Amsterdam Light Festival: See the city in a different light

Every year from the end of November until mid January, the canals of Amsterdam are illuminated in a most intriguing way. Street lamps and Christmas decorations may also cast a warm glow upon the city, however it’s the installations of the Amsterdam Light Festival that really steal the show. Brightening up the dark days of winter, this must-see event calls upon artists, designers and architects to develop installations that will be displayed in, on, over or next to the waterways of Amsterdam.

How it all began
The history of the Amsterdam Light Festival can be traced back all the way to the 1920s, when light art was popular throughout Europe. Atmospheric lights illuminated the Amsterdam canals up until the 1990s; but it was only with the foundation of the Amsterdam Light Festival by Felix Guttmann, Rogier van der Heide and Raymond Borsboom in 2012 that light art and light installations became an annual tradition. Since then, the festival has enjoyed yearly editions with changing displays, showcasing local and international artists, and drawing large crowds from around the world.

Disrupt!: This year’s open air exhibition
This year’s 8th edition is set up to be another major success. With the theme Disrupt!, twenty artists were challenged to question, test and shake up the city. They used this year’s theme to transform the city’s architecture with lights, creating entirely new surroundings to amaze the public. Apparently one key question to emerge from Disrupt! is that of climate change and how humans disturb the natural environment – and vice versa: how natural events can interrupt the structure of our society. It will be interesting to see how the artists interpret this particular challenge.

Spectators can look forward to a variety of breathtaking light installations from established and up-and-coming designers, like by the lighting architect Har Hollands or by the design duo Tom Biddulph & Barbara Ryan, who created an eerie installation nearfor one of Amsterdam’s iconic canal bridges. Watch artworks with names like “Atlantis” and “Big Bang” come to life as you drift along the canals and let the splendour of this one-of-a-kind event sink in.

Practical Information
Are you coming to Amsterdam to enjoy the Light Festival this year? Then be sure to plan your attendance in advance. Head over to the official website to arrange the specifics and book a tour. The event runs from 28 November 2019 until 19 January 2020 and sells out quickly, so be sure to reserve your spot with one of the canal boat companies.



Charmingly Cosy

Now that we have officially bid adieu to summer, it’s time to fully embrace the colder months. Knitted sweaters, a hearty drink and an open fire: Prepare yourself for October and beyond with a visit to these Amsterdam boutiques, shops and bars, selling everything you need for a charmingly cosy autumn.

Berenstraat 11
A self-described candy store for book aficionados, MENDO offers the sweetest selection of fashion, photography and art books. These luxury titles also share the shelves with travel, architecture, pop culture and cuisine at their flagship location in Amsterdam city centre. Pick up a coffee table book as a gift for friends back home or discover the “Made by MENDO” prints, produced by their very own publishing company of the same name.

Camperstraat 48-50
Natural wines are all the rage, so why not go where they have the best? 4850 is a hidden gem that lies in the east of Amsterdam, near the magnificent Amstel river. Dine on a fixed or à la carte menu, lovingly prepared by the chef, and pair each course with a glass (or two) of wine from the expertly curated wine list.

Herengracht 422
“How a hat makes you feel,” said Philip Treacy, “is what a hat is all about.” And the hats at Bronté will certainly make you feel sophisticated and well equipped for the winter months. Berets, fedoras or a fisherman’s cap: Whatever your personality, there is a hat to match it. Let the knowledgeable staff at the Bronté flagship in Amsterdam’s centre help you find a topper to suit your lifestyle.

Rokin 95
A classic cocktail bar with stunning interiors. Satchmo’s smooth marble walls and plush velvet seats are the perfect setting for a relaxing evening while sipping an old-fashioned or a dry martini. Live jazz adds even more richness to the mood.

Nunc Interieur 
Rosmarijnsteeg 7
When you want that warm and fuzzy autumn feeling, sometimes you must literally acquire something warm and fuzzy. Nunc Interieur in Amsterdam’s city centre has a fine selection of home accessories to add a soft and inviting touch to your own dwelling. Miniature alpacas made with real alpaca wool, art deco champagne coupes and luxurious hammam towels are just a few of the many available pieces that also make great gifts.


The Dylan on the water

A recommended “to do” for any guest visiting Amsterdam is a private boat tour with a traditional salon boat from Captain Nico. This knowledgeable captain will guide you along the canals of Amsterdam. We spoke with Nico and asked him about his opinion of the long standing collaboration between him and The Dylan Amsterdam.

