Frommer's Amsterdam day by day

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Though the architecture of its central district is unchanged since the 1700s, Amsterdam is one of the most modern cities of Europe in terms of its lifestyles and public policies. This 184-page Day by Day Guide, profusely illustrated with four-color photos and maps, carefully guides you to the most absorbing, the most revealing, of the city's attractions. While its main emphasis is on wisely allocating your time in Amsterdam (day by day itineraries), the book otherwise deals with practicalities: hotels, meals, museums, shops and nightlife.

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13 Favorite Moments

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One of Amsterdam’s idyllic canals at dusk.

13 Favorite Moments

Amsterdam is a very special place. It has some of the most beautiful architecture in the world, a long history, and a vibrant multiracial community. Despite its pride in its roots, this is not a city that lives in the past. Innovative new buildings are going up at a blistering rate, the restaurant and nightlife scene is buzzing and ever-changing, and culturally it’s open to (almost) anything. Here are a few of my favorite Amsterdam moments; experience some of these and you’ll begin to grasp the psyche of this wonderful city.

Booking a table at Blauw, the hottest new arrival on Amsterdam’s Indonesian restaurant scene, for deliciously spicy rijstaffel and the buzzing, raucous atmosphere. Service is friendly, and the numerous dishes of saté, rices, pickles, salads, and curries are some of the best in town. See p 15.

Admiring the paintings at the Van Gogh Museum late in the afternoon just before the museum closes is one of the highlights of a trip to Amsterdam. That’s when the usually crowded second-floor gallery is almost empty, and you get the chance to admire Vincent’s brush strokes without being shoved around by the throngs. See p 13.

 

1 The Best Full-Day, Two-Day and Three Day Tours

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Touring Amsterdam by canal boat can help you get a feel for the city.
The Best in One Day

Amsterdam was one of the most powerful cities in the world in the 17th century, when it experienced a period of great wealth and worldwide expansion. Understanding that history is vital to capturing the essence of this lovely city, so today’s the day for getting to grips with the essentials.

START: Tram 2 or 5 to Rijksmuseum; Tram 12 to Museumplein; Tram 7 or 10 to Spiegelgracht. Rijksmuseum.

After a 10-year refurbishment, this grande old dame of the Amsterdam museum scene reopened in 2013. The Rijksmuseum, which opened in 1855, is the world’s biggest repository of Dutch Golden Age treasures, four sprawling floors in the redbrick monolith designed by architect Pierre Cuypers (who also designed Centraal Station; see p 29). The refurb spectacularly spruces up the elegant decorations in the central Voorhal (Great Hall), but the layout remains confusing.

It saddens me to criticize this venerable institution, but the biggest mistake is crowding all the famous Dutch Old Masters together in the Gallery of Honour on the second floor. Around 2.3 million people visit this museum annually and they all want to see Rembrandt’s The Night Watch and the wonderful works by Jan Steen, Jan Vermeer, and Frans Hals, so prepare for impenetrable throngs. The Milkmaid and The Merry Drinker are truly mesmerizing, so bear with the crowds.  

2 The Best Special-Interest Tours: Amsterdam for Art Lovers, Architectural Amsterdam, Amsterdam with Kids, Amsterdam and the IJ, Alternative Amsterdam.

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Includes these special interest tours: Amsterdam for Art Lovers, Architectural Amsterdam, Amsterdam with Kids, Amsterdam and the IJ, Alternative Amsterdam.

Amsterdam is a feast for art lovers. With more than 20 Rembrandts, more than 200 Van Goghs, numerous Vermeers, and a plethora of Impressionist and post-Impressionist paintings scattered throughout the city, art lovers will be in heaven here.

This tour is for art lovers who would have already made a beeline to the top museums and are ready to dig deeper into all the art riches that Amsterdam has to offer.

Today, you’ll have a chance to see contemporary works by local, living artists; the Stedelijk Museum’s stylish off-shoot in the Jordaan; and the Schuttersgalerij, with its outsized canvases depicting well-to-do members of 17th-century Civic Guards companies. START: Cobra Modern Art Museum; tram 5 to Amstelveen Binnenhof or Metro line 51 to Amstelveen Centrum.An exhibit from the Cobra Museum.Cobra Modern Art Museum.

