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Amsterdamthe land of tulips

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Amsterdam with Jason Oliver Nixon

Rijksmuseum

Photo by Myra May

Stop at the Rijksmuseum to see Rembrants, Vermeers and Frans Hals.

It would be easy to distill the appeal of Amsterdam down to its more, ahem, hedonistic charms, but the city overflows with less vice-driven options. And there’s no better time to visit the so-called “Venice of the North” than in the spring, when the city bursts into bloom.

Amsterdam is divided by concentric canals that create 90 “islands” accessible by 1,500 bridges. So get out and explore by foot—just watch out for the endless hordes of cyclists who race past pedestrians.

       
Have a meal at the Hotel de L'Europe.        

Make the just-revamped Hotel de L’Europe—perfectly situated on the Amstel River—your home base. Reserve a sumptuous, color-packed room in the historic Rondeel wing and awake to postcard-perfect views of the city’s waterways.

Kick off your tour of the Dutch capital in the nearby Bloemenmarkt, situated on the Singel canal. Flower aficionados will go ga-ga for stalls overflowing with brilliantly hued tulip bulbs, miniature citrus trees, seeds and cut flowers. From there, continue on to the Museumplein, or Museum Square, to satisfy your culture fix. There’s the sleek Van Gogh Museum, which houses such stunning works as “Sunflowers” and “The Potato Eaters,” as well as the dramatic Rijksmuseum, featuring Rembrandts, Vermeers and Frans Hals, as well as gorgeous still lifes (note: the museum was under renovation at press time).

Celebrate the flavors of spring after a brisk walk to De Kas, a restaurant and nursery housed within a former municipal greenhouse in leafy Frankendael Park. If the weather permits, sit outdoors in the beautiful herb garden and enjoy the nursery-to-table fixed-price menu (think white asparagus with lentil sprouts and Chioggia beets). From there, head to one of the city’s former canal-facing homes that have been converted into museums—such as the famous Anne Frank House and the circa-1672 Museum Van Loon, a must-see for fans of the decorative arts.

       
Hortus Botanicus.        

Shop the charming Nine Little Streets neighborhood or bohemian Jordaan, and design fans should seek out boutiques such as Droog, The Frozen Fountain and Moooi Gallery. Then turn down the volume at the Hortus Botanicus, the city’s 300-year-old botanic garden in the appropriately named Plantage district. Wander among greenhouses and the palm house, and explore the history of the tempestuous tulip in “The Tulip. Wild and Tempting” exhibit running through mid-May.

Come nightfall, settle in for dinner at charming Bloesem, a flower-filled dining room serving market-driven delights (e.g., grilled halibut with puréed pumpkin and Parmesan). Finish your day at the sleek-chic Dylan Amsterdam with a cool artisanal cocktail in the hotel’s verdant, peaceful courtyard.

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