AMSTERDAM — East of the Amstel

East of the Amstel is a quiet neighbourhood which was established by rich Jewish families from the late 19th century up to WW2. The area has wide boulevards, parks and elegant architecture similar to what you would find around the Museum District. It is a great place to wander through and there are a few attractions and excellent museums.

The sights found here are:
NEMO
ArCam
Old Jewish Quarter
Jewish Historical Museum
Moses and Aäron Church
Stopera
Waterlooplein
Hermitage aan de Amstel
Plantage
Hortus Botanicus
Hollandsche Schouwburg
Vakbondsmuseum
Verzetsmuseum
Artis
Tropenmuseum

NEMO

NEMO
This is the largest science centre in the Netherlands. The building that houses the centre looks like a giant boat with a copper facade that has turned green with age making it quite striking and unusual. There are a wide variety of exhibits spread over five floors and as well as these there are theatre performances, films, workshops and demonstrations. The museum is a lot of fun for the whole family as most of the exhibits are fully interactive so you get to smell, feel and hear how the world works. There are cafes here if you get hungry and in the summer you can visit the roof terrace to eat as well as have a panoramic view over the city.
For information about the museum visit the website at: http://www.e-nemo.nl/en/?id=1

ArCam

ArCam
This is the Amsterdam Centre for Architecture which was set up in 1986 as an information centre for the new and old architecture in the city to get people involved and to care about it. Each year the centre organises five exhibitions concerning new developments in architecture around the world as well as the history of Amsterdam’s architecture and if you are interested in architecture then you might like to visit this centre. The building that the centre is housed in is as you would expect an experimental building built in aluminium and worth seeing just for itself.
For information about ArCam visit the website at: http://www.arcam.nl/index_uk.html

Old Jewish Quarter
Before WW2 this area extended from Houtkoopersburgwal in the north to Binnen-Amstel in the south. The first Jewish refugees came to Amsterdam at the end of the 16th century and settled in the area around the Waterlooplein. They were mostly from Portugal, Germany and Poland. There used to be lots of second-hand shops, haberdashers and greengrocers and a market was held on the Waterlooplein on Sundays. After WW2 hardly anything was left of what had once been the Jewish quarter around the Waterlooplein as many of the Jews who lived in Amsterdam before the War were deported and only a fifth of the original Jewish population survived the Holocaust. In the 1960s and 1970s expansion of the city dramatically changed the original area but there are still some reminders of the past here today in the shape of museums, landmarks and markets.

Jewish Historical Museum
This museum is found in the heart of the old Jewish Quarter. It is the only museum in the Netherlands to focus on Jewish history, religion and culture and it is housed in a restored Ashkenazi synagogue complex. This complex consists of four former synagogues — the Grote Synagoge, Obbene Sjoel, Dritt Sjoel and Nieuwe Synagoge which all survived WW2 relatively intact and these buildings alone are worth a visit. In 1955 they were sold to the city but it wasn’t until 1987 that they became the home to what is now the Jewish Historical Museum and its collections. These collections consist of paintings, decorative ceremonial objects, photographs, interactive displays and a library covering Jewish religion, culture and history. There is a good kosher cafe here with relatively inexpensive food even if you’re not visiting the museum.
For information about the museum visit the website at: http://www.jhm.nl/english.aspx

Moses and Aaron Church

Moses and Aäron Church
This is a Roman Catholic church found in the heart of the old Jewish Quarter. It is no longer used as a church but as an education centre and a venue for exhibitions and concerts. It was originally built as a hidden church in 1641 but over the years has been restored several times. The name refers to the figures on the two gable stones which were originally on the facade of the church but are now found in the wall at the back.

Stopera
This complex found on Waterlooplein houses the city hall and the national opera house hence its name which comes from stadhuis for the city hall and opera. The building of this complex caused controversy back in the 1970s and 80s because a lot of medieval buildings had to be demolished to build it and many people thought the building to be out of place with the other architecture in this area. Today visitors to this glass-fronted building are rewarded with lovely views over the Amstel river and they can enjoy performances of world-class opera as well as ballet and modern dance.
For information about performances visit the following website at: http://www.dno.nl/home.php

Waterlooplein
This square was built in 1880 and since 1893 there has been a market held here which is considered the oldest and most interesting market in Amsterdam. Before WW2 this was the biggest and most important Jewish market but with the deportation of most of the Jewish population of Amsterdam during WW2 this changed. After the war it was reborn, first as a general bazaar then in the 1960s and 70s it became a trading centre for youth culture. During construction of the Stopera the market moved elsewhere but when this was finished it returned to its present location behind the Town Hall. Today the market is a flea market and is the biggest second-hand market in Amsterdam with around 300 stalls trading goods. For sale are items such as vintage clothing, records, books, art and craft and other bric-a-brac but some of it is junk and you have to know what you are buying. This is a very popular market both with locals and tourists and can get very busy so just be careful with your belongings as these kinds of places can be paradise for thieves. The market is open Monday to Friday from 9am until 5.30pm and Saturdays from 8.30am until 5.30pm and bargaining is expected.

