Known for windmills, tulips, canals and cannabis, Amsterdam is a curious mix of commerce and culture. Once the world’s most important financial centre (it’s said the first stock exchange was founded here in 1602), the capital of the Netherlands enjoyed a Golden Age during the 17th century, thanks mainly to the Dutch East India Company, which put the city on the map as an international shipping and trading hub. If you're heading here for business and want to squeeze in a little culture, here are five of the best ways to see the best of Amsterdam.
Museumplein is home to three of Europe’s most exciting museums. Start at the exceptional Rijksmuseum to see Rembrandts, Vermeers and other Dutch Golden Age masters. Hop over to the Van Gogh Museum for the world’s largest collection of the Post-Impressionist’s paintings, drawings and letters. Then head to the Stedelijk Museum for modern masters such as Kandinsky and Pollock.
You’ll find the best boutique shopping in the beautiful 9 Streets district. For luxury designer brands, stroll the upmarket P. C. Hooftstraat near Museum Quarter. De Pijp, Amsterdam’s hipster neighbourhood, is the place to go for the coolest stores, bars and restaurants and excellent people-watching.
Painting the town
The city’s famous Red Light District has shaken off its grubby image and is now bustling with gentrified cafés and boutiques (but still girls in windows). Book a 1.5-hour walking tour for some history with your red-light ramblings – and never take photos.
Hire a bike. It’s the fastest, easiest and most enjoyable way to zip around the city (Lycra and helmet not compulsory). Many hotels offer complimentary bikes but if they don’t, there are plenty of rentals near the bigger squares. Cycling in the city can be chaotic so stick to the bike lanes and look out for trams (and scooters, which also use the bike lanes).
Hendrikje Crebolder, the director of development and media at the Rijksmuseum, shares her city favourites.
1. I love contemporary photography and Foam is great for national and international names and upcoming talent.
2. I like walking over the Magere Brug (Skinny Bridge) and relaxing at Amstelveld, a calm square in the middle of Golden Age canal houses. There’s a lovely flower market there every Monday.
3. For me, live concerts are the best musical experiences. Go to Paradiso or, to hear the acclaimed Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, head to The Concertgebouw.
4. Hortus Botanicus in the Plantage neighbourhood feels like a jungle in the middle of the city. It’s an oasis of peace and a great place to have lunch.
5. Amsterdam Noord is a lesser-known but beautiful area with amazing contemporary architecture. Take a ferry across the IJ lake then rent a bike for a different view of the city.