amsterdam, but one that’s really special is Pompon (Prinsengracht 8-10; 31-2/0622-5137; pompon.nl), on Noordermarkt.
What’s the ultimate souvenir from your town—something you can only get there? I always bring back licorice, hagelslag (Dutch chocolate sprinkles), all kind of cookies. There are very good cookies that you can only find in Holland.
What’s the best-kept local secret? That coffee shops don’t sell coffee… And the flower shops! There are flower stands everywhere, and it’s not just the stands—every restaurant or shop has great flower bouquets. So visitors should always stop and smell the flowers.
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Image Credits: Rufus Albemarle; Tim E White / Getty Images