Start your visit to Amsterdam with some inspiration from the Dutch masters of art. The newly renovated Rijksmuseum, the largest in the Netherlands, features a world famous collection of Dutch art by the likes of Rembrandt, Vermeer and Frans Hals, as well as some beautiful sculptures and hand-crafted delftware.
The Dutch Golden age of painting, the 1600s, was characterized by emotions and realism. The art at the Rijksmuseum therefore reflects a collection of historical paintings, portraits, still lifes, and landscapes that are high in detail and evoke intimate feelings.
Just a block away is the prestigious Van Gogh Museum. Here you’ll find over 200 works by Vincent Van Gogh, that together make up the largest collection of Van Gogh works in the world. With the assistance of an audio guide, visitors can walk through Van Gogh’s life and see how the artist’s work evolved over the years.
Van Gogh’s art brings an explosion of colour to this museum. His work includes landscapes, still lifes, portraits and a series of self portraits, all of which are done in his characteristic style that is rough, bold and highly emotional.
For the fashionistas there is the Museum of Bags and Purses which houses the world’s most extensive bag collection. 4000 bags, purses, trunks, pouches, cases and accessories dating from the late Middle Ages until today make up this uber stylish museum. There are even a few contributions from legendary designers including Alexander McQueen, Hermes, Chanel, Fendi, Prada and Dior. The building itself is just as stylish as the showpieces. The Museum of Bags and Purses is located inside a gorgeous, historic canal house that dates back to 1664. Once you’re done browsing the collection, head over to their period rooms to enjoy a classy afternoon tea.
For photography enthusiasts, there is Foam – Amsterdam’s photo and multi-media museum. The exhibits change every few months so there is always something new to see here.
If you are a fan of modern art, you will also enjoy the Stedelijk Museum, a collection of bold and thought provoking modern art that will leave you with more than a few conversation starters at the end of your visit.
The fastest way to get a crash course in Amsterdam 101 is to take a canal cruise. And if you swipe up the coveted Iamsterdam City Card, the cruise is free! A ride in the open top boats will take you down the major canals of Amsterdam as the tour guide points out sites of interest along the way.
Once you hop off the boat, it’s time to explore the city on foot. Begin at Dam square, located near Centraal station at the intersection of some of the busiest streets of Amsterdam. This pretty little place is often the site of events and fairs on holidays so come here to feel the energy of the city and to admire the glorious Royal Palace.
From there, wander south and work your way through the old town and the red light district. The infamous seedy neighbourhood is everything you would expect during the evening hours, but a visit during the day will allow you to appreciate what is one of the most beautiful parts of the city. Stunning 14th century architecture lines the long and narrow cobblestone streets while some of the older buildings lean at odd-angles bringing a quirky, yet charming appeal to the area.
Keep strolling further south and you’ll end up at canal Singel, the site of the floating flower market. The tradition comes from the olden days when flowers and plants were brought to the market in barges. Today, that transportation method no longer remains as vans have replaced boats. But if you visit the market between 9 and 5 every day, you’ll still find the flowers being sold in barges floating on water against the street. Look over your shoulder and the other side of the street is full of cheese shops. Gouda samples, anyone?
From there, make a beeline for Jordaan, what’s arguably the prettiest residential neighbourhood in the city. You’re almost guaranteed to have some peace and quiet here as you admire the flower speckled homes and boathouses that line the canal.
Just a hop, skip and a jump (or a 15-minute train ride) away is the art history haven of Haarlem. Smack dab in the middle of this teeny tiny town is St. Bavo’s church – a rather elegant Gothic church with a surprisingly light and airy interior. The church’s main feature is a majestic 30-metre high organ which has over 5000 pipes. This organ was once played by Mozart when he was 10 years old. Haarlem was also the hometown of the Dutch painter, Frans Hals. The Frans Hals museum is a great place to admire a fantastic collection of the artist’s portraiture displayed in a stunning 17th century building.
In the mood to sketch or paint? Head back to Amsterdam and park yourself on a bench in Vondelpark. This picturesque English style park with its rose gardens, ponds and trails, is a quiet retreat away from the hub bub of Amsterdam.
For a quick bite, head to Small talk café and indulge in their delicious Dutch pancakes – a thin, pan-fried, crispy-edged pancake smothered in toppings like peaches and cream. Om nom!
For a hearty lunch, Momo Restaurant, is the spot. Asian cuisine is delivered with sophistication and style at this trendy museum district spot. Best thing on the menu? The MOMO Bento Box with pan fried scallops, marinated black cod, crispy duck roll served with a side of salad and jasmine rice. You will not leave hungry!
Save your dinner grumblings for a date with Jamie Oliver’s Restaurant Fifteen Amsterdam. The kitchen’s philosophy is based on Italian family style cooking, where the menu comprises completely of daily fresh, seasonal and sustainable products. Come here to enjoy the restaurant’s lively atmosphere and amazing food.
To satisfy your late night cravings, head to one of the city’s countless FEBO locations. These whole-in-the-wall fried food joints sell freshly cooked knick knacks displayed in a self serve vending machine. Okay, so the food itself is pretty average, but you’ll definitely enjoy the fun and quirky experience of buying a freshly prepared Amsterdam stroopwaffel through a vending machine.
For a good night’s sleep, park yourself at Hotel JL No. 76. Located inside two 18th century mansions this gorgeous boutique hotel makes a bold statement with its modern décor and large collection of art on display. Each of the hotel’s 39 rooms feature distinctly designed wallpaper by Dutch artist, Barbara Broekman. Eco geeks (or those who simply appreciate a good night’s sleep) will love the comfy and earth conscious COCO-MAT beds, a standard feature in every room. Don’t sleep in too late though, the breakfast pastries and cheese platters wont wait too long for you. Hotel JL No. 76 is perfectly located right in the middle of Amsterdam’s museum and fashion district, just a tram ride away from Amsterdam’s Centraal station.