Follow the tram tracks south-ish from Rembrandtplein and you’ll find yourself stepping onto Utrechtsestraat. This is a bustling avenue that cuts across the canal belt at the east side of the city centre, providing an impressive mixture of places in which to eat, drink and shop.
Despite its proximity to Rembrandtplein the street offers a very different ambience to the square it’s attached to, especially by night where the partying crowds around the square leave Utrechtsestraat to a more laid-back and older clientele of diners and drinkers – some of whom will be making there way to the nearby Carré Theatre afterwards, or just sticking around for more drinks.
By day you’ll find plenty of visitors at both, but Utrechtsestraat isn’t on the radar of those who come primarily for the city’s landmarks rather than the ambience found at places such as this, so at certain times stepping a few feet along Utrechtsestraat can make you feel as if your ears have popped… such is the difference in volume (and population). But it begs the question; if the bigger crowds don’t always bother to wander the street, why should you?
Actually, that’s an easy one to answer, but not an easy one to answer succinctly. Just like many of the other areas on Team Kompas’ agenda such as De 9 Straatjes and Haarlemmerstraat & Haarlemmerdijk, Utrechtsestraat is riddled with great recommendations. Meanwhile it’s also just a great place to be, and to slalom around the adjoining canals and backstreets… Reguliersgracht, the River Amstel and Kerkstraat are all worth exploring while you’re in the neighbourhood.
We’re not a fan of just listing off places so let’s try to find some particular highlights as we know them. In no particular order, we recommend browsing Concerto, a cozy but sprawling music store which has consumed almost a whole block with its audio section, movies, hifi centre and café (which often has local artists playing instore on a sunday).
If interiors are your thing there are several stores to pick up goodies, like Jan or Sissy Boy. Team Kompas are fans of mid-century/Scandi design so for us it doesn’t get much better than Mobilia Woon Studio; three floors of everything good about Nordic design. The price tags might make you weep but it’s worth the investment (of time) if you share a similar aesthetic passion to us.
Food-wise you’re spoilt for choice with new places joining the established venues on a monthly basis. Depending on the time of day there are so many different options open to you that we can barely muster a particular preference, so until we’ve sampled more cuisine on Utrechtsestraat we just recommend you look with your eyes, listen to your gut and choose based on your ideals in cuisine.
For a drink, again there’s a wide choice. Excellent cocktails are available at Mystique, with excellent and attentive bar staff charming you with stories about your chosen booze. However most drinking holes on Utrechtsestraat are more low-key. For instance, Café Von Leeuwen provides an understated form of trendy with tried and tested local beers and the currently hot collection of gin & tonics. Meanwhile Café Krom is a real local’s favourite – a simple Bruin cafe with a basic but warm Art Deco interior. And Onder de Ooivaar is a temple to beer with a friendly and knowledgeable staff. They’ll always have a recommendation for you.
When the shops, bars and restaurants end and you’ve crossed the whole Grachtengordel (canal belt) population of Herengracht, Keizersgracht and Prinsengracht, you’ll find yourself in Frederiksplein; another city square and another spot often undiscovered by visitors to the city.
This isn’t a spot you’d make a pilgrimage to but it acts as a very pretty transition between Centrum and the Oud Zuid (Old South) area known as de Pijp. During the summer months it is an oasis. A canopy of leaves dapple the square – which is split into two by Utrechtsestraat itself – a fountain forces gallons of water high into the air, and the central reservations around the dominant Nederlandse Bank are alive with flowering shrubs.
So if you’re making your way to de Pijp from Utrechtsestraat (we suggest you do) then don’t forget to look around you along the way, there’s a lot to discover.