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As with any modern city Amsterdam has art galleries and plenty of them! Maybe it’s because of the Dutch fondness for the painted medium or their many prolific artistic sons, but it can be said that Amsterdam has art for all.
Situated in the Museum Quarter at Stradhouderskade 42 the Rijksmuseum is newly re-opened in April 2013 following a 10 year, €200m refurbishment this is now the jewel in Amsterdam’s crown. With Art from the 15th century through to 1900 with over 40 Rembrants including the famous Nightwatch and four Vermeers including Woman Reading a Letter – the museum also holds a range of artefacts and decorative arts including jewellery, weaponry and lacquerwork. Spanish architects Cruz y Ortiz have given Cuypers original 1885 masterpiece of a building a modern facelift which has had mixed reviews in terms of the architecture but the exhibitions are always well received. The museum is open between 0900-1700h, 365 days a year and gets very busy between 1100-1500h on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. We’d advise you to buy tickets in advance either online, or buy a Museumkaart from another museum or from Uitburo at Leidseplein. If you plan on visiting a few places the card can pay for itself. Set aside a couple of hours if you want a whistle stop tour or up to a whole day for serious art junkies!
Just behind the Rijksmuseum is the Van Gogh Museum Paulus Potterstraat 7 . A Museum dedicated to arguably one of Amsterdam’s most (in)famous and prolific artists with 200 paintings and 500 drawings forming part of the permanent exhibition. There are also examples of the artist’s Japanese prints and changing temporary exhibitions that are supplied from either the museum’s own collection or from private collections showcasing work from Van Gogh’s contemporaries and influences. The museum is opened 0900-1700h in winter months and 0900h-1800h over the summer months and has late night opening on a Friday. Queues can be an issue so either arrive early or purchase a time specific ticket online and beat the queues!
If modern art is more your thing then head over to the Stedelijk Museum of Modern Art at Museumplein 10, again in the Museum Quarter minutes from both the Rijksmuseum and The Van Gogh Museum. Covering a range of styles and movements the museum has a wide collection of modern paintings, sculpture, drawings and photographs ranging from pre-war artists such as Picasso, Cézanne and Kandinsky with post-war offerings from Lichtenstein, Warhol and De Kooning. The original 1895 Neo-Renaissance building was designed by architect Adriaan Willem Weissman and the ultra contemporary extension completed in September 2012 by Benthem Crouwel Architects – the juxtaposition of the two buildings is in itself a work of art! Some have said that the entrance fee is a little steep for the exhibitions inside but if you are a modern art aficionado or just someone who likes to see modern art in the ‘flesh’ then it’s well worth a visit. The Stedelijk is open daily from 1000-1800h and 1000-2200h on a Thursday.
A little further out though just a 25 minute tram ride from Museumplein in Amstelveen is the CoBrA Museum of Modern Art Sandbergplein 1-3. CoBrA stands for Copenhagen , Brussels and Amsterdam a group of artists that aimed to radically reinvent the language of paint in 1948. Formed by Karel Appel, Constant, Corneille, Christian Dotremont, Asger Jorn, and Joseph Noiret on th 8th of November 1948 in the Café Notre-Dame, Paris; The doctrine was for complete expressiveness through spontaneity and experiment, drawing inspiration from children’s drawings, primitive artwork and the artists Paul Klee and Juan Miró. The thought was that anyone could produce art, regardless of talent; an antithesis to Surrealism, the art produced by the movement has typically bright colours, abstract figures and violent brush strokes and is seen as a very influential to art in the 20th century even though it only lasted a few years. Open 1100h-1700h Tuesday to Sunday – closed some public holidays. With fewer crowds and a cheaper entrance fee this may be a place to escape the crowds for a short while and is included in the Museumkaart!
If you find yourself in Central Amsterdam and crave a little free art then why not pop into the Schuttersgalerij (Civic Guard Gallery) – sandwiched between two buildings in a glass covered alleyway there are 15 large works of art dedicated to portraits of the Civic Guard. Located next to the Amsterdam Museum at Kalverstraat 92, entry is free and it is open daily from 1000-1700h.
These are the main galleries in Amsterdam, but there are many more, smaller commercial galleries in the city dotted in and around the districts so don’t be afraid to explore if you want to see something a little less obvious!
