Amsterdam’s treasure-filled museums, vintage-filled stores, and hyper-creative drinking, dining, and design sectors are set against canals from the Golden Age that are surrounded by leaning gabled buildings.
Amsterdam’s central area of canals is lined with eerie, little alleyways. You never know what you’ll come across: a tiny secret garden; a shop selling witty, stylized Dutch-designed home goods and clothing; a jewel-box-like jenever (Dutch gin) distillery; a flower stand brimming with tulips in an array of colours; an old monastery converted into a classical music venue; or an incredibly specialised restaurant, like one that specialises in avocados or reinvents traditional Dutch dishes. Post-industrial structures in burgeoning neighbourhoods on the outskirts of the city now contain innovative businesses, including some of Europe’s trendiest clubs, artisan breweries, and art galleries.
In the city, you can’t go more than a kilometre without running across a work of art. The largest collection of the anguished native son Vincent’s works is displayed in the Van Gogh Museum. A few blocks away, the magnificent Rijksmuseum houses works by Vermeers, Rembrandt, and other masters of the Golden Age. Rembrandt’s etching-filled workshop in the Museum het Rembrandthuis shows more of the artist, while the Stedelijk Museum’s modern collection includes works by Matisse and Mondrian. The State Hermitage Museum of Russia’s branch in Amsterdam searches through its three million-piece collection to produce massive exhibitions, so if you’re looking for blockbuster presentations, the Hermitage Amsterdam delivers.
Here, riding two wheels is a way of life. It is how people in Amsterdam get to work, shop, and meet a date for supper. It’s simple to get ready and go for a ride thanks to the many bike rental outlets. Locals may be on the water if they aren’t biking. This city that was once submerged in the water offers endless opportunities to drift thanks to its canals and sizable harbour. Take a ride behind Centraal Station on a free ferry, a canal boat (ideally an open-air one), or on your own by renting one.
The Dutch word gezellig, which loosely translates to “convivial” or “cosy,” is well known for describing Amsterdam. It’s easier to experience than to define. There is a sense of time slowing down and an intimacy with the present moment that makes your problems disappear, at least for the time being. A bruin café is the best spot to experience this emotion (brown cafe; traditional drinking establishment). Brown cafes provide gezelligheid (cosiness) on tap in addition to good beer. They are named for its wood panelling and walls that were originally stained by smoke. After supper, you can still experience a sense of conviviality in little restaurants where the candles are burning softly.