Amsterdam has been a bustling center of activity for nearly one-thousand years, and we have always felt the energy and the vibe that characterize New York City pay homage to Dutch history. Yes, you can still find that vibrancy by visiting The Netherlands during the autumn and winter. If you are young in age, or young at heart, Amsterdam is perhaps more exciting than ever. This is a great destination for friends, and also for families and couples with diverse interests. For the tourists traveling alone, you will not be lonely for very long.
Holland is a small country, compared to most tourist destinations, and that is another PLUS! With its friendly, multi-lingual residents and highly functional transportation options, The Netherlands should be near the top of your list for that perfect get-away from October through mid-March. (High Season in The Netherlands begins from March 15th through May 15th when the tulips are in full bloom.)
In preparation for this article we visited Amsterdam more than once and stayed overnight at hotels in different parts of the capital city, as well as in an airport hotel at Schiphol, and in the smaller city of Delft. Additional time was spent in neighboring Belgium, visiting Antwerp, Ghent, Bruges, Leuven, and Brussels.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Please go to the official websites for all museums mentioned in this article since there may be changes in opening hours due to the COVID pandemic, and other requirements such as social distancing while inside buildings.
Amsterdam – Cultural Highlights for
The Hermitage Amsterdam
If you are curious about Russian history and looking for a different kind of museum experience, check out “TSARS AND KNIGHTS The Romanovs’ Love Affair with the Middle Ages” through January 9, 2022 at the Hermitage Amsterdam – the St. Petersburg museum’s largest satellite gallery – which opened in Holland in 2009. Though small and slightly expensive at 21 euros for adults, we recommend a visit to enjoy the classical building from 1681, formerly known as the Amstelhof, housing this museum on the banks of the Amstel River. For an additional 7 euros, the “Hermitage all-in” ticket includes both the “TSARS AND KNIGHTS” show and a visit to the “Portrait Gallery of the 17th Century,” located inside the Hermitage’s building, containing 30 huge masterpieces from the collections of the Rijksmuseum and Amsterdam Museum.
From Centraal Station, the Hermitage Amsterdam can be conveniently reached using Metro lines 51, 53 or 54 to the Waterlooplein, or take Tram # 14. By water, get off the “hop on hop off” Canal Bus at Museumboot. We strongly recommend taking the Metro because it is so quick and easy. You should try to visit in the morning when the museum is at its quietest. After enjoying your visit to “TSARS AND KNIGHTS,” please take some relaxing time off from the typical touristic route to find your own beauty in Amsterdam through a self-guided walking tour at your own pace in this serene and charming area. The Hermitage is open Wednesday to Sunday from 10:00 in the morning to 5:00 in the afternoon (17:00 hours) and face masks are no longer required; however, you will need to book a time slot in advance. If you have any questions please send your enquiries to the following email address: email@example.com. Your walk might take you to the Begijnhof courtyard, near Spui, to see the oldest wooden house in Amsterdam (# 34) and the chapel (below, right) where Beguines and Catholics attended services in secret until 1795.
Art lovers must head over to the Rijksmuseum to see “ELLSWORTH KELLY: In the Rijksmuseum Gardens” (through October 24) and the upcoming exhibition “REMEMBER ME” (October 1, 2021 through January 16, 2022) featuring more than 100 Renaissance portraits from Dürer to Sofonisba Anguissola. According to the curator, “REMEMBER ME” is about ambition, longing, loss — and how people want to be remembered. This exhibition explores the desire by influential, wealthy and powerful people during the 15th and 16th Centuries to see themselves immortalized by famous artists of their day.
Van Gogh Museum
A simple 5-minute walk along the Museumplein from the Rijksmuseum to the Van Gogh Museum and the Stedelijk Museum will take you into one of the greatest museum quarters in the world! Hosting the world’s largest collection of paintings by Vincent van Gogh, the Van Gogh Museum is presenting an exhibition entitled “The Potato Eaters” from October 8, 2021 through February 13, 2022. In addition, over 30 exquisite pieces of art by Odilon Redon will be on view from October 29, 2021 through January 30, 2022 in the show entitled “Andries Bonger and Odilon Redon.” Andries Bonger (1861-1936) was an art collector who became the brother-in-law of Theo van Gogh. In 2022, the museum will be presenting another exhibition: “Van Gogh and the Olive Groves” during which more than a dozen paintings of olives trees by Vincent will be on view from March 11 through June 12, 2022. You will enter the fantastic modern structure by Kisho Kurokawa, added in 1999, to enjoy these special exhibitions. Groups enter the Van Gogh Museum through the main building designed by Gerrit Rietveld, which opened to the public in 1973.
