Bicycles, the red light district, smoke-filled cafés… just mention the word Amsterdam and people immediately conjure up countless exciting images.
The Dutch capital, however, is bursting with many other top attractions, from the historic Anne Frank House to the Van Gogh Museum, and how could we forget the ubiquitous canals and famous diamond factories.
ANNE FRANK HOUSE
The story of how 11-year-old Anne Frank and her family hid from the Nazis during the Second World War is known across the world.
And the diary that Anne wrote during her time as a virtual prisoner above her father’s office at Prinsengract 263 has become one of the most widely read books of all time. The house opened to the public in 1960 and now belongs to the Anne Frank Foundation and is a fascinating insight into the life of Anne and that of many Jews who were forced to find refuge in Dutch houses during the war. The rooms are now mostly empty, apart from a recreation of Otto Frank’s office. Documents, images and objects help to illustrate the events that took place, and of course, the famous revolving bookcase that hid the annex is still there. Visitors to Anne Frank House should aim to arrive early or late in the day as it’s a hugely popular tourist destination.
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One thing that Amsterdam is well known for is cycling.
Generally considered one of the world’s most bike-friendly cities, cyclists co-exist peacefully with drivers, with more and more Amsterdammers using their bikes for shorter journeys. There’s plenty of joy to be had in simply renting a bike and taking off on your own; many of the city’s top attractions are easily reached and there are plenty of cycle hire shops. However, some people may prefer a guided tour, so Elite Traveler recommends Mike’s Bike Tours. With comfortable bikes and an engaging guide, the tour will take you inside and outside the city for the chance to see some of the beautiful countryside that surrounds Amsterdam. Stop at a windmill, visit a cheese shop and also take a canal boat ride with Mike’s Bikes. Alternatively, many of the top hotels offer their own bicycle tours; just speak to your concierge.
+31 20 622 7970
Kerkstraat 134, 1017
VAN GOGH MUSEUM
Few painters have received the widespread popularity and acclaim of Vincent Van Gogh.
One of the most celebrated Dutch artists of all time, Van Gogh is known for his vivid coloring, declining mental health and of course, the famous story involving the removal of his own ear. The Van Gogh Museum was opened in 1973 and has the largest collection of Van Gogh paintings and drawings in the world. Some of the works on display include The Potato Eaters, Bedroom in Arles, The Yellow House and Still Life: Vase with Twelve Sunflowers. There are also letters by the painter, early drawings and some notable paintings from Van Gogh’s contemporaries. It’s best to set aside at least half a day to visit the museum.
Ironically, the 19th century Stedelijk Museum is one of the best places in the world to see prominent artists from the 20th century.
The museum was recently renovated, and the addition of a new wing, ‘the bathtub’, has led to exhibitions of present day artists, as well as the continued showing of masters such as Chagall, Cézanne, Picasso, Monet, Malevich, Warhol, Johns and Pollock. There’s also the chance to see items from the De Stijl movement, such as Gerrit Rietveld’s Red Blue Chair and Composition in Red, Black, Blue, Yellow and Grey by Mondrian. The museum is continuing its popular Temporary Stedelijk 2, a short-term exhibition that focuses on modern and contemporary art and design. Check their website for updates about any new exhibitions that may appear.
CAFÉ DE JAREN
The café scene in Amsterdam is thriving, and by café we don’t mean the type that plays 70s reggae and sells small amounts of legal marijuana.
Nor do we mean coffee shops; head to koffiehuis if you’re looking for a cappuccino or a decaf. We’re talking about the kind of café that stays open till late and sells everything from tea, beer and bar snacks to three-course dinners. Popular with the city’s young and trendy, Café De Jaren is the place to go for delicious drinks and a sumptuous view, courtesy of the outside terrace overlooking the River Amstel. A great place to relax and watch the world go by or soak up some Dutch capital atmosphere, Café De Jaren is located next to the University of Amsterdam and is open until 2am on a Friday and Saturday.
+31 20 625 5771
Nieuwe Doelenstraat 20-22, 1012
The architecturally impressive Rijksmuseum Amsterdam is a Dutch national museum that showcases some of the country’s finest art pieces, as well as historical exhibits from the Golden Age and the Dutch Empire.
Opened in 1885 to a largely unimpressed Dutch populace, who weren’t overly pleased with the Neo-Gothic, pro-Catholic design of the building, the museum is now one of the country’s best-loved attractions. Currently, the Rijksmuseum Amsterdam is undergoing a massive renovation, but many of the key paintings are still on display in the Philips Wing, and the museum is still very much worth a visit. Perhaps the most famous painting on display is the Company of Frans Banning Cocq and Willem van Ruytenburch, or as it is more commonly known The Night Watch by Rembrandt.
THE ROYAYAL PALACACE
One of the three palaces used by the Royal House of the Netherlands, The Royal Palace in Amsterdam was once dubbed the ‘Eighth Wonder of the World’ by Constantijn Huygens, though it’s fair to say that the poet may have been being a touch patriotic.
The Royal Palace is still an architectural triumph and its many sculptures and statues are particularly impressive. Much of the furnishing on display dates from the early 19th century when Louis Napoleon, brother of the French Emperor, was in residence. Although Her Majesty Queen Beatrix does occasionally use the palace as a residence, it is open to the public whenever she’s not staying there. Check the website for details of opening times.
Diamonds may not be the first thing that comes to mind when you think of the Dutch capital, but Amsterdam is often referred to as the ‘City of Diamonds’.
Many of the city’s diamond factories offer free tours in which visitors can watch the stones being graded, cut and polished. Amsterdam’s most famous diamond factory is Coster Diamonds who first opened in 1840 and were responsible for cleaning the fabulous Koh-i-Noor diamond – part of the British Crown Jewels, for Queen Victoria. Of course, these diamonds are not just for show; why not pick up the perfect present for a loved one? Coster Diamonds has many private sales rooms, where the elite traveler can peruse and purchase with discretion.