Things to Do in Amsterdam - page 2
A far cry from its origins as a butter and dairy market, Rembrandtplein is now one of Amsterdam’s busiest and liveliest squares, sandwiched between the Mint Tower and the Amstel River. Named after the city’s most famous baroque painter and printmaker, Rembrandt van Rijn, a cast-iron statue of its namesake, sculpted by Royer, has stood proud in the heart of the square since 1876.
With both the plaza and its surrounding streets crammed with cafés, music clubs and bars, Rembrandtplein comes alive in the evening hours, as locals and tourists cram onto the rooftop terraces to admire the glittering skyline and party into the early hours. Club rain and Escape are two of the square’s most popular institutions, while De Duivel is the go-to venue for hip-hop and the nearby Reguliersdwarsstraat is the central hub of the city’s renowned gay scene. Dutch café culture is alive and well here too, with many opening their stages in the evening hours to local folk singers.
Visitors to Amsterdam, feel the fear. Just how many ways were there to die in the old city? Find out at the Amsterdam Dungeon as you experience the city’s horrible past – you’ll encounter plague victims, suffer tortured screams as the Spanish Inquisition comes to town and hear the dying groans of scurvy-ridden sailors as their ship Batavia sails into the Doldrums. Drop through the darkness into the bowels of the earth on simulator rides and despair as you lose your way in the Labyrinth of the Lost. New among the 11 terrifying actor-led interactive shows at the Dungeon in ‘Murder on the Zeedijk’ – just when will the moaning spirit of lonely Helena ambush you?
If you like your horror with a modicum of kitsch and humor, then this is the place for you. But be warned, while most teenagers will love the Amsterdam Dungeon, it’s probably not the place for young kids.
Recognized as one of the most exclusive addresses in the city, Herengracht has been home to Amsterdam elite since the early 17th century. And while this famous canal is still the ideal spot to brush elbows with the well-to-do, it’s also an incredible place to explore the history and culture of this famous city.
Travelers who venture to this charming neighborhood can check out the original home of the Dutch West India Company, located in Herenmarkt, a charming town square, or visit the well-known merchant’s house called Three Hills, which has been designated as a historical monument. Perhaps the most-famous merchant’s home, the Bartolotti House, is located along the right side of the canal and once served as a residence for one of the most successful silk merchants.
One of Amsterdam’s most striking churches, situated on the central Dam Square next door to the Royal Palace, the Nieuwe Kerk, or New Church, maintains its status as the Netherlands’ most prestigious church. Since 1814 the church has hosted the inauguration of Dutch monarchs including the reigning Queen Beatrix, who also chose the church for her heir’s 2002 marriage ceremony. The church also houses the Royal Crypt, and a burial site for Dutch naval heroes, including the famous Dutch admiral Michiel de Ruyter and Commodore Jan Van Galen.
First built at the turn of the 15th century, the original building was burnt to ashes in the 17th century before being faithfully reconstructed in its original early Renaissance and Gothic style, including its magnificent bell tower. Today, the church is one of the city’s most beloved monuments and, although no longer used for public services, is a popular exhibition space, hosting a number of temporary art and history events.
Transformed from a complex for the elderly to a department of Saint Petersburg’s famous Hermitage Museum in 2009, a visit to the Hermitage Amsterdam starts with marveling its the impressive exterior. The sprawling Amstelhof building, designed by architect Hans Van Petersom, dates back to the 17th-century and stretches 105m along the Amstel riverfront, featuring a central courtyard garden shaded by chestnut trees.
Hermitage Amsterdam is now one of the largest museums in the country and features some of the country’s most captivating temporary exhibitions. The collections, rotated each 6 months, feature selections imported from the Russian museum’s enormous treasury of artifacts, including its famously expansive collection of French 19th and 20th century paintings. Past exhibitions have included Modernist and expressionist artworks; sizable exhibits on ‘Peter the Great (1672–1725), the modernizer of Russia’ and ‘The Immortal Alexander the Great’.
This slow, winding canal served as a moat around Amsterdam before the capital city expanded in 1585. Today, Singel has become a top attraction thanks to scenic passes and easy access to a number of Amsterdam’s most popular neighborhoods, including the infamous Red Light District.
Travelers looking to explore the Singel can peruse Bloemenmarkt—a well-known flower market that’s comprised of floral-filled boats floating between Koninsplein and Muntplein squares. And a trip along the canal will take travelers past architectural masterpieces from the Dutch Golden era, including iconic houses, the Munttoren tower and the library of the University of Amsterdam. A stroll along the Singel is the perfect way to enjoy an early spring day while taking in the sites, culture and history of one of the Netherlands most favorite cities.