Directly next door to the Van Gogh Museum, the Stedelijk Museum of modern and contemporary art is showing “KIRCHNER AND NOLDE: EXPRESSIONISM” a temporary exhibit exploring colonialism and how these two artists portrayed non-European people in their art. Ernst Ludwig Kirchner (1880-1938) invited black women and men into his studio in Germany as models for his drawings, paintings and sculptures, and Emil Nolde (1867-1956) traveled to Papua New Guinea to focus on the people and cultures he included in his oeuvre. According to the Stedelijk’s website, “The work of Ernst Ludwig Kirchner and Emil Nolde is famous for its unconventional portrayals of people, landscapes and objects rendered in bold colours and energetic brushstrokes. What is the relationship between the two Expressionists’ distinctive visual style and the colonial reality from which it emerged? This major exhibition zooms in on the stories behind the subjects portrayed in their work. It examines Kirchner’s and Nolde’s art within the context of the history and ideologies of the time, and explores its ties with people, cultures and objects from outside Europe.” Art forms by Kirchner and Nolde will be on view through December 5, 2021, and this exhibition asks you to consider “How do we look at these works today from a postcolonial perspective?”
All three museums may be reached via Tram # 2 and Tram # 12 from Amsterdam Centraal Station, and by Tram # 5 from the direction of the Leidseplein. Metro 52 stops at “Vijzelgracht” and Tram # 3 stops at “Museumplein.”
Art Lovers Tip: The best time to see tulip fields in bloom in 2022 will be from mid-April to early May.
Popular hotels in Amsterdam
Hotels have grown increasingly expensive in major Dutch cities, especially in Amsterdam. In recent years, we stayed in 3 properties which you can find on the Marriott.com website. Those of you arriving at Schiphol Airport for a brief stay may choose the Sheraton Amsterdam Airport Hotel. Recommended by more than 85% of its guests, this uniquely-situated Sheraton is not as fancy as downtown hotels, but it is certainly convenient. With its central location right inside the airport, a 5-minute walk from your plane (or train) leads you directly into the Sheraton’s lobby, passing a supermarket, shops, buses, and trains along your route. The hotel’s Club Lounge is adequate, though not special. Centraal Station is 20 to 25 minutes away by train.
The Renaissance Amsterdam Hotel at Kattengat 1 is a most convenient lodging if you are arriving by train at Amsterdam Centraal and wish to walk directly to your hotel in less than 15 minutes. About 90% of guests recommend the Renaissance, with offers a fitness center and efficient Concierge services. For example, one may be able to buy a public transportation card from the Concierge at no extra charge. The Renaissance Amsterdam Hotel is large, offering many styles of rooms, but the surrounding area is quite cozy; a 10-minute walk will take you to the Anne Frank House and the beautiful, quiet Jordaan neighborhood. If you want to be close to the center, but not in the midst of the action, the Renaissance is a perfect choice, especially if you enjoy quiet evening strolls along the canals.
Across from the Leidseplein, a prime option for museum lovers is the Amsterdam Marriott Hotel, at Stadhouderskade 12. If you want to be near the best dining choices and major museums, this is the place to stay! An easy 10-minute walk from the Marriott will lead you to the Rijksmuseum, high-end shopping, Vondelpark and the Van Gogh Museum. If you choose a rate with “M Club Lounge” access (or as a free amenity for Bonvoy Titanium- and Platinum-level members), you will definitely enjoy the Marriott even more. The lobby itself and standard rooms are not the major attraction, but the friendly staff and “Location, Location, Location” will WOW you! Schiphol Airport is less than 14 km. (8.3 miles) from the hotel, with an estimated taxi fare of 50 euros. Over 90% of guests recommend this hotel, which may be reached by Trams # 2 & # 12 from Centraal Station. We recommend you consider taking Bus # 397 to and from the Airport; at a cost of less than 10 euros each way, the 40-minute bus ride will leave you outside the Marriott’s door.
