Having a blast in Amsterdam’s historic museums and party central
You have to love a country that throws a nationwide birthday bash for its queen, when it isn’t Queen Beatrix’s birthday!
Each year on April 30 (unless that date falls on a Sunday) the Netherlands pull out all the stops. It is the one day of the year where citizens dress in orange (the color symbolizes the monarch’s ancestral linage of the House of Orange), and some young people even spray paint their hair orange. It is the only day of the year that citizens are allowed to have a yard sale to sell their junk and treasures. On this day, the kids get involved with games of chance, musical recitals and beverage sales. It is more like a county fair that becomes a street party as the day progresses, and turns into a full-blown Dutch-Style Mardi Gras when night falls.
The party in Amsterdam doesn’t stop after April 30; loud revelry can be found at most of the nightclubs and restaurants in the center of Amsterdam throughout the year.
We found a nice, quiet hotel, the Renaissance Amsterdam Hotel, just a few blocks away from the central station, located off of a beautiful canal. Getting around the central part of Amsterdam is easy to do on foot, tram and even better by canal bus, which is a water taxi with hop-on and hop-off service.
I was armed with an Amsterdam Card and ready to explore the city. Visitors may enter many of the museums with the card without additional charge and, most importantly, without standing in line to buy tickets.
In celebration of one of its most famous sons, Amsterdam is featuring citywide exhibits for Rembrandt’s 400th birthday. The Rijks Museum showcases some of his most famous works, which include “Nightwatch.” Known for his ability to give light to a subject in his paintings, Rembrandt was also a very successful businessman. Not only did he sell his own art, but he also sold other artists’ works and ran a school.
Just down the street is the Van Gogh Museum that features selections of Van Gogh’s work spanning his life. It is interesting to see some of his lesser-known works and see how trial and error helped him find his now famous technique. The day I visited, the Van Gogh museum was exhibiting works by Rembrandt and Caravaggio.
Rembrandt’s House Museum is just a canal bus stop away from the Van Gogh Museum. It is a beautiful three-story house where you can see how Rembrandt lived and worked. What amazed me the most was the incredibly tiny stairways; I could hardly fit in the stairwell next to other visitors. It is no wonder each house of the period had attached a pulley in the attic to lift furniture from ground level and in through the windows. After I left Rembrandt’s home, I walked past a moving company using an air-powered lift to do the same maneuver to get furniture two stories up. The technology involved in getting furniture into and out of a home may have changed in the past 300 years, but the method has remained the same.
Tulips, canals, beer and legalized drugs aren’t the only unique facets of Amsterdam. For more than 400 years, Amsterdam has been known as the City of Diamonds because there are more diamonds cut within Amsterdam than in any other city. Diamonds from all over are cut and polished to be sold loose or mounted, at the Gassan Diamond Factory. The factory is credited for the creation of the brilliant-cut diamond, which is the most sought after cut around the globe. Thousands of tourists from around the world visit the Gassan Diamond Factory; its sales team makes purchasing diamonds easier for foreigners by speaking a combined 27 different languages.
Whatever one seeks, Amsterdam provides – history, art, flowers, diamonds, beautiful architecture or just pure fun. It is especially beautiful in the spring when the trees bloom and push away the gray of winter. And, if you happen to be in Amsterdam this time of year and start seeing all orange, it’s not the special cookies. Grab your party hat and join the Queen’s birthday party!
Dick Dace is The Epicurean Publicist. He does lunch for a living.