Amsterdam, The Netherlands: Things to See & Do

The Van Gogh Museum
Despite being a mad, absinthe swilling, ear lopping, sun flower painting Cloggy with a virtually unpronounceable name, a trip to the Van Gogh Museum is more or less obligatory to all visitors to Amsterdam – I have seen Japanese tourists, for example, armed with their souvenir packs from the Van Gogh Museum as far away as Moscow and Patagonia. Typically the most impressive piece of work in the museum is The Potato Eaters and not the wildly over hyped Sunflowers (which is currently on its hols in Chicago anyway).

The Van Gogh Museum is located on the Museumplein in Amsterdam, between the Rijksmuseum and the Stedelijk Museum. The entrance to the Van Gogh Museum is at Paulus Potterstraat, number 7. The museum can be reached with trams 2 and 5 and 20 from Central Station. The museum is easily accessible for the disabled. All floors can be reached by lift; wheelchairs and buggies are available free of charge. Entrance costs about €5.

The Rijks Museum
Without a doubt this is one of the best museums in the world – second, perhaps, only to the Hermitage. I have spent days here wandering around the well planned and spacious exhibitions. Expensive entrance unless you buy a year pass but worth every penny.

The Rijksmuseum Amsterdam, set in its historic home designed by P.J.H. Cuypers, houses the largest collection of art and history in the Netherlands. The museum has a globally celebrated collection based around the paintings of the seventeenth-century Dutch Republic, the Golden Age, including twenty works by Rembrandt, four by Vermeer and numerous other paintings by artists such as Frans Hals and Jan Steen. Displayed at the very heart of the museum is Rembrandt’s Night Watch – it’s normally surrounded by cooing Japanese tourists.

There is so much more to see than paintings. There is a wonderful collection of Delft Pottery (inspired by Chinese designs and much copied by other countries – but never bettered), a weird and wonderful eclectic bunch of miniature doll’s houses – some furnished better than my own house and the odd photographic exhibition. Whole days can easily be spent here, so it’s best to pick one or two key paintings or exhibitions and head directly for those.

You can also take a virtual tour.

Rembrandt’s House
The recently restored house of the world famous Cloggy painter Rembrandt van Rijn, who lived and worked in Amsterdam is also worth a quick look. Collected here is a wide range of the master’s work. His development from pupil to accomplished master can be followed throughout the exhibition. There is also an interesting section on Rembrandt fakes – some of the fakes are actually hung next to the originals (see if you can spot the difference – I can’t) to offer easy comparison.

Stedlik Museum of Modern Art
Paulus Potterstraat 13
P.O. Box 75082
1070 AB Amsterdam, The Netherlands
Phone: +31 20 5732911, Fax: +31 20 5732789

The Stedelijk Museum is one of Europe’s most interesting modern art museums. There are constantly changing, and often challenging, exhibitions of art from the later half of the 20th Century. Apart from an interesting section on modern media the Museum is known for its ground breaking and thoughtful exhibitions: both large retrospectives of famous modern and contemporary artists and smaller presentations of, for instance, young artists.

The Sex Museum
Another one of those quirky Dutch gems which Amsterdam seems to spill out with frightening regularity. Situated at 18 Damrak, this intriguing museum (you can’t miss it as it has a huge dildo outside its front door) covers the history of sex from a dead-pan cloggy view of life. Need I say more…?

Hash and Hemp Museum
Most people automatically associate Amsterdam with smoking hash and Amsterdam has responded by setting up its own museum dedicated to the chequered history of the demon weed. Far from being a glorification of all things stoned, the museum takes an intelligent view of the role hash has played in history, its use as a material and the ritual of smoking. The museum is a great way to spend half an hour or so and can be found at: Oudezijds Achterburgwal 148 1012.

The Red Light District
Mention Amsterdam to most people and they will automatically think of the City’s bohemian attitude to sex (which is a shame when there are so many beautiful museums and galleries.) Amsterdam’s famous Red Light District covers a large area in the oldest part of the city and has been servicing the personal needs and desires of locals and visitors for five hundred years. By day it’s quite jolly thanks to the old buildings leaning at odd angles overlooking tree-enshrouded canals, while inviting pubs, cafes and coffeeshops tempt you to linger longer, but as darkness falls the area becomes a little seedy. For those of a more nervous disposition you may like to take a tour.

There are many clubs and live sex shows in the Red Light District. Many of these exist solely to separate you from your cash. If you simply must indulge in such entertainment then it’s best to ask a local for recommendations.

