And with more museums per square kilometer than any place else on earth, it would be easy to imagine the city as a vast open-air museum of Holland's Golden Age. But the spirit of adventure, tolerance and freedom that built Amsterdam still lives and on a recent visit I was reminded of just how fresh and fun this city is.
|View from Grachtenhuis Museum.|
Amsterdammers enjoy their city, spending much of their time outdoors on bicycles and boats, socializing in sidewalk cafes. Visitors who alternate museum stops with a stroll through Vondel Park, a poke through an antique market, a stop for pancakes stuffed with apples or crusted with good Dutch cheese, are sifting in layers of pleasure not found on most historical or cultural itineraries.
|Museum shop, Van Gogh Museum.|
Adding to the already-rich offerings are the current multimillion-dollar refurbishment of established museums and the opening of new ones. As part of Visit Holland's recent press group, I had the opportunity to sneak a peek at Het Grachtenhuis Museum (an elegant canal house with intriguing links to the American Revolution), the Scheepvaart (or National Maritime) Museum (seeming much like a ship itself with its light-filled, whitewashed rooms and scent of fresh-sawn oak beams), and the Amsterdam Historical Museum's fascinating new exhibition entitled Amsterdam DNA. Another highlight was Tassenmuseum Hendrikje, a jewel-box collection of 4,000 bags and purses housed in a mansion on the Herengracht canal.
Afterwards, on my own for a few days, I explored the city on foot and by tram, revisiting old haunts and finding new favorites. April is one of the best times in the year to visit Europe and the Netherlands. From carpets of crocuses to babies on bikes, Holland is happiness, especially in spring.
|Cafe Americain, American Hotel.|
|Crocuses in Vondel Park.|