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Amsterdam & BeyondNovember 23, 2009 By: Jena Tesse Fox Travel Agent
The Van Gogh Museum is a must-see for museum-hoppers in Amsterdam
From its historic canals to its hip coffeehouses, Amsterdam and its surrounding environs have always been a popular spot for travelers of all tastes. Backpacking college kids soak up the local culture, families learn about history at the Anne Frank House and everyone appreciates the exquisite tulips and windmills that are a legendary part of this region.
With new museums and high-end hotels opening throughout the country, the destination has plenty to recommend for it in 2010. Here’s what’s new, and what’s coming up:
Where to Stay
While Amsterdam isn’t generally considered a fashion mecca like Paris or Milan, the new four-star Fashion Hotel Amsterdam may just change that. The hotel opened in July opposite the World Fashion Center with 260 designer rooms, a SKYYbar on the 10th floor overlooking the city, and a heated swimming pool in the basement. General Manager Charles Vos can be reached at 011-31-20-810-0800.
Hotel Pulitzer, Amsterdam recently completed a total refurbishment of its 230 guest rooms and suites, along with the Tuinzaal, a 1,722-square-foot event space overlooking the hotel’s courtyard gardens. Made up of 25 17th- and 18th-century restored historical townhouses and loft buildings, Hotel Pulitzer overlooks two of Amsterdam’s most scenic canals, Prinsengracht and Keizersgracht. Cool touch: The hotel also has a gallery onsite, which includes an exclusive selection of artworks from renowned artists. Contact General Manager Kurt Renold at 011-31-20-523-5235.
The Keukenhof, near Amsterdam, is the largest flower garden in the world
At the smaller end of the Amsterdam spectrum, Hotel 717, at a mere eight rooms and suites, provides an intimate ambiance where guests feel like they’re in the home of a rich uncle. Created from a 19th-century townhouse, rooms and suites range in size from the 430-square-foot Mahler Room to the 753-square-foot Schubert Suite, and feature such deluxe amenities as Bang & Olufsen DVD players. A complimentary breakfast is served en suite. Note: While 717 does not have its own restaurant or fitness center, it does have arrangements with nearby establishments. Agents can contact General Manager Brita Röhl ([email protected]; 011-31-20-427-0717).
Foodies will want to check into Hotel Okura Amsterdam, which has four restaurants. The traditional Japanese specialty restaurant Yamazato has held a Michelin star since 2002; the French Ciel Bleu Restaurant has held two Michelin stars since 2007; Le Camelia Brasserie has been awarded a Bib Gourmand; and Teppanyaki Restaurant Sazanka recently published the first Dutch-language book of teppanyaki recipes. Tasty treat: Next month, Hotel Okura Amsterdam will open Taste of Okura, a culinary center where people can learn how to prepare the Okura’s chefs’ dishes themselves. General Manager Marcel van Aelst can be reached at 011-31-20-678-7111.
One of the newest luxury hotels in Amsterdam is the Amrath Hotel, which opened in summer 2007 in the heart of the city. The five-star hotel has 165 rooms and suites decorated in the Art Deco style of the building, and with great views of the canal. Grand Hotel Amrath Amsterdam is a member of Worldhotels. Contact General Manager Marcel Bosman at 011-31-20-552-0000.
Two new hotels are scheduled to open in the Netherlands next year. Details are sketchy at the moment, but here’s what we’ve heard so far.
In April 2010, a new Hilton will reopen next to the Panorama Mesdag Museum. The 184-room Hilton The Hague will have a cafe on the first floor (to be called Barretje Hilton, we hear), a sports center (replacing the existing fitness center) and, ideal for those road tripping through Europe, a parking lot for 200 cars. (Yes, there are more parking spaces than rooms.) The general manager is Karin van den Berg ([email protected]).
Those who prefer boutique properties will appreciate Amsterdam’s Canal House Hotel, due to open in June 2010 with 23 bedrooms in the style of traditional Dutch homes. As the name might imply, the hotel is on the city’s iconic canal, and guests can look out over the water.
What to Do, What to See
Naturally, the Anne Frank House, the van Gogh and Rijksmuseum are “the three musts” for museum-hopping in Amsterdam, but June brought a fourth entry to the scene. The city got its own branch of St. Petersburg’s legendary Hermitage museum, Hermitage Amsterdam over the summer.
The museum’s premiere exhibit, “At the Russian Court: Palace and Protocol in the 19th Century,” features 1,800 items from the original. Visitors can see ball gowns and other costumes, court paintings by Franz Xaver Winterhalter and Ilya Repin, furniture (including the Romanov throne), jewelry by such legendary artists as Fabergé, dinner services and the last tsarina’s grand piano. The exhibit will remain on display until January 2010. After that, the museum will run an exhibit on the Pioneers of Modern Art, and then one on Alexander the Great’s journey East. The Hermitage Amsterdam is on Amstel 51, right on the River Amstel.
Of course, fashion is art, too, and fashionistas will love the Tassenmuseum Hendrikje/The Museum of Bags and Purses, which displays the history of the Western handbag from the late Middle Ages to the present. The collection provides a fascinating picture of how the bag has changed over the centuries in terms of function, form, material and decoration. The museum is housed in a magnificent historical building on the Herengracht in Amsterdam dating from 1664, right behind Rembrandtplein. Two period rooms can be viewed here complete with ceiling paintings and mantelpieces from the 17th and 18th centuries.
The modern Hotel Okura Amsterdam has remote controls for the drapes, lighting, temperature and alarm clock
Art lovers will want to check out the Rembrandthuis Museum, or Rembrandt House Museum—the house where Rembrandt lived and worked between 1639 and 1658. While most of Rembrandt’s possessions were sold at auctions, the interior of the house has been furnished with items and works of art from the artist’s time. The museum exhibits approximately 250 etchings by Rembrandt and paintings created by his predecessors and pupils.
Just a train ride from Amsterdam is the town of Haarlem, famous for its flowers on street corners, parks and squares. In early spring, the fields stretching out for miles to the southwest of the city show off magnificent colors. (Be sure to check out the Flower Corso, the annual flower display on wheels, with its magnificent floats.) A must-visit for flower aficionados is the Keukenhof, the world’s largest flower garden, in the small town of Lisse, south of Haarlem and southwest of Amsterdam. About 7 million flower bulbs are planted annually in the park. Haarlem is also home of the Netherlands’ oldest museum, the Teylers, which opened in 1784.
Visitors can also take the train to the city of The Hague, the seat of the Netherlands’ government, with the Queen’s residence and work palace, the World Court (Peace Palace), the Mauritshuis Museum, great shopping and more.
Visitors to The Hague, Delft and Amsterdam should definitely invest in a City Card, which offers either 24- or 48-hour access to the cities’ trams and buses as well as discounts on tourist attractions. For The Hague and Delft, visit www.citycardthehaguedelft.com.
In Amsterdam, the I Amsterdam card can get visitors around for up to 72 hours, and provides over 30 free and 20 discounted offers on attractions and restaurants. Visit www.iamsterdam.com to purchase them in advance.
Note: The I Amsterdam card should not be purchased for children below the age of 12. And children until age 18 can usually enter museums for free or with a 50 percent discount.