Walk Amsterdam’s Museumkwartier
This walk is all about art and culture! The Museum Quarter is the cultural center of Amsterdam and it’s filled with museums, churches, and beautiful green parks. The center of the museum quarter is Museum Square. On this square, which is almost more like a park as it’s a long stretch of grass, you’ll find three of the most visited museums in the Netherlands: The Rijksmuseum, Van Gogh Museum, and Stedelijk Museum – all amazing places in their own right. So put on your learning glasses, grab your notebook and let’s take a walk around!
Enjoy your walk!
Total Walking Time: 48 min
Best Roast en Route: Conservatorium Hotel
This is one of Amsterdam’s best hidden bars: the one inside the Conservatorium Hotel. Previously the building was home to the Conservatorium (music school), that was conveniently located close to the Concertgebouw (see Highlight F). As the Conservatorium outgrew the building and moved to another location in the city, the building was transformed into a hotel and bar. The art nouveau is omnipresent and in combination with the large windows makes for a spectacular place for a drink or dinner.
Highlight A: Rijksmuseum
This is the national art museum of the Netherlands. The Rijksmuseum was built in 1885 and designed by Pierre Cuypers – the same person who designed the original central station building. You can actually see quite a lot of resemblance between both buildings. The central station was designed on the northern border of Amsterdam and the Rijksmuseum on the southern border. The Rijksmuseum houses the most important piece of Dutch artwork: De Nachtwacht by Rembrandt. As you walk through the underpass you can see a wide slit in the ceiling (at the south entrance of the pass). It’s there so that in case of fire the Nachtwacht (which is directly above it) will automatically be lowered directly down through the slit so that it can be saved of any possible damage. Also be sure to peak inside to enjoy the newly renovated open space. You can enter the main area for free, which is worth a visit in itself.
Highlight B: Vondelpark
What is a walk in the Museum Quarter without the Vondelpark? The Vondelpark is the most popular park of Amsterdam. You’ll find loads of different activities here at the same time. People skating, jogging, cycling or just hanging out in the grass. The Vondelpark dates back to 1864 and was originally called the New Park. But after 3 years the municipality placed a statue of Joost van den Vondel, a famous poet, and from that point on everyone started calling it the Vondelpark. At first the Vondelpark was still privately owned and cycling wasn’t allowed. However after much discussion it was decided cycling would be allowed, but ONLY in the morning hours. The problem was that because the park was privately owned people couldn’t be fined for cycling there. So in 1953 the park was finally sold to the municipality for the symbolic amount of 1 guilder on the condition it stayed open for music performances, no political speeches would be held here and dogs would be allowed to walk free!
Highlight C: Obrechtkerk
The Obrechtkerk was built in 1908 and was designed by another architect called Cuypers (this time Joseph Cuypers instead of Pierre) in cooperation with an architect called Jan Stuyt. They both had different ideas about the design concept of the church, which led to a design with a lot of decoration and different designs. In later designs for separate projects you can see they reused different aspects of the Obrechtkerk’s design that they personally found the most important. The official name for the Obrechtkerk is actually The Church of our Lady of the Most Holy Rosary. You can understand why they shortened it to Obrechtkerk! A little fun fact about this church is that 8 different artists were involved in the decoration/design of the church. Another fun fact is that on the clock on the left tower, the Roman signs for 9 and 11 are switched.
Highlight D: Orthodox Synagogue Rassjoel
Here we have the orthodox synagogue. It was built in 1928 for the Jewish community that had started living in areas of Amsterdam other than the Jewish quarter. The Architect designed the synagogue in the Amsterdamse School style with some inspiration from famous architects like Willem Dudok and Frank Lloyd Wright. The interior of the synagogue has a traditional layout with a balcony where the women are supposed to sit and benches on the ground floor for the men. The fencing of the balconies is designed in such a way that women and men can’t see each other and won’t get distracted by each other.
Today this is one of the largest synagogues that is still in use. The temple belongs to the Ashkenazim Jews. For those who are interested, see their website to sign up for guided tours.
Highlight E: Roelof Hartplein
This stop is great to sit down and take a break. On the Roelof Hartplein you’ll find the public library, also known as the OBA (Openbare Bibliotheek Amsterdam: Public Library Amsterdam), where you can read a book or catch some WiFi. Inside you really feel like you walked into a 1920’s book store, it’s worth a going inside. On the other side of the street is a lively cafe called Cafe Wildschut. A great cafe for taking a well-deserved break and having a cup of coffee or tea! The couches inside are covered in leather. We imagine that the designer also designed similar couches for movies of the pornographic genre.
Highlight F: Concertgebouw
The Royal Concert Building of Amsterdam was built in 1883. Back then it was actually outside of the city limits. But as Amsterdam expanded it too became part of the city in 1896. The Concert Building has 4 main halls: The Big Hall, The Small Hall, the Mirror Hall and the Choir Hall. A century later the layout of the Concert Building was changed during a large renovation. They moved the entrance from the front of the building to the side, so now you enter the building in a swanky new extension. On the opening day in 1888, music from Wagner, Beethoven, Handel, and Bach was played by 120 musicians and a choir of 500 people, you must have been able to hear it from the Rijksmuseum. The Concertgebouw is known around the world for its amazing acoustics. Good to know: on Wednesdays at noon the Concertgebouw organizes free concerts. Be sure to get there on time as these concerts are popular.
Highlight G: Museumplein
Welcome to Museumplein (Museum Square)! This square has multiple museums along one side: The Stedelijk Museum, van Gogh, Mokum Museum, Diamond Museum and of course the Rijksmuseum!
Closest to the Concertgebouw, you’ll see the Stedelijk Museum. This is a museum for modern art with a lot of temporary installments. This makes it the perfect museum to revisit every once in a while! The new part of the building, which was designed by Benthem Crouwel Architects, has given the Stedelijk Museum a new name. Most people have taken to calling it the Bathtub because of the shape and white color of the extension.
A more famous museum is the Van Gogh Museum, to the right of the Stedelijk Museum. The name speaks for itself as it is filled with painting by Vincent van Gogh, one the most famous painters of the Netherlands, like his self portrait where he cut his own ear off. Did you know van Gogh only ever sold one painting in his life? He sold it to his brother. Also fun to know: once a week on Friday night, they host TGIF drinks inside the museum. With the beats of a DJ in the background, you can enjoy Vincent’s masterpieces.
To the right of the Van Gogh Museum you’ll see the majestic Rijksmuseum (see Highlight A). We’ll leave you with one more fun fact: The gravel square in front of the Rijksmuseum has a market every Sunday during summer time. But when winter hits it gets even better because the pond in the middle is turned into an ice skating rink, complete with drawbridge.
Your Fav Hidden Gems
The above highlights are just some of our favorite spots along the way. If something catches your eye while en route, share a picture with us so we can share with the group next week. Email is the best.
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