Amsterdam travel - Lonely Planet (2022)

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  • Museum

    Van Gogh Museum

    This wonderful museum traces Van Gogh's life and artistic development via the world's largest collection of his work. More than 200 canvases are on display, stretching from his early, bleakportraits of peasantsin the Netherlands through to his later years in sunny France, where he produced his best-known work with its characteristic giddy colour. Also on show here are 500 of his drawings and 700 hand-written letters.The museum is spread over four levels, moving chronologically from Floor 0 (ground floor) to Floor 3. Allow at least a couple of hours to browse all of the galleries.Paintings and artworksVan Gogh's works are scattered in museums around the world, but the Van Gogh Museum holds the largest collection, comprisinga staggering 200 paintings and 500 drawings by Vincent and his contemporaries, including Gauguin, Toulouse-Lautrec and Monet. Van Gogh’s earliest works ­­– showing raw, if unrefined, talent – are from his time in the Dutch countryside and Antwerp between 1883 and 1885.He painted peasant life, exalting their existence in works such as the masterpiece, The Potato Eaters (1885). Skull of a Skeleton with Burning Cigarette (1886) is another highlight, painted when Van Gogh was a student at Antwerp’s Royal Academy of Fine Arts.He then moved to Paris in 1886 and began to paint self-portraits as a way of improving his portraiture without paying for models, which he couldn’t afford. Self-Portrait with Grey Felt Hat was painted in the winter of 1887–1888 and is one of his boldest color experiments.One of his most beloved works, Sunflowers (1889), is a result of him leaving Provence for Arles, intent on painting the vibrant landscapes and achieving his dream of creating an artist's colony.Another of his iconic paintings, The Yellow House – a rendering of the abode he rented in Arles – is also from this period. In 1890, Van Gogh painted one of his last paintings Wheatfield with Crows – a particularly menacing and ominous piece finished shortly before his suicide.Aside from admiring the massive collection of masterpiece paintings, don’t pass up the opportunity to hear recordings of Van Gogh’s letters at the multiple listening stations in the museum. The letters are mainly to and from his younger brother, Theo, who championed his work, and offer a poignant insight into their relationship.History of the Van Gogh MuseumAfter his death in 1890, Vincent left his complete collection of works to his brother,Theo.When Theo died shortly after in 1891, the collection was handed over to Theo’s widow, Jo van Gogh-Bonger, and after her death in 1925, it was then passed on to her son Vincent Willem van Gogh. He loaned the collection of artworks to Amsterdam’s Stedelijk Museum, before a dedicated museum was called for to house the late artist’s impressive oeuvre.Opened in 1973, the Van Gogh Museum’s main building was designed by the influential Dutch architect Gerrit Rietveld, who was an important member of De Stijl ­– a group of progressive artists and architects active in the 1920s. Behind the main building, reaching towards Museumplein, is a separate wing, which was opened in 1999 and designed by Kisho Kurokawa. The transparent building with its state-of-the-art glass structure hosts temporary exhibitions by big-name artists.In 2015, a swish new extension and entrance hall added 800 sq meters (8600 sq ft) of space to the museum.ToursThe museum usually offers 50-minute guided tours (in Dutch) which take groups of four around Vincent van Gogh's