Right now, It's just me and my friend Julie, but all others are welcome. This trip is to really get a good feel of London, Paris, Amsterdam, and Belgium. Spending enough but not too much time in each spot, submerged in the culture and having a great time.
The Passions of Amsterdam
Sex, drugs, and Vincent van Gogh—all on view and just part of a voyeur's paradise. But Gully Wells goes deeper into the layered mysteries of a rapidly evolving city
Europe: 20 Money-Saving Tips
See + Do
Amsterdam 1071 CJ, Netherlands
Tel: 31 20 674 7000
The vast neoclassical brick castle of the Rijksmuseum—is set in gardens leading to Museumplein and onward to the Van Gogh Museum and the Concertgebouw. The museum's incredible holdings include Rembrandts, Vermeers, and delftware. Although the displays rotate, Rembrandt's most famous work, The Nightwatch, is always on view.
Open daily 9 am to 6 pm (Fridays open till 10 pm).
See + Do
Red Light District, Netherlands
You needn't have any interest in the red lights and what's beneath them to enjoy a stroll here. The interplay of tree, canal, brickwork, and gable here may put you under a spell even without the influence of Amsterdam's other most famous pleasure. (Remember, despite all the freedoms here there is an etiquette to visiting: Don't even think about taking a picture). The Museum Amstelkring illuminates an era when Amsterdam wasn't so tolerant and Catholics were forced to worship in clandestine churches (40 Oudezijds Voorburgwal; 31-20-624-6604; www.museumamstelkring.nl), while the 14th-century Gothic Oude Kerk (Old Church—the city's oldest) is a frequent venue for special exhibitions (Oudekerksplein; 31-20-625-8284; www.oudekerk.nl). To learn about the ins and outs of the district's raison d'être, visit the Prostitution Information Center (3 Enge Kerksteeg; 31-20-420-7328; www.pic-amsterdam.com), established and run by former working girls.
Albert Cuypmarkt, Netherlands
People speak of this street market in superlatives: longest-running (since 1904), largest (several long blocks), most diverse (dozens of ethnicities), and that's just for starters. From 9:30 am to 5 pm Monday through Saturday, street stalls and shops sell fresh fruit and fresh fish, exotic herbs and exotic pets, umbrellas and underwear. Signs reading "Hollandse Nieuwe" announce that it's the season for herring, the quintessential Dutch street food (dangle it over your mouth and gradually lower it). Another reason to visit: The market is still frequented more by locals than tourists.
See + Do
Van Gogh Museum, Netherlands
Amsterdam 1071 CX, Netherlands
Tel: 31 20 570 5200
A 1973 building by Gerrit Rietveld along with a 1999 addition (locally known as "the mussel") by Kisho Kurokawa is the world's premier venue for works by tragically talented Van Gogh. In addition to some 200 paintings (including The Potato Eaters, The Yellow House in Arles, and Wheatfield with Crows), 500 drawings, and 700 letters from Vincent, there are works by his French post-Impressionist contemporaries, including Gauguin and Toulouse-Lautrec, and some Monets thrown in for good measure.
Open daily 10 am to 6 pm (Fridays open till 10 pm).
Cake Under My Pillow, Netherlands
Amsterdam 1072 BH, Netherlands
Tel: 31 20 751 0936
In the heart of the Pijp neighborhood, the cake shop De Taart van m'n Tante (My Auntie's Cake) is much loved for its style, its taste, and, let's be frank, its kitsch. The owners' B&B takes it to the next level—actually up two stories. The three rooms were stripped down to the floorboards and painted blue (as in Delft), green (dog motif), or orange (for the saffron hues of Asia). Rooms have orthopedic beds, wireless Internet access, and thick windows to keep out the noise of the busy neighborhood below. Guests get a voucher for coffee and cake downstairs (try the poppy seed cake or Dutch apple pie). And there's a common kitchen in case you want your breakfast at 6…p.m.