In 2004 I started rebuilding and restoring ‘The Kleijn Amsterdam’. The Kleijn Amsterdam is an antique Dutch river launch from 1905, built by the shipyard ‘’Tans en Zonen’’, Rotterdam. In 2005 it was completely renovated, whilst retaining all the original features with present-day comfort and now sails on electric power.

In 2010 I started rebuilding and restoring ‘’The Muze’’ and was completed in 2011. The Muze is an antique Dutch river launch from 1913, built by the shipyard ‘’Rijnstroom’’ of F. Meijer & Co, Leiden. The Muze retained his original features with present-day comfort and since is also powered by electricity.

Having electric engines is good for the environment while it also increases comfort. You do not hear a thing, any vibration of glasses or shaking of the boat. That makes the difference.

The connection between me and The Dylan goes a long way back. I sailed as captain for another 5 star hotel and got to know Mr. Bornmann and Chef Dennis Kuipers very well. When Mr. Bornmann became General Manager of The Dylan and the Executive Chef became Dennis Kuipers, I was the first in line for the private boat tours of the hotel. We have a great relationship and we all know what we want. Quality, craftmanship and the same vision helps us understand each other. Personal relationships are the most valued. Two of my employees had worked at The Dylan before and now they are working at with me as captains and may still enjoy the hospitality that the hotel and we offer our mutual guests.

The classic salon boats are perfect for guests who enjoy privacy. We get a lot of famous people on board. They get noticed everywhere on the streets and would like to be around and have some private time. A great way ‘’out’’! We have got a lot of our own regular guests, but sailing for The Dylan is special, we have a real relationship. We feel at ease, you can count on each other, to fine-tune the wishes of the guests.

Obviously I have a lot of stories to tell of what we have been through with some guests. Once I was with a couple that were visiting Amsterdam. We sailed along The Dylan and they wanted to take a look inside. When they returned to the boat they asked me if I could get their suitcases at the other hotel, because they most definitely rather stay here at The Dylan.

People feel real at ease at the hotel and you can feel that. We give the same feeling to the guests, it fits seamlessly.

My colleague once experienced that the boat was only used as a taxi and storage room. The guests went shopping in the PC Hooftstraat and their staff brought their bought items to the boat. When they wanted to go to another store, they took the boat and went on.

I often get asked ‘’What do you do next to this?’’ as if it’s an on the side job, but this is a real craft.



All-Time Favorites

Below the ‘Noorderkerk’, one of the cities most beautiful squares, the Noordermarkt takes place on Mondays and Saturdays. This market has a tradition that originated in the 17th century. Together with other markets in Amsterdam the Noordermarkt was of great importance for the development and flourishing of the city in the golden age. Don’t miss out on the best apple pie of the city at Winkel 43.

The Begijnhof is one of Amsterdam’s best known almshouses. It consist of a group of houses built around a secluded courtyard and garden which provided modest homes for the Beguines – a group of unmarried religious women who lived together in a close community under vows of chastity.

Moco Museum
The Moco Museum is a boutique museum with a wide range of inspiring modern and contemporary art. With artist like Banksy, Yayoi Kusama, Andy Warhol and Roy Lichtenstein, visitors are offered an unparalleled collection of subversive art in which irony and humour are used to reflect on modern society.

The Concertgebouw
Bernard Haitink once praised The Concertgebouw as the best instrument of the orchestra that it houses. The swampy fields just outside the city limits boasted a wonder of neoclassic architecture, The Concertgebouw. Nowadays, just like the celebrated Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, this fantastic concert hall enjoys worldwide renown.

Wynand Fockink
The  Wynand Fockink Proeflokaal and liquor store can be found in the in the Pijlsteeg, an alley behind the National Monument on the Dam square in Amsterdam. Wynand Fockink produces more than 70 Dutch liqueurs and jenevers which can be tasted in the authentic 17th century traditional craft methods.

Café Hoppe
Café Hoppe has been located on the Spui since 1670. The café has something unique, indescribable, that speaks to the imagination of many-young and old-who come back every time. Come along for a drink on a Friday afternoon and you’ll see what they mean.

Pllek is a sit back place across ‘t IJ for people to meet others, to get to know other cultures and insights. There is live music, international films, yoga classes, art expositions, workshops, mini-festivals and more during the whole year.