masterpieces. However, due to Covid-19 these are currently unavailable.Opening hours and best time to visitOpening hours for the museum vary throughout the year. During the peak summer months (July-September), the museum tends to open dailyfrom 9am-6pm, while at other times of year the hours are10am-5pm (until 6pm on weekends). Winter opening hours are even more limited, withthe museum sometimes closingcompletely on Mondays. Check the official website for up-to-date opening hours.As you’d expect to be the case for the world’s largest collection of works from one of the world’s most famous artists of all time, the museum gets packed. The best times to visit to try to avoid the crowds are before 11am and after 3pm.Tickets and locationThe museum is located at Museumplein. Tickets must be purchased online where you choose a starting time slot. It allows you entry to the permanent exhibition, as well any temporary exhibitions showing at the time.PricesAdult: €19 ($22). Admission is freefor those under 18.Discount cardsThere is free admission for Museumkaart and I Amsterdam cardholders, but you still need to book a timeslot on the museum’s website. I Amsterdam cardholders must reserve online at the I Amsterdam website.Nearby restaurantsSet in a beautiful space with huge windows and high ceilings, Rijks was awarded a Michelin star in 2016. Chef Joris Bijdendijk uses locally sourced produce, adheres to slow-food philosophy and draws on historic Dutch influences in his creative, highly imaginative cuisine. The restaurant is part of the Rijksmuseum.With old family photos adorning the walls, cozy Hap Hmm almost feels like dining in a relative’s home. The menu offers an array of classic Dutch comfort foods, from rich beef stews to chicken casseroles, and a good selection of vegetarian options. Just like any home-cooked meal, dishes are served with a selection of boiled vegetables. Note: credit cards are not accepted.Renzo's deli resembles an Italian tavola calda (hot table), where you can select hot and cold ready-made dishes, such as meatballs, pasta and salads, plus stuffed sandwiches and delicious cannoli (Sicilian 'little tubes', filled with ricotta cream). There are a few tables crammed into the space, or it's perfect to take away to nearby Museumplein.Hotels near the Van Gogh MuseumThere are a number of excellent accommodation options within walking distance of the Van Gogh Museum, including the HiltonAmsterdam, famous as the place that John and Yoko staged their "bed-in for peace" in 1969, and the Conscious Hotel Museum Square, which boasts alush garden terrace and furniture made from recycled materials.However, for proximity to the museum, it's hard to beat thepalatial, Conservatorium Hotel,aneight-story, five-star hotel with a huge covered courtyardand contemporary rooms with designer furnishings. The hotel is a one-minute walk from the Van Gogh Museum.Should I visit the Rijksmuseum or the Van Gogh Museum?The Rijksmuseum is a magnificent art gallery located in Museumplein close to the Van Gogh Museum. If you start early and have plenty of energy you could tackle both in one day, but it’s probably too much – considering The Rijksmuseum itself is over half a mile (1.5km) of gallery space! Spread the visits over a couple of days for a more enjoyable experience.If you must choose only one and you are a Van Gogh fan, the Van Gogh Museum will be more to your liking as the Rijksmuseum has only a few Van Gogh works on display. But if you want to get an overview of Dutch art and see more of the Dutch masters (Rembrandt, Vermeer, Steen), then spend the day at the Rijksmuseum.

