Amsterdam has got to be one of Europe’s most beautiful city break capitals. And the beauty is small scale, admired more in the intimate gabled 17th century homes than in grand palaces and grandiose monuments.
Add a heady mix of highbrow culture and lowbrow fun (you know what we mean!) that can be quite cheap and Amsterdam is a truly great city break destination.
The urge just to wander the charming Amsterdam canal streets is almost irresistible, and an experience that will linger long in the memory.
Stroll the Jordaan
The Jordaan area of Amsterdam was an old working class area that’s now uber-fashionable with highly desirable and expensive homes. It’s also a peaceful and cheap Amsterdam oasis, with attractive narrow streets, small canals, courtyards, gardens, arty shops and many traditional ‘brown’ pubs.
Famous former residents include Rembrandt, who lived on the Rozengracht. On the Noordermarkt there is the fine 17th century Noorderkerk (North church). A special route called ‘Jewels in the Jordaan’ takes you around attractive alleyways and canals.
Rembrandt House Museum
Rembrandt lived here for more than 20 years from 1639. A modern annex has a museum devoted to his life and work. Rembrandt’s rooms and his workshop have been reconstructed and there is an impressive collection of his etchings – his paintings are in the Rijksmuseum – and there’s prints by other Dutch artists.
Amsterdam Stedelijk Museum
This is the permanent home of the Netherland’s National Museum of Modern Art in Amsterdam and one of the greatest collections in the world.
Along with big names of modern painting it has an exceptional collection from the de Stijl art movement and superb examples of Dutch photography.
The Museumplein venue is closed for renovation. The reopening of the Stedelijk is expected in the second half of 2011. The exact date or time is not yet known.
Amsterdam diamond workshops
Amsterdam is one of the world’s great diamond centres. There’s around 20 working diamond factories, all with viewing facilities and, naturally, opportunities to buy, although it isn’t cheap.
Amsterdam Gassen Diamonds is the best known in the Old Jewish Quarter. Another cluster of diamond centres are found near Museumplein and Vondelpark.
Amsterdam Heineken Experience
A brewery tour sounds a bit of a rip off but many speak highly of the Heineken Experience in Amsterdam. It reopened in November 2008 after a major revamp. City break visitors learn about Amsterdam’s brewing history, see Heineken ads and take an interactive journey through the brewing process. They also get to take home a personalised bottle of Heineken.
The working stables and iconic Heineken shire horses can be seen in a newly constructed ‘stable walk’. It’s all good fun and there is free beer at the end. It closed as a working brewery 1988 and is now only used for tours. Expect big crowds in the summer and allow a good hour to get around.