I’m finally getting round to sharing some pictures and tales of what we got up to on our two week tour of the Netherlands last month. We started off with five days in the dutch capital of Amsterdam (which was stress-free in getting to, thanks to direct flights to Schipol from Inverness, and an easy train journey into Amsterdam once we had landed).
We were well aware that the weather forecast was very hit and miss for the first week in the Netherlands, and unfortunately this was the case for a couple of our days in Amsterdam, so we hit the museums… hard! In Amsterdam, we visited:
- Rijksmuseum – one of the most famous art collections in the world, it’s a must visit. It’s huge, so check out the map and pick a few galleries that you want to see properly, rather than rushing round the whole lot (though, we’d recommend you start with the Gallery of Honour, and the Night Watch Gallery). There’s an app you can use, and you can take pictures throughout
- Van Gogh Museum – three floors dedicated to the infamous Van Gogh (and some of his artist friends). We wandered round the whole lot in about 90 minutes or so. Surprisingly, we preferred some of this lesser known work to some of his classic pieces. No cameras or phones allowed to be used except in designated areas.
- Cromhouthuis (which also houses the Bijbels [Biblical] Museum) – a canal-house belonging to the family Cromhout, who lived here throughout and beyond the 17th century. Here’s a bit more from the Cromhuthuis website:
Monarchies ruled throughout much of 17th-century Europe, but in the Netherlands – and hence in Amsterdam – the citizens were their own masters. To be more specific, well-to-do citizens: an elite of Protestant families that kept the money and political power in closed circles by marrying between themselves. The Cromhouts were also part of this affluent world, until they converted to Catholicism. As Catholics, they were no longer allowed to participate in the city council, and potential marriage candidates were limited to the small number of wealthy Catholic families that remained in Amsterdam. However, the Cromhouts successfully married into the international Catholic nobility. The dynasty ended with the French princess Elisabeth de Vaudemont, who died childless in Paris in 1832. (source)
As well as the house which was preserved in excellent condition, the Biblical Museum was interesting too, housing reconstructions of temples, arks and tabernacles, all painstakingly researched and collected by Rev Leendert Schouten in the 19th century. Spending an hour here was an excellent way to keep protected from the pouring rain we faced outside!
- Ons’ Lieve Heer op Solder (Our Lord in the Attic) – This museum is a seventeenth century town house with a difference – it houses an complete Catholic church in the attic (which dates from 1663). While not Catholic ourselves, it was fascinating to see how the church had been constructed (the bars in the second photo show where floors were knocked through to make one storey for the church sanctuary.
NOTE: A common thing to do in all these musuems (and others) is to leave your belongings (if in anything larger than a small handbag) in a locker room (either free, or refundable coin) so make sure you have some small change!
We worked out quite quickly to buy a Museum Kaart which gets you free entry into over 400 museums around the country. We bought a card which enabled 31 days use, and this cost 59 euros (sounds expensive, that’s about £50 in these post-Brexit exchange rate times), and I think the entry to the musuems we visited in Amsterdam alone cost about that, so we definitely did the right thing.
We did however, (thankfully!) have some dry moments too, wandering the streets, parks and canals of the ‘Dam, and we didn’t get run over by any cyclists who run (or bike) the roost here. We spent two and a half days exploring, and did some day trips from Centraal Station (more on this soon in my next post).
We enjoyed a daily ferry trip down the river, due to the fact our hotel was in the industrial north area of the city. It was a free trip for pedestrians and cyclists, though the occasional car (which Mr B says, looked like the smaller brother of a Fiat Cinquecento) squeezed on too, which seemed to cause equal amounts of annoyance and amusement to those on board. We didn’t stay at the Botel – but it was an instantly recognisable landmark from our hotel and also from the boat, once we were steaming away from Amsterdam Harbour.
Finally, I’ll share a couple of places we enjoyed to eat in Amsterdam – what kind of foodie blog would this be without some foodie recommendations?!
Haesje Claes – We went straight to this traditional Dutch restaurant on our first night, to sample all the classic dishes. There’s a range of set and a-la-carte menu options, we chose the 25euro one and we had our fill of thick green pea soup, smoked ham and cheese salad, salmon fillet in a rich bernaise sauce, stamppott (traditional dutch dish with mashed potatoes, greens and smoked sausage) and our first portion of deep dish apple pie. No pictures were taken as we were far too hungry after travelling all day without too much in the way of sustenance.
Taart van mijn tante – One of Amsterdam’s most popular confection bakeries, we holed up here after a good few hours of museum trawling. Mr B has the ‘Swedish Princess Cake’ (vanilla sponge, almond liqeur, vanilla cream, and green marzipan) while I enjoyed the ‘Mon Cherie’ – a sweet crusted tart with sour cream and cherries.
So, what were our impressions of the Dutch capital? Amsterdam is worth a visit, but, as you’ll see from future posts, other places made a more striking impression on us. We were glad that we had scheduled to visit during the week, as we gathered it could get pretty rowdy with stag/hen parties over the weekends. Our tip – spend two or three days here, then take the train out to other places to get a glimpse of the real Netherlands.