  • Park

    Vondelpark

    Attracting over 12 million visitors per year, Amsterdam’s favorite playground is the green expanse of Vondelpark, with its 116 acres (47 hectares) of manicured lawns, ponds, quaint cafes, charming footbridges and winding paths.It holds a special place in the city’s heart ­– a lush green egalitarian space where people from all walks of life hang out. On a sunny day, an open-air party atmosphere ensues when tourists, lovers, cyclists, in-line skaters, pram-pushing parents, cartwheeling children, football-kicking teenagers, spliff-sharing friends and champagne-swilling picnickers all come out to play.Located southwest of the city center close to the wealthy Old South neighborhood, Vondelpark is free and open all day and night, year-round, offering plenty of activities and events ­from cycling to open-air theatre.History of VondelparkOriginally Vondelpark was a private park, only open to the rich. Its sprawling, English-style gardens were laid out on marshland by architect Jan David Zocher and opened in 1865. Between 1875 and 1877, Zocher’s son, Louis Paul, expanded the park to its current size.It was known as Nieuw Park (New Park), but in 1867 a statue of poet and playwright Joost van den Vondel (1587–1679) was created by sculptor Louis Royer. Amsterdammers began to refer to the park as Vondelspark, which led to it being formally renamed.During the late 1960s and early 70s, Dutch authorities turned the park into a temporary open-air dormitory for the droves of hippies who descended on Amsterdam. The sleeping bags are long gone, but remnants of the era live on in the squats that fringe the park, such as OT301 and OCCII, now both legalized into underground cultural centers.Vondelpark was bought by the City Council in 1953 and finally opened to the public. It was listed as a national monument in the mid-1990s and underwent major renovations to incorporate an extensive drainage system and refurbished walking and cycling paths, while retaining its historic appearance.What is there to do in the park?Theaterand eventsThere is a wonderful open-air theatre, Openluchttheater, in the park that hosts events from May to September, such as classical music concerts, stand-up comedy and plays.For something a bit more alternative, check out what’s on at Vondelbunker ­– a hidden-away space beneath the 1e Constantjin Huygensstraat bridge. This former fallout shelter, dating from 1947, became Amsterdam's first youth center in 1968 and was a hotbed of hippie creativity and activism. Check the website for upcoming happenings, from gigs and film nights to poetry.Open-air artArtwork is dotted around the park, with 69 sculptures all up. Among them is Picasso’s huge abstract work Figure découpée l’Oiseau ( The Bird; 1965), known locally as The Fish, which he donated for the park’s centenary.Rose gardenTake in the heady scent in the lovely rose garden. Added to the park in 1935, there are some 70 different species here. It’s in the middle of the park; signs point the way.Bike rentalJoin the locals zipping around the park’s winding paths on a bike ride. For bicycle rentals, MacBike is fairly close to the park’s main entrance. They have a range of bikes for hire, including kids’ bikes and e-bikes. Prices start at around €5 per hour.RunningJoggers can often be seen tearing around the park, working up a sweat. A good route to follow is the paved outer path, which is 2 miles long (3.2 km).Opening hours and other practicalitiesVondelpark is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week throughout the year. Entry is free.ToursBespoke tours of the park are available for €35 (for a small group). Lasting 90 minutes, guides offer themed tours around history, nature and architecture. Book 1-3 months in advance via the website.Car parkingThere is no car parking at the park and only limited (and pricey) on-street parking nearby. Try Emmalaan for on-street parking, else your best garage parking can to the northwest of the park at ParkBee Conscious Hotel Vondelpark (from €3.50 an hour).Where to eat and drink nearbyLocated in the former Vondelpark pavilion at the northeastern end of the park, Vondelpark3 is a stylish and comfortable cafe with a large terrace overlooking the pond – perfect for a morning coffee or sunset drink.Het Groot Melkhuis is a rambling Swiss-chalet-style timber house sitting at the edge of the Vondelpark forest. It houses a cafe serving coffees, beers, wine and light snacks. With a playground and sandpits, it’s the go-to hangout for families with young kids.No, it's not a blue and white UFO cake stand landed in the park, Proeflokaal 't Blauwe Theehuis is the Vondelpark outpost of local brewery heroes Brouwerij ’t IJ. Opened in late 2019, it is the perfect place to while away a sunny afternoon with excellent craft beer on the large circular terrace.Nearby hotelsPractically in the Vondelpark, Stayokay is a HI-affiliated hostel that attracts a mix of international backpackers, families and groups. Renovated in 2018, this huge hostel offers private rooms and fresh mixed, female- and male-only dorms sleeping from two to nine, with lockers, private bathrooms and well-spaced bunks. Breakfast is a cut above most hostels and there's a plant-filled spacious lobby bar-cafe with workspaces and quiet nooks.Conscious Hotel Vondelpark is a friendly place to stay, close to Overtoom restaurants and green Vondelpark. It wears its eco-heart on its sleeve, with a plant wall in the lobby, self-sustaining pot plants in the rooms, huge floral murals, and recycled materials made into artful furnishings (including pressed-cardboard bathroom benchtops).Pillows Anna van den Vondel is a grown-up boutique hotel with exemplary service, housed in a row of three grand, red-and-white-striped 19th-century mansions. Rooms come with views over its private tranquil English garden. Beds are clothed in soft, white linen, walls are gentle dove-grey, and chairs have a mid-century look and pale-blue crushed-velvet upholstery. A bedside device makes ordering room service a breeze.

