Not Just for a Stag Weekend; Amsterdam Is a City Rich in Art, Architecture and History

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Byline: Ian Dow

IF cities were vehicles then Venice would be a vintage Rolls-Royce, elegant, sophisticated, oozing class.

Amsterdam, on the other hand, sadly is often seen as a purple stretch limo of a city, perfect for a brashy, trashy stag weekend.

Abloke mentions going to Amsterdam for a few days and the assumption is the agenda runs like this:

Load up on Viagra, visit cafe to indulge in what Jeremy Clarkson calls 'schmoking', totter off in a mellow green haze to red-light district nightclub and take up the offer of all manner of fleshy delights from a scantily-clad lady, probably of Eastern Asian origin.

The days are then spent recovering from the previous evening's exertions and excesses, chugging back a few Amstels to keep the blood alcohol count up before repeating the debauchery.

And it's not just men behaving badly, either.

In clubland Amsterdam the night rings to the cries and shrieks, usually in slurred Geordie or Brummie accents, of gaggles of young - and not-so-young - women.

But there's a lot more to Amsterdam than legally-available recreational chemicals and bedroom gymnastics.

The city is celebrating the 400th anniversary of the birth of the its most famous adopted son, the artist Rembrandt van Rijn.

His face and his paintings are everywhere, in exhibitions both big and small, on posters, hoardings, menus. His whiskery features even appear on cakes.

He even eclipses the publicity for the other great Dutch artist, Van Gogh.

There's the Rijksmuseum and the Van Gogh Museum for art lovers.

Amsterdam seems to have a museum to cater for virtually every interest from the cultured to the bizarre.

And yes, (sigh) that does include sex and drugs.

For football fans there is the Ajax museum in the club's stadium which charts its 100-year history and even offers a chance to "touch the grass".

Talking of grass, there is the Hash Marihuana Hemp Museum and the Sexmuseum too, which does what it says on the tin.

Blushes can be spared on a visit to the Museum of Bags and Purses and the Brilmuseum offering 700 years of the art, culture and history of... spectacles. Really.

But the true delight in Amsterdam is simply strolling round the cobbled streets beside the canals. Amsterdam doesn't do big awe-inspiring monuments like other capitals. There's nothing to challenge the Eiffel Tower, Buckingham Place or the Brandenburg Gate.

Instead there are streets of quaint houses once owned by the merchants who made Amsterdam an economic power house, the centre of the Dutch trading empire. …