The intricate canals of beautiful Amsterdam run through all of the historic neighborhoods and marketplaces, lined by leaning rows of tall narrow houses stacked side by side. What better way to spend a warm lazy Sunday afternoon than to take a leisurely stroll admiring this unique architecture and discovering the city. Weekends are an especially good time to explore outdoor markets and bazaars on foot or on bicycle, the preferred mode of transportation in the city.
At the edge of Amsterdam’s famous Red Light district, leading into Chinatown, is Nieuwmarkt which means ‘new market’. A majestic building called De Waag, originally a gate leading into the Medieval city wall and later functioning as a weighing house, stands tall in the center of the square as Nieuwmarkt’s landmark. On Saturdays Nieuwmarkt is a bustling farmers market, and on Sundays it comes alive as an antiques market where one must rummage through a lot of junk to find those rare treasures.
More than antiques there seems to be a lot of random clothes, boots, jewelry and souvenir stalls at Nieuwmarkt, but it’s still a fun way to spend an afternoon with friends before stopping in to any of the restaurants and cafés in the square. With such a peaceful and laid back atmosphere, it’s hard to believe that during World War II the square was used by the Nazis as a collection point for Jews who had been rounded up to be sent to concentration camps.
A perfect place to take a break after browsing at Nieuwmarkt is Latei, a quaint and lovely little café where you can sip on cappuccino while continuing your afternoon of flea market shopping. Virtually everything in the restaurant, except for the servers and customers (even though it’s close to the Red Light district), are for sale.
Stepping into Latei is like going through the wardrobe in C.S. Lewis’ famous Chronicles of Narnia into a magical attic of beautiful knick-knacks. Delicate vintage chandeliers crowd the ceilings, each with a handwritten price tag dangling from a draping handle, while colorful travel bags, decorative mirrors, dated posters and random toys stud every inch of wall space.
Order a warm croissant with butter and jam to go with freshly squeezed orange juice for breakfast while reading the day’s issue of De Telegraaf, or sink your teeth into the Dutch goat cheese sandwich with a side of soup for lunch at the small table by the large window which is optimal for people watching. On Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays they also serve vegetarian Indian food for dinner.
Finish off your meal with a satisfying wedge of warm Dutch apple pie with a shot of espresso or a cup of hot chocolate. All of this eating and drinking is, of course, part of test driving Latei’s tableware to see if it’s something you want to buy and take home.
Whether upstairs in the little loft or down under the staircase in the semi-private den, every nook and cranny in this small café is filled with fun stuff- second hand furniture that may include creaky wooden chairs and red leather banquettes from a bygone diner, kitschy eyeglasses displayed on cut out green paper faces, and even a shiny silver disco ball scattering little specks of light onto the vintage wallpaper.
Everything has a price tag at Latei, but even if you leave empty handed, a lazy afternoon spent at this wonderful café debating everything from world politics to celebrity gossip with friends over apple pie and coffee is priceless.
1012 AW Amsterdam, Netherlands
Random trivia: Did you know that ‘antiques’ are defined as objects that are at least 50 years old? ‘ Collectibles’, on the other hand, are possible antiques of the future and are generally less than 50 years old.