  • Museum

    Anne Frank Huis

    Visiting the Anne Frank Huis is one of Amsterdam 's most profound experiences. Tragically, of the 107,000 Jewish adults and children deported from the Netherlands to concentration camps during WWII, only 5000 survived.Entering the "Secret Annexe" where the teenaged girl and her family desperately hid from the Nazis for over two years until their capture puts the Holocaust's atrocities into acutely human scale, intimately personalizing the war's catastrophic effects. Standing in these sombre, airless rooms and viewing the diary Anne wrote while hiding here is impossible to forget.History of Anne Frankand her familyBorn in Germany in 1929, Anne Frank, along with her sister Margot and parents Otto and Edith, fled when Hitler came to power in 1933. The family settled in Amsterdam, where Otto Frank founded companies selling pectin, meat, and sausage seasoning in offices and warehouses on Amsterdam's Prinsengracht canal.Following Germany's invasion of the Netherlands in 1940, Otto and his colleague Hermann van Pels – assisted by helpers who would provide invaluable supplies throughout their stay – set up a hiding place in a "Secret Annexe" of Otto's work premises in spring 1942. For Anne's 13th birthday in June that year she received her red plaid diary. In July, when Margot was summoned to Nazi Germany, the family took refuge in the hideout.The Franks were soon joined by Hermann van Pels, his wife Auguste and their son Peter, and later by another friend, dentist Fritz Pfeffe. Here they lived in uncertainty, with blacked-out windows and daytime silence, for what would be just over two years. Anne spent the days writing in her diary about the experience and her hopes and dreams for the future.In August 1944, however, the Gestapo arrived when the hiders were mysteriously betrayed. Their furniture was seized by the Nazis and all eight were deported. Anne died in the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp in March 1945 just weeks before its liberation, aged only 15. Her diary was salvaged from the ransacked annexe, and published by her father, Otto, the sole survivor, immortalizing Anne's story and life.The diary has since sold millions of copies and been translated into more than 70 languages; copies are on sale at the museum's bookshop.What to see at Anne Frank HuisInside, within the modern shell's interior that now contains the house, the lower levels present history using interactive technology, such as WWII newsreels overlaid with narration of Anne’s diary. You can view the offices of Otto Frank's business partner and other colleagues who helped the hiders, with displays of personal effects and documents.Passing the bookcase that swings open on hinges and going inside the "Secret Annexe" of the achterhuis (rear house) provides a sharp contrast. These two floors, below the attic and above the office kitchen, feel frozen in 1942. Anne's pictures of Hollywood stars and Dutch royals still adorn the walls of her small bedroom, which she shared with Fritz Pfeffer. In the mornings, the families could not use the bathroom to avoid alerting the warehouse workers to their presence; their midday meal was taken with their helpers only when the staff went home for lunch.At Otto's request, the annexe remains unfurnished, but after the museum opened in 1960, he had models made of the house that convey the cramped conditions of the carefully concealed layout.After visiting the annexe, you can view more haunting videos in the front house, along with exhibits including Anne's diary, alone in a glass case.Tickets and toursCapacity is limited at the small museum. It's compulsory to purchase tickets in advance online, when you need to choose a timeslot for your visit. Be aware that tickets can't be changed or refunded.Evocative audio guides in multiple languages are included in admission. While there are no guided tours, when booking your tickets, you can add on an "introductory program" (available in English, not suitable for under 10s). This 30-minute talk prior to your museum visit equips you with an in-depth understanding of the house, the war and persecution of the Jewish people.Best time to visitThe Anne Frank Huis is open daily withexceptions noted on its website. Evenings tend to be quietest, often making this the best time to visit.How long does it take to visit?Allow around an hour to visit Anne Frank Huis (plus an extra half-an-hour if you've booked an "introductory program"). Once you've arrived for your ticket's time slot, you're free to take as much time as needed.AccessibilitySteep stairs make accessing parts of the Anne Frank Huis difficult for visitors with limited mobility.PhotographyPhotography is banned to preserve the house's exhibits and contemplative atmosphere.Nearby hotelsClose to the Anne Frank Huis in the elegant Western Canal Ring, 't Hotel, in a 17th-century canal house, is a boutique top-end address. In the nearby Jordaan neighborhood there are some great mid-range places to stay like the welcoming Linden Hotel.Good cheap hotels near the Anne Frank Huis include the train-themed A-Train Hotel, located opposite Centraal Station in the Medieval Center, which also has plenty of hostels.Nearby restaurantsThe Anne Frank Huis has a museum cafe overlooking the Prinsengracht.Nearby you'll find excellent restaurants for lunch and dinner, such as charming Bistro Bij Ons, serving classic Dutch dishes including pancakes. Spanjer en van Twist is a perfect choice for burgers at its canal-side tables (don't miss its house-made apple pie). Low-lit Black & Blue specializes in steaks and mixes terrific cocktails.

