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Amsterdam Sightseeing


The Martin Luther King quote "we may have all come in on different ships, but we're in the same boat now" is the inspiration for artist Sarah van Sonsbeeck's intervention in the Oude Kerk, Amsterdam's oldest surviving building. Here, amid the final resting place of Holland's naval heroes, she uses emergency blankets and other unconventional materials to ponder the topical issue of migration. (www.oudekerk.nl).

Amsterdam's stage scene becomes a cauldron of experimental dance doings in July, as the Julidans festival springs into action. This year there are headline performances from the likes of the Ballet National de Marseille, as well as a spotlight on up-and-coming talents in the Julidans NEXT programme. www.julidans.nl

The World Press Photo initiative was formed in 1955, when a group of Dutch photographers organised a contest to expose their work to international contemporaries. These days it's evolved into a captivating travelling exhibition that kicks off in Amsterdam's Nieuwe Kerk before decamping to venues in Mexico City and Tokyo. www.worldpressphoto.org.

The 'Prints in Paris 1900: From Elite to the Street' exhibition at the Van Gogh Museum examines one of the defining technological developments of Belle Époque France. Its dazzling collection features some truly iconic illustrations while evoking the excitement and sophistication of the age. www.vangoghmuseum.nl

The latest solo show at Amsterdam's world-class contemporary art museum, the Stedelijk, is an unabashed celebration of one of the city's best loved shutterbugs. Ed van der Elsken, who died in 1990, was an early practitioner of photographic modes we take for granted these days, including street photography. What's more, he observed Amsterdam through some of its most tumultuous transformations. Unmissable. www.stedelijk.nl/en

The arrival of the Dutch changed South Africa irreversibly. Comprising 300 curated objects and expert commentary,"Good Hope. South Africa and The Netherlands from 1600" at the Rijksmuseum is the first major exhibition to explore this most sensitive and significant chapter of colonial history (www.rijksmuseum.nl).

Goodbye, Norma Jean. '90 Years Miss Monroe,' the blockbuster exhibition of Marilyn Monroe's clothes and other personal effects, is soon to leave the medieval Nieuwe Kerk for pastures new. With audio commentary by famous Dutch folk from the worlds of media and fashion, it's a fascinating look back on the short life of an enduring icon. denieuwekerk.nl.

Jordan Wolfson, the current enfant terrible of the American art scene, kicks off a two-part solo show at the Stedelijk Museum with a giant animatronic puppet, designed (metaphorically speaking) to strip back the glossy veneer of the American dream and expose the darker side lurking beneath. Couldn't he just have held an election? www.stedelijk.nl

It may lack some of the red-carpet glamour of Venice or Cannes, but the International Documentary Festival Amsterdam, which takes over some of Amsterdam's most prestigious cinemas 16-27 November, is a spectacular window on the world. Everything is subtitled in English, and the special screenings featuring Q&As with directors can be inspiring and fascinating. www.idfa.nl.

Key Areas

You don't have to choose between vitamin D and a shot of culture this (or any) summer in Amsterdam, thanks to the venerable tradition of open air performances in the famous Vondelpark. Taking in dance, pop music and cabaret, the majority of shows require no knowledge of Dutch to be enjoyed. (www.openluchttheater.nl/english/)

It's home to Amsterdam Fashion Week at the beginning of July, but there's much besides strutting to occupy visitors to the Westergasfabriek complex throughout the rest of the month. A host of bars with sunny terraces clamours for your attention, and the Milkshake music festival at the end of the month is popular with the LGBT crowd.

In brand recognition terms, it may play second fiddle to a certain green-canned beer, but the Bols family of spirits plays a truly extraordinary role in the history of Amsterdam - and booze. Visitors to the newly-upgraded House of Bols experience just off Museum square can learn how the Bols family invented the cocktail (and, effectively, branding) before rustling one up for themselves. Proost! www.bols.com/experience

Its aesthetic is the opposite of boastful, but Dutch design has much to recommend it. Occupying a historic building next door to one of Amsterdam's most-photographed bridges, Hôtel Droog (www.droog.com) is a conceptual design institution that can sell you a lamp that looks like a coat hanger then feed you a cracking sandwich.

Perfect for sheltering from the rain while indulging in a spot of retail therapy, the Magna Plaza shopping centre across the road from the Royal Palace on Dam Square is something of an architectural marvel, having been designed as a lavish post office by Cornelis Hendrik Peters at the close of the 19th century. (www.magnaplaza.nl).

Amsterdam's bloggers, blaggers and beautiful people head to the Westerpark for the last ten days of January, as Fashion Week struts its stuff. The park itself makes for a modish hangout pretty much any day of the year, however - with several cafés, a charming cinema and post-industrial vistas galore.

Everything is illuminated during the annual Amsterdam Light Festival. Head to the neighbouring Weesperbuurt and Plantage neighbourhoods in the east of town to admire the electrifying artworks that line this year's Illuminade walking tour. amsterdamlightfestival.nl

As the weather turns chillier, there can be few better places to hang out than De Hallen, the magnificent former tram hall in the Oud-West district that's been given a new lease of life as a covered market. It's not just a haven for foodies, however - there's also a selection of stylish shops and the biggest independent cinema in the country. www.dehallen-amsterdam.nl.

Day Trips

The second week of this month is your last chance to experience (formerly) Young British Artist Martin Creed's playful intervention at the Museum Voorlinden in Wassenaar (www.voorlinden.nl). Once you've had your fill of balloon-filled rooms, head out into the exquisite gardens by master of Dutch horticultural design, Piet Oudolf.

Bright and beautiful, the Netherlands' tulip season is going out in a blaze of glory this month. The famous Keukenhof gardens in Lisse are open until 21 May, showcasing expert arrangements of the iconic bloom. It takes around an hour to get there on the bus. www.keukenhof.nl

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