February might not be everyone’s favourite travel month (although almost everything is cheaper everywhere), but it’s the time think about it especially ‘just-for-two’ getaways sometimes necessary for maintaining harmonious family life. While many dream of Paris in the spring as the ultimate romantic excursion, others thinking outside the cliché might thoroughly love Amsterdam, land of canals, bicycles, tulips and 17th century opulence.
Amsterdam is a city of movement, especially during the summer when throngs of tourists crowd the narrow streets looking for glimpses of the fabled liberal lifestyle, or hustle to the popular flower market (Bloemenmarkt) to buy the iconic tulip bulbs and so much more from floating florists – stores are barge-like boxes permanently moored to the side of the canal – an obsession that survived tulip mania 300 years ago. The 17th century was good to Holland, especially Amsterdam, and this is the era that left the greatest long-term impact on the city. During this time, the canal ring evolved – a defining characteristic of Amsterdam that even today hosts several hundred thousand houseboats along the canal walls. The system, declared an UNESCO heritage site, has earned the city the designation ‘Europe’s other Venice.’
It’s also home to Europe’s other Louvre: the newly renovated Rijksmuseum located in The Museum Plein, alongside the more contemporary (and sexier) Van Gogh Museum worth an afternoon’s visit. Approximately 90 per cent of the artist’s entire body of work is housed here, in this incredibly moving tribute to a troubled influential 19th-century artist who notoriously died penniless. Using his works a biographic narrative, viewers walk through the artist’s life visually experiencing his tribulations and end with a prolonged gaze at some of his most famous (and romantic) pieces like Starry Night and The Bedroom.
When you first get to the city, the best way to see an overview of the architecture, history and vibrancy is from the window of a canal boat. Both major companies – Blue Boat Company and Holland International Canal Cruises – launch from near The Museum Plein so combine a day of boats, Van Gogh and Rijksmuseum history museum showcasing the golden age of water commerce and all things which Amsterdam is truly proud.