The Amsterdam Hilton was a pleasant surprise. We stayed in at least a dozen different Hilton properties in recent years and this hotel provided the classiest experience, with lovely renovated rooms, nice views, and a relaxing ambiance. Though farther from the Jordaan and tourist attractions, and a 20-minute walk from the museums, the Hilton is located in a more residential, leafy and authentic part of Amsterdam. Minutes away on foot one finds The Royal Concertgebouw (considered among the world’s finest concert halls) and, if you cross the canal on the way to the Museumplein, the Cornelis Schuytstraat will charm you with its amazing beauty and fine dining. Also check out the Beethovenstraat to look for books, antiques or a cozy cafe. The Amsterdam Hilton is the hotel made famous in 1969 by the Lennon-Ono “Bed-In” for peace, an experimental non-violent protest against war mentioned in the Number 1 Hit “The Ballad of John and Yoko.” Hotel guests are entitled to use an excellent gym for free, and you should definitely take in the spectacular views from the Executive Lounge. Though the Hilton looks like a behemoth from the street, do not allow that to dissuade you; the interior proportions and each room’s large glass windows will delight you. If you choose the superior buffet breakfast on the main level, take a table to the left of the bar for a better (quieter) experience. Tram # 24 to Gerrit van der Veenstraat from Centraal Station will leave you within a pleasant walk to the Hilton.
If the hotels mentioned above are outside your price range, do not be discouraged. The Bilderberg Hotel Jan Luyken for example, at Jan Luijkenstraat 58, offers simple accommodations at reasonable prices on a lovely street a very short distance from the Museumplein. Also, the family-run Hotel Asterisk, Den Texstraat 16, may be reached using Tram # 24 or Metro 52 from Centraal Station and is a pleasant 10 to 15-minute walk to the museums. You may also consider hotels outside the major cities.
If you plan to spend one week (or more) in The Netherlands, why not explore the smaller cities? We purchased train tickets from Amsterdam Centraal to Schiphol Airport for roughly 5+ euros per person and then used the Airport as a base to explore other destinations. A round-trip train fare from Schiphol to Delft, the birthplace of Johannes Vermeer (1632-1675), costs between 20 – 25 euros. The canals in Delft are just as charming as any Dutch city’s, and you will find the peacefulness a refreshing change from the overly touristed parts of Amsterdam. Explore the Nieuwe Kerk (New Church, completed in 1496) located in the Delft Markt (Market Square) and, if the famous (and expensive!) Blue Delft china inspired your visit here, head over to the Koninklijke Porceleyne Fles, open daily. History buffs should undoubtedly go to the Museum Het Prinsenhof, a palace from the Middle Ages (near the Oude Kerk, founded in 1246), before enjoying a simple meal of fantastic Indonesian food at “Toko Idola” located on Brabantse Turfmarkt 32a (the Prinsenhof and restaurant are closed on Mondays). Perhaps you will choose to skip the porcelain factory (that is what we always do) and take photos instead! In addition to picturesque Delft, other small cities deserving your time include Breda and Den Bosch. Each of these 3 cities has a population between 100,000 and 150,000 residents and offers a charming window into Holland’s past and present.
Gemeentemuseum & Mauritshuis
While Amsterdam can become chaotic with hordes of tourists and densely-populated quarters, The Hague exudes a special dignity and deserves a few days in your itinerary. The Gemeentemuseum Den Haag is presenting an exhibition of art by Paula Rego from November 27, 2021 through March 20, 2022. Before you say goodbye to The Netherlands, take time to visit the famous Mauritshuis with its amazing collection of paintings by Rembrandt, Hans Holbein the Younger, Jacob van Ruisdael, and Vermeer’s “View of Delft” and “Girl with a Pearl Earring.”
Please let us know about your experiences touring The Netherlands, and if you have favorite museums or hotels you wish to share with our readers. Please tell us which cities you most want to visit in the future in Europe and in the USA.
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