Feel the Gezellig in Amsterdam

Downtown Amsterdam – photos by Shady Hartshorne

By Kathryn Lemmon

Amsterdam is all about gezellig and the constant pursuit of gezellig-ness. A gezellig environment is one which allows good times to happen. In youth-speak, it’s almost like a vibe.

A relaxing dinner with friends is gezellig, fast-food in your car, while waiting in traffic, is not. Perhaps that’s why this Dutch city gets under your skin and refuses to budge. Yet, Amsterdam is ever-evolving. Here’s a brief look at what’s happening now.

Flocking to Floriade

Just outside Amsterdam, near Schiphol airport, millions are flocking to Floriade. Floriade has been called the Olympics of horticulture and for a good reason. The event requires such in-depth planning it only happens once every ten years. They have a greenhouse the size of four soccer fields, and oodles of flowers–it’s definitely gezellig.

You need not be a serious posy person to take pleasure from Floriade. National and international exhibitors working side-by-side, have created more than 300 exceptional displays.

No warring factions here; everyone gets along just fine, whether they’re from Russia, China, Kenya or wherever.

The bright yellow of The Roof, the largest solar array of its kind in the world, can be seen from miles around. Special bus transportation has been arranged for the exhibition, which opened in April. Allow at least three hours for Floriade and wear your walking shoes. Food is available on site. Check out www.floriade.com.

Boom Chicago

Boom Chicago continues to keep ’em rolling in the aisles, nine years running. Their newest show, “Europe: We’ve Created A Monster” is a funny and technologically dazzling exploration of what it means to be European.

Using live cameras, video, internet and other high tech gadgets, this is the show that’s been invited to perform at Pleasance One, the most prestigious venue at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival this August. Boom Chicago performs six nights a week and Europe: We’ve Created A Monster is performed every Wednesday and Thursday at 8:15 and Saturday at 7:30 and 10:45. Dinner is available and highly recommended, (but not required), before the show. Book in advance, because they are often sold out.

Pumpkin Theatre

At the new Amsterdam Miracle, you can witness the history of this city in under an hour; a crash course you might say. The audiovisual presentation can be experienced at the Pompoen (pumpkin) Theatre seven days a week.

Those who have seen both, claim Miracle is a much better “attraction” movie than Holland Experience 3D. It’s in English and you’ll learn something while being agreeably entertained. The computer generated effects give depth and substance to the historical photos, which all ages will appreciate. The Pompoen theatre is located at Spuistraat 2, just a five minute walk from Central Station. In addition, they have live jazz in their cafe, after night falls.

Flower market in Amsterdam. photo by Shady Hartshorne.
Flower market in Amsterdam. Photo by Shady Hartshorne.

Coffee shops in Amsterdam used to be dark and foreboding places where you wouldn’t want to bring a date. But you don’t have to smoke pot with shady characters of the underworld anymore. Recently a number of bright and airy coffee shops have opened with friendly staffs, pool tables and unique tunes.

Rookies Cannabis Cafe

One such place is Rookies Cannabis Cafe, a coffee shop and hotel just off the Leidse-plein. Outside they’ve got tables so you can watch the passing pageant of map-touting tourists, while you smoke. Inside there’s a pool table and a liquor license. If rolling joints is too European for you, they’ll even let you borrow a pipe from the bar. Open weekdays from 10:00 am to 1:00 am and Friday and Saturday 10:00 am to 3:00 am.


In 2012 the Floriade will take place in Regio Venlo – the region of the Dutch town of Venlo.

Kathryn Lemmon writes from Bloomington Indiana.