For something completely different why not take a look at the Electric Ladyland - the First Museum of Fluorescent Modern Art – located at Tweede Leliedwarsstraat 5, Jordaan. As I said there is art for everyone in Amsterdam and this may appeal to those with a yearning for something a little bit different! Upon entering you are asked to remove your shoes and given fluorescent slippers! Emphasis is put on being part of the exhibition temporarily instead of just being spectators, the guide Nick is very knowledgeable about all things fluorescent and there’s an informative section on the origin of fluorescence in nature. The museum is small so can’t accommodate large groups and once a tour is in progress you may be asked to wait before you can be buzzed inside but for a meagre entry fee it’s well worth a visit and children find it lots of fun too.
If you want to position yourself close to the Museum Quarter we do have several apartments available in the immediate area or just a stone’s throw away as well and also there are many apartments to choose from in the Central and Jordaan districts as well.
Are you planning on a busy short stay in Amsterdam filled with days full of excursions and travelling, or even only visiting three main attractions? The I Amsterdam City Card is the ideal way to enjoy all the things you want to do during your leisure or business stay in Amsterdam but for less and with three validity periods: 24, 48 or 72 hours.
It may be a small city but there is a lot to do in Amsterdam and before you arrive you may have already planned out your daily outings. The I Amsterdam City Card is a cheaper way to visit those most popular attractions, eat out at favourite restaurants or travel around the city on public transport. Carrying this red card around in your wallet or hand bag will allow for free admissions, discounts and special offers. If you are on a tight budget then you could even devise an itinerary based around the freebies and discounts that the card offers.
Included with your card is unlimited use of Amsterdam’s GVB public transport during the card validity period of 24 hours, 48 hours or 72 hours. The public transport includes the regular and a many trams, metros and buses. The free detailed city map will help you navigate to and from 38 of the city’s top museums and attractions that you will have free entry to. The list includes: Van Gogh Museum, Artis Zoo, De Nieuwe Kerk, De Oude Kerk, Hermitage Amsterdam, Joods Historisch Museum, Amsterdam Tulip Museum, Stedelijk Museum and Hortus Botanicus.
If the entrance is not free then it is usually discounted and you can enjoy 25% off at 16 locations, including the Rijksmuseum, Ajax Experience, Amsterdam Dungeon, Heineken Experience, Madam Tussauds and the XtraCold Icebar. If you enjoy theatre performances or concerts then the card can get your 25% off at Concertgebouw, Boom Chicago, DeLaMar Theatre, Her Muziektheatre Amsterdam and Muziekgebouw ann’t IJ.
You can’t visit Amsterdam without cruising its famous and UNESCO listed canals and with the I Amsterdam City Card you can have one free canal cruise to admire the city from a different angle. Eating out can also be cheaper. Your apartment may be self-catering but sometimes you might prefer someone else to do the preparing of food while you just sit back and enjoy eating it. The card allows for 25% discount at 29 eateries on specific meals, some drinks or the whole menu, and freebies and special gifts at 8 eateries.
Amsterdam can be navigated also on bike, on boat, on a water taxi, a scooter (moped) or even a horse drawn coach. You can enjoy these different modes of transport for 25% off the ticket price at select businesses such as MacBike, Canal Bus and Scooter Experience. Amsterdam has designated bike and scooter lanes so that it makes for a safer and efficient way of navigating the city.
There are some great areas and activities just outside of Amsterdam that you may want to explore during your short stay. The I Amsterdam City Card allows for free entrance to 8 attractions and 5 discounts at the Zaanse Schans which is an area north of Amsterdam that attracts about a million visitors per year. Filled with traditional houses, windmills, warehouse and workshops it offers a glimpse of what it was like to live in this area in the 18th and 19th centuries. Another popular area just outside of Amsterdam in Haarlem and the card gives free entrance to 3 museums and discounts at 4 establishments.
Prices (2013 rates)
You can purchase your I Amsterdam City Card online through the I Amsterdam website before you even arrive in Amsterdam. Otherwise once you are in Amsterdam you can buy it at one of the tourist offices or at several shops and newsagents across the city.
