Rummage for a bargain at the Waterlooplein flea market
Waterloopleinmarkt is the definitive Dutch flea market, and has been around for nearly a century and a half – it is the oldest street market in the Netherlands, in fact. The market has over 300 stalls, and is open 6 days a week. Expect to find junk and treasures, vinyl and vintage goods, clothes, food, jewellery and just about anything that the market-folk deem worthy of selling. You might also want to brush up on your bargaining skills: most stalls sell things cheaply, but a few might expect you to haggle. And if you find a first-edition Hemingway or an unsigned Rembrandt, keep it quiet.
Explore Amsterdam’s Jewish history
Amsterdam’s Jewish Quarter is one of the best places in the city to immerse yourself in its Jewish history. The Jewish Historical Museum is a must-see, and its extensive collection of artefacts, films and multimedia presentation will give you a full image of Dutch Jewish life, both current and historical. The museum also houses a children’s museum, in the form of a six-room Jewish home that kids can interact with. And while you’re in the area, stop by the Portuguese Synagogue. This gem of a building still has an intact 17th century interior and is lit by hundreds of candles. Behave while you’re in there though, the building is still actively used for prayer. If you’ve still got some time you should also check the Hollandsche Schouwburg (a former theatre where WWII Jews were held captive) and the National Holocaust Museum: these won’t take as much time to explore, but are historically significant and worth the visit.
See animals massive and miniscule at Artis and Micropia
You’re never too old to go to the zoo – but if you have kids you can always convince them to come along. And Artis, as with well-tended zoos anywhere, is known for healthy, happy animals in ample spaces and staff that clearly love what they’re doing. If you’ve never been humbled by the size of an elephant, the experience is highly recommended. Having said that, if the elephants have left you feeling small, then head in to Micropia and stare at the smaller animals through a microscope. Micropia is a truly outstanding experience; the place is filled with interactive exhibits and microscopes, some of which you can control yourself. It’s fun and educational, but more than that it really gives visitors perspective, both on the diversity of life and its scale. Artis will completely smoke-free from 4 April 2019.
See rare plants at the Hortus Botanicus, then have lunch in the Hoftuin garden
The Hortus Botanicus is certainly an oasis of calm in the city, and if you’re looking to immerse yourself in beautiful greenery then you can’t go wrong there. But those with even a mild interest in botany will be truly taken by it: this is one of the oldest botanic gardens in the world, and houses over 4000 different plant species. The garden is also home to a few fascinating greenhouses, including a climate greenhouse that simulates three different climates, the aptly named Palm Greenhouse (an official monument) and the dazzling butterfly greenhouse with its hundreds of tropical butterflies. Hortus Botanicus has a good café too, but for a change of pace why not head over to Dignita Hoftuin? Hoftuin is a bright space with a great team and a beautiful garden. They have great soups, salads, sandwiches and smoothies, so you’ll find something suitable for whatever time of day you’re there. In case you’re there in the morning, they have stellar pancakes.
Get your recommended dose of culture at the Hermitage and the National Opera & Ballet
Although smaller than its namesake, the Hermitage Amsterdam ought to be on everyone’s cultural bucket list, Russian-history buff or not. The building that is now the museum spent the first three centuries of its life as a home for the elderly, and extensive renovation since then has turned in into an architectural beauty, without taking away any of its history. You can relive that story in fact in one of the museum’s two permanent exhibitions, the other being a room dedicated to Dutch-Russian relations, and the museum’s relationship with its parent in particular. And no one with a pulse should miss the Dutch National Opera & Ballet season. The schedule is usually extensive, and so the easiest way to cherry-pick is right off their programme page. If you’re here early enough though, then you need to attend the opening Gala, which has become more of a star-studded institution than an event. Pack your black tie for that one.
Explore more of De Plantage, or check out some other Amsterdam neighbourhoods!