City Guide

Four hours in Amsterdam 2008

13 Aug 2008 by Sara Turner

Cocktails and culture, diamonds and ice – there’s always something new to experience in the capital of cool, finds Jenny Southan.


1. Van Gogh Musuem

The Van Gogh Museum, located off Museumplein, has the largest collection of the artist’s paintings in the world. Inside you’ll see how his style developed from his early works depicting rural life in the Netherlands (The Potato Eaters), to his later works, after he moved to the south of France, where the canvases explode into colour. As a pioneer of Impressionism, Van Gogh sold only one piece during his lifetime and, plagued by depression and psychotic episodes, he was admitted to an asylum in 1888. The museum displays many of the masterpieces he produced in the two years after his release, but in 1890 – just as he was gaining recognition – he shot himself, dying two days later. Open daily from 10am to 6pm (10pm on Fridays). Entry is €10, or free with an Amsterdam Card. Paulus Potterstraat 7, vangoghmuseum.nl.

2. House Of Bols

For a completely different cultural experience, cross the road to the ultra-modern House of Bols. This museum is dedicated to the history of the distilled national spirit, genever, as well as the Lucas Bols legacy of cocktail-making. On the self-guided tour visitors experience a “discovery of the senses”. There’s the Hall of Taste, where you can experiment with aroma and flavour, and the Delft Blue Room, which has a complete collection of KLM Airlines’ Delft Blue miniature Dutch canal houses, filled with Bols young genever. At the end of the tour you are given a cocktail designed specifically for your palate. Open daily 12-6pm (closed Tuesdays). Entry is €10 and includes a cocktail at the Mirror Bar. Paulus Potterstraat 14, houseofbols.com.

3. Pasta Tricolore

Around the corner, on Pieter Cornelisz Hooftstraat, is Pasta Tricolore, an authentic Italian deli, where you can make your own sandwiches choosing from trays brimming with tasty antipasti, marinated olives, pasta bakes, cheeses, sausages and salads. There is plenty of choice for vegetarians too and a range of rustic bread, and at around €5 for a sandwich it’s great value. Open daily until 7pm.

4. Rembrandtplein

Named after the 17th-century Dutch artist, this square is lined with bars, hotels and cafés. In the centre is a garden with a cluster of 22 life-size bronze sculptures, a 3D representation of Rembrandt’s famous painting The Night Watch and a statue of the artist himself. The project was undertaken by two Russian artists, Alexander Taratynov and Mikhail Dronov, and took six years to complete. It was transported from Moscow to Holland in 2006 and has earned the title of biggest sculpture in the Netherlands. For more information visit nightwatch3d.com.

5. Xtracold Amsterdam

Opened in 2006, just two minutes’ walk from Rembrandtplein, this was the first ice bar in Holland. There are two venues – the Some Like it Hot lounge with high-backed white leather stools and red walls, and the XtraCold Ice Café. Make sure you put on the thermal fleece-lined coats and a pair of gloves before entering as the temperature inside is minus eight degrees celsius – everything from the walls to the cocktail glasses is made of ice. Entry to the Ice Café is €15. This includes 30 minutes inside and a Smirnoff cocktail or Extra Cold Heineken beer in an ice glass. Open daily from 2pm to midnight (3am at weekends). Amstel 194-196, xtracold.com.

6. Gassan Diamonds

If you like your ice to be a bit pricier, head to Gassan Diamonds on Nieuwe Uilenburgerstraat (173-175) for a free one-hour tour of the working factory, and the chance to buy a diamond and have it mounted while you wait. Choose from a large selection of loose polished stones or set jewellery, or for something very special, choose one of Gassan’s own designs – a cut diamond which features 121 sparkling facets (by comparison, the traditional brilliant cut has just 57 facets). The company was founded in 1945 by Samuel Gassan, and has since expanded, opening branches in Schiphol and Heathrow airports. Open daily 9am-5pm; to book a tour go to gassandiamonds.com.

For more details or to buy an I Amsterdam Card (E33 for 24 hours) visit holland.com.

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