1 December 2023

Going Dutch over river cruises, windmills and diamonds!

Think of Holland and Amsterdam and images quickly fill the mind – river cruises along atmospheric waterways and canals, lines of spinning windmills, bulb fields stretching into the distance, swathes of daffodils and tulips swaying in the breeze, diamonds both cut and uncut by the handful, and great Dutch painters, of course, such as Vermeer and Rembrandt. What country or city can match all of that fabulous imagery?

And there’s no better way to begin to appreciate what Amsterdam has to offer than by a visit to Museumplein, a square in the heart of the city which is home to no less than four museums. The museums are the Rijksmuseum, the Van Gogh Museum, the Stedelijk Museum, and the Diamond Museum. Says it all, really!

The Rijksmuseum, the Dutch national museum, dedicated to arts, crafts, and history, houses a large collection of paintings from the Dutch Golden Age – a period during the 17th century where Dutch art, science and trade flourished. The greatest painters of the Golden Age not only include Johannes Vermeer and Rembrandt van Rijn, but also the landscape painter Jacob van Ruysdael, the portrait painter Frans Hals, and Jan Steen, famed for his depictions of chaotic scenes of daily life. The museum houses the works of all of these Dutch masters and is a ‘must see’ for any visitor.

The Van Gogh Museum, not surprisingly, houses the greatest collection of the works of Vincent van Gogh, including some of his most famous paintings – The Potato Eaters, Bedroom in Arles, The Yellow House, and Still Life: Vase with Twelve Sunflowers. The collection also contains nine self-portraits, as well as some of his earliest paintings dating back to 1882.

For anyone interested in modern and contemporary art, the Stedelijk Museum, housing a collection of around 90,000 objects, is certainly not to be missed. The museum has been acquiring exhibits for more than 125 years and now houses collections representing every significant movement in art and design. As well as paintings, from the likes of Paul C├ęzanne, Vincent van Gogh and Pablo Picasso, the collections include exhibits from the realms of photography, graphic and industrial design, moving image and sound, posters, prints and drawings, and sculpture.

Diamonds are forever, according to famed song, and there’s no doubting a visit to the Diamond Museum will also live in the memory forever! Everything you ever wanted to know about diamonds, but were afraid to ask, is here and waiting to be discovered.

The museum takes the visitor on an incredible journey that began around 3 billion years ago and some 120 miles under the earth, ending with the diamond on the ring on your finger, or on some other piece of jewellery. You’ll learn what’s special about the carbon atom that makes up a diamond compared to the carbon atoms making up a piece of coal. Then you’ll learn about the techniques and meet the experts who transform a rough, uncut diamond into the finished article, an incredible and valuable jewel.

You’ll also discover how for 400 years, Amsterdam became synonymous with the diamond trade, earning itself the name ‘City of Diamonds’. And if you didn’t know how to differentiate between fake diamonds and the real thing, you certainly will after a visit to this amazing museum. Don’t miss it.