Not only is Amsterdam one of Europe’s most beautiful and entertaining cities, with hundreds of bars and cafes, but it’s also a Mecca for fine museums and attractive boutiques. If you’re curious about Dutch art, you cannot miss a visit to the Rijks Museum, the premier art museum of the Netherlands. Boasting more than 5000 paintings, it recently reopened after renovations, and it takes you on a delightful journey through Holland’s many art treasures.
Discover Vermeer’s Woman in Blue Reading A Letter ( 1663) and The Kitchen Maid ( 1658) with its mesmerizing light that still conveys a luminous presence to its subject nearly 400 years later.
Rembrandt, in the 17th century, was the Golden Age’s most famous painter. You can see his Jewish Bride (1665) in the Rijks. It was one of Van Gogh’s favorite paintings. “I would give 10 years of my life to be allowed to sit before this painting for 14 days with just a crust of bread to eat,” he famously said.
Wow to the stunning Delft pottery, the Dutch attempt at reproducing Chinese porcelain in the 1660s. Many of the pieces in the collection belonged to Queen Mary in the 17th century. A collection of doll houses is also not to be missed, as you can observe the exquisitely designed homes with minute parts in another room. At the end, enjoy a walk in the Museum’s Renaissance and Baroque gardens among rose bushes and hedges.
The Van Gogh Museum near the Rijk’s also deserves your attention. Designed by Gerrit Rietweld, it houses the collection of Theo Van Gogh ( the artist’s brother) as well as many works by contemporary artists such as Toulouse Lautrec, Gauguin, Monet and Bernard. Other noteworthy art museums include the Stedelijk Museum for Modern Art with its stunning collection of Monets and Picassos, the Hermitage renowned for its stunning exhibits of Old Masters, and the Rembrandt House museum. For an art lover and admirer of fine European crafts like me, discovering these museums were one of the highlights of my trip to Amsterdam.
Next to the Rijks Museum lies the Leidseplein, a square where a number of tram lines intersect. It is also one of the liveliest squares in Amsterdam in the summer with shopping, nightlife, large terraces and street performers. In the winter, an outdoor skate rink attracts many young locals.If you’re looking for a hotel away from the crowds but near the Leidseplein, the Rijks, the Van Gogh Museum, and Amsterdam’s luxurious shopping area, I recommend the stylish boutique Hotel JL No. 76.
On a quiet street, Hotel JL No. 76 is situated in an old townhouse that offers beautifully furnished and comfortable rooms. I enjoyed walking into the lobby with its slightly offbeat contemporary feel, decorated with eclectic objets d’art. Though chic and upscale, it has a low-key, casual atmosphere. Andre, a very friendly host, welcomes you at the desk with humor and charm. I purchased my ticket for the Rijks Museum from Andre to avoid lines, and he showed me how to walk to an Apple store without getting lost in the Ring of “Grachten” (canals).
My air-conditioned room came with a balcony overlooking the street, and many amenities: free wifi, a safe, Nespresso and tea facilities, a mini bar, slippers, bathrobe and luxury bath products. My modern bathroom was small and featured a jacuzzi. In a contemporary Deco style, the sink was situated within an alcove, with ample room to clean one’s face or hands and prepare for the day. An honor code exists in the hotel; if you take anything out of the room or the lobby bar, you’re simply required to write it on a form and submit it to Andre on your last day.
In the morning after a comfortable, quiet night, I had a copious and wonderful buffet breakfast that included crisp breads, fresh cereals, grains, nuts, muesli, yogurts, juices, jams and honey — as well as smoked salmon, cheese and cold cuts. A hot American breakfast is also available and a cappuccino machine allows you to refill your cup as many times as you wish.
If you dislike cookie-cutter, standard hotels without personality and crave to experience a bit of the Amsterdam’s unique open spirit and creativity — and in an upscale, comfortable environment — visit the elegant Hotel JL No. 76. For more information on JL No. 76 go to http://www.hoteljlno76.com