A personal guide to the museum quarter has been carefully planned and prepared for you by the Conservatorium Hotel. Our hotel is directly related to this exquisite cultural quarter of the city because the conservatory once occupied the building in which the hotel is located. The museum quarter adorns Amsterdam like the Kohinoor diamond adorns the crown of the British Empire. Between them, by the way, there is a direct relationship, which you will learn about from a trip. The walk will introduce you to the history and unexpected twists and turns of the fate of the inhabitants of the quarter, its buildings and houses, and of course, will lead you and learn about the most famous and visited museum square in the world. The walk is planned for the whole day and combines relaxing in the park and visiting museums. However, you can divide the trip into two parts. Architecture, history, shops, and the park from stop 1 to stop 9. Museums from stop 10 to the end of the trip. For your convenience, download the route to your phone, and thus you will not be dependent on a network connection. Have a nice walk.
The inimitable style of the Conservatorium Hotel with the famous violins in the lobby is inextricably linked with the history of the building and the entire area in which it is located. In the second half of the nineteenth century, Amsterdam was experiencing an era of rapid development. The population of the capital in 1870 amounted to 270 thousand people, it doubled in thirty years by 1900, and in the twenty years before 1920 it reached 680 thousand. On the site of private gardens beyond the Grand Canals, they began to build houses, erect mansions and very quickly, were faced with problems of soil density and changes affected the construction. In some areas (northern Pipe De Pijp) crowded construction began, pursuing the maximum use of land, but here, in the modern Museum District happened the exact opposite. Private mansions, expensive apartment buildings, wide streets and prestigious shops became the hallmark of the museum quarter at the turn of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. We leave the hotel and take a walk through this beautiful and unique quarter of the city. To navigate, use the direction of the blue arrow on the screen of your phone and the dotted blue line on the map. If you are not connected to the cellular network, then before leaving the hotel, download the route offline. https://www.conservatoriumhotel.com/
Right next to the hotel, we can see beautiful examples of rich houses with sheer bourgeois chic. Across the street is one of these architecture examples, the fashion boutique The People of the Labyrinths. At the beginning of the street, Jan Luijkenstraat, teeming with neo-Gothic and Art Deco houses, there is a Victorian mansion erected by the renowned architect Eduard Cuypers. We will return to him at the end of the walk.
Having passed along one of the essential fashion streets in Amsterdam, we can go down into a shaded park and pass under a bridge. This is Vondelpark. It was pledged with private funds and approved by royal decree in April 1864. There were 34 founders in total and among them the mayor Jan Messchert van Vollenhoven. Prior to this, a peat meadow was located here, and the founders wanted to partake in horseback riding.
The historical photo of Van Baerlestraat meeting Vondelpark taken by Unknown author - http://beeldbank.amsterdam.nl/afbeelding/PBKD00045000007, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=63812597
Today it’s hard to believe that once bicycling in the park was allowed only in the morning. Once in the park, it is not difficult to understand that the inhabitants of Amsterdam love it very much. Indeed, this is the largest park in the city, a Guinness World Record of the largest picnic in the world was set here, and the park bears the name of Joost Van Den Vondel, the Dutch poet and writer of the Renaissance, who laid the foundations of the Dutch literary language that the Dutch are so eager to preserve today.
Photo by Eirik Skarstein on Unsplash
Looking at this beautiful building in the style of the Italian Renaissance, it is hard to imagine that until 1921 this place in the city was the lowest point. Since its opening in 1881, this beautiful building has been a traditional meeting place for Amsterdam bohemia. Since 1950, the annual Amsterdam Festival of Music and Performing Arts was held here, and from 1972 to 2012, the cinema museum was located here. Today, the Vondel pavilion is often mentioned with the prefix CS, which translates from Latin “Cum Suis” as "among its own." It has become a platform for young initiatives in the field of art, television, and broadcasting. Historic postcard photo Door by Onbekend - www.geheugenvannederland.nl, Publiek domein, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=10040478
The building of this now-defunct church is closely intertwined with the character of its architect. Pierre Cuypers, perhaps one of Amsterdam's most famous architects, who designed the famous railway station building and the Rijksmuseum, designed this church at the request of the Catholic community, of which he was a parishioner. Moreover, he lived in the house opposite to it, at Vondelstraat 77, and maybe this church, visible to him from the window, was an ant reminder of his dream - to build an entire neo-Gothic quarter west to Vondelpark. The architect's plans were only partially realized, but he became a dear part of the history of the city and in the hearts of Amsterdam's people. Even in his death, Cuypers was extraordinary. He left this world at 93 years, in a cassock of a Dominican monk - like a passionate Catholic.
Historic photo about 1900 By Unknown author - http://members.casema.nl/a.tiggeler/index.html, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=47096874
The white arch beckons us to look inside, where, through the inner corridor, we see the beauty of architecture and grace of movement - the Dutch Manege. This is the oldest riding school in the Netherlands. The building we are in was built in 1882, following the example of the famous Spanish Riding School in Vienna. In this arena, eminent residents of Amsterdam and members of the royal family practiced horseback riding. Remember at the entrance to the park we mentioned that before the bicycles became a part of it, the founders of the park, including the mayor of the city, liked horseback riding?
