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Area Guide: the Museum Quarter of Amsterdam


With its plethora of cultural attractions, not to mention a chic boulevard lined with luxurious designer boutiques, Amsterdam’s Museum Quarter is one of the city’s must-visit districts, as Sally McIlhone reveals

Sally McIlhone,

Amsterdam’s Museum Quarter has long been a cultural hotspot, attracting visitors from far-flung destinations for decades. Like a fine wine, the area has only got better with age, and now plays host to the Rijksmuseum, the Concertgebouw concert hall and the luxurious retail delights of PC Hooftstraat. There has never been a better time to take advantage of the area’s many varied attractions.

This year is a particularly pertinent time to visit, as 2015 marks the 125th anniversary of the death of Vincent van Gogh, one of the country’s most celebrated artists. Amsterdam’s Van Gogh Museum will be holding two high-profile exhibitions in his honour to commemorate the date.

The first celebrates the artist’s letter-writing – van Gogh was a prolific correspondent, particularly with his brother Theo. The When I Give, I Give Myself exhibition invites modern artists to respond to his letters with a letter, poem or artwork. The collection, which includes pieces by Anish Kapoor, Wouter Venema and Christian Jankowski, is on display until 17 January 2016.

Autumn sees the opening of the Munch: Van Gogh exhibition. On display from 25 September, the collection explores the similarities between the two contemporaries’ works. In addition, the museum will unveil its new entrance building this September – a suitably impressive new space for these two standout shows.

Amsterdam’s cultural attractions continue at the Rijksmuseum. The museum has undergone extensive restoration work over the past 10 years, preserving PJH Cuypers’ original architecture and launching a new area, the Philips Wing, in 2014. Collection highlights include Rembrandt’s The Night Watch and works by the Dutch masters of the Golden Age, such as Vermeer and Frans Hals.

This autumn, don’t miss the museum’s Dick Bruna exhibition, which runs until 15 November 2015, which explains how Miffy, his internationally renowned cartoon rabbit, came to be. The Asia in Amsterdam show is another fascinating attraction, showcasing 170 objects from India, China and Japan that were shipped to Holland during the Golden Age of the 17th century.

After marvelling at the artistic achievements of the Netherlands’ finest creative talents, it’s time to invest in some wearable art at the boutiques lining PC Hooftstraat. The area underwent a facelift over the summer and is now ready to welcome a host of new visitors.

First, head to Blue Blood boutique to check out the latest developments in designer denim. Its innovative Dry Goods collection is made without using water, resulting in jeans that age beautifully – no two will look alike as each owner creates their own unique pattern of wear. Next, stop at Jaeger-LeCoultre, where you will find a selection of exceptionally made Swiss timepieces. Two of the most impressive new designs for 2015 are the white gold Master Grande Tourbillon Cylindrique and the Duomètre à Quantième Lunaire.

Jewellery aficionados are sure to appreciate the wide variety of pieces on offer at Schaap en Citroen. From diamond-studded bracelets by Shamballa Jewels to colour-pop rings from Pomellato and timeless gold heart pendants from Chopard, there is something to suit every age and taste in store. For the perfect diamond engagement ring, Coster Diamonds is a must-visit. The company has one of the oldest operational diamond factories in Europe, dating back to 1840, and guided tours are available free of charge. Watch the expert goldsmiths and diamond cutters at work as they carefully shape stones sourced from all over the world; a variety of cuts and settings is available.

An outfit from Dior’s luxury boutique will perfectly complement your new diamond purchase. The autumn/winter 2015/16 collection includes a stunning red suit with cropped trousers, as well as a range of delightfully patterned mini dresses, psychedelic jumpsuits and colourful wool coats. The label’s creative director Raf Simons has won praise for bringing a modern feel to this time-honoured French fashion house and the latest collection perfectly reflects his new aesthetic.

End a day of exploration in the Museum Quarter with dinner at Taiko restaurant. The exceptional Asian-inspired menu by executive chef Schilo Van Coevorden includes a range of sushi, dim sum and sashimi, alongside delectable grilled wagyu beef. After dinner, catch a concert at the Concertgebouw. The world’s most skilled performers take to the stage here to play classical music by the greatest composers. Works by Mozart, Bach and Brahms are just a handful of those being performed this autumn and winter.

With an ideal balance of culture, luxury shopping and fine dining, Amsterdam’s Museum Quarter is a must-visit.

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