Amsterdam has always been a great city for a weekend break but this year will be greater than ever as they celebrate the 400th anniversary of the famous painter Rembrandt van Rijn. There are major exhibitions going on at a number of sites, including the Rijksmuseum, the Van Gogh Museum and at the museum at Rembrandts house. There will also be exhibitions at his birth place Leiden.
There are paintings coming from all around the world, so don’t miss this opportunity of seeing them all together, it won’t happen again for at least a hundred years.
If that is not enough, there are still all the other great attractions that Amsterdam has to offer. The world famous canals where you can cruise and see all the bridges and fine canal side houses that are unique to this part of the world or take the canal bus that has three different routes or if you prefer something more individual there are Canal Bikes which are pedalboats that can be hired by the hour and you can take from one location and leave in another to give you great flexibility.
A new feature introduced is the Amsterdam Transport Pass that is valid for all day travel on the metro, canal bus, tram and night bus. At the time of writing it costs Eur 17 per day and is very good value.
The traditional mode of transport is the bicycle and these are available for hire. Don’t forget to lock them against something solid.
There is a wealth of different museums to visit, from the Maritime museum for sailors to a museum of pianolas where the actual music as actually played by Mahler, Ravel and Strauss amongst others can be heard, to the pipe museum for smokers where you will find the longest clay pipe in the world.
Not everything here is old, there is the house, office and café of tomorrow, an exhibition of future living that has some very innovative and interesting exhibits, the café is particularly interesting in that it changes depending on what meal is being served.
Shopperholics are not forgotten in Amsterdam which boasts some of the finest in the world. You will probably want to start at the Centre Magna Plaza a stunning four story building dating from 1898 that used to be the General Post Office but is now a great shopping centre. Its Gothic-Moorish interior has been preserved with an amazing glass dome. Afterwards there is the tres chic Maison de Bonneterie, De Bijenkorf or PC Hooftstraat, whilst the fashionistas head for Kalverstraat with its many boutiques.
There are numerous markets in Amsterdam including the Albert Cuypmarket and the Singel market which is the worlds only floating flower market.
Even just walking the streets are a wonder in themselves as you take in the unique architecture you will notice plaques in the gables that come from the time when houses weren’t numbered and many people couldn’t read. During redevelopment when some of the old houses were taken down, the plaques were saved and you can come across walls where these plaques have been placed. Keep your eyes out for the work of the mysterious artist who places sculpture in the dead of night.
If you go to Roemer Visscherstraat you will see 7 European countries in one street thanks to architect Tjeerd Kuipers (b.1858) who designed the seven houses in the styles of Holland, Gt Britain, France, Italy, Germany, Spain and Russia a truly unique street.
If you are travelling with children then they are going to want their own experiences, try Anne Franks House or there is the New Metropolis museum where the kids can have a hands on scientific experience or for something more active try the TunFun
That has trampolines, giant slides, a cinema and disco, there’s even a children’s farm and construction area but make sure your socks are clean as shoes are not allowed.
With all this activity you will be looking for somewhere to relax. There are Grand Cafes and bruin (brown) cafes. As you would expect, the grand are larger and more opulent and the bruin which are smaller and homelier ones that also serve food. For grand cafes try the Royal Café de Kroon, built at the end of the 19th centaury or there is the De Jaren with its views of the river Amstel.
There are a number of interesting bruin cafes such Café Chris which opened in 1624, Café Kalkhoven with its Persian rugs, Café ‘t Smalle, a café since 1786 or the beautiful Café Papeneiland.
If you want to keep in touch with the world, there are many cyber cafes with internet access.
A mention of Amsterdam cafes would not be complete without a mention of the many ‘Coffeeshops’ where cannabis is sold openly. There is the Abraxas that also has internet access, The Bulldog, which was the first and the award winning De Dampkring.
Whilst on the subject of risqué places, Amsterdams’ Red Light district is also world famous with its many shows, sex shops and girls in windows.
If you are not completely worn out by your days’ exertions, the nightlife is second to none with amazing clubs and live music venues, try the Arena Club, Vak Zuid, Melkweg, Industry, Magazijn or Masion. For live bands it is best to check in the local press to see who’s in town.
As with any big city, restaurants abound although not many serve Dutch cuisine unless you use the bruin cafes, but there is a wide selection of eating places from around the world.
All in all there is so much to see and do you will need to come here more than once but as it is such a beautiful and friendly place, it is something you will do with pleasure.
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