An alternative tour guide to Amsterdam

by Eche Egbuonu

Amsterdam has more to offer than a vibrant nightlife in the Red Light District. As one of the most tolerant cities in the world there is enough variety and scenery on offer to provide you with one of the best weekend breaks in Europe.

There are many opportunities to gain some insight into the events made Amsterdam the city it is today. Explore Amsterdam’s history at the Historisch Museum, which maps out the last 800 years of urban advancement with quirky artefacts. Alternatively, check out Museum Amstelkring, a wonderful, well-preserved church from the 17th century. Cap off your journey of discovery with a trip to the Joods Historisch Museum. Located inside four synagogues, there is an abundance of artwork and artefacts depicting the history of Judaism in Holland. There is also a wonderful children’s section, filled with interactive exhibits.

Situated at the enclosed Begijnhof courtyard is a quiet courtyard and garden that provides a secret sanctuary during your special city getaway in Amsterdam. It is a setting where traffic noises become an afterthought. Built as a 14th century convent, it was once a refuge for the religious Beguine sisterhood. Step inside and take a peek at the pulpit panels, designed by the Dutch painter Piet Mondrian. While it is a popular tourist attraction, the atmosphere is always serene.

For a relaxed day out head to Vondelpark, the largest green area in Amsterdam for a nice picnic. The park is named in honour of the well known poet Joost van den Vondel, who caused controversy with his play “Lucifer.” The park continues to thrive, especially during summertime, as it brings people together to enjoy football, cycling and other endeavours. It could be described as a cultural hub with the Nederlands Filmmuseum and Picasso culture in close proximity. Between June and September the park is buzzing with music, dancing and a host of kid’s activities taking place at Vondelpark Openluchttheater.

The art scene in the charming area of the Jordaan is one that is flourishing. You will find over 30 expert galleries that have been transformed from former homes and shops. The variance of art styles is clearly evident, from the iconic photographs at the Rockarchive to the classic works by Lee Miller. It is also possible to watch the artwork being created live at the studios at the Open Ateliers Jordaan.

It is still possible to see some great artwork without setting foot in a gallery as the street art scene in Amsterdam is very active. In every corner of the capital you can find a spot to discover a diverse selection of art, from sculptures to graffiti and stencils. Laser 3.14, one of the prominent street artists writes one-liners across the city walls, while Ottograph’s vibrant pop art graffiti can be seen all over the city. Whatever your style, head to Amsterdam for the best art and design adventure in Europe.

The Dutch capital is also home to some excellent musical experiences. In the trendy eastern docklands area you’ll discover the Muziekgebouw aan't IJ music theatre. This state of the art music venue is among the most innovative on the continent. It is the new home of the legendary Bimhuis concert hall and a host of other modern music ensembles. You can select from a variety of classical and world music genres – whether you prefer traditional performance or are interested in cutting edge multi-media concerts, the Muziekgebouw aan't IJ can cater to your wishes.

For a touch of zest during your holiday, try out an Indonesian rice table (rijsttafel). It is an ideal choice for celebrations or simply if you are looking for a new dining experience. Its origins date back to the post-war period, when Indonesian cuisine added variety to the nations’ palate, after gaining independence and welcoming Indonesian immigrants. It’s now served at a host of dining establishments form snack bars to upscale restaurants throughout Amsterdam.

Exploring the mazy canals of Amsterdam is a great experience. The 165 canals intertwine to keep the ocean at bay. Inside the pockets of land that the complex networks of waterways create you will find galleries, cafes and a host of shops to discover. One of the most scenic canals can be found in Prinsengracht, which is lined with beautiful trees and quirky houseboats. As you meander through this area you may stumble upon the house of Anne Frank. Visiting this tragic site will give you an opportunity to gain some more insight into the live of the late diarist and the situation that plagued her and her family.

Many of Amsterdam’s wonders can be reaches via cycling, the quintessential means of travelling in Netherlands. There are plenty of places to hire bikes and even more bike lanes that run through the city. You can kill two birds with one stone by taking a guided bike tour which will allow you to see the sights and also get a decent workout.

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