AMSTERDAM, May 5 — The Royal celebrations in the Netherlands this week put the country and the capital Amsterdam on front pages and television screens around the world with an orange splash.
There’s plenty to see and do in this compact city where the world-famous Rijksmuseum only recently reopened after an extensive renovation.
Reuters correspondents with local knowledge help visitors get the most out of a weekend trip.
5pm — If you arrive by train at Amsterdam’s Central Station, you are just a few minutes’ walk from two of the best rooftop views — the SkyLounge on the 11th floor of the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel, and the cafe on the 7th floor of the central library OBA. Have a leisurely drink or two and enjoy the panorama over the IJ waterfront and city.
7pm — Stroll into the canal district, a UNESCO World Heritage site famous for its beautiful, wonky, gabled houses and network of tranquil waterways lined with canal boats. Built in the 17th century, the canal belt is considered “a masterpiece of hydraulic engineering (and) town planning”.
There are plenty of bars and restaurants with canal-side tables for watching the boats and passersby, for example Restaurant De Belhamel (www.belhamel.nl), Spanjer + van Twist (www.spanjerenvantwist.nl), and ‘t Smalle (www.t-smalle.nl).
10pm — For music, dancing and partying, try Trouw (www.trouwamsterdam.nl) or Canvas (www.canvas7.nl), both in the old newspaper printing district, or Paradiso (www.paradiso.nl) and Melkweg (www.melkweg.nl) for the bigger bands.
Foreigners always ask about Amsterdam’s famous coffee shops which have not been shut down or banned from selling cannabis to tourists. They are impossible to miss, just follow your nose.
9am — head for a local street market, either Albert Cuyp Market or Noordermarkt, and try some typical Dutch fare such as herring, oysters, and freshly baked syrup waffles.
10am — Amsterdam has enough museums to keep visitors busy for days on end. Top of the list is the Rijksmuseum (www.rijksmuseum.nl), which just reopened after a decade-long overhaul and has Dutch masterpieces by Rembrandt, Vermeer, Hals arranged in completely new settings.
Don’t miss the gallery of honour with Rembrandt’s “The Night Watch”.
If you have time and your feet are up to it, check out the nearby Stedelijk Museum (www.stedelijk.nl) which houses modern art including works by Mondrian and which reopened recently following the addition of a new wing that resembles a giant white bath tub. Alternatively take in the Van Gogh Museum(www.vangoghmuseum.nl), the Hermitage (www.hermitage.nl), the Maritime Museum (www.hetscheepvaartmuseum.nl), and Anne Frank House (www.annefrank.org).
1pm — After a light lunch at one of the museum cafes, it’s time to browse around the canal district area known as the “9 straatjes” (www.9straatjesonline.com) or narrow side streets packed with quirky shops selling unusual chocolates, cakes, clothes and jewellery in the Jordaan area.
This area is also dotted with beautiful “hofjes”, or former almshouses, which are now residential courtyards with pretty gardens. If you only have time to visit one, try to see the Begijnhof.
5pm — If the weather is good, buy a picnic at the market and rent a bike (macbike.nl) or a small canal boat for a leisurely evening outdoors. You can cycle to one ofAmsterdam’s many parks such as Westerpark, Vondelpark, or Amsterdamse Bos and eat on the grass or potter around the canals in a boat, a very popular way to spend a summer afternoon or evening.
If you don’t trust your navigational skills on the canals, several companies offer boat tours (www.lovers.nl).
9am — You don’t need to be religious to enjoy Amsterdam’s many beautiful churches, including the austere Noorderkerk and Westerkerk, and the 600-year-old Nieuwe Kerk, or New Church, where King Willem-Alexander’s official investiture was held after his mother, Queen Beatrix, abdicated at the Royal Palace next door.
Some hold services, others hold evening concerts, and most are open to the public during the day. There are also some “secret” churches, such as Ons’ Lieve Heer op Solder, or Our Lord in the Attic, a church within a house where Catholics could pray in secret when public services were forbidden during the Reformation.
11am — For a leisurely late breakfast or brunch, hop on one of the free ferries for foot passengers and cyclists that ply the IJ from Central Station and take your pick of the many cafes on the other side such as Pllek NDSM (www.pllek.nl), built out of sea containers, the cafe at EYE (the new film museum), or Wilhemina-Dok. This industrial area is being gentrified and offers sweeping views of Amsterdam’s waterfront.
1.00pm — For garden-lovers, try the Botanic Gardens (www.dehortus.nl), which has plants from several climates and a pleasant cafe, or time your visit to coincide with the annual open garden days (www.opentuinendagen.nl) when 30 or so canal houses open their spectacular gardens to the public. — Reuters