This year’s introduction of the Holland Art Cities Tours has raised the Netherlands’ position as a top European destination for a solid dose of visual culture.
And you shouldn’t really come to this part of the world and not see some of western civilisation’s most famous artworks.
After all, this was how man captured time before digital photographs and camera phones (or phones at all, for that matter) existed.
Not seeing at least a selection of the artistic treasures in Amsterdam would be like going to Egypt and not looking at the pyramids.
Or going to Easter Island and not seeing those giant heads. It’s something that simply shouldn’t happen.
Sure, the Louvre in Paris has some great art too – but we all know it can get hideously overcrowded and the Mona Lisa is, well, a wee bit overrated.
Besides, Amsterdamers are a lot more chilled out than those snooty Parisians.
Sometimes you just want to relax, right?
A smorgasbord of art
The cluster of art spaces in Amsterdam and the nearby cities of Rotterdam, The Hague and Utrecht give any visitor time and choice for their cultural mind-expansion.
Conveniently most of the top ten museums in Holland are within an hour’s drive of each other.
The country boasts it has the highest amount of art and cultural activities per square mile in the world.
That rich vein features at least 25 top exhibitions during the next two years.
Sorry, can’t ear you
It should come as little surprise to anyone who knows a bit about art that Vincent van Gogh, the famous Dutch painter with a penchant for sunflowers and self-harm, makes a starring appearance in Amsterdam.
Van Gogh is, of course, the manic-depressive genius who, legend has it, cut off his own ear and sent it to a brothel wench – quite possibly the same wench who gave him syphilis.
He is right up there in the popular artist stakes, often mentioned alongside Spain’s Dalí and Picasso and France’s Monet.
Many of his paintings are worth millions, so while you’re in Amsterdam check out the Van Gogh museum to see what all the fuss is about.
The Russian Connection
Amsterdam has embraced Russia with the creation of a branch of the Russian Hermitage Museum.
This centre of Eastern European culture is in the Amstelhof, a former nursing home.
It’ll house fine arts concerts, symposia and a library.
Russia’s history is a proud one, filled with revolutions, suffering and triumph, and the country’s art reflects this.
Love is in the air
If you’re looking for some action, art galleries are notorious as discreet pick-up joints.
After all, art appreciation is subjective, and once a conversation has been struck up, there’s always room for bluffing if you’re not too artsy.
Meanwhile, couples can enjoy a canal barge cruise on the River Amstel in between art galleries. The sedate pace is a great chance to contemplate the images you have seen and to further fan the flames of romance.
If that doesn’t work, a big fat joint from an Amsterdam coffee shop should get you in the right frame of mind in no time.
It might add a whole new element to the art, too.
» Jahn Vannisselroy travelled with the Holland Board of Tourism and Conventions. To suss out your schedule for the Holland Art Cities programme see hollandartcities.com