Explore Amsterdam’s Jordaan District

Ask most anyone in the city, and you’ll soon learn that the Jordaan District is one of Amsterdam’s trendiest neighbourhoods – filled with amazing culinary and cultural experiences. But, this wasn’t always the case. (more…)

Biking the Amstel River

One of the first things you might notice as a visitor to Amsterdam is that bikes are everywhere, and there is no shortage of places to see and visit by bicycle. This is also true for the Amstel River – which runs right through the centre of this historical and beautiful city – and offers an interesting, relaxing and scenic way to see Amsterdam.

In fact, it is from this river that Amsterdam got its name. (The river got its name from the term “Aeme-stelle,” an old Dutch term meaning “water-area.”)  The river is also responsible for naming one of Holland’s most popular beverages: Amstel Beer, which was originally established in 1870 near the river itself.

[caption id="attachment_119" align="alignnone" width="560"]The busy Amstel River in Amsterdam The busy Amstel River in Amsterdam.[/caption]

Much like the Seine, the vibrant Amstel River has been a source of inspiration for some of the world’s most famous artists, including Rembrandt and Aert van der Neer, among others.

Over time, the Amstel River has also become an important cultural and social gathering place for locals and visitors. After all, near the banks of this river is where you’ll find some of the city’s most popular cafes, bars and attractions – including the Stopera, one of Amsterdam’s most important buildings. The Stopera is home to City Hall and the Dutch National Opera & Ballet.

[caption id="attachment_117" align="alignnone" width="560"]The Hermitage Musem in Amsterdam The bike path along the Amstel passes the Hermitage Museum in Amsterdam.[/caption]

The river is also home to an array of concerts, rowing races and the Canal Parade, the city’s yearly floating gay pride parade.

You can start your own self-guided bike tour at most any point along the river or at any of the three bridges that cross the Amstel: Magere Brug, Blauwbrug, Hoge Sluis and Berlagebrug.

[caption id="attachment_118" align="alignnone" width="560"]A bridge along the busy Amstel River in Amsterdam, NL. A bridge along the busy Amstel River in Amsterdam, NL.[/caption]

Heading away from the city centre and biking south of the A10 Highway, you’ll find Amsterdam’s bustle soon giving way to a scenic countryside setting with many opportunities to rest, take in some sights and grab a refreshing drink along the way.

En route, stop in for a beer and a bite to eat on the outskirts of Amsterdam at the Klein Kalfje – a pretty red-bricked building with a bright and comfortable outdoor seating area.  This popular local hangout sits on the west side of the river, and is known for its impressive menu and lively scene.

From here, it’s a quick two-minute ride to the historic windmill De Riekermolen, also situated on the west side of the river near Amstel Park.  Dating back to 1636, the windmill was used in a bygone era for draining a nearby parcel of land. Visit the site on Saturdays and Sundays between the hours of 12:00 to 17:00 from May through September, and you can catch it spin (provided there is enough wind, naturally).  Near the windmill, you’ll also find a statue of the famous Dutch painter Rembrandt, whose sketches were inspired by the area’s scenic setting.

[caption id="attachment_120" align="alignnone" width="560"]The Riekermolen Windmill near the Amstel River The Riekermolen Windmill near the Amstel River[/caption]

Before circling back, be sure to stop at De Zwaag – another pretty windmill on the east side of the Amstel River.  To get here, head south to the bridge at Ouder-Amstel, cross the river and then come back along the east side of the river.  Once you’ve taken your self-guided tour around De Zwaag, continue north of the A10 Highway until you once again reach Amsterdam’s city centre.

Of course, this is just one of many bike routes to help you explore Amsterdam and the Amstel River. For an alternate route along the river, try exploring the Ronde Hoep.

Art & Culture at the Rijksmuseum

Originally opened in 1800, the iconic Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam has been home to some of the world’s most dazzling and important works of art for more than two centuries. Though this museum has been relocated and reinvented many times over its 200-year history, it is the museum’s most recent renovation that is the most notable. In fact, the Rijksmuseum reopened its doors in April 2013 after a massive 10-year transformation, one of the most significant restorations ever undertaken by a museum anywhere in the world.

Museumplein in Amsterdam

As a result, this historic 19th-century building has been updated with new facilities that include a stunning new entrance, a new Asian pavilion, beautiful gardens and 80 galleries that showcase more than 8,000 works of art and artefacts recounting some 800 years of Dutch art and history – from the Middle Ages to modern times.  This includes, of course, the renowned Gallery of Honour featuring highlights from the Dutch Golden Age.

A quick tour of this national treasure reveals some truly remarkable art pieces, with Rembrandt's The Night Watch anchoring the centre of the museum in its own distinct room. An exceptional representation of Baroque Art, The Night Watch radiates with energy in its portrayal of guard soldiers in dramatic light, a young maiden threading through the crowd, a lone dog and a captain commanding his troops.  This important piece signifies a turning point in Rembrandt’s artistic career, while also revealing his creative genius.

Next to this gallery is the equally impressive Gallery of Honour, displaying the works of Vermeer, Steen, Hals and more Rembrandt. Considered the heart and soul of the Rijksmuseum, the Gallery of Honour is lined with priceless paintings along with some of Rembrandt's most spectacular pieces, including a late self-portrait, another of his son Titus as well as the noteworthy The Jewish Bride.

Another section of this gallery houses the works of Johannes Vermeer, including The Milkmaid and The Little Street, which captures the serenity of a typical day in his hometown of Delft, a Dutch city roughly 60 kilometres southwest of Amsterdam.

Trees in museumplein

Ideally situated on Amsterdam’s famous Museumplein, the Rijksmuseum is easily accessible by bicycle (as well as by car and public transit) and is about three kilometres southwest of Centraal Station in the city’s affluent Oud-zuid area (translating literally to “Old South”).

Hours of operation are 9:00 to 17:00 daily (including Christmas day, Boxing Day and New Year's Day). Admission is €17.50 for adults, youth aged 18 and under are free. The Rijksmuseum is located at Museumstraat 1. For more information, visit Rijksmuseum or phone +31 (0) 20 6747 000.