Photo: Istockphoto

Who: Mr Declan Ee, 35, Producer and Co-founder of Furniture Store Castlery

Favourite destination: Amsterdam, the Netherlands. Its amazing creative vibe stems from the fact that it is arguably the most liberal city in Europe. I take a lot of inspiration from the diversity of the music scene there.

Amsterdam is also aesthetically beautiful, thanks to its canals. It is known by some as the Venice of the North. I go there about three times a year.




Photo: Anne Frank House/facebook

Amsterdam offers many cultural sites and interesting museums, including the well-known Anne Frank House and Van Gogh Museum, but to see something different, I recommend visiting IJ Browerij, a small modern brewery in the city.

At the brewery, a hidden gem located in a former bath house next to a windmill, visitors can experience a slice of contemporary Dutch culture and sample organic blond, pilsner and dark beers.

To gain another unique perspective of the city, go to Sama, the Street Art Museum Amsterdam, which features 150 artworks on buildings in the Nieuw-West area of the city. On the visitor tour, you can learn about how street art is made and how each work is influenced by the building's architecture and surroundings.

The best way to experience Amsterdam is to ride a bicycle through the city's narrow streets and along its many canals, just like the locals do. It is actually slower to get around by car and you lose your sense of the city's charm travelling that way.

Amsterdam is one of the most bicycle-friendly cities in the world, so bike rentals and tours are everywhere, including Yellow Bike, Rentals range from $15 to $18 a day and accessories such as helmets and child seats are usually provided too.

When I have a few hours to spare, I head to Prinsengracht, one of the city's main canals in the west side of central Amsterdam. It is filled with historically rich buildings such as the Anne Frank House, churches, a houseboat museum, cafes and little stores where you can pass the time.

Blue Amsterdam, a cafe and restaurant in a glass tower, accessed by a glass lift, right in the city centre, offers the best views of the city.

The space has great coffee, ambience and fantastic 360-degree views. It provides binoculars, so you can make the most of the view.




Photo: Cafe de Jaren/facebook

Cafe de Jaren s one of my favourite cafes. Located on the canal, with high ceilings, tall windows and natural light, it has a nice selection of food and coffee, which you can enjoy from the balcony or its patio on the water.

Ivy & Bros  is where I go for my fix of healthy comfort food, such as egg muffins, hummus on toast, upside-down pear brownies, frittata toasties with harissa and desserts such as white chocolate cheesecake. It is also surprisingly affordable, at about $8 for a coffee and a pastry.

Pancakes are a breakfast staple in Amsterdam. Here, they are fluffy crepes which are usually served with fruit and chocolate or maple syrup.

One of the best spots for pancakes is a hole-in-the-wall place called Upstairs Pancake, which, with only four tables, is said to be the smallest restaurant in Europe. You must book ahead.

I also recommend The Pancake Bakery, which has the best maple syrup and a huge selection of pancake flavours.

Try Dutch herring, a small fish which has been aged in brine for a few days until ripened. It is a local remedy for hangovers.

A good herring is fatty and smells fresh and salty, with a soft texture and a nice bite. A good place to get it is at a seafood eatery or fish market.




Photo: NDSM Wharf/facebook

Amsterdam Dance Event, which takes place annually in October, is one of the world's biggest dance music festivals.

Over 400,000 people, including more than 2,000 music artists and industry professionals, attend the event every year for its showcases, conferences, speeches and performances.

Coming here, you get to experience the full spectrum of electronic music, from international chart-topping DJ-producers to underground indie acts.

One of my favourite hangouts is NDSM Wharf - or "werf" as the locals call it - a former shipping and industrial dock that has been turned into a cultural hot spot with warehouses and refurbished industrial structures.

It is a melting pot of creative people, with cool cafes and many underground events and festivals.

If you have time for a side trip, visit The Hague. Just a 45-minute train ride away, it is the only city in Holland with access to the beach.

The seaside district of Scheveningen is known for its wide beaches, historic district, bustling shopping district, pier and amusement rides.

Fishing is a big industry in the city.

In June, Scheveningen's fishing community simulates the old tradition of heralding the season's first catch by bringing its fishing fleets back to the harbour with its flags unfurled.




Photo: Scotch & Soda/facebook

For clothes, I like fashion boutique Scotch&Soda for its trendy gear.

For furniture, go to Neef Louise, a huge warehouse filled haphazardly with furniture and home items. Shopping here is like a huge treasure hunt.

I go to Brut Amsterdam for unique, industrial-style furniture. Noordermarkt , an authentic local market frequented by locals, offers second-hand clothes, farm fresh produce and a huge variety of local products on Saturdays and Mondays.




Photo: Andaz Amsterdam/facebook

I love the Andaz Amsterdam, Prinsengracht , a quirky and creative hotel on the canal, and the W Amsterdam , which has an amazing rooftop bar where you can take in the views of the city.

I also recommend spending a few nights in a houseboat.

You can book one for the night as you would a hotel, through sites such as AmsterdamStay and BookaHouseboat.

This article was first published in The Straits Times