My friend wanted to take me to a spa for my birthday—a momentous occasion considering I’ve now passed the age Paul McCartney sang about in the swingin’ ’60s. Will you still need me, will you still feed me, when I’m sixty-four? he crooned back when I was a lovesick teen at the height of Beatlemania.
The music resonated then, but decades later, with no human leash in sight, there’s no one to bother with such existential issues. Rather than rest and affirmation, I wanted something energizing and uplifting for my birthday, something with a little adrenaline kick to defy my inevitable descent into seniorhood.
So Liesl and I headed for the free ferry to Buiksloterweg at the rear of Central Station. Our destination: the newest attraction in non-touristy Amsterdam-Noord: A’DAM LOOKOUT. Set high in the sky on the roof of the old Shell Tower that has dominated the Amsterdam Noord skyline since 1966, the new icon on the Ij debuted in August 2016 as A’DAM TOWER—Holland’s answer to Paris’ Eiffel Tower, Berlin’s Fernsehturm and London’s Eye.
Best Views in Town
A no-risk balancing act launched our experience as we posed for digital photos, later available for purchase of course, with dropped-in backdrops that replicate views from the top. The real excitement began with a dazzling light show in an elevator that shot us 20 floors into the heavens in a mere 22 seconds.
After a quick recovery, we stepped onto an indoor panorama deck with jaw-dropping views of Amsterdam and its environs. Gazing at the 360º panorama, we could see the city’s UNESCO-recognized canal ring with its 17th-century mansions tilting at odd angles; the harbor pulsing with ferries, pleasure craft, cruise ships and cargo liners; a network of islands, and the polder landscape beyond.
With floor-to-ceiling glass, the panorama deck is a good viewing option on rainy days. Outside is the more gezellig skydeck, where telescopes magnify what few will contend are the best views in town. On a clear day, you can even see neighboring Utrecht. For those with height phobias, colorful beanbag chairs provide a comfy space for respite and relief.
Beyond stunning views, the highlight of our skydeck excursion was going Over The Edge on Europe’s highest swing. As an attendant cranked us high above the spectators, anticipation heightened, then our stomachs dropped as we began swinging back and forth over the tower, bare feet dangling above the roof of Central Station and the Ij River below. From our dizzying height, we could see the big green whale known as the NEMO Science Museum, tall church steeples, the World Trade Center and skyscrapers on Amsterdam’s southeastern edge.
Dining & Dancing at A’DAM LOOKOUT
Back on solid ground, we continued the birthday celebration at neighboring THT, a casual bistro on the Ij with a bohemian vibe and riverside views that’s part of the Tolhuistuin entertainment complex. For a fancier experience, have lunch or dinner at M’Adam Amsterdam, a bar and restaurant on the 20th floor of A’DAM LOOKOUT that transforms into a nightclub after dark. Beyond unrivaled views, the club’s “no effort = no entry” dress code sets it apart from similar venues.
Even more posh is Moon on the 19th floor of the tower, Amsterdam’s first revolving rooftop restaurant. Combining 360˚ panoramas with classical dishes prepared with a modern twist, it’s the perfect spot for a whirlwind romance. On the opposite end is Shelter Amsterdam, the hottest basement in town, boasting a permit that allows dancing until 8am the next morning on most nights.
Night-owls meet early birds at The Butcher Social Club, part of the Sir Adam Hotel that occupies A’DAM Toren’s first eight floors. Open 24/7 on Friday and Saturday, and from 8–1am Sunday–Thursday, this all-in-one urban lounge, burger bar and game hall serves breakfast, booze, beer, and signature classics like The Butcher’s Angus beef burger and Silence of the Lambs.
A’DAM LOOKOUT is open daily, 10:00–22:00 (last entry at 21:00). You must be taller than 1.30 meters to swing Over The Edge. Admission is €13.50 for adults/€7.50 for kids age 4–12, including a digital photo. A swing ride runs €5 more, regardless of age. Other options include family tickets, as well as a Rock the City combo-deal that includes A’DAM LOOKOUT, a canal cruise and the Heineken Experience for €25. The best deal may be the annual pass. For €27.50 (€17.50/kids up to 12), you can get high 360/365 days a year at Amsterdam’s newest landmark.
Amsterdam is great. I was there with my wife in June and we had the best of times. What a city!