THINGS TO 10 DO IN AMSTERDAM

Sunday Herald Sun - Escape - - Lonely Planet’s Amsterdam -

AMSTERDAM works its fairy­tale magic in many ways: via the gabled, Golden Age build­ings; glint­ing, boat­filled canals; and es­pe­cially the cosy, cen­turies-old brown cafes, where can­dles burn low and beers froth high. Add in mega art mu­se­ums and funky street mar­kets, and it’s easy to see why this at­mo­spheric city is one of Europe’s most pop­u­lar get­aways.

Ten top sights 1 Van GoghMu­seum

Hous­ing the world’s largest col­lec­tion by artist Vin­cent van Gogh, the mu­seum (van­gogh­mu­seum.nl) is as much a tour through the driven painter’s trou­bled mind as it is a tour through his body of work. More than 200 can­vases are ar­ranged chrono­log­i­cally, start­ing with his early ca­reer in dreary Hol­land and end­ing less than a decade later in sunny France, where he pro­duced his best­known work with his char­ac­ter­is­tic giddy colour. You’ll wait in line out­side and jos­tle with the crowds in­side, but see­ing those vivid brush­strokes of yel­low sun­flow­ers and pur­ple-blue irises makes it all worth­while.

2 Von­del­park

New York has Cen­tral Park. Lon­don hasHyde Park. And Amsterdam has the lush ur­ban idyll of the Von­del­park (www.von­del­park.nl), where tourists, lovers, cy­clists, back­pack­ers, cartwheel­ing chil­dren and cham­pagneswill­ing rev­ellers all come out to play.

3 Ri­jksmu­seum

4Anne Frank Huis

It is one of the 20th cen­tury’s most com­pelling sto­ries: a young Jewish girl forced into hid­ing with her fam­ily and their friends to es­cape de­por­ta­tion by the Nazis. The house they used as a hide­away at­tracts nearly one mil­lion vis­i­tors ev­ery year. Walking through the book­case-door of the ‘‘ Se­cret An­nexe’’ and into the claus­tro­pho­bic liv­ing quar­ters is to step back into a time that seems both dis­tant and trag­i­cally real (an­nefrank.org).

5 St­edeli­jkMu­seum

The St­edelijk (st­edelijk.nl) is Amsterdam’s weighty mod­ern-art mu­seum. Works by su­per­stars Monet, Pi­casso, Matisse and Dutch home­boys Piet Mon­drian, Willem de Koon­ing and Karel Ap­pel take pride of place. Af­ter a nine-year ren­o­va­tion, the mu­seum re­opened in late 2012 with a huge new wing (dubbed ‘‘ the Bath­tub’’). The Ri­jksmu­seum (ri­jksmu­seum.nl) is the Nether­lands’ pre­mier art trove. Af­ter a 10-year ren­o­va­tion, it re­opens in its en­tirety later this year, splash­ing Rem­brandts, Ver­meers and 7500 other mas­ter­pieces over 1.5km of gal­leries. Those vis­it­ing be­fore the re­open­ing can see the ‘‘ best of’’ col­lec­tion in the Philips Wing.

6Royal Palace (Konin­klijk Paleis)

Wel­come to the Queen’s house. If she’s away, you’re wel­come to come in and ogle the ta­pes­tries, chan­de­liers, Ital­ian mar­ble and fres­coed ceil­ings while get­ting a his­tory les­son in Dutch roy­alty and pol­i­tics. To­day’s Royal Palace (paleisam­s­ter­dam.nl) be­gan life as a glo­ri­fied town hall and was com­pleted in 1665. The ar­chi­tect, Ja­cob van Cam­pen, spared no ex­pense to dis­play Amsterdam’s wealth in a way that ri­valled the grand­est Euro­pean build­ings of the day.

