FX Excursions

FX Excursions offers the chance for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in destinations around the world.

Amsterdam: Dutch Treat

Dec 1, 2010
2010 / December 2010

There will be clichés — they can’t be avoided. So let’s address them up front: canals, 17th-century gabled townhouses, bicycles, the Red Light District, coffee shops selling cannabis, Van Gogh, Rembrandt, Anne Frank, Heineken beer, tulips, Edam cheese, wooden clogs. I guess we’re in Amsterdam.

The city is so heavily laden with preconceptions, you might wonder if it’s worth visiting at all. You start to think again as soon as you touch down at Amsterdam Airport Schiphol. This is the world’s third-busiest international hub, maintaining centuries-old connections with all corners of the world. For all Amsterdam’s parochial trappings, it comes as a surprise to discover that it is among the most cosmopolitan cities in Europe.

Before you leave Schiphol, take a moment to marvel at the Dutch ingenuity that enabled it to be built on this spot southwest of downtown. Almost a third of the Netherlands is below sea level, including the airport, which occupies the site of a major naval battle fought in 1574.

Amsterdam has a love-hate relationship with water. On the one hand, it is engaged in a never-ending battle to protect the land reclaimed from the North Sea with an extensive system of dikes (equivalent to levees). On the other, the city planners created a spider’s web of 165 canals, bringing water to the doorsteps of most of the inhabitants.

Construction of the Grachtengordel (the “girdle of canals”) began almost exactly 400 years ago and helped to transform Amsterdam’s fortunes. Today, as you stroll along the leafy, cobbled banks of the canals, it is hard to imagine the industrious bustle of barges and schooners that once carried international trade directly into the heart of the city.

One of the most significant pillars of the early boom in international commerce is to be found inside an unassuming gabled entrance on Oude Hoogstraat, a narrow street in the center of the city.

Walk through the dingy passageway and you enter a beautiful 17th-century courtyard. Above a doorway on the far side are the letters “VOC” — Vereenigde Oostindische Compagnie. The Dutch East India Company.

Established in 1602, the VOC was the world’s first multinational corporation, presiding over a commercial empire that spanned Asia. It was the first company to issue shares to the public and the first to pay its shareholders an annual dividend. Modern capitalism began in this brick building.

Thanks to the company’s 200 years of success, Amsterdam flourished, becoming the wealthiest city in the world. Merchant ships shuttled in and out, bringing cargo and people from far-flung lands.

Some port cities respond to immigrants by becoming insular and unwelcoming. Amsterdam embraced the outsiders and forged an enduring reputation for liberal tolerance. Today, about a third of the population is of non-European origin, though the city doesn’t have the kaleidoscopic, multicultural feel of London or New York. This is a melting pot in which the flavor remains uniquely Dutch.

Although old Amsterdam was built on trade, in recent years the city’s commercial center of gravity has shifted south to the district of Zuidas, where the multinational successors to the long-gone Dutch East India Company occupy a growing cluster of gleaming skyscrapers.

Now that the business of making money has been relocated elsewhere, something of the old city’s traditional dynamism has been lost. Yet it remains a richly rewarding destination, and for that we have the clichés to thank.

Take a bicycle ride along the dappled streets or hire a pedal-boat to explore the canals. The city is compact allowing you to immerse yourself completely without fear of getting hopelessly lost.

Both in preconception and reality, refinement coexists with a slightly seedy underbelly. Right next door to the Baroque finery of Dam Square is the gaudy excess of the Red Light District. The wafted aromas from a local deli intermingle with a pungent haze of cannabis drifting out of a coffee shop. Posters advertising the latest exhibitions at the Van Gogh Museum or the Rijksmuseum are plastered on walls that are densely sprayed with crude graffiti. This is Amsterdam, clichés and all.


Info To Go

International flights arrive at Amsterdam Airport Schiphol (AMSAMSAMS), five miles southwest of the city. Transfers to the city center by taxi or bus take approximately 20 minutes. Schiphol Station, beneath the airport, provides 15-minute transfers to downtown Amsterdam as well as connections to other cities in the Netherlands, Belgium and Germany. Visit http://www.holland.com .


Diversions

If you intend to do some serious sightseeing, be sure to equip yourself with an I amsterdam Card, which provides free or discounted access to most of the major museums and attractions as well as unlimited use of public transport. The cards can be purchased online or at local tourist offices. A 24-hour card costs about $46, a 48-hour card is about $58, and a 72-hour card is about $70.

Fine museums and attractions are scattered throughout the city. Three of the most important museums are situated close together a short ride southwest of the city center. The Rijksmuseum contains one of the world’s great art collections, including iconic masterpieces by Rembrandt and Vermeer. The Van Gogh Museum houses the world’s greatest collection of work by Vincent van Gogh, with 200 paintings as well as drawings and letters. Other artists displayed in the museum include Gauguin, Monet, Seurat and Toulouse-Lautrec. Across the road, the Stedelijk Museum, which boasts an important collection of modern art, is currently undergoing a radical renovation. A temporary exhibition will open in the old part of the museum this August. The New Stedelijk should open toward the end of 2011.