Hermitage aan de Amstel
This outpost for the Russian Hermitage art museum opened in 2009 and was chosen because of close relations between Amsterdam and St Petersburg where the original Hermitage art museum is located. The museum is housed in a former 19th century hospital with a lovely 17th century courtyard which is well worth visiting. The museum has two huge exhibition spaces, a concert hall and a restaurant and it is the place to see some very rare and specialist exhibits that have been taken from one of the most famous art collections in the world. The museum has special exhibitions throughout the year with works borrowed from the St Petersburg collection and information about these can be found on the website.
For information about the museum visit the website at: http://www.hermitage.nl/en

De Gooyer

Plantage
This area is one of Amsterdam’s most varied neighbourhoods with a zoo, several museums, a botanical garden and a park. It is a green, leafy area that is like an oasis in the middle of the city. There are several places to visit in this area including De Gooyer at Funenkade 5 which is one of the few remaining windmills found in Amsterdam that you can visit. It has been here since 1814 and was used as a grain mill. Today part of the windmill is the microbrewery, Brouwerij t’ IJ which makes its own brand of beer. It also has a cafe/pub with a terrace that you can sit out on in the warmer months. The windmill is open from Wednesday to Sunday from 3pm until 7pm. A green space in the area is the small park, Wertheimpark which is found opposite the botanical garden. It is one of the oldest parks in Amsterdam and was built in 1812 as a gift from Napoleon although the city of Amsterdam had to pay the costs involved. At first it covered quite a large area but later on it shrunk and it wasn’t designated as a public park until 1897. Originally it was simply called The Park until 1898 when it was named after Abraham Carl Wertheim who was a great Dutch banker, philanthropist and a politician. Wertheimpark features lovely sculptures and structures such as the two marble sphinxes with lanterns and the decorated fountain commemorating the patron of the park. In 1993 an Auschwitz monument was installed in the north-eastern part of the park near a lovely canal, Nieuwe Herengracht.

Hortus Botanicus

Hortus Botanicus
This is one of the oldest botanical gardens in the world and it was established in 1638 by the city as a herb garden with medical plants for doctors and pharmacists. Today the garden has over 6,000 plants with some highlights being the huge 300 year old Eastern Cape cycad and the 2,000 year old agave cactus. There are greenhouses and the main one has three different tropical climates. One of the other greenhouses is full of butterflies. Also on the grounds you will find a cafe in the orangery with a large outdoor terrace. It is a great place to take a stroll on a warm day.
For information about the garden visit the website at: http://en.dehortus.nl/homepage

Hollandsche Schouwburg
The Hollandsche Schouwburg was originally a theatre built in 1892 and at the time it was the largest and most luxurious. During WW2 it was used as a prison and deportation centre for Jewish men, women and children. After the war the building was no longer used and in 1961 it was demolished except for the facade and the area just behind it. In 1962 it was turned into a war memorial in remembrance of the Jews who had died in WW2. In the hall which is on the ground floor there is a memorial garden and a chapel with an eternal flame. Behind a 10-metre high pylon is a remembrance wall with the names of families that were deported and died in concentration camps. Upstairs is a small but impressive museum with authentic objects from that time including some moving photographs and video images.
For information about the memorial and museum visit the website at: http://www.hollandscheschouwburg.nl/en

Vakbondsmuseum
This museum is dedicated to the history of the Dutch trade union movement. The museum exhibits are only of interest to those interested in unions but the building housing the museum is worth mentioning. It is an early 20th century building of Berlage who is the most famous Dutch architect (he also built the Amsterdam stock exchange). The building is called De Burcht which means ‘stronghold’ in Dutch which the building really looks like with its thick brick walls and stained glass windows. The museum is open from Tuesday to Friday from 11am until 5pm and Sunday from 1pm until 5pm. Admission costs €2.50.

Verzetsmuseum
This is the Dutch Resistance Museum and it is dedicated to those Dutch people who fought against the Nazi occupation during WW2. It gives you an insight into what life would have been like for those living in an occupied country in wartime using photographs, old posters, objects, films and sounds from that time. The exhibits are excellent and some are very moving especially the exhibit on the Jewish babies who were smuggled out of Holland. This museum is a valuable addition to the Anne Frank House.
For information about the museum visit the website at: http://www.verzetsmuseum.org/museum/en/museum

Artis
This is the oldest zoo in the Netherlands and opened in 1838. It is a wonderful place to take the family especially if you are travelling with children. The zoo contains around 700 animal species as well as having some beautiful listed buildings on its grounds such as those housing the Large Museum, the Library and the Aquarium. There is also a Planetarium that you might like to visit. It isn’t the biggest zoo in the world but you may see animals here that you haven’t seen before.
For information about the zoo visit the website at: http://www.artis.nl/en/artis-royal-zoo

Tropenmuseum

Tropenmuseum
This museum was created in 1864 in Haarlem as the Colonial Museum and in 1910 it moved to Amsterdam. After 1949 when the Dutch Colony of Indonesia (former Dutch East Indies) became independent the museum became part of the Tropical Institute in Amsterdam. It is dedicated to showing what life is like in tropical countries. The museum is divided into different sections by continents beginning with South America starting on the second floor and through Africa to Asia and the Antilles on the first floor. The whole museum is divided into many smaller exhibits and uses multimedia, light, sound and smell to show what life in the tropics is like. The building which houses the museum is quite stunning with its impressive hall with a glass dome which makes it very light and airy. There is a special section for children with lots of interactive projects.
For information about the museum visit the website at: http://www.tropenmuseum.nl/-/MUS/5853/Tropenmuseum

Traveller's Tip

The cafe in the museum restaurant serves food from a variety of countries and is very good. You don’t need to visit the museum to eat here as it has a separate entrance. it is open from Tuesday to Friday from 12pm until 10pm and Saturday from 4.30pm until 10pm.