Doctor's Review: Medicine on the Move

December 15, 2017

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Amsterdam

The city of canals has something to float everyone's boat

In many ways, Amsterdam is one of Europe's most iconoclastic cities. The forward-thinking Dutch capital has some of the best cutting-edge design and architecture. It's also home to Europe's most in-your-face red light district, as well as those famous marijuana-fugged ''coffee shops." Yet the city also has more canals than Venice and a large historic centre where leafy waterways are ringed with picturesque 300-year-old buildings. The canals of the Graghtengordel (or canal girdle) should be at the top of your sightseeing list. Here, the endless rows of gabled buildings, the narrow streets, the wispy trees, the light, all come together to let you dream your way back a few centuries — without a modern building in sight.

Sure it's touristy, but you should definitely hop aboard a canal cruise. The Canal Company (canal.nl/en) offers small open-air sloops that can venture places the larger glass-topped cruisers can't, and give you the best views of the distinctive streetscapes. They also run Canal Bike, offering topside tours along the curving streets.

You'll find a distinctly different waterfront in the revamped Eastern Docklands, where contemporary canal houses run up against large-scale projects by international architects. There's the Bimhuis, a music theatre specializing in jazz, the modern NeMo building housing a science centre, and the wave-shaped cruise-ship Passenger Terminal, all of them eye-catchingly modern, along with some quayside cafés to explore.

If you're in town on April 30, you'll get to experience the full-on city-wide party that is Queen's Day. The canals will be thronged with boats filled with revellers, the sidewalks lined with street parties and late-night drinking in pubs.

In words and pictures

That the city looks straight out of a painting shouldn't be surprising given that it's been home to artists like Bruegel, Vermeer and Rembrandt. The great thing about Old Masters in the Netherlands is that they focussed on scenes of daily life, making the pieces much easier to relate to than the grand biblical paintings popular in Europe at the time. Head to the Rijksmuseum (1 Jan Luijkenstraat; rijksmuseum.nl; adults € 14, under 18 free) where you can take a gander at some of Rembrandt's most famous group portraits, including The Night Watch, as well as Vermeer's miniatures and stunning work by Frans Hals.

The Museum District makes it easy for art lovers to span centuries in minutes. Across the park is the Stedelijk Museum (10 Museumplein; stedelijk.nl; adults € 15, youth 13 to 18 € 7.50), the city's home for modern and contemporary art from around the world. Right next door is the Van Gogh Museum (7 Paulus Potterstraat; vangoghmuseum.nl). Closed for renovations until April 25, the museum has loaned 80 of the painter's most beautiful works to the Hermitage Museum (51 Amstel; hermitage.nl; over 16 €15) in the interim.

If you're more interested in history than art, Anne Frank's House (263 Prinsengracht; annefrank.org; adults €9, youth 10 to 17 €4.50) is a must. The tiny rear annex where people from three Jewish families lived in near silence for two years during World War II is paired next door with a well-documented and moving exhibition. Go early or expect line-ups. The Amsterdam Museum (92 Kalverstraat; amsterdammuseum.nl/en) is a rare thing: a city museum that manages to make its subject exciting and consistently gets rave reviews. The fact that it's set in a cluster of 16th-century buildings is a bonus.

For information on the I Amsterdam city card (from €40 for 24 hours to €60 for 72 hours) which includes free public transit, a free canal cruise and entrance to all the top attractions, or for more deals, consult Iamsterdam.com.

'Hood hopping

If you're at a conference at the Beurs Van Berlage, you're in the city's oldest neigbourhood filled with plenty of restaurants, though many of them geared to tourists. You can easily sample a little history with your meal instead. The cosy De Silveren Spiegel (6 Kattengat; desilverenspiegel.com) has been one of the city's go-to restaurants since 1614 and traditional dishes include baked sole with wild spinach and local lamb.

For something that blends old and new, In De Waag (4 Nieuwmarkt; indewaag.nl) serves up modern bistro fare within a medieval weigh house, later home to the anatomical theatre depicted by Rembrandt in The Anatomy Lesson. It's open from breakfast to supper, has a great terrace, and a romantic candle-filled room in the evenings. And while you're on a retro kick, why not sample the city's traditional herb-flavoured gin, jenever, at De Drie Fleschjes (18 Gravenstraat; dedriefleschjes.nl), a tasting room that's been around since 1650?

After a stop in the museum district, head east to De Pjip neighbourhood. It happens to be just north of RAI Amsterdam, the city's large conference facility. Even if you're not in town for a conference, De Pjip is well worth a stroll. This former working-class neighbourhood is popular with artists and students, a great place to people-watch, and home to the city's best wine bars like De Wijnbar (1e v/d, 50Helststraat; wijnbar.nl) and tapas houses like Barça (31 Marie Heinekenplein; barca.nl).

It also has one of the city's two Michelin-starred eateries, Ciel Bleu (333 Ferdinand Bolstraat; cielbleu.nl), where a five-course tasting menu will run you €95. While you're out, pop in to Torch (94 Lauriergrach; torchgallery.com), the city's most prestigious gallery. Or head to the Albert Cuyp Market (albertcuypmarkt.nl), the city's biggest open-air market, buzzing from Monday to Saturday where locals go for food of every description along with clothes and accessories.

This article was accurate when it was published. Please confirm rates and details directly with the companies in question.

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