Closer to the center of the city, on the banks of the River Amstel, is the Hermitage Amsterdam, a branch of the great State Hermitage in St. Petersburg. Besides the museum’s permanent collections, there are important temporary exhibitions. From March to September, the flagship exhibition is dedicated to the pioneers of modern art, including Matisse and Picasso. A major exhibition devoted to Alexander the Great runs through March 18, 2011.

A short walk from the Hermitage is the Rembrandt House Museum, occupying the great artist’s former home. The museum exhibits almost all of the etchings Rembrandt made in his lifetime.

Another private house preserved as a significant tourist attraction is the home of Anne Frank, the ill-fated Jewish girl whose wartime diary provides a chilling and moving chronicle of Amsterdam under Nazi occupation.

The oldest church in the city is Oude Kerk, which in various incarnations has occupied the same site since the 11th century. Today it finds itself located rather uncomfortably within the Red Light District, where the world’s oldest profession is brazenly on view in gaudily decorated parlor windows. Sights and activities that would shock in other cities are presented matter-of-factly, encapsulating Amsterdam’s liberal mindset.


Lodging

HEM Hotel Maas

Within walking distance of major attractions, this is a small, quiet, family-run hotel; and many of the rooms have whirlpools and waterbeds. Leidsekade 91, tel 31 20 6233868, $$

Hotel Pulitzer, Amsterdam

Occupying 25 17th- and 18th-century townhouses, most of the 230 individually restored guestrooms offer canal views. Prinsengracht 315-331, tel 31 20 5235235, $$$$

NH Grand Hotel Krasnapolsky

Since 1865, the Krasnapolsky has presided over Dam Square. Guestrooms are modern while public spaces retain the hotel’s Belle Époque character. Dam 9, tel 31 20 5549111, $$$$


Dining

Brasserie de Poort

Since 1870, each steak here comes with a numbered certificate; if the number is a round hundred, you get a free bottle of wine. Die Port van Cleve Hotel, Nieuwezijds Voorburgwal, tel 31 20 714 2000, $$$

Brasserie Harkema

At this Dutch take on a Parisian brasserie, housed in a former tobacco factory, the menu is predominantly European with a contemporary twist. Nes 67, tel 31 20 4282222, $$$

Kantjil & de Tijger

Amsterdam has a long tradition of fine Indonesian restaurants. This is one of the best, with emphasis on the food rather than exotic atmosphere. Spuistraat 291-293, tel 31 20 6200994, $$$

Introducing

FX Excursions

FX Excursions offers the chance for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in destinations around the world.

#globility

Insta Feed
September 2020
Sep 28, 2020

Makefield Highlands Golf Course Review

In 2004 Lower Makefield Township, Pennsylvania, purchased 168 acres of land that was an original part of the Penn Grant made to Thomas Bond (circa 1718). The stone Manor House on the property is a registered historical landmark and reminds players of the significant history of the area.

What To Expect When Flying: oneworld Debuts Information Portal

Though air travel slowed as airports temporarily closed and borders shuttered to stifle the spread of coronavirus, the airline industry — led by oneworld alliance member airlines — enacted enhanced protective measures to reduce risk and protect passengers.

Daily
Sep 28, 2020

A Classic Pennsylvania Fall at Nemacolin Woodlands Resort

For those seeking the quintessential autumn vacation, coupled with a good, old-fashioned family getaway, all-in-one resorts are a great option. Heading to or through Pennsylvania? Nemacolin Woodlands Resort will demand a few days of your time.

September 2020
Sep 25, 2020

Incheon Airport Constantly Strives to Keep Up with the Changing Times

Incheon Airport, the largest airport in South Korea, opened in 2001, serving as a hub for Asiana Airlines, Air Seoul, Air Incheon and more. As the primary airport for Seoul Capital Area, it works hard to keep its spot as the main hub in the region. Going beyond aesthetic value, Incheon Airport is revolutionizing airports, challenging boundaries and pushing technological limits.

The Perfect Fit

According to the U.S. Small Business Administration’s Office of Advocacy, small businesses create two-thirds of net new jobs and account for nearly 48 percent of the U.S. private sector workforce. And small- and medium-sized businesses outpace all other sectors as one of the fastest-growing in the United States. InterContinental® Hotels Group (IHG) goes above and beyond to create opportunities for this segment with its IHG® Business Edge program, voted Best Small- to Mid-Sized Business Program in Global Traveler’s 2019 GT Tested Reader Survey awards.

eFlyer News
Sep 23, 2020

The Chatwal Lodge, The Catskills Scheduled to Open April 1

The Chatwal Lodge will debut in Bethel, New York, 90 miles north of New York City, April 1, 2021. The lodge, nestled on a 30-acre, environmentally protected piece of land, offers panoramic views and a quiet mountain sanctuary.

Adventure Redefined: Volvo Overseas Delivery Program

Are you looking for a truly unique travel experience and considering a new vehicle? The Volvo Overseas Delivery Program is the perfect solution to create your own refined adventure of a lifetime. You can custom order your new Volvo, tailored to fit your needs and desires. They will fly you to Sweden to pick up your Volvo so you can drive and explore Scandinavia and Europe on your terms for up to two weeks.

eFlyer News
Sep 23, 2020

Live Aqua Beach Resort Punta Cana to Debut in 2021

The highly anticipated Live Aqua Beach Resort Punta Cana will debut in February 2021. It will be the first Live Aqua property outside of Mexico for Posadas.