Established in 1838, Amsterdam’s happily family-friendly zoo was the first to open in The Netherlands and covers more than 14 hectares (35 acres) of shady tree-lined pathways and landscaped botanical gardens in the Plantage. It combines 19th-century architecture amid hundreds of mature trees with a 21st-century approach to conservation, housing more than 900 species of animal, some in majestic 19th-century compounds. The most impressive of these is the Aquarium, which was built in 1882 and reveals a cross-section of the murky waters of the city’s canals as well as housing more than 300 species of shark, eel and shoals of tropical fish. While the Wolf House was formerly a 19th-century pub, the big cats, elephants, gorillas, zebras, meerkats, giraffes and antelopes range freely in spacious enclosures of modern design.
One of Amsterdam’s most famous central squares, the busy Leidseplein, or Leiden Square, claims a prime location to the South of the city’s canal ring and opposite the popular Vondelpark.
Once serving as a 17th-century transport stand for horse-drawn carriages, the square remains a vibrant center point, alive with street entertainers and freestyle jazz performers. Here, costumed acrobats and break-dancers amuse punters at the square’s many cafés, shops and restaurants. As the sun sets, the city’s notorious brown cafés, Irish pubs and music venues fill up, and the square is at its liveliest, flickering with neon and echoing with music spilling from the clubs. Melkweg and Paradiso are two of the most famous music venues, with a number of acclaimed international artists performing alongside local acts. Whether the sun’s shining or the snow’s falling, Leidseplein remains at the heart of the city’s festivities.
The Science Center NEMO overlooks the Oosterdok and is the perfect antidote to Amsterdam on a rainy day, especially for families as its clever interactive experiments can entertain children for hours. Housed in what appear to be a pale green ship – albeit one designed by Renzo Piano in 1997 – the aim of NEMO is to introduce science and maths to kids and make both subjects educational and entertaining. Through experiments, demonstrations and interactive games, they can learn how rainbows form, search for ETs, follow treasure trails through the galleries and send parcels across the world. NEMO looks forward too, with clear explanations of Big Bang and the future of our planet, discussions on harnessing green energies and experiments on purifying water.
More Things to Do in Amsterdam
The Munttoren, which means “Mint” or “Coin” tower in Dutch, is located on busy Muntplein Square in Amsterdam, precisely where the Amstel River and the Singel Canal meet and formed Regulierspoort. Built in 1487 as part as one of the main gates in Amsterdam's medieval city wall, Munttoren was mainly used to mint coins until it burned down in 1618.
It was later on rebuilt in the Amsterdam Renaissance style, with an octagonal-shaped top half and an open spire designed by celebrated Dutch architect Hendrick de Keyser. But visitors looking for a tower fitting this description will be disappointed; indeed the original guardhouse, which had survived the fire, was entirely replaced with a new building in the late 19th century except for the original carillon. It was made in 1668 and consists of 38 bells that chime every 15 minutes, even to this day – a carillonneur employed by the city of Amsterdam gives a live concert every Saturday between 2 and 3 p.m.
Museum Our Lord in the Attic (Ons' Lieve Heer op Solder) is one of the oldest museums in Amsterdam. The attic of this 17th century canal house conceals a secret church, where Catholics of the Dutch Reformed Church who were unable to worship in public held their services. A merchant purchased the building during this period, and he and his family lived on the ground floor. Catholic masses were officially forbidden from 1578 onwards, but the Protestant governors of Amsterdam generally turned a blind eye, as long as churches such as this one were unrecognisable from the outside.
The lower floors of the building became a museum in 1888 and today contain refurbished kitchens and other rooms housing a collection of church paintings, silver, and various religious artifacts. Visitors can explore the building’s narrow passageways and stairways while marveling at the ornate furniture and works of art.
Recognized as the widest canal in the city, Keirzersgracht is part of a picturesque network of waterways that wind through Amsterdam city neighborhoods, lending a quiet charm to otherwise bustling streets.
Travelers looking for a taste of old world Amsterdam can experience the past with a little new world charm, too, while on a visit to Keirzersgracht. From the historic Greeland Warehouses—once used to store whale blubber, but now luxury apartments—to the Rode Hoed, which served as a secret Catholic church but is now home to a television recording studio—the canal is filled with character and history that is not to be missed.
Reopened at the end of 2012 after a major revamp, the Stedelijk Museum now boasts a new wing designed by architects Benthem Crouwel – a structure as bold and striking as the artworks it harbors. The modernist façade – a shimmering white design aptly nicknamed ‘the bath tub’ - serves as a provocative declaration of the museum’s artistic sensibilities – equally inspiring and polarizing.
Home to one of the Netherlands’ most celebrated collections of modern and contemporary art and design, walking the halls of the Stedelijk whisks you on a journey through the world’s most innovative art movements. Iconic Andy Warhol prints, memorable impressionist works by Matisse and Cezanne and extraordinary Rodin sculptures catch the eye, part of a vast and eclectic collection that includes pieces by Van Gogh, Picasso, Jackson Pollock and Ernst Ludwig Kirchner.