  • Museum

    Rijksmuseum

    The Netherlands’ top treasure house, the Rijksmuseum (pronounced ‘rikes’), is among the world's finest art museums. With over 1.5km of galleries, it packs in around 8000 artworks with paintings by homegrown heroes Rembrandt, Vermeer and Van Gogh, as well as plenty of other masterpieces.The museum is spread over four levels, from Floor O (the main atrium) to Floor 3; pick up a map from the information desk. You can see the highlights in a couple of hours, but you may want to allocate much longer to take it all in. There is a Michelin-starred restaurant on-site, plus a cafe, shop, library and garden to break up the visit.Famous paintingsIt’s best to start your visit on Floor 2, which contains the highlights of the collection, with its Golden Age masterpieces in the Gallery of Honour. Intimate paintings by Vermeer and De Hooch allow insight into everyday life in the 17th century, while Rembrandt's The Night Watch (1642) is the rock star of the museum, with perennial crowds in front of it. Initially named Archers under the Command of Captain Frans Banning Cocq (the militia's leader), The Night Watch title was bestowed years later due to a layer of grime that gave the impression it was an evening scene. It has since been restored to its original colors.Don't missVermeer’s dreamy Milkmaid (1660, also called The Kitchen Maid), The Little Street (1658) depicting houses in Delft, and Woman in Blue Reading a Letter (1663) either.You’ll find several Rembrandts on this floor, including his unflinching self-portrait as the Apostle Paul, and The Jewish Bride (1665) which impressed Van Gogh so much that he declared he would give up a decade of his life just to sit before the painting for a fortnight with only a crust of bread to eat.Other highlights at the Rijksmuseum include The Merry Family (1668) by Jan Steen, who became renowned for painting chaotic households to convey moral teachings, and the popular Portrait of a Girl Dressed in Blue (1641) by Johannes Cornelisz Verspronck, depicting a child in her Sunday best.Don’t miss Van Gogh’s Self-portrait (1887) on the first floor, as well as the Battle of Waterloo (1824) by Jan Willem Pieneman, the largest painting in the museum that takes up almost an entire wall.Other museum highlightsAside from the collection of masterpiece paintings, other must-sees include the Delftware (blue-and-white pottery); mind-blowing intricately detailed dollhouses; the Asian Pavilion with its first-rate artworks from China, Indonesia, Japan, India, Thailand and Vietnam; and Cuyper’s library, an Escher-like towering book-lined space – view it from the balcony on Floor 2.The gardenThe sculpture-studded gardens, the ‘outdoor gallery’, host big-name sculpture exhibitions at least once a year. You can stroll for free amid the roses, hedges and fountains. There’s also a cool greenhouse.Museum shopStocking a great range of quirky items, Delftware, art prints, books and more, the museum shop is perfect for browsing and picking up a souvenir or gift for someone.History of the RijksmuseumThe Rijksmuseum was originally conceived to hold several national and royal collections and was inspired by French museums such as the Louvre. Its precursor, The National Art Gallery, was founded in 1800 and was located in Den Haag (The Hague). In 1808, Napoleon moved the national art collection to the Royal Palace on Dam Square in Amsterdam, the country’s new capital. Here they joined some of the country’s national artistic treasures, such as The Night Watch by Rembrandt.The collection was then moved several times before a contest was held to find someone to design the building that would be suitable to house these grand artworks. Architect Pierre Cuypers – who was the principal designer for Centraal Station too – was chosen to design the building and construction began in 1876. The result is a stunning mix of neo-Gothic and Dutch Renaissance styles. The museum officially opened to the public in 1885.From 2003 to 2013, the museum underwent a €375 million ($443 million) renovation.Opening hours and ticketsThe museum is open daily from 9am-5pm, including national holidays. To avoid the biggest crowds, arrive before 10am or after 3pm.Tickets need to be booked on the website in advance to reserve a timeslot. Entry costs €20 for adults and those 18 years and under go free. I Amsterdam and Museumkaart cardholders also get in free.Nearby restaurantsTreat yourself to a gourmet lunch or dinner at Rijks, the Michelin-starred museum restaurant, set in a beautiful space with huge windows and high ceilings. It’s open Wednesday to Sunday for lunch, and Tuesday to Sunday for dinner.If you fancy something a little less formal, there’s a cafe on the mezzanine in the great entrance atrium that serves light lunches.Black-and-white awnings and a wrought-iron balcony set the scene at l'Entrecôte et les Dames, which has a simple menu of steak or fish. Go for the entrecôte (premium beef steak) at dinner or a steak sandwich for lunch, and save room for scrumptious desserts.

