Going Dutch: Discover the cultured side of Amsterdam
Holly Tracey discovers the cultured side of the Netherlands' captial
With its pretty waterways, flurry of cyclists and vibrant canal houses, Amsterdam feels a lot like you’ve stepped straight into a postcard. And whether you’re an art buff, foodie, culture vulture or just love a good Stroopwafel, you’ve come to the right place, because as well as ranking within the top five European cities for most-awarded Michelin stars, it boasts the highest number of museums per square meter.
With 55 museums in all, it can be hard to know where to start but if you’re in the mood for a masterpiece or two, make the Van Gogh Museum your first stop. Home to 200 paintings, 500 drawings and 700 letters, the museum is a cultural highlight for most travellers. To avoid the crowds, checkout the diverse programme of Museum Lates for an alternative experience. ‘Vincent on Friday’ on the last Friday of every month features live music, DJs, dance and theatre.
Visit Amsterdam at any time of the year and you will find international theatre performances, live music shows and open-air spectacles on practically every corner but nowhere is more impressive than The Royal Concertgebouw, famed for its exceptional acoustics and jam-packed schedule. With 900 events on its annual programme, it’s worth doing some investigative work if there’s something you’re really interested in. Alternatively, if you’re happy to go with the flow and you’re short on time, fit in a lunchtime concert which are free admission.
TIME TO INDULGE
When you’re looking for a reprieve from the culture, head to Dam Square for De Bijenkorf-the city’s luxury department store. You could spend hours (and a lot of Euros) whilst there so be sure to replenish your reserves at The Kitchen, De Bijenkorf’s fifth-floor restaurant and roof terrace. Shopping done and it’s time to get off your feet with a cruise down the canals. Could you really claim to have visited Amsterdam otherwise? The network is made up of 165 waterways and most cruises take an hour but there is also the option to hop-on-hop-off if you prefer.
So much to do, yet so little time, I leave Amsterdam feeling like I have barely scratched the surface. The fact that the city seems to bloom in every season, never slowing down with its cultural carousel of events, makes a return trip all the more enticing and at a 90-minute flight away from Edinburgh, why wouldn’t you?
WHERE TO STAY
I stayed at the Sofitel Legend The Grand which has 52 luxury suites, a Michelin-starred restaurant and elegant courtyard. It’s located between two canals in the heart of the city yet feels far removed from all the hustle and bustle. Top marks go to its Butler Service where no request seems too big or small (case in point –my forgotten tooth brush). It was worth every penny and the perfect base for a packed weekend of sight-seeing. For room rates, visit sofitel-legend-thegrand.com
Rembrandt Year 2019
To honour the 350th anniversary of master of the Dutch Golden Age, there’s a special series of exhibitions throughout the year. Highlights include All the Rembrandts at the Rijksmuseum, showing until 10 June.
Keukenhof, April-19 May
Tiptoe through the tulips at the world’s largest flower gardens, as the Keukenhof Gardens come alive with blooming flowers in every colour of the rainbow.
Holland Festival, June
A selection of Dutch premieres and opera, theatre, ballet, contemporary dance, art and multimedia performances from around the world take over the stages of Amsterdam.
Grachtenfestival, 09-18 August
The annual canal festival of classical music on and around Amsterdam’s canals is a 10 day festival which culminates in the free Prinsengracht Concert.
Amsterdam Dance Event, October
ADE is the gateway to the international electronic music scene. As the world’s biggest club festival, it’s a true dance lovers’ Mecca.