If you only have a day or two in Amsterdam, here are some interesting things to do. Don't feel like you have to do them all - choose those that appeal to you, or let the weather be your guide.
- Take an Amsterdam Highlights Tour
- Visit a Museum (or several)
- Take a Ride on Amsterdam's Canals.
Most ocean and river cruise ships will offer a half- or full-day highlights tour that will give you a chance to get a feel of the city and see some of the bridges, canals, and architecture. The tours usually include a bus ride around the city, a canal ride, and entrance into the Rijksmuseum. A tour of the Anne Frank House is not included on these highlight tours.
Amsterdam has museums for all tastes. Several are located in a large park area within walking distance of each other. The Rijksmuseum is the national museum of the Netherlands. With about 200 rooms, you could easily spend the day here. If your time is limited, and you want to see many of Rembrandt's most famous works, like the Night Watch, go to the Gallery of Honor on the upper floor of the main building. Elsewhere in the Rijksmuseum are exhibits of architecture and antiquities. There is also a large dollhouse collection.
The Vincent van Gogh Museum includes 200 of his paintings (donated by Van Gogh's brother Theo) and 500 drawings as well as works by other well known 19th century artists. It is located near the Rijksmuseum.
Next to the van Gogh Museum, the Stedelijk Modern Art Museum is filled with fun works by trendy contemporary artists. Major movements of the last century such as modernism, pop art, action painting, and neo-realism are represented.
The Dutch Resistance Museum (Verzetsmuseum), across the street from the zoo, has displays explaining the Dutch resistance to the German occupying forces of World War II. Propaganda movie clips and touching stories of efforts to hide local Jews from the Germans bring the terrors of living in an occupied city to life. Interestingly, the museum is also near the location of the former Schouwburg theater, which was used as a holding place for Jews awaiting transport to concentration camps. The theater is now a memorial. To get a feel for occupied Holland, you might want to rent and watch the movie "Soldier of Orange" before leaving home.
It might be surprising to hear that Amsterdam is home to a large Museum of the Tropics (Tropenmuseum). If you remember that the Netherlands' explorers traveled to Indonesia and the West Indies. The museum's architecture is interesting, and it has displays portraying life in the tropics. There is also a large children's museum upstairs, but adults can only visit if accompanied by a child!
Those interested in architecture or the Dutch culture of the early 20th century will enjoy the Museum Het Schip. Michel de Klerk designed this apartment building in the Amsterdam style of architecture for the working class, and it has many interesting details, including a residence that looks like it hasn't been changed since the 1920's, and a Post Office.
Looking for something really different? How about a sex museum? Amsterdam has two sex museums, one in the Red Light District, and the other a block from Central Station on Damrak. I didn't visit either (although I walked by the one on Damrak by accident).
This is a good way to see the city, especially if it is raining and you don't want to walk! The Canal-Boat tours leave continually from several docks around the city for a one hour introduction to Amsterdam.
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