Magazine article The Spectator

Dutch Treats

Magazine article The Spectator

Dutch Treats

Article excerpt

It is sad for Amsterdam that it should have acquired a reputation first and foremost for the sort of tourism that revolves around drugs and prostitutes.

Such an image obscures the charm and beauty of this sophisticated, handsome city, which is now well served by cheap flights from Stansted, and is so near that the plane starts its descent almost as soon as it has gone up in the air.

All the other things you have been told about Holland are true. The Dutch are incredibly nice, hospitable people, and they all seem to feel an instinctive bond with the English -- whose language they speak like natives. The seedy side of Amsterdam is there if you choose to look for it; otherwise, the visitor is quickly greeted by the sense that he or she is in one of the most civilised places on earth. More to the point, as you sit outside one of the city's many high-class cafés having your bacon and eggs for breakfast and watching the serene parade of little boats on the canals, and cyclists on the towpaths, you quickly appreciate that Amsterdam is the perfect place to do nothing.

My own interests in going there were mainly architectural, and with glorious weather for the whole of our weekend stay I fear I committed the ultimate sin of not setting foot in the Rijksmuseum, with its incomparable store of Flemish masters. Instead, with friends, we walked for miles along the canals, soaking up the variety of tall, narrow terraced houses that line their banks. They all tilt forward slightly, so that when furniture is hauled up from the hooks that jut out from the point of the eaves it does not bash against the walls (the staircases inside are treacherously narrow, but the windows large). Much of the building in central Amsterdam is from the period of Holland's greatest international power, from the 1660s -- when the Dutch fleet had the temerity to sail up the Medway and pick a fight with us -- to the middle of the 18th century. Many canal-side terraces are a gallery of their own, with a wide range of styles and features changing from house to house. The vistas they present, from the little humped-back bridges that cross the canals, are unforgettable.

Yet the best -- some would say, only -- way to soak up Amsterdam properly is from the water. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.