From the magical atmosphere of the UNESCO World Heritage canals, to the famous Pink Point LGBT memorial, the Brownstone cafes and the romantic parks and walkways that crisscross the city, Amsterdam is full of culture and history.
And like most European cities, the best way to discover it is to let yourself try something new.
Before visiting some of Amsterdam’s many museums (there are over 40 at last count), spend time walking around. It’s not just the canals that make this city special, but perhaps surprisingly Amsterdam is also home to some of the best collections of street art in Europe. You’ll find it in the style of hip-hop graffiti but also more elaborate paste-ups. There are stencils all over the place, often providing ironic and funny messages to make you smile as you walk past.
For more established art and culture, try out the city’s famous museums. One of the most important Amsterdam museums is the Rijksmuseum, which includes several famous masterpieces by Vermeer and Rembrandt. (visit before May 17, 2015 to see the very popular Late Rembrandt exhibition featuring iconic and emotive works from Rembrandt’s last years as an artist.)
If you’re passionate about Rembrandt, be sure to visit the incredible Rembrandthaus. This former house of the painter now turned into a little museum. The Van Gogh Museum, only some steps away from the Rijksmuseum, has an impressive collection of works and a lot of information about Van Gogh’s life. It’s worth visiting for at least two hours.
But perhaps Amsterdam’s most famous museum is the Anne Frank House, where she and her family lived before being captured by Nazi officials, and where Frank wrote her famous diary. The museum on the first floor also includes an exhibition on tolerance and respect—still important to learn about today.
Amsterdam has its own memorial dedicated to LGBT people who were killed during the Nazi times.
Located in Westermarkt, close to the city center, the Homomonument is a celebration of sexual freedom. Many tourists miss it because they don’t look where they step. It’s a combination of large pink triangles extending out into the canal that invites us to reflect about the past and the future. Every year, the legendary Amsterdam gay pride takes place in the canals, with large street parties throughout the city—including the square with this historic pink triangle.
Amsterdam’s intense admiration for sexual freedom is sometimes controversial. While some people are opposed to the Red Light District (with sex workers offering themselves in glass cabinets), others believe that this is exactly the type of freedom that we need to achieve. People come to this area to gawk at the girls, but there are also customers from the world over who actually visit the premises.
Indeed, Amsterdam is a city with a close relationship to pleasure. From sexual freedoms to cannabis consumption, the streets are always crowded with people enjoying themselves and having a blast—more so in the Red Light District.
However, you don’t need drugs or sex to enjoy Amsterdam because the amazing food (although expensive) and the cultural life are always there, seducing you in many ways. Just talk a walk through the picturesque Jordaan neighborhood and you’ll discover a different side to the city.
Amsterdam is the perfect collection of art and culture, of history, of pleasure and self-discovery. Give yourself the time to wander aimlessly and see what you can discover on your own.
About the Author
Berlin based Travel Gay Europe contributor Adam Groffman is a globetrotter and self-styled hipster. He covers city destinations around the world, writing about festivals, nightlife and gay travel on his personal travel blog, Travels of Adam and is the editor of My Gay Travel Guide. When he’s not out exploring the coolest bars and clubs, he’s usually enjoying the local arts and culture scene of a new city. You’ll find him most often on Twitter at @travelsofadam or on Instagram — say hi!
picture acknowledgement – Homomonument – Daryl Mitchell
11-03-2015 by Nigel Phillips | More: Gay Amsterdam
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