South of Central Area, Amsterdam
Amsterdam's Van Gogh Museum contains the largest collection of Van Gogh's works in the world. The building was created specifically for this collection but also contains works by others who influenced this artist.
The Municipal Museum in Amsterdam is one of the most acclaimed modern art museums in Europe. All the works are from mid 19th C and later, and focus primarily on Dutch and French painting.
Amsterdam West Church is one of the more popular city churches and a prominent tourist attraction. It is here that Rembrandt is interred.
The building of Holland's most famous concert hall, Concertgebouw, was inspired by a German. In 1879 Johannes Brahms was invited to Amsterdam to conduct his Third Symphony. After the concert Brahms said: "You are good people but bad musicians!" The people of Amsterdam took this harsh criticism to heart and formed a society to establish an orchestra and a concert hall that would seat about 2,000. The concert hall was designed by A. van Gendt and inaugurated in 1888. The 65-member orchestra was entrusted to Willem Kes who laid the foundations for the fine reputation both of the orchestra and of the concert hall. Kes's successor was the 24-year-old Willem Mengelberg who was associated with the Concertgebouw Orchestra for 50 years. Under his direction it developed into one of the best orchestras in the world. He introduced the symphonic music of Mahler and of Richard Strauss who dedicated his "Heldenleben" to Mengelberg. The 1920 Mahler music festival became a high point in the history of the concert hall. The composers Reger, Debussy, Ravel, Hindemith, Milhaud and Stravinsky were guest conductors of their own works in the concert hall. In the early 1980s, however, there were fears for the future of this great concert hall when the building, weighing about 10,000 tons and underpinned by 2,000 posts, threatened to subside into the muddy subsoil. New foundations were the saving of the building, which also got a new glass foyer as part of the renovation works (completed in 1988). The actual concert hall itself, along with its acoustics, reckoned to be among the best in the world, remained unaltered.
To the west of the Amsterdam city center, between Prinsengracht and Lijnbaansgracht, lies the Jordaan, the working-class district made famous by the many songs about it. It came into being when the city was extended in the early 17th C. and many small craftsmen set up shop here. Refugees settled in the quarter during the Thirty Years War and artists (including Rembrandt) were so attracted by the Jordaan that they made their homes here. There are many theories about the name "Jordaan". The most likely is that it comes from the French word "jardin", meaning "garden", but whether or not the quarter owes its name to its many little front gardens and backyards there were certainly many Walloons and French living here when the Jordaan got its name. Life in the Jordaan is still largely lived out on the streets. Originally this was for practical reasons (large families, small houses) but nowadays it is on grounds of sociability. The Jordaan still has its own special atmosphere, with convivial corner pubs, candy shops kept by little old ladies and tiny boutiques. Artists and eccentrics are consequently irresistibly drawn to this quarter, where many long-established Amsterdamers can still be encountered.
The Albert Cuypmarkt has nearly 400 stalls and sells almost everything needed in the kitchen or the home: butter, eggs, cheese, fish, poultry, local and exotic fruits and vegetables, spices, tea, cakes, biscuits, fabrics, wool, haberdashery, pots and pans and cutlery, clothes (new and second-hand), and thousands of odds and ends, some useful, some not. Between van Woustraat and Ferdinand Bolstraat you can stroll at your leisure (although it gets rather crowded on Saturday mornings) and savor the smells of fresh fruit and fish, watch the people around you, listen to the cries of the stall-holders, test the quality of the goods on offer, simply look around or even pick up a bargain. Those wanting to fortify themselves with coffee and rolls would do well to try the cafe "De Markt" where the stall-holders warm themselves at simple tables in surroundings looking almost the same as when the market first started 75 years ago.
When Amsterdam lost its fair, Oscar Carreà, director of the Carré Circus which was exceedingly popular at the turn of the century, began to look for a permanent site in Amsterdam. He found a suitable spot on the Amstel and obtained a temporary permit to build a wooden marquee. However, he ignored the official requirements and had a stone roof put on his marquee. When the municipality ordered him to demolish it he applied for a permanent permit. Eventually he met with success and the Carré in the form we know it today was opened in 1887. After Oscar Carré's death in 1911 it was converted into a theater, but this was not as successful as the circus, and in the end the Carré family had to sell the building. It changed hands several times before being transferred in 1927 to a company whose manager, Alex Wunnink, succeeded in re-establishing its importance in Amsterdam's theater life. Today all kinds of artists appear here, plus ballet, musicals and circuses.
Vondelpark, this green lung in the heart of Amsterdam is named after Joost van den Vondel, Holland's most famous poet. His statue was unveiled in the park in 1867. The park, Amsterdam's Bois de Boulogne as one newspaper called it when it was opened, covers approximately 48 hectares (119 acres) and is landscaped on English lines, with sandpits and playgrounds, ponds and fountains, flower beds and lawns, a rose garden and a little tea house, a number of different trees and hedges providing homes for many birds. At the time of the "Provos" in the mid-1960s the Vondelpark was inhabited by hippies, but when drug pushing and such attendant crimes as theft became rife, the authorities decided to forbid sleeping in the park at night. During the summer the park is the venue for the Vondelpark Festival and many other programs of music, drama and children's events.
Address: Postbus 76809, Amsterdam, Noord-Holland 1070 KC, Netherlands
Transit: Tram: 1, 2, 3, 5, 6, 12.
The Amsterdam Filmmuseum in a pavilion in the park uses models to recount the history of movie making supplemented by special exhibitions drawn from foreign film museums. Movie buffs can enjoy screenings of films on particular themes, etc. with a large reference library.
Amsterdam's second-largest amusement and entertainment center (after the Rembrandtplein) caters for all tastes with two theaters (the Municipal Theater and De Balie, formerly a prison), countless cinemas, hotels and restaurants in every price-category. It's all there on the Leidseplein which pulsates with life until well into the night. The lively atmosphere of the Leidseplein is not a modern phenomenon. It was here that the farmers used to leave their carts and have their horses looked after when they came into town for the market. Today the square's cosmopolitan atmosphere comes from the Stadschouwburg (Municipal Theater), the Hotel Américain and pavement cafes (including the Cafe Reynders, a meeting place for artists and journalists) and, last but not least, the many visitors both from home and abroad.
"Magere Brug" near the Weesperstraat is the most photographed. This simple wooden drawbridge over the Amstel was built in 1671 as a footbridge. After being renovated several times it was demolished in 1929. It was to be replaced by a modern electrically operated bridge but it was finally decided to build a wooden reconstruction of the original. The building work was supervised by the architect Mager who gave his name to the bridge.
The Prinsengracht is less elegant than either the Keizersgracht or the Herengracht and therefore livelier and busier. The rents of the houses here are much more reasonable; there are relatively fewer banks and offices but many snug little cafes.