The Anne Frank House
Despite the often meaningless debate about the validity of Anne’s writing she has come to typify a tragic part of history and has become a sobering voice of world literature. Her story, which is poignantly told in her famous diary, details the turbulent conditions of a Jewish family living in hiding during the time Holland was occupied by the Nazis. Anne was only a child when she first took up writing her journal but the book has grown to signify not only the depths to which man is capable of sinking but also the sheer joy of life.

I’ve reached the point where I hardly care whether I live or die. The world will keep on turning without me, and I can’t do anything to change events anyway. I’ll just let matters take their course and concentrate on studying and hope that everything will be all right in the end.” – February 3, 1944

Although the house makes for a sobering visit it is one of those places that will undoubtedly move you and is perhaps essential for us all to visit and ponder upon for a while. I have been there quite a few times over the years and it’s interesting to watch the reaction of people to the simple, yet moving exhibition. If often feels like you are on a conveyor belt as the place is often packed with tourists but an overwhelming sense of sadness hangs over the place. The new AV exhibition which has been added recently also provokes some questions to which I personally have no answer.

“It’s utterly impossible for me to build my life on a foundation of chaos, suffering and death. I see the world being slowly transformed into a wilderness, I hear the approaching thunder that, one day, will destroy us too, and I feel the suffering of millions. And yet, when I look up at the sky, I somehow feel that everything will change for the better, that this cruelty too shall end, that peace and tranquility will return once more” – July 15, 1944

Further details of this poignant museum can be found at its website.

Heineken Brewery
Stadhouderskade 78
Amsterdam
Tel. +31 (0)20-5239666
Tuesdays through Sundays, 10.00 – 18.00 hrs. Last ticket sales: 17.00 hrs. Closed on 25 December and 1 January

Oh praise the Lord. Let joy and happiness rain down on this fair land. Let every tourist, and local, celebrate and fall upon the altar of the Heineken Brewery. The brewery is Europe’s leading brewer and supplier of the essential brew to a staggering 170 countries. In my humble opinion a visit to this Mecca of the amber liquid is an essential part of any visit to the Cloggy lands. Entrance is a miserly 5 Euro (this money goes to charity) and includes some free beer. Whenever your glass gets less than half full someone fills it up again…Bliss.

Tulips

TulipsHolland has a huge economy based on flowers and Amsterdam is rightly famous for its beautiful blooms (it often seems that it’s de rigeur for all cyclists to have a huge bunch of flowers under their arm). In fact, the sale of flowers is such an integral part of the Dutch economy that when the Princess of Wales was killed a few years ago the flower business in Amsterdam made an unprecedented profit. If you are flying into Amsterdam from London in April and sitting on the right hand side of the plane you can see the numerous tulips as you come into land. The famous floating flower market, the Bloemenmarkt, is situated at the Singel between the Koningsplein and the Munt.

Drugs

Amsterdam, to many people, means drugs and regardless of your moral viewpoint it’s hard not to visit Amsterdam and not come across drugs in some shape or form. The following is purely for information and doesn’t not mean that the author, or BootsnAll, in any way, shape or form, condones use of any recreational drugs.

The “coffeeshop” is a unique Dutch institution. For over 20 years, coffeeshops have operated with quasi-legal status in the Netherlands. Although there is no law that allows soft drugs to be sold, the Dutch tolerate the presence of coffeeshops because they separate the soft drug users from the hard drug dealers – faultless Cloggy logic again. In theory, this makes it less likely that someone looking for a quick hit of cannabis would end up purchasing a more dangerous drug. The Dutch attitude towards drugs is very straight forward – if you have a drug problem they want to help you, not persecute you. Recreational use of soft drugs is seen as being less harmful to society than persecution and incarceration.

Or, as Vincent from Pulp Fiction reminded us: “…it breaks down like this: it’s legal to buy it, it’s legal to own it and, if you’re the proprietor of a hash bar, it’s legal to sell it. It’s legal to carry it, which doesn’t really matter ’cause – get a load of this – if the cops stop you, it’s illegal for them to search you…”

A good coffee shop directory.

Coffee shops are not allowed to advertise, so you won’t see a big sign saying “Marijuana for Sale”. If you don’t see a dealer’s booth, just go up to the bar and ask to see the ‘menu’. You will be presented with a list of the various different grasses and hashes available at a range of prices. In some shops cannabis is sold by weight, in others by value. Cannabis prices vary according to shop location and type. In the centre of Amsterdam prices tend to be a little higher, especially in places that cater for tourists.

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