Amsterdam Things to Do Tips by mightywease
Amsterdam Things to Do: 3,380 reviews and 5,299 photos
Looking at a map of Amsterdam Vondelpark is spread out like a green picnic blanket over the south west of the city.
Opened to the public in 1865 the park is named after Joost van den Vondel, one of Netherlands foremost poet and playwrights. It covers approximately 110 acres and includes pathways, ornamental ponds, a rose garden and, of course, plenty of grassy space to spread out your own picnic blanket and join the community of cyclists, joggers, sun-bathers, dog-walkers, and roller bladders who use the park.
In summer an open-air theatre stages free concert and theatre performances and the Nederlands filmmuseum is also located in the park. The filmmuseum screens a large number of classic, arthouse, modern Dutch and world movies throughout the year and also has some open air screenings in summer. Café Vertigo, at the filmmuseum, has a lovely terrace where you can people-watch over your coffee while the strikingly designed t’ Blauwe Teehuis is a great place to stop and refresh yourself with a sandwich and cake.
Amsterdam at night
The Van Gogh Museum holds the worlds largest collection of his paintings, sketches, notebooks and letters and gives a fascinating and very intimate insight into this wonderful, tortured artist
The permanent collection of paintings are arranged chronologically from his early work including the atmospheric "The Potato Eaters" through the influence of Impressionism gained during his stay in Paris to his later intensely moving pictures such as "Wheatfield Under Thundercloud", completed after he had left the asylum at St. Remy and shortly before his suicide. Included in the exhibition are descriptions of the aims and ideas Van Gogh wanted to explore in his art, many being direct quotes taken from the prodigious number of letters he wrote. Also described are the circumstances under which some of the paintings came to be created. For instance the series of "Sunflower" pictures - possibly one of the most recognisable art images there is – were painted to decorate the room in which Paul Gaughin was to stay.
As a counterpoint to the Van Gogh collection the museum also contains an impressive collection of paintings by some who knew, were influenced by or who were contemporary to Van Gogh. These exhibits include works by Gaughin, Monet, Seurat and Toulouse-Lautrec.
I find Van Gogh's paintings very affecting, partly because of their artistic value but also because he has injected so much feeling - highs and abject lows-– into his work. His brushstrokes bristle with energy and emotion, the colours are vibrant and used to such wonderful affect in order to create atmosphere as well as representation. Also one gets an interesting overview of his life and his relationships - particularly the closeness to his brother Theo - and again how they informed his work.
Poignant, vigorous, striking the experience of standing in front of Van Gogh's work stays with you long after you’ve left the museum itself
Address: Paulus Potterstraat 7
The garden of the Rijksmuseum
With major renovation taking place at the moment (July 2006) and continuing until 2008 the main museum building is closed, however, a special exhibition entitled Masterpieces is on display in the Philips Wing.
This exhibition (containing over 400 exhibits, a fair amount for a lot of museums but hardly a scratch on the surface for the hundreds of thousands the Rijksmuseum contains) concentrates on the Golden Age of Dutch art - the 17th Century.
Exhibits include the amazingly detailed Dolls House owned and commissioned by Petronella Oortman, which as well as representing a wonderful feat of artistry it is also a great historical record of life in a Dutch canal side house. There are pictures and artefacts illustrating Amsterdam and Holland's standing as a world trading power (a very good accompaniment to many of the exhibits in the Amsterdam Historisch Museum) and paintings by Frans Hals, Vermeer and, of course Rembrandt including the magnificent "Night Watch".
Despite the fact that the galleries can get very busy, particularly at the weekend and around some of the more well know paintings, it is still wonderful.
Entry: 10 euro plus 4 euro or an audio guide
Opening Times: 9am-6pm daily
The website (www.rijksmuseum.nl) is a fantastic site and well worth a look.
Address: Stadhouderskade 42
Directions: Entrance at the moment is on JanLuijkenstraat
Base of streetlamp outside the Royal Palace
These heraldic lions form the base of street lamps outside the Royal Palace. Like the building i=tself they are quite impressive
Address: Dam 1
Phone: +31-20- 6204060
The Koninklijk Paleis was built in the mid-17th Century when Amsterdam and the Netherlands were at the height of the countries trading power. It was not built to be a Royal Palace but was commissioned to be the grandest Stadhuis (Town Hall) in Europe. The intention being that it should be a representation of the power and influence enjoyed by the city at that time.
