I’ve always wanted to return to Amsterdam after the mishaps of my first visit, when I managed to miss every cultural sight (except the red light district) and then was locked out of our accommodation at 3am.
This time, despite some bad weather (every time we got on a bike it started raining), we were quite enamoured by the cute canals, easy public transport and incredible friendliness of the people.
Cycle the canals - I love a city where bikes rule, and the quickest and most pleasant way to get around town is on two wheels along the numerous bike paths. Cyclists even get their own traffic lights.
Visit Jordaan - the bohemian end of town and full of interesting shops, cafes and typical canal houses painted in bright colours.
Noordmarkt, where locals fill their bike baskets with bread, cheese and vegetables. There is also a small clothing/flea market where I bargained for a little cupboard and Tim bought two hand knitted woolly hats for 5 euros; the Homomonument, which commemorates gay men and women who have been persecuted for their sexuality; the hidden courtyards of hofjes, almhouses which were once housing for the poor.
Anne Frank’s House - The power of Anne Frank is that she gives voice to the mass of people who died in the hands of the Nazis during WWII. The secret annexe of her father's office has been transformed into a really interesting exhibition describing how she and seven others spent two years hiding from the Nazis, only to be betrayed and hauled to concentration camps. I found it particularly poignant that like a typical teenager, she attempted to brighten up the room she shared by pasting pictures of movie stars on the wall. The multimedia displays were also fascinating, discussing themes such as the group's interrelationships, their daily habits whilst in hiding and the people who helped them. Finally, the temporary exhibition 'Free to Choose' show that Anne Frank's experiences and her diary can still inform our discussion about the prejudices and persecution that still occur around the world today.
Amsterdam Tulip Museum - It sounds like a complete tourist trap but is actually a bright charming shop run by an incredibly friendly and cheerful man (we didn't visit the museum). Being winter and only able to support an indoors plant, we have now installed some hardy fragrant Chinese lillies in a special tulip vase in the lounge room.
Rembrandt House Musem - There aren't that many Rembrandts on display here, but it is interesting to see where the great master lived - apparently in a large, bright, multi-levelled canal house, not in a mice-filled artist's garret.
Van Gogh Musem - an enormous collection of the paintings of the poor, mad genius as well as that of his contemporaries, plus other exhibitions displaying his artistic influences, such as Japanese prints. I never realised that his earlier work was so dark (in typical Dutch style) but luckily the Provencal sunshine brought us masterpieces like Sunflowers. The audioguide is well worth the 4 euros.
Rijkmuseum - This museum was not as big as I'd expected so we managed to view most of the famous masterpieces in an afternoon. Rembrandt is one of my favourite painters due to his mastery of light and shade and his beautiful painting of the despairing prophet Jeremiah moved me greatly. I was also particularly impressed by the drama of The Night Watch (there is even a statue of it in Rembrandtplein) and his ability to imbue personality into a painting of the syndics of the cloth hall, effectively five men in hats sitting around a table. By comparison, the Vermeers were almost flat and cartoonish in my view, but the Jan Steens were delightful.
Vondelpark - the largest and most popular park in Amsterdam, with cycle paths, playgrounds and ponds framed by autumnal colours.
Kantjil & de Tijger - The best thing about Dutch cuisine is Indonesian food - it’s the antithesis of the meat, potatoes and general stodge. I still remember this restaurant from 5 years ago and it didn’t fail me on a second visit. The lunch menu unfortunately didn't offer rijsttafel (massive platter of rice and little Indo-Dutch dishes) but for 9 euros we could have our choice of rice or noodles plus a meat and vege dish. Yum!
D'Vijff Vleighen - Despite my apprehension about Dutch food, I thought it was culturally appropriate to at least try some traditional Dutch fare. Many celebrities have visited this famous restaurant, with every chair dedicated to a famous guest (mine was Givenchy). The candlelit rabbit-warren venue featured dark wood, antiques, armour and even Rembrandt etchings. And the food? While my duck and beer (!) dessert were quite good, I think I'd prefer Indonesian at half the price.
Harry's Bar - Unfortunately you can still smoke indoors in Amsterdam but this didn't detract too much from the charm of this small cosy 3 storey bar with an enormous cocktail list.
Annette’s B&B - Nice bed but no breakfast (the owner was away) in a cosy Dutch house in the residential area near the Vondelpark. The bed was super-comfortable and the room was toasty warm, with a small kitchenette and overlooking a courtyard garden. A bargain for 50 euro a night.
Amsterdam Tulip Museum
Anne Frank’s House
T: +31 (0)20 - 5567100
Rembrandt House Museum
1011 NK Amsterdam
T: +31 20 5200 400
Paulus Potterstraat 7
T: +31 20 570 5200
Jan Luijkenstraat 1
T: +31 020 6747000
Kantjil & de Tijger
1012 VS Amsterdam
T: +31 20 620 0994
1012 VS Amsterdam
T: +31 20 530 4060
T.: +31 20 612 3646