Art lovers will find this breathtakingly contemporary museum worth the trek to its off-the-beaten-path location. The most enjoyable way to get here is the 20-minute tram 5 ride from Amsterdam city center, giving you a chance to see leafy, suburban Amstelveen as you rattle through the streets. The museum is a light-filled brick-and-glass affair with plenty of white space for framing the artwork; it was designed by Dutch architect Wim Quist and opened in 1995.

The collection overflows with the post–World War II abstract expressionist art and ceramics of the short-lived CoBrA Group, named for the initials of the founding artists’ home cities: Copenhagen, Brussels, and Amsterdam. Karel Appel (1921–2006) and Constant (1920­–2005) were the Dutch proponents, both controversial painters, sculptors, and ceramicists whose work, like their fellow CoBrA artists, has a childlike quality, employing strong colors and abstract shapes, as seen in Constant’s oil painting Figure of the Night and Appel’s delightfully simple ceramics.  2 hr. Sandbergplein 1, Amstelveen.  020/547-5050. www.cobra-museum.nl. Admission 9.50€ adults; 6€ seniors, students, and kids 6–18. Daily 10am–5pm. Closed Jan 1, Apr 27, and Dec 25. Tram: 5 to Amstelveen Binnenhof. Metro: Line 51 to Amstelveen Centrum.  

3 The Best Neighborhood Walks: The Old Center, Amsterdam’s Canal Ring, The Jordaan, and Jewish Quarter.

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Stroll through The Old Center, Amsterdam’s Canal Ring, The Jordaan, and  Amsterdam’s Jewish Quarter.

Biking in the Jordaan neighborhood. The Old Center Take a stroll through the medieval core of old Amsterdam, the epicenter from which the city expanded outwards in the 1660s. Here you’ll find the oldest and narrowest houses, ornately decorated facades, and one or two surprises in a confusing tangle of narrow streets that’s a world away from the gridlike regularity of the Grachtengordel (Canal Ring).

START: Tram 1, 2, 4, 5, 9, 14, 16, or 24 to Spui.The Begijnhof garden. Begijnhof. Entered through an ornate gate off Spui, this cluster of photogenic gabled houses around a leafy garden courtyard is the perfect place to feel the ambience of old Amsterdam. Black-painted no. 34 is the city’s oldest house, built around 1455, and is one of only two timber houses remaining in the city. Amsterdam was a destination for religious pilgrims and an important Catholic center before the Calvinist rebellion and Alteration in 1578.

The Begijnhof was a hofje (almshouse, see p 50) built to offer devout women (beguines) the option to live independently of husband and children, and without becoming a nun, at a time when such a thing was unheard of. The hofje remained in operation for centuries after the changeover of the city from Catholicism to Protestantism and the last beguine died in 1971 at the age of 84.

The Engelse Kerk (English Church) dates to 1607 and is used today by British ex-pats. Opposite the church, at no. 30, is the Begijnhofkapel, a secret Catholic chapel dating from 1671 that’s also still in use today. The Begijnhof is now a residence for seniors.  30 min. Spui and Gedempte Begijnensloot. No phone. Free admission. Daily 9am–5pm.  

4 The Best Shopping

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Magna Plaza’s elegant interior.

Shopping Best Bets

Best Wine Store

Wijnhandel De Ware Jacob, Herenstraat 41 (p 76)

Best Antiques

Premsela & Hamburger, Pieter Cornelisz Hooftstraat (p 70)

Best Delftware

Jorrit Heinen, Prinsengracht 440 (p 72)

Best English-Language Bookstore

American Book Center, Spui 12 (p 70)

Best Place to Score Castro’s Favorite Stogies

P.G.C. Hajenius, Rokin 92–96 (p 71)

Best Place to Shop for Diamonds

Gassan Diamonds, Nieuwe Uilenburgerstraat 173–175 (p 74)

Best Place to Pick Up Authentic Hunks of Gouda

De Kaaskamer van Amsterdam, Runstraat 7 (p 71)

Best Designer Shoes

United Nude, Spuistraat 125a (p 76)

Best Street Market

Albert Cuypmarkt, Albert Cuypstraat (p 75)

Best Place to Provision for Romance

E. Kramer-Pontifex, Reestraat 18–20 (p 71)

Best Place to Stop and Smell the Flowers

Bloemenmarkt (Flower Market), along the south bank of Singel between Muntplein and Koningsplein (p 75)

 

5 The Best of the Outdoors

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Relaxing in green Vondelpark.

