Must-do things in The Netherlands
February 17, 2014 4:53 PM   Subscribe

I'm being sent on a whirlwind trip to the Netherlands - four days in Utrecht/Amsterdam. I'll basically have a day and a half (and possibly a couple of evenings) to see.. stuff! But I have absolutely no idea what's there. What should I see? What are the must-do's and can't-misses?

- classical chamber/orchestral music, or jazz)
- architecture (Pantheon was amazing)
- naval history (esp. Napoleonic)
- interesting food (rotten fish need not apply).

I am not overly interested in:
- art (unless it's gobsmacking - Mike's Dave was a highlight of Italy),
- current popular music
- drugs

I'm happy to travel a bit, although will be dependent upon public transport.
posted by coriolisdave to Travel & Transportation around The Netherlands (19 answers total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
Last time I was in Amsterdam I hired a tinny (with a dinky little electric motor) and just cruised around the canals for an afternoon gawking at the buildings and the boats. We should've taken more picnic stuff with us.
posted by pompomtom at 5:08 PM on February 17, 2014

The Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam is gob-smacking good art. It does not have any single work of art on the level of Mike's Dave there (Vinny's most famous paintings, like Starry Night are in other museums), but taken together as trove of painting's by Vinny, by far far far the largest collection of his work - this shouldn't be missed.
posted by Flood at 5:20 PM on February 17, 2014 [1 favorite]

I haven't been to the Scheepvaartmuseum (museum for naval history) in Amsterdam since it reopend, but I used to love it and it's a beautiful building.

If you have the chance, you should also visit the Royal Palace on Dam Square in Amsterdam, which is surprisingly georgious.

In Utrecht, take a stroll around the city centre and eat at Oudegracht. It has more mediaeval buildings and a different vibe than Amsterdam.
posted by rjs at 6:14 PM on February 17, 2014 [2 favorites]

Climb the Dom Tower in Utrecht
posted by Confess, Fletch at 6:28 PM on February 17, 2014

Best answer: For food, be sure to go to an Indonesian restaurant and sample a Rijsttafel, a wonderful smorgasborg of tiny Indonesian dishes.
posted by scolbath at 6:31 PM on February 17, 2014 [3 favorites]

Best answer: In Utrecht, friends brought me to the Café Olivier, which used to be a church. Good beer. It's not far from the Dom tower.
posted by zadcat at 7:01 PM on February 17, 2014

Response by poster: Thanks folks, some good looking stuff there.

I notice that Rotterdam is also pretty close - is there anything compelling there?
posted by coriolisdave at 7:04 PM on February 17, 2014

One of the most surprising things I saw while there was the attic church, near Centraal Station. Put it under the "architecture" category, since it's three, old home attics joined together on their top floors.
posted by FreelanceBureaucrat at 7:08 PM on February 17, 2014 [2 favorites]

The Anne Frank house, depending on your interests (it was a very moving experience for me).

Also, get a cone of french fries at some point while you're in Amsterdam!
posted by kylej at 7:47 PM on February 17, 2014

If you love modern architecture, Rotterdam is worth a stop easily, IMO. To oversimplify a bit, the people of Rotterdam responded to their city's devastation by the Luftwaffe by deciding that if there was no way they could recapture their architectural heritage, they'd be fiercely modern instead. Lots of interesting and striking buildings. Here's a recent article.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 7:52 PM on February 17, 2014

Considering your username, you could go visit the European Division of Micro Motion.
posted by Confess, Fletch at 8:52 PM on February 17, 2014

The Indonesian place I went to in Amsterdam refused to serve me a rijsttaffel because I was by myself.
posted by brujita at 10:02 PM on February 17, 2014

Best answer: In Utrecht:

- Take a canal tour; Utrecht's canals are quite different from Amsterdam's
- Visit Café Olivier and/or Café Ledig Erf for beer; Ledig Erf is in a beautiful location and it's close to the Centraal Museum/Dick Bruna Huis if you're interested in those
- Visit the Domkerk
- Visit the Sterrenwacht Sonnenborgh, a 16th century bastion and 18th century observatory
- Visit Café 't College for jazz music

