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Amsterdam see + do

If Amsterdam fell off your "must see" list after your last spring break, put it back on immediately, toward the top. Yes, the famously tolerant, liberal Dutch capital still earns its reputation for louche living with legal you-know-what (and yes, that too), but there's so much more here. The city has been evolving at warp speed over the past decade and now contains probably the highest concentration of exciting modern architecture anywhere in Europe (with the possible exception of nearby Rotterdam). For the best view of the all-new, futuristic Amsterdam, explore the revitalized harbor area, where a 50-acre redevelopment project near the Centraal Station is underway. Other centers of avant-garde design include the city's South Axis, where architects like Renzo Piano have been busy, and the Eastern Docklands, where the manmade islands of Java, Borneo, and KNSM are studies in 21st-century urban planning. Maybe Amsterdam's greatest surprise, though, for those who still envision the city as a decadent late-night orgy, is the sheer magnitude of its outdoor attractions. The massive Vondelpark, the elegant Hortus Botanicus (a botanical garden founded in 1638), the Bloemenmarkt's floating flower stalls, and outdoor markets like the Noordermarkt are the playgrounds where you'll find real Amsterdammers, the minute the sun comes out. What haven't changed, however, are the city's perennial attractions: block after block of 17th- and 18th-century canal houses in the time-warped Canal Rings, and some of the world's greatest art treasures. The Rijksmuseum exhibits the greatest Rembrandts, Vermeers, and Jan Steens—and of course everyone knows about the unmissable Van Gogh Museum.

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Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam

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....more

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Stedelijk Museum of Modern Art, Amsterdam

This modern art and design museum's permanent home on Museumplein was a little run down by the time it closed for renovations in 2004. The good news is that...more

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Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam

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...more

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