I visited Amsterdam for the first time in my entire life in May. It is a less than 2 hour flight and there are even direct trains that run from London to Amsterdam but surprisingly, I had never visited. I always thought that Amsterdam was for bachelor’s parties/stag do’s. I thought it was a place that you went to get stoned. I based my view on a stereotype, which is unlike me, as I travel a lot and have learnt throughout my travels that people, cities and cultures never match their stereotype. As part of my tribute to Brexit, I decided that Amsterdam would be on my travel list for spring/summer.
As soon as I landed at Amsterdam’s international airport, I was excited. I have previously been through Amsterdam’s airport as a stopover on my way to Tokyo so I was aware of the airport architecture and creativeness within the airport. Little did I know that the airport is actually a showcase of The Netherlands’ artistic flare.
The transport system in Amsterdam is just as good as that in Copenhagen. I am always impressed when rail systems can offer step free access for the disabled and mothers with pushchairs.
You can get tickets for the tram lines at the airport. A rail card ticket for 3 days will get you access onto the trams and the train which takes you directly into the main train station in the city within 15 minutes.
I could tell you about the houses on the meandering canals, the tulip fields and the red light district but I will save this for another post. Right now, I want to concentrate on how Amsterdam’s art left me inspired.
I checked in early into the hotel. I stayed at the Backstage Hotel and they were kind enough to allow me free early check-in at 11am, so I could freshen up and leave my backpack. Everybody is so chilled out in Amsterdam, so nice and bending rules here and there to accommodate. In London or New York, early check-in would cost normally half a day’s stay in such a central part of town.
I took a walk over the canals to the Van Gogh museum. In fairness, what is a visit to Holland without seeing the work and learning more about the work of the world famous artist?
I spent a good solid 2 hours in the museum but I think that with a guided tour and more time in Amsterdam, you could spend half a day in there. It appeared to me that the streets near the museum were filled with galleries, art shops, art cafes. I am not sure if this is the art district area of the city.
In this area is where I noticed a small tattoo shop with an artist who was doing his work right in the shop front window. It was one of those moments where I wish I had pulled out my camera because the neon lighting was so beautiful inside but I digress.
I went to Moco art gallery which is about 20 minutes walk from the Van Gogh museum. I spent the rest of the afternoon at this gallery. It usually features modern art and I was lucky that during my visit, Banksy art was exhibiting. A reliable source has since told me that this exhibition will be extended to 2020 so if you are in Amsterdam, catch it whilst you can.
Also available, as Moco art masters, are pieces by Yayoi Kusama, Basquit, Jeff Koons, Damien Hirst and Andy Warhol. These artists are always available no matter when you visit.
There are entire rooms dedicated to some of the artists. For example, Yayoi Kusama has a room full of stripes and her pieces decorated around the room. My favourite room was the Lichtenstein room. I really had fun photographing myself as a prop in this room. You can interact with the art by sleeping on the bed, sitting on the chair or laying on the floor. Always take care, however, when interacting with the art. This room is so cleverly done.
Whilst at the gallery, I noticed that most people at the gallery did not venture into the basement because they assumed that it was staff access. It isn’t. Head downstairs for a special treat of rooms centred around Daniel Arsham.
The long walk to Moco was so worth it just to see this art. Just stunning!
I did not find much graffiti in the old part of town but it would have been naff to have graffiti on any of the old canal streets. On a different day, I did find a piece of street art on my way to a restaurant in the new part of town.
Even the street art is sophisticated in the Netherlands.
With more time, I would have visited more museums and galleries besides the normal tourist spots, and speaking of which, the Anne Frank Museum and the sex museum are worth visiting. Do it! Both are of course different, with different objectives but I did feel like both museums summarise the pride and joy of Amsterdam.
I mentioned the airport and the creativeness within. If you arrive early for your flight, be sure to check out the big clock with a man inside, the Rijks museum and the KLM airport lounge that has dozens and dozens of little deft houses.
Overall I would say that Amsterdam was exactly what I needed to energise me for my own personal art photography projects. It does help that people there are very friendly and locals will stop to talk to you about their city, if you ask nicely.
Have you visited Amsterdam? Which art galleries and museums do you recommend? Comment below and share your favourite spots.