Van Stapele Koekmakerij
The cosy, warm atmosphere of the shop will briefly take you back to Amsterdam of yesteryear. The aroma of freshly backed cookies slowly drifts in the air, you hear the soft piano music and light reflected through crystal chandeliers sparkles down on rows of delicious homemade cookies.

Dam Square
Central station



An Interview with Roetz

Starting this year, guests of The Dylan can explore the city on Roetz bikes. These are not your ordinary two-wheelers but bicycles with a story and mission. We spoke with Willem-Jan Otten, Operations Manager at Roetz, about everything that makes the world a better place.

We’ve heard different inspiring stories about Roetz. Could you summarize what Roetz is about?
We produce handcrafted designer bicycles by reusing the core parts of discarded ones. We do that with a team of men and woman returning to the job market. By combining those two approaches, we try to contribute to a more social and circular economy.

How did it all start?
One of our founders, Tiemen ter Hoeven, used to be a consultant. While working on a project for one of the German car manufacturers, he discovered that the car producer used the principles of remanufacturing. He was inspired by the approach: the process is green and makes a manufacturer less vulnerable to the fluctuations of commodity prices. Tiemen matched this solution with the problem of the Dutch bicycle waste and initiated Roetz.

So, how do you produce a Roetz bike exactly?
The process follows a sequence of 5 steps:

  1. Collection

We purchase bikes that in general have no economic value at all.

  1. Dismantling and check

We dismantle the front fork and frame and sort all other parts that may be re-used in a new lifecycle. We then screen on cracks or corrosion, with this process we can save up to 40% of the raw material to be used for new bikes. For fleet bikes like the OV-Fiets we can reach up to 70%, due to the large number of identical parts.

  1. Lacquer removal and check

Once we have removed different layers of lacquer from the front fork and frame we check the quality of the material again to make sure we only use quality products.

  1. Protective coating

We apply a strong multi layered powder coating that protects the material and provides a fresh new look.

  1. Assembling

All other parts are new and installed on the remanufactured front fork and frame. The bike is now ready to ride the world for years.

And where do the bikes come from exactly?
Well, I could give you one of those romantic stories of beautiful bikes getting fished from the canal. Haha. But that’s not the reality. In fact, the city council traces left bikes on the streets and takes them to an auction. Some vendors then buy the masterpieces, which is fine because that’s also circular. But we buy real wrecks that nobody wants.

Why would you say is the circular economy important?
It is the only way to create a long-lasting system. We simply cannot keep producing waste. On top of that, it forces manufacturers to produce quality because the product will return to them in the end. In that sense, our current solution at Roetz is only suboptimal: we fix what it is broken but do not prevent it from happening. In other words: we reuse waste but cannot avoid its production.
So, would that be your next step?
Exactly. The real solution is to design a bicycle that lasts forever. Producing such a bike is too expensive for the standard consumer market. But if we know that we get the bike back, we can invest in solutions that make the bike last forever.

Where does your staff come from?
From all over the place, ranging from ex-convicts to unemployed men and women. It’s just wonderful to see how these people grow and flourish over time. We once had a guy who started off with a lack of motivation and energy. But before we could even expect a disaster, he really started to like his job. It’s great to see that he is now a key figure at a production line in a big bicycle factory.

And did you get him up to that level?
We give heaps of training and work in such a structured manner, that our staff makes progress over time. They begin at the very start of the assembly line, which means they will always have a coach next to them. Once they move up the assembly line, they will also get someone on their other side to which they should provide training. This system is progressive: once you move further, your coach and trainee will also progress.

Are these the stories that keep you going?
Yes, for the social part definitely. But I also want to leave a better world for the next generations. A few years ago, I started looking for a job with a focus on sustainability. I could have never imagined that I could combine this with the social dimension.

Why do you think your bikes fit The Dylan?
Our bikes have that typical vintage look and none of them are the same. That reflects the classic appearance of the Dylan, with its surprisingly different rooms and spaces. It is just that both The Dylan and Roetz heavily rely on the stories of their products.

What do you like about The Dylan?
I’ve only been for a drink once but loved the hotel from the moment I entered. I was impressed by the tranquility that hides behind the façade. I could only describe it as a peaceful vibe: one that no one expects upon entering from the busy city centre.