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Amsterdamthe land of tulips

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'Dam Fine Amsterdam: Change is Good

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Don't Miss
Anne Frank Huis. It’s in the sober, unfurnished back annex of this 17th-century canal-house that Anne and her family hid from the Nazis for two years during World War II. Only her father survived the arrest and concentration camps to make sure that Anne’s diary could be published. More than 25 million copies have since been printed in 55 languages. Go early to avoid the lines.

Hermitage Amsterdam. This outpost of the Hermitage in St. Petersburg officially opened in June 2009. Its opening exhibition, At the Russian Court, features 1,800 objects and art from its prestigious Russian parent’s collection of more than 3 million objects and covers the 19th century, when six Russian czars reigned supreme.

Museumplein, resembling a designer cow field, is home to the city’s three main museums. Stedelijk Museum of Modern Art and the Rijksmuseum are both undergoing renovations, but the latter is still partially open and displaying the best of its collection—including many Rembrandts and Vermeers. Make way to the Van Gogh Museum, dedicated to the work of everyone’s favorite earless genius. Afterward, recover by people-watching in the city’s green lung, Vondelpark.

Café-lined Nieuwmarkt square forms the heart of the “Old Side” of the “Old Centre.” With medieval, castlelike De Waag as its centrepiece, Nieuwmarkt provides a decompression zone between the Red Light District to the west and the old Jewish quarter to the east.

The Spui, the “book square,” features an excellent used-book market on Fridays and is also the best route to the restful inner courtyards of the Begijnhof and the excellent Amsterdam Historical Museum.

Waterfront. Just east of Centraal Station, the top floor of the new Openbare Bibliotheek Amsterdam, one of Europe’s largest public libraries, offers a great view of the historic harbor and the boardwalk of the up-and-coming Eastern Docklands, with its award-winning Muziekgebouw aan ’t IJ—one of the most innovative musical complexes in Europe—and the wave-shaped cruise ship passenger terminal.

Where to Shop
Markets remain the best places to witness the city in action. Albert Cuypmarkt in the multicultural De Pijp neighborhood is one of the largest outdoor markets in Europe, if not the largest, with everything from food to knock-off fashions. For Old World charm, visit the Monday Morning Flea Market on Noordermarkt square—where an organic food market also takes place on Saturdays. And, of course, stock up on bulb needs at Bloemenmarkt (pictured), the world-famous floating flower market.
 
With space at a premium, everything in Amsterdam has been carefully designed for centuries—and the results are universally acclaimed. Design bigwig—and inventor of the “knotted chair”—Marcel Wanders has just set up the shop Moooi Gallery on the ground floor of a school. There are also the home outlets of such famed design collectives as Droog and The Frozen Fountain. But for something more affordable, just step into iconic department store HEMA, which specializes in applying design to everyday life.

Where to Shop
De 9 Straatjes. The nine side streets that interconnect the major canals offer the best in specialty shopping: from fashion to cheese to toothbrushes. There are also plenty of trendy cafés in which to recover.

Where to Drink
Leidseplein (pictured), the city’s main square, is home to its major cultural venues. Former milk factory Melkweg and former church Paradiso are both legendary live music venues with quality club nights in the later hours. The 19th-century municipal theater Stadsschouwburg has just unveiled a new stage and the acclaimed late-hour café Stanislavski. Around the corner on Marnixstraat is a row of smaller DJ bars.

At Brouwerij ’t IJ, a little off the beaten track, indulge in some of the best locally brewed beers in Amsterdam while sitting on a stellar patio in the shadow of a bona fide windmill. Only open 3–8 p.m. daily.

Trouw Amsterdam opened early this year in a former newspaper printing complex and immediately became the hottest nightclub in town, thanks to cutting-edge programming. Since its lease runs out in 2011, the décor remains decidedly industrial. A restaurant serves reasonably priced pad thai, tortillas and other global street foods.

Wynand Fockink. Tucked away in a side alley off main square Dam, this standing-room-only tasting house for flavored jenevers (the Dutch original gin) and liqueurs has remained unchanged since 1679 when it was a hangout for Freemasons.

Where to Dine
La Oliva Pintxos y Vinos. Located in the heart of Jordaan, the city’s most charming neighborhood, this restaurant serves highly regarded Northern Spanish food and tapas—as well as a rich
selection of wines by the glass.

Wander through the streets (pictured) and snack your way across town: raw herring from the ubiquitous fish stalls; a Dutch broodje (sandwich) from a butcher or baker; a spicy, exotic broodje from an Indonesian/Chinese/Surinamese snack bar. And don’t forget the cheese shops . . . .

Where to Dine
De Bakkerswinkel. This local chain of bakery/tearooms is perfect for both breakfast and lunch. Lovingly prepared hearty sandwiches are the specialty—though the quiche and sweets selection shouldn’t be dismissed.

Restaurant Blauw (pictured). On the culinary boulevard that runs along Vondelpark’s southern border, this newcomer is the perfect place to indulge in the delicacies of Indonesia, a former colony of Holland. The “rice table” is a feast for the gods.

Nevy. Tight design and comfortable lounge chairs with views over the watery IJ come together with a suitably fishy menu put together by Michelin-starred chef Robert Kranenborg. If Nevy is to your liking, check out equally fancy sister operations Vyne and Envy.

Where to Stay
The riverside InterContinental Amstel Amsterdam (pictured) welcomes film stars and royalty to its classic vision of Old World luxury, offering every service imaginable—for a price. La Rive restaurant boasts chef Rogér Rassin and is Michelin-starred.

Fitting in perfectly in the Eastern Docklands neighborhood, famed for its modern residential architecture, the Lloyd Hotel, a former youth prison, has been reinvented as a one- to five-star hotel. Choose between a simple sleeping closet or a suite filled with the work of hotshot Dutch designers as Atelier van Lieshout and Marcel Wanders.
Where to Stay
Grand Hotel Amrâth Amsterdam. Near Central Station, this architectural monument of creative brick work and sea-themed sculptures—built as shipping offices—now houses a deluxe hotel complete with such local aberrations as a swimming pool and free minibar.

citizenM (pictured) is a new homegrown “boutique budget” chain with global ambitions and two Amsterdam locations. Each room is a shipping container stripped down to the bare necessities: big bed, big screen, shower, toilet and a “‘mood pad”’ that controls all of the above.

Anxious to cast aside its reputation as a capital of sin, Amsterdam is in a rebranding frenzy. The infamous red-neon framed windows filled with prostitutes and the coffee shops filled with marijuana are being cast aside, cut back and more tightly controlled, in favor of reinventing the city as a “creative capital.” Some of the streets may resemble construction zones as a controversial subway is built, and some of the museums are undergoing renovation, but the city and its iconic rings of canals remain the perfect setting for scenic strolls. And rest assured, the relaxed vibe is still in full effect—after all, Amsterdam has been welcoming visitors since the 17th century, when it was the richest port in the world. —Steve Korver

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