Amsterdam Travel Destinations

Amsterdam Travel Destinations

CANAL RING WEST AND THE JORDAAN

WESTERKERK. This stunning Protestant church was designed by Roman Catholic architect Hendrick de Keyser and completed in 1631. It stands as one of the last structures built in the Dutch Renaissance style, which can be distinguished by its use of both brick and stone. Rembrandt is believed to be buried here, though the exact spot of his resting place has not yet been located. Climb the Westerkerkstoren tower in a 45min.-lhr. tour for a great view of the city. (Prinsengr. 281. s624 77 66. Open July-Aug. M-Sa llam-3pm; Sept. and Apr.-June M-F 1 lam-3pm. Tours every hr. ‚3.)

HOMOMONUMENT AND PINK POINT. Homomonument serves as a tripartite memorial to men and women persecuted for their homosexuality, and since 1987 has stood in the center of Amsterdam as a testament to the strength and resilience of the homosexual community. Karin Daan’s design, three pink granite triangles, allude to the signs homosexuals were required to wear in Nazi concentration camps. The Homomonument’s neighbor, Pink Point, stands as a reminder of everything vibrant and fun about gay life in Amsterdam. The kiosk is a clearinghouse for information on homosexual happenings. Pick up free listings of BGL bars, clubs, restaurants, and cultural life. (Both in front of Westerkerk. Pink Point: s428 10 70; www.pinkpoint.org. Open Apr.-Sept. daily noon-6pm.)

INSTITUTE FOR WAR DOCUMENTATION. The degree of intricacy in its carvings and other ornamental decoration set this stone mansion apart from other banal canal houses. Nazis occupied the opulent space during WWII, and the building now houses the Nederlands Instituut voor Oorlogsdocumentatie (Dutch Library of War Documentation). In addition to a comprehensive collection of Dutch war resources and photographs, the library has English-, French-, and Ger-man-language books concerning WWII and other major international conflicts. The study and library are both open to the public. (Herengrt. 380. s’523 38 00; www.oorlogsdoc.knaw.nl. Open M l-5pm; Tu-W, F9am-5pm; Th 9am-9pm. Free.)

LEIDSEPLEIN AND MUSEUMPLEIN

LEIDSEPLEIN. Leidseplein proper is a crush of street musicians, blaring neon lights, and open-air urinals. Daytime finds the square packed with shoppers, smokers, and drinkers lining the sidewalks around the square. When night falls, tourists and locals emerge in packs of skin-tight jeans and greased-down hair. Max Euwe-plein, a square along Weteringschans named for the famous Dutch chess master, sports an enormous chess board with people-sized pieces.

VONDELPARK. With meandering walkways, green meadows, several ponds, beautifully maintained rose gardens and a 1.5km paved path for bikers and skaters, this English-style park is a lovely meeting place for children, seniors, soccer players, and stoners. Named after one of Holland’s great writers, Joost van den Vondel, Vondelpark is home to an open-air theater The Openluchttheater f 673 14 99; www.openluchttheater.nl) where visitors can enjoy free concerts during the summer. (In the southwestern corner of the city, outside the Singelgr. A short walk across the canal and to the left from the Leidsepl. www.vondelpark.org.)

CENTRAL CANAL RING AND REMBRANDTPLEIN

CENTRAL CANAL RING. You haven’t seen Amsterdam until you’ve spent some time wandering in the Central Canal Ring, the city’s highest rent district and arguably its most beautiful. Collectively, Prinsengracht (Prince’s canal), Keizers-gracht (Emperor’s canal), and Herengracht (Gentlemen’s canal) are known as the grachtengordel (literally canal girdle). The Ring is home to some of Amsterdam’s most important and breathtaking architecture, particularly on a stretch of the Herengrt. between Leidsegrt. and Vijzelstr. that is known as the Golden Bend by virtue of its wide, lavish homes. (Over the Singel and just south of Centrum.)

REMBRANDTPLEIN. Rembrandtplein proper consists of a grass rectangle surrounded by scattered flowerbeds. A bronze likeness of the famed master, Rembrandt van Rijn, overlooks the scene, but it’s what surrounds the greenery that makes this neighborhood unforgettable. Litters of bars and cafes are all packed with lively night owls. In the evening, Rembrandtpl. competes with Leidsepl. for Amsterdam’s hippest nightlife, with a concentration of gay hotspots. South and west of the square lies Reguliersdwarsstraat, fittingly dubbed the gayest street in Amsterdam, where good-looking men abound. (In the northeast corner of the Central Canal Ring, just south of the Amstel.)

Housed in the only public building on the Golden Bend, the Cat’s Cabinet is a temple to all things feline including statuary, portraiture, pop art, and assorted knick-knacks. The collection was started by a businessman with an unusually strong 18-year attachment to his cat named J. P. Morgan; check out his feline face gracing the dollar bill in the museum. (Herengrt. 497. 626 53 78; www.kattenkabinet.nl. Open M-F 10am-2pm, Sa-Su l-5pm. ‚4.50, under-12 ‚2.30.)

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