It may be cold, it might be rainy, but Amsterdam in the off-season is less expensive and not as crowded as the summertime. Amsterdam offers several diverse cultural indoor activities to fill up the days when the sun doesn’t shine.
Van Gogh Museum
One of the world’s most famous painters was born in Holland and lived throughout the country on and off his entire life. Although becoming famous after his death and never seeing his artistry to full fruition, the Van Gogh Museum is a tribute to his life and work and how each intertwines with the other. The permanent collection, which follows his works from 1882 to 1890, can be viewed on its own or with an informative multimedia headset for €5.
A new wing designed by Kisho Kurokawa was opened in 1999 and houses additional exhibitions. Currently on display is a glimpse into Van Gogh’s friend Paul Gauguin’s work in lithographs at the time of the Paris World’s Fair in 1889.
Friday nights offer a unique experience at the museum, which stays open until 10pm and DJs spin records while art projects and installations are on exhibit. Lounge chairs, music, and video projections lure the younger crowd to the museum after hours.
This combined gothic and renaissance architecture of the museum dates back to 1885 and houses one the most comprehensive collections of Dutch art. This extensive museum combines Dutch painting, sculpture, and drawings, but also displays a substantial furniture, textiles, and militia memorabilia.
Restoration of the museum is a massive project that was started in 2003 and hopefully will be completed with the opening of The New Rijksmuseum in 2013. However, parts of the museum stay open during the restoration, including the masterpieces from the Golden Age, most notably, The Night Watch by Rembrandt. The Night Watch is one of Rembrandt’s most famous works renowned for its gigantic size, its use of light and shadows, and its perception of visual motion.
Even though the entire museum isn’t open, it is without a doubt worth a visit that will take at least few hours to absorb its breadth of work. An audio tour for an additional €5 is a good educational value.
House of Bols
For a unique interactive museum don’t miss the House of Bols. Uncovering the history behind genever and liquors has never been more interesting or more hands-on. Each contemporary designed room gives a glimpse into a different part of the Bols experience.
In the Hall of Tastes, brightly colored bottles are lined up for an experiment of the senses. By smelling and seeing, try to guess the flavors presented in the bottles. Drawers are filled with herbs where smells are differentiated from each other with explanations. Or place a piece of paper on the tongue to test identification of a particular taste.
While lounging on a comfy couch in a dark room, a high quality video vividly tells the history of Lucas Bols dating back to 1575. Walking into a circular 360 room with eye catching video installation shows the bold Bols advertising.
The tour finishes in a memorable 280 degreed mirrored bar where a complementary cocktail created by an expert bartender from a menu of classic cocktails is viewed in all directions.
Friday nights is ladies night, where the museum stays open until 10pm and ladies pay only €6,50.
With over 160 canals and 1000 bridges, experiencing Amsterdam from the water is a necessity. Luckily many canal tours are offered in closed covered boats for these rainy and cold days. The boats not only glide along 17th century canal houses, churches and through the old harbor, but also through the newest quarters showing the contrast between the old and new Amsterdam.
The choices and operators of canal tours are varied. The one hour city tours begin at €12, or choose a longer cruise that includes lunch or dinner cruise, or a 90 minute cruise with cocktails.
All boats are equipped with heating and toilet facilities. Some have an outside deck in case the weather clears!