7Mu­se­umhet Rem­brandthuis

Mu­seum het Rem­brandthuis (Rem­brandt House Mu­seum; rem­brandthuis.nl) is set in the three-storey canal house where Rem­brandt van Rijn lived and ran the Nether­lands’ largest paint­ing stu­dio be­tween 1639 and 1658. He bought the abode at the height of his ca­reer, when he was awarded the pres­ti­gious Night Watch com­mis­sion. The at­mo­spheric in­te­rior gives a real-deal feel for how Rem­brandt painted his days away. Step into the Dutch icon’s in­ner sanc­tum and im­merse your­self in his stu­dio, where seashells, an­i­mal horns and other ex­ot­ica weigh down the shelves.

8Nieuwe Kerk

Nieuwe Kerk (New Church, dat­ing from 1408 – it’s all rel­a­tive; nieuwek­erk.nl) is the his­toric stage of Dutch coro­na­tions and royal wed­dings. Other than such cer­e­monies, the build­ing no longer func­tions as a church, but rather a hall for art and cul­tural ex­hi­bi­tions. For a free peek, slip through the gift shop (by the en­trance) and up­stairs for a dis­play on the church’s his­tory.

9Con­cert­ge­bouw

Lis­ten to clas­si­cal mu­sic soar in the pris­tine acous­tics of the Con­cert­ge­bouw (con­cert­ge­bouw.nl). Bernard Haitink, con­duc­tor of the ven­er­a­ble Royal Con­cert­ge­bouw Orches­tra, once re­marked that the world-fa­mous hall – built in 1888 with near-per­fect acous­tics – was the orches­tra’s best in­stru­ment. Free half-hour con­certs take place ev­ery Wed­nes­day at 12.30pm from midSeptem­ber un­til late June; ar­rive early. Those aged 27 or younger can queue for 10 tick­ets 45 min­utes be­fore shows. Try the Last Minute Ticket Shop (last­min­utet­ick­et­shop.nl) for half-price seats.

10 Begi­jn­hof

This veiled court­yard of tiny houses and gar­dens was built in the 14th cen­tury for the Beguines, a lay Catholic sis­ter­hood. Two churches hide here: a ‘‘ clan­des­tine’’ chapel (1671), where the Beguines wor­shipped in se­cret from the Calvin­ists; and the English Church (c 1392), where Pu­ri­tans con­gre­gated. Both are usu­ally open for brows­ing. The wooden house at No.34 (c 1465) is the Nether­lands’ old­est (be­gi­jn­ho­fam­s­ter­dam.nl).

Need toknow

Cur­rency: Euro Lan­guage: Dutch and English Money: ATMs widely avail­able. Credit cards ac­cepted in most ho­tels but not all restau­rants. Non-Euro­pean credit cards are some­times re­jected. Mo­bile Phones: Lo­cal SIM cards can be used in Aus­tralian phones. Ar­riv­ing in Amsterdam: Most peo­ple fly­ing to Amsterdam ar­rive at Schiphol In­ter­na­tional Air­port (schiphol.nl), 18km south­west of the city cen­tre.

Your daily bud­get

Midrange $100-$200 Dou­ble room $125 Three-course din­ner in ca­sual restau­rant $30 Con­cert­ge­bouw ticket $40 Use­ful web­site I Amsterdam (iams­ter­dam.com) Cityrun por­tal packed with sight­see­ing, ac­com­mo­da­tion and event info.

This is an edited ex­tract from Lonely Planet Pocket Amsterdam (3rd Edi­tion) by Karla Zim­mer­man Lonely Planet 2013. Pub­lished this month, RRP: $19.99, lone­ly­planet.com

FAIRY­TALE CITY: The strik­ing Van Gogh Mu­seum.

Pic­ture: Lonely Planet Im­ages

CLAS­SIC CEN­TRAL: The Ri­jksmu­seum hosts an amaz­ing col­lec­tion of old masters in­clud­ing many by Rem­brandt and Vermeer. Pic­ture: Lonely Planet Im­ages

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