(Editor’s note: The first version of this post misstated PSV Eindhoven’s 2016 Dutch football title.)
When we introduce ourselves locally, the first thing our new Dutch friends say is, “Why did you move to Eindhoven?”
What they really mean is, “How in God’s name did you end up here instead of Amsterdam, Rotterdam, Den Haag or (insert cool Dutch city here)?” The Dutch think Eindhoven is too sterile, too industrial and, well, just too modern.
Like Humphrey Bogart in “Casablanca,” I want to say, “We came here for the canals.”
“Canals? What canals? You’re in Eindhoven.”
“I was misinformed.”
Actually, we came here last year for the central location (accessible to all of Europe) and the density of talent. We knew exactly what we were in for; the least glamorous place we’ve ever lived, surrounded by the smartest people … and convenient to our favorite cities including Amsterdam, Brussels and Paris.
Not the most beautiful place in the world, but an exciting place to build a business.
Kind of like Silicon Valley.
What’s been a pleasant surprise is how cool this little town turned out to be just below the surface.
So I’m going to clue you in confidentially about some of the cooler things other Dutch Design Week visitors MUST see during their brief visits here.
1 – STRIJP-S
Much of DDW is in various buildings in the Strijp-S district just northwest of the center of Eindhoven. So this is the one section of the city you’re sure to see. And it’s amazing. (We posted the vid above. Yes, it’s in Dutch, but it captures how Strijp-S really looks!)
Strijp-S started as a cluster of factories built by Philips when it was a global consumer electronics company based in Eindhoven.
In the late 1980s, Philips moved its headquarters to Amsterdam, then began shifting to lighting and health care technology, leaving millions of square meters in Eindhoven vacant.
When we first came here in 2015, there wasn’t that much going on in Stijp-S. Now, it’s the creative center of the city, and the fastest evolving, with shops, a hotel, restaurants, event spaces, offices and lots and lots of apartments, which are badly needed as people pour into the city.
Most of the old Philips buildings are now full of industrial-style loft apartments. The ground floors are bars, restaurants and shops.
Recently, I was in Strijp-S to attend a Sport eXperience startup event at the Blue Collar Hotel (where you MUST check out the bar) when I noticed what had been a big grassy area was now a complex of very cool apartments.
While you’re there, check out the giant offices and production facilities of Piet Hein Eek, Eindhoven’s famous furniture designer. Eek does his own high-end furniture, and also designs affordable pieces for IKEA.
2 – MICHELIN STARS
The restaurant scene is crazy here. You’re never going to believe this, but Eindhoven has more Michelin-starred restaurants per capita than any other Dutch city including Amsterdam.
They are too many to list, but here are the top-rated in no particular order:
• De Lindehof (two stars) in Nuenen, which is run by Master Chef Soenil Bahadoe, one of the most renowned chefs in the Netherlands.
• Tribeca (two stars) in Heeze, near where we live just south of Eindhoven. We tried to get in here once, but they were booked out weeks in advance.
• De Treeswijkhoeve (two stars) in Valkenswaard.
Other highly rated restaurants include Mood and 1910 Restaurant Again, too many to list!
3 – A DIVERSE CASUAL DINING SCENE
For a small city (population 250,000), you have an incredible number of affordable, yet fun and even chic restaurants.
Our current favorite place to eat is the Downtown Gourmet Market, which has a collection of fun spots offering Mexican, Thai, Dutch and a dozen more places to get a light meal, or whatever you want. There are 20 food stalls, and there’s a center bar with beer, wine and cocktails.
Your money is no good here … no, really. You can only use either chip cards from European banks, or MasterCard or Visa.
That’s just one place. Our other favorites include Brassiere van den Berg (expensive), Street Food (super cheap), La Cubanita (always crowded) and Umami Han Eindhoven.
4 – VAN GOGH LIVED HERE
Okay, not in Eindhoven proper, but in Nuenen, the Van Gogh village on the northeast corner of the city. Van Gogh lived here with his parents from 1883 to 1885, and the Vincentre Museum documents his crucial development here as an artist before he left for Arles. After the museum, you can walk around the town and see all the places he visited or painted. Van Gogh painted 25 percent of his portfolio while living in Nuenen, the most famous painting being “The Potato Eaters.”
In addition to Van Gogh, Nuenen is a pretty – but very large – village that’s a fun place just to hang out.
There’s always a lot of activity, and the chapel (yes, Van Gogh painted it) is booked up throughout the year with weddings.
5 – THE HORSEY SET AND CELEBRITIES
This is another crazy story, but the equestrian center of Valkenswaard (Falcon Village) is just south of Eindhoven. It’s home to Dutch equestrian champion Jan Tops, who runs his Longines Global Champions Tour empire from his stadium in Valkenswaard, not too far from where Bruce Springsteen’s daughter Jessica has her horse farm. The Boss hangs out at Antonio’s Pizza in Eindhoven when he’s in town.
Not surprisingly, Valkenswaard is sort of the Beverly Hills to Eindhoven’s LA, a place where the rich live in quiet anonymity.
6 – AH, WILDERNESS
For an industrial hub, Eindhoven offers great access to one of the largest undeveloped areas in the Netherlands. The Leenderbos is a huge preserved area that mixes commercial forests, natural woodlands, pastures and lakes. The Groote Heide is an even bigger area of wetlands. Both have biking and hiking paths and are conveniently close to refreshments such as Saint Benedict’s Abbey, where monks make beer just over the border in Achel, Belgium.
7 – SHOPPING
Kleine Berg is Eindhoven’s best shopping district, with restaurants, cafes and boutiques. There are also high street shops all over Centrum and a beautiful De Bijenkorf department store in the main square. (Check out Sissy Boy, a tragic name for a super-nice store in a big glass bubble.)
There are neighborhood shopping districts spread all around the city including Edisonstraat and Woensel West Side Stores. It really is a case of almost having to live here to know the best places.
8 – BEER
The Dutch really, really, REALLY like beer. (Who doesn’t?) So there are lots of local brands including – ta dah! – Brand, which is pronounced “Braawnde.” (Brand is actually from the Limburg area, but close enough to Brabant.) Eindhoven has at least seven speciality breweries and four craft beer bars.
Check out Van Moll, Stadsbrouwerij and The Drinkers Pub. But just about any place you land will have specialty beers including the pub down from our house.
9 – PSV EINDHOVEN
Eindhoven is home to Philips PSV, one of the most successful teams in the Netherlands. Little Eindhoven regularly aces out mighty Ajax in Amsterdam for the top place in the Dutch title. Philips Stadium is one of the best in the Netherlands and, of course, has a museum and gift shop where you can revel in PSV history.
The stadium is also a popular place for events and meetings.
10 – SECTIE-C
On the northeast side of the center city, Sectie-C is another place where old buildings are being repurposed into maker spaces and shared studios for designers, artists and creatives.
There’s a good chance you’ll see this district since it’s part of DDW. Seven Sectie-C designers will explore the connection between product and food design with a series of evening dinners that predict what group meals might look and feel like in 2050.
There’s so much more to see including the High Tech Campus Eindhoven and the startup scene.
But if you get to half of this, we guarantee you’ll fall in love with this funky city just like we have.
Co-CEO of Dispatches Europe. A former military reporter, I'm a serial expat who has lived in France, Turkey, Germany and the Netherlands.