Strolling in Vondelpark

Central Amsterdam is a densely packed city, but several vast parks provide tranquil refuges from the crowds of tourists if not the marauding cyclists. Of these, Oosterpark is the oldest, the Westerpark is a hive of music and concerts, and Sarphatipark is Amsterdam’s best-kept neighborhood secret, but the Vondelpark is the biggest and most loved. A step away from Museumplein, it encompasses 47 hectares (116 acres) of lawn set in an English-style park where manicured rose gardens and ponds are set amid trails for joggers, bikers, and in-line skaters. START: Tram 1, 2, 5, 7, or 10 to Leidseplein.

Vondelpark entrance.

Main Entrance. Enter the park through the main gates at 1e Constantijn Huygensstraat, less than a 10-minute walk from Leidseplein. The sculpture Maid of Amsterdam, a symbol of the city, sits over these gates. The park opened to the public in 1865. Jan David Zocher and Louis David Zocher (a father-and-son operation) landscaped what was then a much smaller space, using rose gardens, ponds, and pathways to create an English-style garden. Over the years, as the park grew to its present size, some 130 different species of trees were planted. The park is home to squirrels, rabbits, wading birds, and a colony of bright-green parakeets. Wherever you walk in the park, keep to your right to avoid zooming bikes.

 

6 The Best Dining

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Dining canalside at Leidseplein.

Dining Best Bets

Best Wine List

Christophe $$$$–$$$$$ Leliegracht 46 (p 95)

Best When Money Is No Object

La Rive $$$$$ Professor Tulpplein 1 (p 97)

Best for Laid-back Service

Lof $$$$ Haarlemmerstraat 62 (p 97)

Best Place for Dining with Your Shoes Off

Supperclub $$–$$$ Jonge Roelensteeg 21 (p 99)

Best Indonesian Rijstaffel

Tempo Doeloe $$–$$$ Utrechtsestraat 75 (p 99)

Best Innovative Five-Course Menu

Bordewijk $$$–$$$$ Noordermarkt 7 (p 94)

Best Drop-Dead Gorgeous Decor

Vinkeles $$$$$ Keizersgracht 384 (p 100)

Best Upmarket Moroccan Cuisine

Mamouche $$ Quellijnstraat 104 (p 97)

Best for Trendy Parents with No Babysitter

Wilhelmina-Dok $$ Nordwal 1 (p 100)

Best for Cooking your Own Supper

Miss Korea Barbecue $$ Albert Cuypstraat 66–70 (p 97)

Best Vegetarian

Golden Temple $$ Utrechtsestraat 126 (p 96)

Best for Sinful Suppers

 

7 The Best Nightlife

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Sample a Dutch beer at a friendly cafe or bar, like Hoppe.

Nightlife Best Bets

Best Place to Sip Wine with the Young & the Beautiful

Bubbles & Wines, Nes 37 (p 106)

Best Place to Drink with the Locals

Café Nol, Westerstraat 109 (p 106)

Friendliest Gay Bar

Amstel 54, Amstel 54 (p 109)

Best Pub by a Windmill

Brouwerij ’t IJ, Funenkade 7 (p 110)

Dance Club That’s Most Worth a Taxi Ride

Hotel Arena Club, ’s-Gravesandestraat 51 (p 108)

Best Brown Cafe with a Summer Terrace

Café De II Prinsen, Prinsenstraat 27 (p 107)

Best Place to Dance If You’re Looking for Exclusivity

Jimmy Woo, Korte Leidsedwarsstraat 18 (p 108)

Most Hip & Happening Dance Club

Panama, Oostelijke Handelskade 4 (p 109)

Best for Romance

Chocolate Bar, Eerste Van der Helststraat 62A (p 107)

Best for Gezelligheid (Dutch Hospitality)

Café Pollux, Prins Hendrikkade 121 (p 106)

 

8 The Best Arts & Entertainment

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Check out a concert at the Muziekgebouw aan ’t IJ, the hub of contemporary and experimental music in Amsterdam.

