Destinations / JOURNEY
And why would you want to obscure anything
in Amsterdam, where you could turn a street
corner and feel like you’re in a pop-up storybook?
The Museum District is a romantic European
postcard, come alive in bricks-and-mortar and
greenery. This stately enclave has glamorous shopping and exclusive residences galore. And yes, as
the name suggests, it’s a cultural heavy weight. In
addition to the Van Gogh Museum, the crown jewel
Rijksmuseum is a one-stop survey of the cultural
riches of the Netherlands and beyond, with art collections featuring Dutch masters like Rembrandt.
This monumental museum reopened in 2013
after 10 years of extensive renovations, and while
crowded, the (rightfully) popular place feels as
grand and awe-inspiring as it must have been when
it finally opened in its current location in 1885.
But the spot that impressed me the most
was the Stedelijk Museum, which rounds out
the visual art offerings of the large open square
Museumplein. This modern and contemporary
art museum contains 90,000 artworks and
objects that encompass art in an ever-expanding
number of media, covering major homegrown
movements like De Stijl and the Amsterdam
School, a style of architecture and decorative
arts that peaked bet ween the world wars.
With a striking new wing dubbed “the bathtub” for its sleek appearance, the Stedelijk
reopened a few years ago after extensive renovations. (See the pattern? Amsterdam doesn’t rest
on its laurels.) On my visit that day, I happened upon the work of Tino Sehgal, who employs per-
formers to interact with visitors for his art, or “constructed situations,” as he calls it.
His piece “This Progress” featured a number of locals taking turns guiding visitors
through a series of unadorned museum halls. They chatted about their ideas of what progress
means to them and, in turn, asked me what I thought the word meant. I could only stammer
a few nonsensical sentences on the spot. But as I was leaving the museum, it occurred to me
that Amsterdam, a city this quaint and yet so for ward-thinking, embodies progress.
Progress isn’t about building gleaming new structures, but making the most out of what
we have. I hopped on a rented bike and joined the throng of Amsterdammers on two wheels,
heading to De Hallen, a tram depot turned into a series of shops. In the impressive space
awash in light, I found a busy food market reflecting the city’s diversity, from gouda to bahn
mi, satay to bitterballen, the savory Dutch croquettes filled with a velvety roux of minced
meat. This bustling place could easily stand up to and even exceed the gourmet centers of
the world like Copenhagen’s Torvehallerne and Munich’s Viktualienmarkt.
There’s more to Amsterdam’s culinary offerings than quick and easy food market
fare. Sure, I didn’t know and couldn’t afford better than fast-food falafels on my previ-
ous visit — though there’s always a time and place for fried chickpea balls, of course.
But all signs show that Amsterdam has become much more conscious about its food.
There are classic destinations like Restaurant Vinkeles, a contemporary French restaurant with an experimental spirit, and two-Michelin-star Librije’s Zusje, which
approaches hyperlocal ingredients with an international attitude, offering dishes like
grilled tulip bulb. Then there are more casual but equally excellent spots like Ron
Gastrobar, where you would encounter such playful dishes as scallop tartare married with hibiscus and aged Beemster. De Kas, inside a series of the city’s greenhouses
built in the 1920s, highlights greens from the surrounding farm with Mediterranean-inspired plates. And joining these favorites is the newly opened Duchess, inside a
cavernous space that retains the original flourishes and staggering ceilings of a former
bank, already famous for a theatrical Chocolate Explosion dessert that — without giving too much away — the waiter will detonate in front of you.
The Science Center Nemo
is housed in a building
designed by Renzo Piano.
Experience the culture
of the Netherlands at
Bicyclists of all ages sped by,
as did pedestrians carrying
groceries and tourists wielding