Amsterdam’s elegant Oud-Zuid (Old-South) was developed over a century ago as a cultural gateway to the city, at the tip of what was previously a boggy polder. It’s home to Rijksmuseum, Stedelijk Museum, and Van Gogh Museum – all of which exhibit the highlights of Western art. The nearby Vondelpark – created in the style of an English landscape garden – is the city’s most popular playground and is a magnet for picnickers and visitors who flock in their droves during the summer months to the numerous outdoor performances that take place there.
Museums, concerts and galleries
Museumplein – and its vast manicured lawn, a perfect spot for a summer picnic between museum visits – is presided over by the iconic Rijksmuseum, the repository of Dutch culture since 1885. Entirely renovated in 2013, it offers a splendid and arresting journey through 800 years of national art and history, with more than 30 of its 80 galleries devoted to the Golden Age.
To the west, bordered by a street of jewellers and diamond cutters, lies the Van Gogh Museum with its brand-new entrance building and monumental collection of works by the misunderstood ear-lopping artist. Next door, the Stedelijk Museum flaunts its updated design, which brilliantly manages the feat of mixing the classical architecture of the original 1895 building with a new wing in the shape of a giant bathtub without being a nightmarish eyesore. Its restaurant boasts a large terrace where sunny days call for some people watching while enjoying their scrumptious BLTs and a tall glass of fresh orange juice.
Between Museumplein and the entrance to the reservaat lies the 128-year-old Royal Concertgebouw, still regarded as one of the greatest concert halls in the world thanks to its remarkable acoustics, but which is thankfully not above offering the treat of free lunchtime concerts on Wednesdays. As the Oud-Zuid grew and spread, this rich cultural heritage was honoured by naming more than 70 new streets after composers: some world-famous, such as Beethoven, Chopin and Schubert, and others local Dutch musicians who nonetheless have had a tremendous influence on music over the past five centuries.
Living the high life in Amsterdam South
Oud-Zuid is one of the city’s most desirable addresses, the real estate is Amsterdam’s most expensive and the residents are arguably the most privileged. Amsterdammers dub the area ‘het reservaat’ (the reservation), but you can leave your passport at home – just don’t forget your credit card: some of the chicest boutiques in town are to be found here, notably along the PC Hooftstraat, Cornelis Schuytstraat and Beethovenstraat.
P.C. Hooftstraat, the high-end shopping destination in Amsterdam, located at the northeastern end of Vondelpark. But while the Willemspark area harbours a myriad of swanky – but not stuffy – restaurants (such as Ron Gastrobar by Michelin-starred chef Ron Blauw), airy cafés and quaint independent boutiques (like the fashion-fantasy-rich Silk), showy P.C. Hooftstraat is lined with haute couture boutiques such as Prada, Louis Vuitton and Chanel, which rub elbows with the latest in exclusive labels: 7 for All Mankind, Burberry and Agent Provocateur. There is no better place to get your hands on a pair of Jimmy Choos or a Cartier watch, but as one of the most famous shopping destinations in the Netherlands, P.C. Hooftstraat is congested by throngs of local and international shoppers alike, and sometimes struggles to keep the right balance between old-world class and new-money bling. The Dutch like to mock the SUVs with tinted windows that park along the street by calling them ‘PC Hooft tractors’ (Pieter Corneliszoon Hooft, the 17th-century poet after whom the street is named, must be turning in his grave). For all this luxury, though, Oud-Zuid is not a world apart, or a circus of snobbery. It's entrancingly elegant in the most approachable way, with its pretty gabled façades, its bijou balconies and its tree-lined serenity – a true ode to the discreet charm of the bourgeoisie.