Dedicated to the preservation and history of Dutch and foreign films, the EYE Film Institute is an archive museum located in Amsterdam. It houses over 37,000 film titles, 60,000 posters, 700,000 photographs and 20,000 books, with some of the earliest materials dating back to 1895 when the movie industry was just starting in the capital. The permanent collection offers a fascinating glimpse into Dutch and world history. EYE is a vast complex that includes a cinematography museum (previously known as the Dutch Historical Film Archive), an auditorium, a souvenir shop filled with memorabilia, four movie theaters, as well as a waterfront restaurant and café. Many specialists refer to the EYE as the best cinema museum in the world. The acclaimed, futuristic building was unveiled by Queen Beatrix in 2012 and was designed by Viennese firm Delugan Meissl Associated Architects, which specializes in über-modern buildings that appear to be in motion.
Dr. Gunther von Hagens is a controversial German scientist who invented a new method for preserving human tissue called Plastination and has subsequently made his fortune exploiting it. His acclaimed, but somewhat macabre, exhibitions have travelled the world ceaselessly for the last 20 years and in that time have been visited by more than 40 million people. Today Von Hagens has set up six floors of permanent home in the former American Express building in Amsterdam’s city center; currently on show is Body Worlds: The Happiness Project, which is designed to highlight the beneficial effect of happiness and exercise on the human body. Display are not always for the faint-hearted, as they include human corpses stripped of their skins or in various states of dissection, some hale and hearty, some neatly sliced to illustrate disease – the smoker’s lungs would make anyone give up on the spot – as well as fetuses.
In Amsterdam’s central district Jordaan, along the Prinsengracht canal, you’ll find this small, quirky museum floating right on the water. The Houseboat Museum (Woonboot Museum) is a traditionally furnished houseboat that really gives a feeling for what everyday life on the canals of Amsterdam was like before ‘modern’ times. The boat, a former freighter named the ‘Hendrika Maria,’ is completely furnished and has several different visuals and models to show how life on the canals has changed through the decades. Once on board, you can see how the authentic barge (built in 1914) was converted to a comfortable houseboat in the 1960s. The houseboat has proper skipper’s quarters with a sleeping bunk, a good-sized living room and kitchen, and a bathroom. (The houseboat is equal in size to the average Amsterdam apartment.) Nowadays, the Hendrika Maria welcomes visitors to its homey interior — it seems as though the owners have just popped out to do a bit of shopping!
Amsterdam’s picturesque ring of canals is one of the city’s most iconic sights and after the famous waterways achieved UNESCO World Heritage status back in 2010, a new museum sprung up to celebrate their rich history.
The Het Grachtenhuis, or the Canal House, opened its doors in 2011 and features a series of exhibitions devoted to the history of Amsterdam’s 17th-century canals and the city development project behind them. The self-guided tours utilize audio guides and a series of interactive installations to provide a uniquely entertaining and engaging rundown of how the system was designed and built. 3D video projections, miniature city models, animations and galleries all help to bring the exhibition to life, making it a thoroughly modern museum experience.
The Canal House itself, perched on the banks of the Herengracht or ‘gentleman's canal’, is just as impressive outside as it is from the inside.
Few people know that Amsterdam has played an important role as a diamond center for more than four centuries, mostly because of the Dutch colonization in South Africa back in the 1800s. Since 2007, the Diamond Museum Amsterdam has helped visitors understand how diamonds are formed from a geological standpoint, through a process taking billions of years and beginning 200 kilometers underneath the earth’s surface. The museum’s permanent collection includes several world-famous pieces, such as the Katana, the Rembrandt Diamond, and The Ape Skul. Visitors can also witness diamond cutters and goldsmiths at work, turning stones into valuable and beautiful pieces of jewelry. The beam behind the museum has worked on the restoration of some of the most precious jewels in the world, including the Crown Jewels of the United Kingdom and the Saxon dynasty's Dresden Green Diamond.
Micropia is a unique museum in Amsterdam dedicated to microbes and microorganisms. These microscopic organisms make up two thirds of all living matter. As soon as you enter the museum, you'll start to learn about the invisible organisms living all around us. An animation in the first elevator tells you about the mites that live on your eyelashes and the bacteria and viruses that live on those mites. Other exhibits include a body scanner that tells you what type of microbes live on your body and a Kiss-o-meter that counts the number of microbes transferred during a kiss. There are Petri dishes with bacteria in them that show you what lives on everyday household objects.
Another exhibit shows a collection of animal feces and a preserved human digestive system. There are also films showing different animals decomposing. In a real-life working laboratory, visitors can view technicians preparing the exhibits through a window.
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