24 hour card: € 42
48 hour card: € 52
72 hour card: € 62
Using your card
Once you use your card for the first time it is automatically activated for the validity period you have bought it for. Just present it at the counter of the participating establishments and you will receive your freebies and discounts. For travelling on the GVB public transport just check in with your card by swiping it over the card reader and do the same on your way out. The travel pass will also be activated from the first time you use it and then valid for 24, 48 or 72 hours.
If you have a penchant for all things creepy, gothic and frankly downright painful then be sure to pay a visit to either of the city’s torture themed museums – yes there really are TWO!
You will find both museums of barbaric mortal misery situated in the heart of the city centre, a short walk away from each other and perfectly positioned for easy access from our fantastic city apartments. Diehard fans of gothic fare may wish to explore both locations although as far as we are aware there is no financially rewarding discount for such grim dedication.
Both museums depict the gruesome history of torture through the centuries particularly focussing on the medieval times when frankly you could be violently punished for just about anything. Most of the devices described and exhibited here appear to have led to a grisly and painful death whether the tormentors got the information they required or not.
If you become more than a little anxious at the suggestion of meagre thumbscrews then neither of these museums will make a comfortable afternoon’s entertainment. Providing comfort is of course the absolute opposite of the function of the relics on display. We remain unsure if any of the frightening, disturbing and eye-watering devices on show are authentic antiques or reproductions. Either way everything you will see looks old and alarmingly ‘well-used’.
All the items on display are accompanied with rather lurid textural descriptions and alarming visual depictions explaining how and why they were used. No one was ever likely to survive the likes of the infamous iron maiden – a sarcophagus like creation with hinged doors and sharp spikes on the inside. It takes pride of place at the Museum of Medieval Torture Instruments Amsterdam on Damrak however it is possible that it never actually existed at all in history. There is a theory that it was created at the very end of 18th century as a hoax. True or false, it continues to draw a crowd at the museum. Many of the documented gory torture instruments from the middle ages and beyond were reproduced during the 19th century. It is possible that they were created for exhibiting to the public and later snapped up by collectors of the macabre.
Torture was often used as a deterrent as with the case of the scold’s bridle. This disturbing metal device curved around the head of the wearer and was locked in place to ensure that they could not open their mouth to talk…gossip…or nag!
Few visitors will fail to recognise Madame Guillotine at the Torture Museum on the Singel. You may like to re-enact the more hands-on version at the Damrak museum. Here you can pose in a set of stocks whilst a helpful friend can model alongside, waving a rubber axe as they take your photo. Torture and execution has never been such fun!
The Museum of Medieval Torture Instruments Amsterdam is the newer of the museums and has only been open for a few years. It is arguably considerably better value for money than the rather tired and gloomy (although it is a rather appropriate ambience) Torture Museum on Damrak. The layout and overall finish are more impressive whilst there are over 100 instruments on display in five distinct areas. A more informative historical background is provided along with drawings, photos and creepy waxy figures modelling some of the devices! The museum offers a 20% discount on the entrance fee if bought online and it is also just a 2 minute walk away from Central Station.
Museum of Medieval Torture Instruments Amsterdam
Address: Damrak 33, 1012 LK, Amsterdam
Opening Hours : 9.00am – 10.00pm
Entrance fee : Adults €10.00 (online: €8.00), Children € 4.00 (online: € 4.00)
Telephone: + 31 20 528 5482
Address: Singel 449, 1012 WP, Amsterdam
Opening hours : Daily 10.00am – 11.00pm
Entrance fee : Adults €7.50, Children € 4.00
Telephone: + 31 20 320 66 42
Visitors who enjoy the city’s torture museums also love the Amsterdam Dungeon where you can learn all about the darker history of the city. The tour lasts nearly 2 hours and includes a ride on an indoor rollercoaster as well as a gloriously spooky gift shop!
Address: Rokin 78, 1012 KW Amsterdam, Netherlands
Opening Hours: Every day 11.00am – 5.00pm
Telephone: +31 20 530 8500
Offering fabulous location theatre productions, the Over het IJ Festival is one of Amsterdam’s summertime events which is definitely worthy of a visit. Taking place over 11 days every July, the festival is based within the city’s iconic NDSM shipyard, with extra performances showcasing at various unique locations throughout Amsterdam.