Arts & Entertainment Best Bets

Best Place for Laughing the Night Away

Boom Chicago, Rozengracht 117 (p 116)

Best Last-Minute Ticket Offers

Last Minute Ticket Shop, Leidseplein 26 (p 120)

Best for Controversial Movies

De Balie, Kleine-Gartmanplantsoen 10 (p 118)

Best Acoustics

Concertgebouw, Concertgebouwplein 2–6 (p 116)

Best Contemporary Concert Space

Heineken Music Hall, ArenA Boulevard 590 (p 116)

Best for Opera

Dutch National Opera & Ballet, Amstel 3 (p 117)

Best for Gay & Lesbian Plays

Melkweg, Lijnbaansgracht 234A (p 120)

Best for Lavish Musicals

Carré, Amstel 115–125 (p 119)

Best for Summer Beachtime Fun

Blijburg aan Zee, Muiderlaan 1001 (p 119)

Best for Modern Dutch Theater

Stadsschouwburg, Leidseplein 26 (p 120)

Best Blues Venue

 

9 The Best Lodging

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A suite at the Hotel Estheréa.

Lodging Best Bets

Best Canal House Hotel

Estheréa $$$–$$$$ Singel 303–309 (p 129)

Best for Bicycle Lovers

Bicycle Hotel Amsterdam $–$$ Van Ostadestraat 123 (p 127)

Best for John Lennon Fans

Hilton Amsterdam $$$$–$$$$$ Apollolaan 138 (p 130)

Best for Techies

citizenM Amsterdam City $–$$ Prinses Irenestraat 30 (p 127)

Best for Business Travelers

Renaissance Amsterdam $$$$–$$$$$ Kattengat 1 (p 133)

Best When Money Is No Object

Seven One Seven $$$$$ Prinsengracht 717 (p 134)

Best for Affordable Minimalist Design

Arena $$–$$$ ’s-Gravesandestraat 51 (p 127)

Best Boutique Hotel

The Dylan $$$$$ Keizersgracht 384 (p 129)

Best Location for Families

Hampshire Hotel Lancaster Amsterdam $$–$$$ Plantage Middenlaan 48 (p 129)

Best for Young Party Animals

Winston $$ Warmoesstraat 129 (p 134)

Best Place to Call Home

Seven Bridges $$–$$$ Reguliersgracht 31 (p 134)

 

10 The Best Day Trips & Excursions

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Haarlem’s Sint-Bavokerk (St. Bavo’s Church).

Haarlem

Handsome Haarlem is today virtually a suburb of Amsterdam, but in the Dutch Golden Age it was a thriving town and cultural center, home of Rembrandt’s contemporaries Frans Hals, Jacob van Ruisdael, and Pieter Saenredam, who were famous for their detailed portraits, landscapes, and church interiors. Despite its diminutive size, a day in Haarlem reveals one of the finest churches in The Netherlands, a charismatic muddle of architecture, and one of the best art galleries in Europe. START: A walk of 800m (1⁄2 mile) south from the station along Kruisweg, Kruisstraat, and Smedestraat to Grote Markt.

Grote Markt.

Grote Markt. The monumental buildings around this tree-lined square, which date from the 15th to 19th centuries, are a delightful visual minicourse in the development of Dutch architecture. The oldest building is the 14th-century gabled, balconied, and spired Stadhuis (Town Hall), a former hunting lodge that was rebuilt in the 17th century.  30 min. Market Mon 8:30am–5pm; Sat 9am–5pm.

 

The Savvy Traveler

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Amsterdam’s bustling Centraal Station.

Before You Go

Government Tourist Offices

For the U.S. & Canada: Netherlands Board of Tourism & Conventions (NBTC), 215 Park Avenue South, Suite 2005, New York, NY 10003 ( 212/370-7360; www.holland.com). For the U.K. & Ireland: No walk-in service. NBTC, Portland House, Bressenden Place, London SW1E 5RS ( 020/7539-7950; www.holland.com/uk). In Holland: Prinses Catharina-Amaliastraat 5, The Hague (Den Haag), ( 070/370-5705; www.nbtc.nl).

The Best Times to Go

“In season” in Amsterdam means from mid-April to mid-October. The peak of the tourist season is July and August, when the weather is at its finest. The climate in Amsterdam is never really extreme at any time of year, and if you’re one of the growing numbers who favor shoulder- or off-season travel, you’ll find the city every bit as attractive. Not only are airlines, hotels, and restaurants cheaper and less crowded during the off season (with more relaxed and personalized service), but there are also some very appealing events going on. You may want to go when the bulb fields west of Amsterdam are bursting with color from late March to mid-May, one of the best times to visit The Netherlands.

 

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