A weekend in Amsterdam: Rembrandt, the Resistance and Raymond Blanc en route

Getting to spend a weekend in Amsterdam is as simple as hopping on the train then sitting back to enjoy, as Kate Green found out.

‘Are you here for the Rembrandt?’ asks the waitress. It’s more flattering than being asked if one’s in Amsterdam for the red-light district or a liberal cafe. Ever-helpful Amsterdammers are weary of visitors’ fascination with the seedy bits (which are steadily being closed down), but are happily bracing themselves for a rush of interest in their city’s famous son, who died 350 years ago on October 4.

Amsterdam is a cornucopia of small, intriguing museums. Het Rembrandthuis, where the artist lived, has been reconstructed authentically to show how 17th-century families lived hugger-mugger inside tall, narrow houses with lethal staircases and dark kitchens. At the top is an airy studio where his students worked and — my favourite thing — a paint mixer demonstrates how a tiny blob of white turns glossy navy-blue cobalt.

 

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I stumbled upon the excellent Amsterdam Museum, which charts the city’s history through loads of interactive fun, from the engineering feats that created it in the 14th century to the golden age of the Dutch East India Company and the powerful burghers to the grief of war.

I’ve been to the Anne Frank House — poignant in its claustrophobia — and wanted to tick off the Resistance Museum. It’s moving and thought-provoking, predicated on the dilemma that faced Amsterdammers — adjust, collaborate or resist? — and shows how parents’ choices determined family fates.

 

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“On Sunday morning I noticed, to my great joy (I’ll be honest with you), that Peter kept looking at me. Not in the usual way. I don’t know, I can’t explain it, but I suddenly had the feeling he wasn’t as in love with Margot as I used to think.” wrote Anne Frank, #onthisday 14 February 1944 in her diary. At first, Anne thought Peter (the 17-year-old son of the other family in hiding in the Secret Annex) was dull, but before long, the two grew closer and talked about everything that concerned them: their parents, the hiding place, and even intimate topics. They fell in love and kissed and cuddled in Peter’s room and in the attic (photo). #valentinesday2019 #valentinesday #QuoteoftheDay #OnthisDay #PhotooftheDay #PictureoftheDay #InstaHistory

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Today’s impression of the city is one of rising affluence — property is expensive, forcing young people into the outskirts — and renewed internationalism: ‘I think we may do quite well out of Brexit,’ said a guide apologetically.

The statistics that stuck most firmly, however, were provided by The Dylan’s charming, deadpan canalboat captain: every year, 2,000 bicycles are thrown into canals and about 12 men drown, mostly overbalancing while having a pee.

More things to  to see

The Rijksmuseum, a splendid monument to Dutch art, unites all its Rembrandt works for the first time. It presents him as a compulsive recorder of life — ‘he would have enjoyed Instagram,’ suggests curator Jonathan Bikker — endlessly drawing family, everyday scenes and his own rather grumpy face to perfect his art. Also recommended is the ‘Joy of Nature’ exhibition next door, about how van Gogh influenced David Hockney (runs until May 26).
www.rijksmuseum.nl
www.vangoghmuseum.nl

How to get there

Great news: Eurostar has a direct route to the heart of Amsterdam, through Brussels and past canals, windmills and tulip fields — a far more pleasant way of spending four hours than mucking around in airports. Business Premier class (£260 return) only involves a 10-minute check-in and includes the use of a luxurious lounge, plus Raymond Blanc’s on-board menu.
www.eurostar.com

Where to stay

The Dylan, part of the Small Luxury Hotels of the World group, was created 20 years ago on the site of a 17th-century theatre. It’s a delight: cosy, individual and tasteful, with the most helpful staff, bikes for hire, a Michelin-starred restaurant and its own canalboat, Winkeles. Rooms start at £278 per night per couple or, until June 12, book the three-night, Rembrandt-themed package from £1,236.
www.dylanamsterdam.com

 

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