Renowned as being one of Amsterdam’s most entertaining summer events, the Over het IJ Festival provides a unique insight into location based theatrical productions and offers a high quality, entertaining atmosphere for all who visit. With performances taking place throughout the city, the festival’s main base is within Amsterdam’s NDSM shipyard in the north of the city. This former, historic shipyard was once the largest of its kind in Amsterdam, nowadays the NDSM is brimming with art, culture and creativity, making it the perfect setting for the festival.
Boasting a diverse range of performances, the Over het IJ Festival takes place annually in July and incorporates around 25 different shows into an eleven day event. Each performance is adapted to the environment in which it is set, creating a new dimension to each production. One of the most amazing productions is the Sea Container Program, where theatre students from all over the Netherlands come together to perform shows, recite poetry and act out short plays from the inside of containers measuring no more than 5 metres in length.
In addition to the array of fascinating shows and performances, the Over het IJ Festival is also where you will find a vibrant music scene, with many great DJs attending the event. At the centre of the NDSM shipyard is the festival’s fabulous food court which serves food and drink throughout the day. International ‘Light Bites’ can also be found upon the menu and are highly recommended by all who sample them. Attracting locals and tourists alike, the IJ festival is a sight not to be missed and entry to the event is totally free of charge. More information can be found on the official Over het IJ Festival website - http://www.overhetij.nl/en/.
Renowned for its heaving tourist crowds, raucous atmosphere and infamous window displays, Amsterdam’s boisterous Red Light District is the last place you would expect to find one of the capital’s most enchanting cultural gems, Ons’ Lieve Heer op Solder, a remarkable museum drenched in history, charm, and above all, inimitability.
Lining a picturesque waterway in the heart of the old city, passersby would certainly be forgiven for failing to notice one of Amsterdam’s most unique and rewarding attractions, residing inconspicuously behind the facade of a quintessential canal side dwelling. This exceptional monument allows its guests to delve into the city’s Golden Age and explore a typical 17th century townhouse, which secretes the added treasure of a stunning Catholic church, tucked away into the lodging’s upper three levels.
The story begins in 1661, when an affluent merchant by the name Jan Hartman purchased a prestigious property comprising of three adjoining houses. He began refurbishing immediately, transforming the residence into a lavish setting abounding with luxury, encapsulated by the splendid salon, which is one of the best preserved living rooms of the Dutch Golden Age.
During this period of Protestant Amsterdam, the public practising of Catholicism was forbidden, although a large community of followers inhabited the local community. In order to maintain their pious custom, clandestine prayer rooms were established within their own homes, granting the freedom to worship privately in peace. Being a devout Catholic himself, Hartman decided to construct a church distributed across the entire attic floor of his three abodes, an ambitious project that has emphatically stood the test of time.
Skilfully designed and spacious enough to house a generous congregation, this secret setting served as the neighbourhood’s parish church for an astonishing two hundred years until the dedication of the substantial St. Nicolas’s Church superseded the loft conversion in 1887. Thankfully, a group of Catholics pooled their resources to buy the property and rescue it from demolition, subsequently opening its doors as a museum the following year, making it the second oldest in Amsterdam.
The monument that exists today is a credit to the city and the individuals that have preserved the building’s authenticity and heritage through a series of renovations. The most recent of which is almost complete, a three year restoration that has been conducted with the utmost respect and mastery, transforming the museum into an enriching and accommodating environment that is certain to impress.
A fascinating audio tour comes free with admission, guiding you through the dwelling’s nooks and crannies and past the 17th century furnishings, leading you up the narrow staircases into the museum’s tour de force, the inspirational church itself, which boasts two wooden galleries, marble columns, gilded capitals and a beautifully reconditioned organ. The sheer architectural accomplishment is enough to take your breath away and the peaceful atmosphere lingers evocatively, humbling its visitors with an aura of centuries gone by.
Ons’ Lieve Heer op Solder still operates as an active place of worship, offering unique mass services every first Sunday of the month. However, this cherished Amsterdam institution is first and foremost a museum, one of the city’s most tranquil and undisturbed, which comes highly recommended for an afternoon of unexpected enjoyment.
For opening times, admission costs and more information regarding Our Lord in the Attic Museum, please visit the organisation’s website at http://www.opsolder.nl/eng/home.php .