Catalans Abroad

A unique city

Why did you leave Catalonia?

I wanted to study Fine Art and the art academy in Amsterdam was more interesting for me. I looked at the possibilities of studying in Catalonia and the possibilities in The Netherlands where there were more possibilities to study and work at the same time, life was cheaper in Amsterdam than in Barcelona in those days. Not any more!

Why did you choose Amsterdam?

My boyfriend at that time came from Amsterdam. So it was easy to chose to Amsterdam. I came here and immediately had family, friends and a house!

How long have you lived there?

Very long! In May it will be 25 years.

Are you happy with the job opportunities you found there?

Yes and no. As an artist it was not difficult the first years but it got more difficult later. There was a lot of competition even to find any job related to arts that would give me a decent salary. Finally I got a great opportunity to study again, all paid by the city council, and to work as a civil servant, which is what I do nowadays.

What do you think is the best thing about living in Amsterdam?

Amsterdam is quite small and things are close by, you can be anywhere within 40 minutes by bike. This is fabulous. All the streets have perfectly designed bicycle paths and traffic lights which makes it a very comfortable city to get around.

What are the highlights for a brief first-time visit ?

Apart of the canals, the Van Gogh or the Rijksmuseum, I would recommend the markets (Nieuwmarkt on Mondays and Saturdays). There is a nice vibe. I would also recommend the Museum Van Loon to experience how rich people in the 18th and 19th centuries lived on the canals. Dutch culture in the north has a protestant tradition and within this tradition it was seen as a wrong to close the curtains of your house (because it meant that you had something to hide). So many people still have them open. So I would recommend to discreetly look inside the houses of people in the evening which is a great exhibition of how the Dutch live.

And if visitors have more time or make a return visit?

Amsterdam is also unique for its social city planning from the twenties and thirties of last century. They developed an own style for this called Amsterdamse School, it's well worth a look, for example the 'Het Schip' Museum. It's a way of understanding the social side of Amsterdam in those times. In the evening have a drink in a typical Amsterdam 'brown café', such as 't smalle drinken (Egelantiersgracht 12, 1015 RL Amsterdam) or café Waterlooplein (Rapenburgerstraat 169, 1011 VM Amsterdam). I would also recommend getting out of the city. To bike around the area north of Amsterdam, Holysloot, Broek in Waterland, Zuiderwoude, and discover the ancient island of Marken. The Film museum 'The Eye' is a great building, certainly worth a visit.

What do you miss most from home?

The sun.

Do you plan to go back to Catalonia?

No. I don't like the working hours nor the eating hours in Catalonia.

Miquel Marzabal Galano is an engineer from Barcelona now working for the Amsterdam City Council


M.Àngels Ribas

Can you recommend a place to have lunch with friends?

Winkel 43 is a nice café with a big terrace to sit outside and have a nice lunch, Noordermarkt 43. At Noordermarkt there are other nice lunch-cafés.

Where would you have a special dinner for two?

REM eiland is a unique restaurant that not many tourists will know and it is a great place to have another view than the typical Amsterdam canals: REM eiland Haparandadam 45, 1013 AK Amsterdam

When is the best time of year to plan a visit?

Spring, summer or autumn, it is more bearable to be outside than in winter.

What is the best kept secret about the area?

The city has got many undiscovered places, such as Nieuwendammerdijk, which is a small ancient village that was engulfed by the city.

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