I love to travel, but I hate looking like a tourist. Even though globe-trotting has never been cooler—our social-media feeds are full of #wanderlust, recent grads put their adventures on their resumés and there’s nary a dating profile that does not proclaim a love of it— there’s just something inherently embarrassing to me about standing out in a foreign locale. So I dress impractically in sundresses and my fave Alexander Wang booties, avoid checking my map too often, skip the photo ops and try to seek out non-tourist-trap places to eat, drink and sightsee. The downside of this stubborn approach is getting lost; the upside, however, is stumbling upon gems one might otherwise miss en route to, say, the Van Gogh Museum. Amsterdam, with its picturesque canals, gabled houses and incredible exhibitions, is a great place to wander without a destination. Here are a few lucky finds from a recent trip....
Museum of Bags and Purses
If ever you needed proof that trends are cyclical, a stroll through this little celebration of the handbag is more than adequate. The collection documents the evolution of the purse, from the 1500s to present day, and I saw 18th-century clutches similar to silky embellished ones that I currently have in my closet. One of the rooms has on display some of the modern era’s most notable bags, like Grace Kelly’s Hermès “Kelly” bag and the Versace bag Madonna sported to the London premiere of Evita in 1996.
Must-try: The museum’s home is an old canal house, and on the second floor is a beautiful baroque café that seems transported from a bygone era—perfect for afternoon tea with a view.
Rembrandt House Museum
One of my favourite things to do when travelling is visit the homes of long-gone writers, musicians and artists. (Wordsworth’s twee Dove Cottage in the Lake District, U.K., and the sprawling Paris apartment where Victor Hugo started writing Les Misérables are favourites.) Seventeenth-century painter Rembrandt (the artist responsible for what might be the city’s most prized piece of art, The Night Watch) lived and worked in Amsterdam’s centre. His house has been restored to how it would have looked in his era and is filled with authentic period furnishings as well as original sketches. You can look out his studio window at the same view that must have inspired the artist almost 400 years ago.
Must-try: Sightseeing is thirsty work. Head across the street afterwards for a beer at Café de Sluyswacht, a former lock-keeper’s cottage that has, over the centuries, come to tilt over the canal.