Amsterdam: Top 5 Activities in a Dutch Golden Age World Heritage City

by | May 19, 2016 | Amsterdam Top Activities, Europe, Netherlands | 9 comments

Smoke dope and drink beer in a World Heritage Site


Experience the Dutch Golden Age in Amsterdam as you stroll along the canals in this Venice of the North city. You are literally walking in a World Heritage Site.

The 17th century canal system created an entire artificial city from swampland. It became a model for large-scale urban planning.

Go because it is a World Heritage Site.
Stay because it is beautiful and fun.

Here is my list of Top 5 Activities in Amsterdam


5. Ride Bikes Along the Canal

Biking along the canals is arbitrarily number 5 on my list because …. I confess…. we did not ride bikes in Amsterdam.

I interpreted the “Beware of Bikes” sign quite literally to mean that I should avoid this activity.

Crossing the street is a bit of a challenge in Amsterdam because there are separate lanes for streetcars, vehicles, bikes and, at the bottom of the list, pedestrians.


If you biked in Amsterdam, please send in a comment on how you would rank this activity!

Perhaps I should have rented a pink bike

Where did I park my bike?


4. The Heineken Experience

This is a picture that I took in Spain. Icy cold beer sells well in a hot country!

Try the Heineken tour if you want to learn a little about beer making and don’t mind the hokey activities. We took photos as a great souvenir but too lame to post here! We had fun and I always enjoy a cold beer.

Heineken is a modern-day example of a Dutch Golden Age corporation. The first multinational company in the world was the Dutch East India Company, established in 1602. It was the first company to issue shares. It earned huge profits from its monopoly on the spice trade. Heineken does not hold a monopoly on beer, but its green bottle is the most recognized beer brand in the world.

Charlene de Carvalho-Heineken, sole heir to the Heineken dynasty, is one of the richest women in the world, thanks to her 25% controlling interest in Heineken.

Heineken Brick Bottle: Add Cement and Build a House

As part of Heineken’s globalization strategy, Charlene’s father, Freddie Heineken, introduced the new Heineken label, with its classic red star and 3 smiling e’s in Heineken. While visiting a Caribbean plant in 1960, he was alarmed at the number of broken Heineken bottles that littered the beaches. Long before the green revolution, Freddy asked his architects to design a new bottle in the shape of a brick that could be recycled to build homes in impoverished places. Prototypes were developed but his plan never came to fruition.

If I had saved every beer bottle, I could build a mansion!


3. Visit the Van Gogh Museum

Van Gogh’s Sunflowers

Unfortunately, this museum does not allow photos. I have a much better interactive experience in a museum that allows photos. Apart from this complaint, this is a wonderful museum. It holds the largest collection of Van Gogh paintings in the world.

Vincent Van Gogh was a Dutch post-impressionist artist who has captured the public’s imagination as the quintessential misunderstood genius.

The Starry Night in not in Amsterdam

The Starry Night is one of the most recognized paintings in the world. However, you won’t see it at the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam. It hangs in the Museum of Modern Art in New York City.

Van Gogh drank too much and smoked too much. During a psychotic episode, he cut off his ear. At age 37, he shot himself in the chest and died from infection.

Van Gogh’s works were inherited by his brother, Theo, who died six months later. Theo’s widow inherited the collection and dedicated her life to promoting the genius of Vincent Van Gogh.

In 1991, twenty paintings were stolen from the Van Gogh Museum. All were recovered. In 2002, two paintings were stolen. The paintings have not been recovered. There is a large reward for any information that leads to their recovery. Keep your eye out at garage sales this summer.

Van Gogh sold only one painting in his lifetime. Now, his works are valued in the hundreds of millions.

Tip: There was a long line-up for tickets. Why line up when you can buy the tickets at a museum store just a few feet away from the entrance? We got our tickets at the store and just walked right into the museum.


2. Vist the Rijksmuseum


The Night Watch by Rembrandt van Rijn

I loved the Rijk museum much more than I thought I would. First, the building is beautiful. Second, I loved the collection. Apart from fabulous art, it has exquisite dollhouses, a large scale ship and beautiful decorative items.

Its most famous painting is Rembrandt’s The Night Watch. There were lots of people taking selfies but I managed to get a picture without anyone in front.

The first thing you notice about this painting is its colossal size. The figures are almost life-size. Second, Rembrandt used light and shadow to bring your eye to the central characters in the painting. Third, Rembrandt created the perception of motion, a departure from the traditional static military pose.

The painting has been vandalized three times. The worst attack was in 1975 when a man slashed it with a bread knife. It took 4 years to restore it. In 1990, a man sprayed acid on it, but swift-acting security guards saved the day by douching it with water.

When we later toured the Heineken Brewery, we burst out laughing when we saw Heineken’s version of The Night Watch. Can you spot the differences?

Hint: They are all drinking beer in the Heineken version of The Night Watch.


The Rijks is also known for its collection of four Vermeer paintings.

The Milkmaid by Johannes Vermeer

Vermeer died in poverty, leaving his wife and 11 children in debt. His works were ignored for two centuries. Now he is recognized as one of the greatest painters of the Dutch Golden Age. Despite his poverty, his works are known for their lavish use of exorbitantly expensive ultramarine and lapis lazuli blues.

There is a long-standing debate on whether Vermeer used optics devices to achieve his preciseness. Tim Jenison, a wealthy American entrepreneur and inventor, spent 5 years developing his theory on Vermeer’s use of mirrors and camera obscura. He made an interesting documentary in 2014 on his theory:

Vermeer made only 35 paintings. I have a friend whose bucket list is to see every Vermeer painting.


1. Walk along the Canals

The best thing to do in Amsterdam is stroll along the canals.

You can visit the red light district. You can stop by coffee shops and have coffee…. or marijuana. You can visit the flower market. If you travel with Norman, you can examine all the bikes in the bike parking lots and marvel at how many 30 year old bikes are still on the road.

A wall of cheese!

Could I try a sample of every cheese?


The Apple store in Amsterdam has a very cool staircase

Find the springtime lovers reflected in this mirror sculpture outside the Van Gogh museum

No margin for error and no safety net when you park your car in Amsterdam

It is time to say good night to Amsterdam.

Next week: Tulip mania in Holland

Rose Ann MacGillivray

Rose Ann MacGillivray

World Heritage Traveller at
I love visiting World Heritage Sites, celebrating the world’s most fascinating places and cultures, and most of all, having fun on a trip. Join me on the road to fun and fascinating places. Thanks for reading – and remember to add your e-mail below for updates!
Rose Ann MacGillivray

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