Amsterdam’s historic canals, Van Gogh Museum, the Anne Frank House, the Red Light District and unique coffee shops attract almost 20 million tourists each year. The Dutch capital offers something for everyone with its smogarsbord of cultural and historic attractions. In this article, we highlight three stops that should feature on the itinerary of any first time visitor.
For Sports Fans…
The Total Football Experience at the Johan Cruyff Arena
Possibly more emblematic of the Netherlands than canals, tulips and clogs; the concept of ‘Total Football’ was pioneered by Rinus Michels and his Ajax team between 1969 and 1973, during which time they won three consecutive European Cups. The Dutch national team embraced the style in the 1974 World Cup, helping them to reach the final and firmly cementing ‘Total Football’ as the most important revolutionary movement in the game’s history.
When in Amsterdam, take the opportunity to pay homage to the footballing gods at the home of Totaalvoetbal: the Johan Cruyff Arena. The Johan Cruyff Arena Stadium Tour is conducted by a passionate football fan who will guide you along the touchline of the hallowed turf to the engulfing leather seats of the dugout and up to the unbeatable views of the press stand. When the Ajax team are not training or playing, you can even visit the changing rooms to get a true behind the scenes look at the birthplace of modern European football.
For Art Lovers…
See Rembrandt’s masterpiece at The Rijkmuseum
The Rijksmuseum was closed in 2003 for a 10 year, €375 million renovation. Reopened by Queen Beatrix in April 2013, the newly revitalised museum displays 8,000 works of art and history from its vast collection of a million items, some of which date back to the 11th Century. A small collection of Asian art and 400 masterpieces from the 17th Century Dutch Golden Age are on display, including works by Frans Hals, Johannes Vermeer and Jan Steen. However, the undeniable centrepiece is Rembrandt’s world-renowned The Night Watch, which displays incredibly effective use of light and shadow and the perception of motion in what would have traditionally been a static military portrait. A visit to the Rijksmuseum provides a fascinating insight into both Dutch history and the country’s remarkable artistic achievements, and the museum can reliably claim to be the pride of Amsterdam.
For History Buffs…
Be inspired by the Dutch Resistance Museum
If the Rijksmuseum represents the pride of Amsterdam, then The Dutch Resistance Museum represents the pride of the Netherlands. Charting the different forms of resistance to the five year Nazi occupation of the country, the museum takes visitors back in time to the 1940s by using authentic films, photos, sounds and documents to evoke the climate of the war years.
A range of anti-Nazi activities are covered, ranging from strikes, document forgery and underground newspaper publishing to armed resistance and espionage. Detailed attention is paid to the context of everyday life and the importance of the church, whilst a separate section tells the story of the Dutch East Indies, a former colony which suffered greatly under the reign of Japanese terror.
The theme of dilemmas is also present throughout the museum, with visitors experiencing first-hand the consequences of the heart-wrenching decisions that many Dutch citizens had to make during the occupation. The shock of the German invasion, the crushing oppression of the war years and the heroic struggle to oppose the regime are all well documented in this fitting tribute to the bravery of the Dutch resistance movement.