It is certainly an impression building, in sheer bulk as much as anything else. Detail on its exterior includes statutes representing peace, war, prudence and justice and, at the rear Atlas holding up the world. Also at the rear is a wonderful triangular carved relief which shows Amsterdam, represented as a woman, surrounded by the personifications of the continents with which she trades and also the goods that are being traded. For example Asia ? a women in long robes ? holds the reins of a camel while children offer spices and jewels, there are also elephants and other exotic animals from Africa and sugar cane and tobacco from America. If you are wondering how my eyesight is so good at spotting all those details high up on the building I didn?t! There is a wonderful model of the relief in the Rijksmuseum. You can also see pictures ? contemporaneous with its building - of the Town Hall in both the Rijksmuseum and the Amsterdam Historical Museum and which give a feel of how proud the city was of its new Town Hall.
In 1808 when Louis Bonaparte ruled as monarch during the French occupation he changed the Town Hall into a Royal Palace, as which it has continued since.
Unfortunately the opening times vary and I have never been inside the palace but a walk round the outside allows you to see how imposing the building must have been when first built , and still remains now.
Address: Dam 1
Phone: +31-20- 6204060
The National Monument in Dam Square is a memorial to those who fought and died in World War II and is the focus each year for commemorations of the victims of the war.
Built in 1956 it is quite a striking piece of architecture especially when the sun strikes it. The statues at the base of and on the obelisk represent war, peace and resistance and the lions are a symbol of the Netherlands.
Despite its more modern design I think the monument fits quite well and doesn’t look at odds with the older buildings surrounding it.
Address: Dam Square
Sun House Sign
Early streets in Amsterdam did not have names and the houses were not numbered, instead decorative plaques were placed on the houses to identify them and the house would be known by the description of what was on the plaque. I would imagine that the house this plaque was on was known as “The House of the Sun” or even “The House of the Rising Sun”!
The plaques are all over Amsterdam, we saw quite a few in the Warmoesstraat and Zeedjik area not surprising really as these are two of the oldest streets in the city. Keep an eye out for them and there is also a display outside the Amsterdam Historical Museum.
Wouldn’t it be lovely to be able to say “I live at the House of the Leopard” rather than “No. 19”! Much more poetic!
Address: All over
We found these fantastic little critters in a small park not far from the Leidseplein, just up from Max Euweplein. They look so lifelike when they are in the grass that the first time we saw them we did a complete double take!
Address: Leidsekruisstraat (I think!)
Outside the Amsterdam Historisch Museum
The Amsterdam Historisch Museum traces the history of the city through archaeological finds, paintings, artefacts and personal testimony.
It is fascinating how the city developed from small settlements on raised pieces of land by the side of the Amstel river through the reclamation of land, building of canals, conflicts with Spain, France and England, the growth and importance of trade, migration from both Holland and beyond to the multi-cultural city of today. Phew! There is a lot to take in but the exhibits are clearly labelled in both Dutch and English and some are interactive, although we did find the layout of the galleries a little confusing at times
We particularly enjoyed the recreation of a Jordaan brown caf?, the paintings in the Civil Guard Gallery, the Delft Flower Vases and the very personal exhibits of some of those people who have made Amsterdam their home. Well worth a visit.
Open: Mon-Fri. 10am-5pm, Sun: 11pm-5pm
Address: Kalverstraat 92
This interesting and thought provoking museum chronicles how the occupation of the Netherlands affected the populace and the different ways the population resisted this occupation
Many of the exhibits take the form of personal testimony, written and verbal. There is a fascinating display of the ingenuity of people who hid radio transmitters in matchboxes or Vim containers and microfilm in a shaving razor.
The museum does not shy away from the difficult choices people had to, and did, make. Some chose to be actively involved, others helped when asked but didn’t volunteer their services, others refused. The museum makes no judgement on these decisions, rather it puts you in the position of thinking “what would I do were I in that situation” and asks you to imagine what it must have been like to try and carry on with a ‘normal’ life under an occupying force.
I found it a very moving experience visiting this museum and I would certainly recommend visiting it. Walking back out onto the streets of Amsterdam I was filled with a renewed admiration for cities and citizens who have and still do suffer oppression. And for a long time the question “What would I do” troubled my thoughts.
Most of the exhibits have explanations in Dutch and English though some on the poster displays have not been translated from Dutch
Entrance Fee: 4.50 euros
Open: 10.00am-5.00pm Tues-Fri
Address: Plantage kerklaan 61 a
Phone: 620 25 35
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