In Amsterdam:

- Visit the Scheepvaartmuseum for naval history
- Visit the Rijksmuseum for more naval history and the building tour
- Have an Indonesian rijstafel at Sama Sebo or Restaurant Blauw
- Visit In de Wildeman for beer
- Visit Café Alto or the North Sea Jazz Club for jazz music
- Check the Concertgebouw and Stadsschouwburg schedules for classical music

I don't know when you'll be in the Netherlands, but the North Sea Jazz Festival is held in Rotterdam in the summer.
posted by neushoorn at 10:04 PM on February 17, 2014 [2 favorites]

The headquarters of the Dutch railway company, NS, are in Utrecht. The building has a flying saucer on the roof. Naturally.

Not exactly orchestral, but maybe you'd find it interesting anyway: in Utrecht there's also a museum of mechanical music - Wurlitzers, fairground organs, player pianos, and the street organs that you still see in Dutch towns. Take a tour and you'll get demonstrations of lots of the instruments in action.
posted by ManyLeggedCreature at 12:38 AM on February 18, 2014

I'd put pompomtom's suggestion at the top. There's nothing like going around the canal's on a small boat. I'd also recommend trying going at night. There's a few pizza places you can order from and get it in the boat.

The amsterdam historical museum has a lot of naval stuff too. (there's so many museums you can accidentally spend a few days in them. Some have crazy long lines at times. The Van Gough and the Rijksmeusum's especially. If you go to either of them buy a ticket before hand so that you can skip the queue.)

Jazz Cafe Alto is fun. It's in a totally touristy part of the city but I've never been and not heard great music. The bimhouse has jazz concerts and is located in the modern music building on the IJ (near the central train station.)

Coffee and Cake in the American Hotel and a movie at the Pathe Tuschinski if you want to see some Art Deco. I can't think of anything like the Pantheon though. (random tangent. (the pretty famous) The Discovery of Heaven by Dutch writer Harry Mulisch usually has a picture of the Pantheon on the cover. )
posted by Spumante at 12:40 AM on February 18, 2014

In Amsterdam, I would recommend the following:
1) A biking/cycling trip around the city....Recommend Mike's bikes tours. It is about 3 hours long and is FABULOUS. It's fun to go biking around the canals, up and down the little bridges...makes you almost feel like a local! (There must be more number of people in downtown Amsterdam who are bikers, rather than using motor vehicles, and good grief, they are aggressive!)
2) The Van Gogh museum is fantastic
3) Remember this really nice place we ate in...close to Mikes bikes, called Cafe de Klos.
4) Just walking around in the historic center, its a visual treat....I thought the red light area was fun, partly, because well....and partly,it had really trendy restaurants...a very lively place.
5)Protip: Avoid the Ice bar.
posted by synapse2512 at 1:23 AM on February 18, 2014

The Indonesian place I went to in Amsterdam refused to serve me a rijsttaffel because I was by myself.

…in which case you can order Nasi Rames which is kind of a one-person rijsttafeltje.

It's been up here before: pre-order a seat in Tempo Doeloe in the Utrechtsestraat, they're better than your ordinary run-in-and-out-again Indonesian corner restaurant.

As to classical, the Amsterdam Concertgebouw is special. Here's their program, "uitverkocht" means sold out:
The Waalsekerk has also concerts:
posted by Namlit at 2:11 AM on February 18, 2014

If you're looking for something a little off the beaten path in Amsterdam, I would recommend the Tropenmuseum. It's an amazing ethnographic museum with displays you won't find anywhere else.
posted by oozy rat in a sanitary zoo at 7:51 AM on February 18, 2014 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks for all the tips folks. Trip was a blast - hit up the beer church (beer! ham on't bone!), grabbed a Rijsttafel from Restaurant Blauw (AMAZEBALLS), did a canal tour, and did a lot of random wandering around.
posted by coriolisdave at 8:27 PM on March 24, 2014 [1 favorite]

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