  • Museum

    Museum het Rembrandthuis

    Housed in Rembrandt's former home on lively Jodenbreestraat, this evocative museum provides an unparalleled insight into one of the Netherlands’ greatest artistic geniuses. This is where the master painter spent his most successful years, working on major commissions such as The Night Watch and running his painting studio.The interior has been meticulously reproduced, so you feel like you are stepping back into the 17th century as you make your way through the various rooms of the house. The museum has a near-complete collection of Rembrandt’s etchings – about 260, though not all are always on display – as well as a few original copper platings.Museum het Rembrandthuis historyThe museum occupies the three-story canal house where the artist lived at the height of his success. It dates from 1606. Rembrandt bought it in 1639 for a fortune, made possible by his wealthy wife, Saskia van Uylenburgh. He ran the largest painting studio in the Netherlands here between 1639 and 1658.However, the house was to be his ultimate financial undoing. As his work fell out of fashion, he was unable to pay the mortgage, and in 1656 the house and its effects were sold to compensate his creditors. It’s thanks to the debt collectors’ itemized list that the museum’s interior has been able to be reproduced so authentically. Rembrandt spent the rest of his life in cheaper digs in the Jordaan district.Over the years the house fell into a state of severe dilapidation before it was decided that it would be turned into a museum to show the artist’s collections of drawings and etchings.It underwent restoration to bring it back to its former glory between 1908 and 1911. The Museum het Rembrandthuis was officially opened by Queen Wilhelmina in June 1911.Rembrandthuis layoutOn the ground floor is Rembrandt’s living room and bedroom, including the type of box-bed he slept in, fashionable at the time as it was thought that sleeping sitting up prevented death during the night. The ground floor also has an anteroom where he received his clients. Its walls are covered with paintings by Rembrandt’s teacher, his pupils and his contemporaries.Upstairs is the light-filled studio, laid out as though he has just nipped out for a snack. Across the hall is his ‘Cabinet’, a room crammed with curiosities that he had collected, and the Print Room ­­– a small room devoted to his etchings.Tickets and other practicalitiesTickets, which include an audio guide, are priced at €15 for an adult, €10 for a student and €6 for children aged six to 17 years. Kids under six go free.While the museum doesn’t attract lengthy queues nor get as packed out as other big-hitters in town, it’s still a good idea to book ahead online to reserve a timeslot. This gives you a dedicated time to enter the museum, but visitors are welcome to stay as long as they like. Allow at least an hour for your visit.Discount cardsDiscounted entry to Rembrandthuis is available for those with the Museumkaart (Netherlands Museum Pass) or the I Amsterdam City Card.You can purchase the Museumkaart over the counter at the 41 participating museums. The I Amsterdam City Card is available at the I Amsterdam store at Centraal Station, some visitor centers and select hotels throughout the city.Don’t forget to take your card with you to show at the museum.Opening hoursThe museum is open from 10am to 6pm Tuesday to Sunday. Etchings demonstrations on the oak press take place several times a day; call ahead to check times.Best time to visitAs the museum is housed in a tall canal house, the space is narrow and can sometimes feel a bit busy. Try visiting either early in the morning or later in the afternoon to avoid the worst of the crowds. Generally, however, it’s not a problem.Nearby barsLinger over a canal-side drink and snack at the charming 17th-century brown cafe De Sluyswacht, a delightfully wonky building right on the waterfront. The canal-side terrace with views of the 16th-cenutry tower Montelbaanstoren is a charming spot to relax with a Dutch or Belgian beer and bar snacks, including bitterballen (deep-fried meatballs), chips and toasties.Nearby restaurantsHigh-ceilinged TisFris floods with light through huge plate-glass windows and has outdoor seating for sunny days. It's ideal for a drink or a light lunch, such as warm goat's cheese and walnut salad, tuna melt, beef or veggie burger, or an open sandwich.Great when you need your cockles warmed, Soup en Zo is part of a chain that serves delicious fresh soups of the day, which may include a creamy sweet potato with coconut or a hearty lentil beef, as well as salads (en zo means 'and so on' in Dutch).

