You’ve heard of Amsterdam—the red light district, the coffee shops, the smart shops. Sounds wild, right? Maybe you have even been there and seen these things for yourself. These destinations alone are a major attraction for tourists, but did you know that Amsterdam holds some of the world’s most exciting intellectual attractions?
The Van Gogh museum houses about 500 of Vincent Van Gogh’s original works. An entire day could be spent exclusively in that building. It is centrally located within the city, and is a short walk or bike ride from Amsterdam Centraal, the city’s main train station. There is also the Rijksmuseum, an enormous museum packed with all kinds of art, from Rembrandt to Vermeer. Have you ever wanted to see “The Night Watch,” “Milkmaid,” or “Sunflowers” in person? Nothing compares to seeing the original versions of these paintings up close. The highest quality lithographs only scratch the surface of the grandeur and life exhibited by the originals. The Rijksmuseum and Van Gogh Museum are conveniently located a veritable stone’s throw from each other, so seeing them both in one day is not out of the question. Not an art buff? Don’t worry. You don’t have to be an artist to enjoy the works exhibited, and there’s plenty more to see aside from paintings.
Amsterdam also houses the Hortus Botanicus, one of the world’s oldest and most impressive botanical gardens. The building is separated into several climate-specific areas, including a room packed to the brim with countless species of butterflies. Visitors are highly encouraged to explore the butterfly room. Not much of a green thumb? Don’t worry, there’s still more.
Speaking of green, the Heineken brewery and its hallmark bright green bottles also call Amsterdam home. They offer regular tours, and at the end of the tour, each visitor receives a surprise gift. What is it? It’s a surprise. Visit the brewery and find out.
For those of us interested in history, Anne Frank House offers a haunting reminder of Europe’s past. Walking through that building is a visceral experience, whether or not you’ve read Anne’s diary. If you have, it brings her words home.
Looking for a romantic experience? Amsterdam is known the world over for its gorgeous canal system. You can hire a boat to take you and your squeeze around the city for a pretty reasonable price. As you float across the bustling metropolis, you can take in Amsterdam’s uniquely colorful, strikingly handsome architecture. After your romantic canal ride, stop off at the Leidseplein, where startlingly talented street musicians play the night away against a background of fire dancers, illusionists, and stunning architecture—a perfect opportunity to steal a kiss.
Amsterdam is an incredibly impressive city, and not only for its more infamous aspects. Next time you plan a vacation, give some consideration to the sparkling jewel of the Netherlands. Just make sure you have enough time to take advantage of what it really has to offer.