  • Park

    Amsterdamse Bos

    Amsterdam's forest is a vast swathe (roughly 1000 hectares) of almost countryside, 20 minutes by bike south of Vondelpark. Planted in 1934 to provide employment during the Great Depression, its lakes, woods and meadows are criss-crossed by paths and dotted with cafes. You can rent bicycles, feed baby goats in spring, take a horse-riding lesson, boat the rural-feeling waterways, see a play at the open-air theatre and ascend to the treetops in the climbing park.

  • Museum

    Hermitage Amsterdam

    There have long been links between Russia and the Netherlands – Tsar Peter the Great learned shipbuilding here in 1697 – hence this branch of St Petersburg’s State Hermitage Museum. Blockbuster temporary exhibitions show works from the Hermitage's vast treasure trove, while the permanent Portrait Gallery of the Golden Age has formal group portraits of the 17th-century Dutch A-list; the Outsider Gallery also has temporary shows. I Amsterdam and Museum cards allow free entrance or a discount, depending on the exhibition.

  • Museum

    Verzetsmuseum

    The museum of the Dutch Resistance brings the horror of German occupation in WWII vividly alive, using personal stories, letters, artefacts, films and photographs to illuminate local resistance to (but also collaboration with) the Nazis. There's also a section on the Dutch East Indies (now Indonesia) pre- and postwar. Labels are in Dutch and English, and there is a free audioguide available in multiple languages. Allow at least a couple of hours to explore the museum.

  • Museum

    Stedelijk Museum

    This fabulous museum houses the collection amassed by postwar curator Willem Sandberg. The ground-floor Stedelijk Base exhibition displays a rotating selection of the amazing collection's highlights, featuring works by Picasso, Matisse, Mondrian, Van Gogh, Rothko, Jeff Koons, Yves Klein, Lichtenstein, Yayoi Kusama and more, plus an exuberant Karel Appel mural. The museum also hosts excellent temporary exhibitions. The free in-depth audioguide is fantastic and there are themed guided tours; book online. Unlike other museums in the area, you seldom have to queue.

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