Photo of Hollandsche Manège: reproduction of print 1886, interior By Rijksdienst voor het Cultureel Erfgoed, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=23368144
We will return to the park and to its wonderfully shaded alleys. Initially, the park occupied 8 hectares (20 acres) of land. Landscape architects JD and LP Zocher, a father and son, designed it in a typical English style. They used large lawns, paths, and ponds to create the feeling of a large natural area. Even a certain desolation was artificially given to the park, to make everything look natural. The official opening took place on June 15th, 1865, and the park was given the name: New Park. Only two years later, after the statue of Jost van den Vondel was installed, the park got its current name, and soon, more than thirty hectares were added to it. About 100 plant species and 127 tree species grow in the park. Squirrels, hedgehogs, ducks and migratory birds live in the park.
In the heart of Vondelpark, in the shade of trees above the quiet expanse of water, we see the "Blue Tea House" (Blauwe Theehuis). It was built in 1937 on the site of the previous tea house that was damaged by fire. This elegant two-story building is a monument to the Dutch view of the Bauhaus architecture. It is worth climbing the stairs to the upper floor and admiring the park from above. Here you can relax before our next part of the walk. Very famous museums await us.
We will begin discovering the Amsterdam Museum Quarter with the Stedelijk Museum. It was opened in 1895 and was an “architectural rhyme” for the Rijksmuseum. Its red bricks, alternating with white layers, resemble the structure of bacon. As funny as it may sound, this is the name of this technique. The pompous Neo-Renaissance style facade is decorated with sculptures of famous Dutch artists. The first exhibition was based on a private collection of the Soissos couple: Augustus Peter Lopez and his wife Sophia Adriana de Bruyne. They were childless, fabulously rich and dedicated their lives to travel and collecting. Along with exquisit things, the museum found a place for paintings that were inappropriate for the Rijksmuseum, according to the tastes of that time. For example, the works of Van Gogh. It were the works of Picasso, Matisse, Cezanne and Monet that brought glory to the Stedelijk Museum during the 30s of the last century. Here there is also a self-portrait of Marc Chagall, on which the artist portrayed himself with seven fingers, symbolizing the seven days of the creation of the world and his Jewish origin. The museum is also famous for it’s collection of works from the Dutch art movement known as De Stijl (Style) - a prototype of modern industrial design and a symbol of 20th-century abstract art. But perhaps the best known story of the museum is associated with paintings by Malevich. The museum houses the largest collection of works by the artist outside of Russia. This collection was acquired after World War II from the German architect Hugo Goering, who managed to save the paintings from destruction by the Nazis as a work of “degenerative art”. The museum is open daily from 10:00 to 18:00, on Thursday from 10:00 to 22:00. https://www.stedelijk.nl/en
Stedelijk Museum on Old postcard of Amsterdam circa 1900. Photo By Unknown author - http://www.declampe.net, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=46272953
This grand concert hall is the work of Adolf Leonard van Gendt. In fact, we already got acquainted with him. Remember the Manege building? He gifted the city the theater building, too, and took part in the construction of the train station. Concertgebouw, like all buildings in the city, is built on stilts. In 1985, almost a hundred years after the discovery, 2186 original wooden piles were replaced with concrete columns. And in 2013, on the occasion of the Concertgebown’s twenty-fifth anniversary, Queen Beatrix granted the royal title to the concert hall. The unique acoustics make this complex one of the best in the world for classical music, but the performances of such groups as Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, and The Who in the 1960s could not be called successful in terms of sound. Concertgebouw opens up a huge square in front of us called the Museumplein.
Photo from 1952 By Nationaal Archief - http://proxy.handle.net/10648/a8fcf37c-d0b4-102d-bcf8-003048976d84, CC0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=65062061
The huge Museumplein Square was once a swampy meadow behind the magnificent Rijksmuseum. The expanses of this place are impressive. In 1883, the square was allocated to the World Exhibition. In 1916, which became the year of the women's rights movement, rallies were held here, then, until the 1930s, it was used for sports purposes, and during the Nazi occupation, bunkers and bomb shelters were located on the square. Here, a little bit to the side, we can see a monument to the victims of the Nazi women's concentration camp Ravensbrück. Eleven stainless steel steles reflect the light emanating from the central pillar, perpetuating the memory of more than 130,000 prisoners and victims of the camp.
Photo from 1982 By van Smirren / Anefo - http://proxy.handle.net/10648/ad120268-d0b4-102d-bcf8-003048976d84, CC0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=73423164
We approach one of the most visited museums in the city - the Van Gogh Museum. Do you remember? A little over one hundred years ago, the paintings of this artist that were bashfully hidden in the Stedelijk Museum? By the way, this museum remains to our left, from which the modern Van Gogh Museum extended, as well as the triangular roof of the Albert Heijn supermarket, which was nicknamed the “donkey’s ear.” The museum building was built between 1963 and 1973 with later additions. Van Gogh’s brother’s wife, Johanna Gezina van Gogh Bonger, devoted her life to popularizing the artist’s paintings that she inherited after her husband’s, Theo Van Gogh, death. He passed away six months after the death of his brother. Her son, Vincent van Gogh’s nephew, donated paintings to the city museum in 1925, 35 years after the artist’s death. Did they know then, that the theft of two Van Gogh paintings in 2002 will become one of the ten most enormous crimes in the history of art, and the reward for providing information on the whereabouts of the paintings will be 100,000 euros? The museum stores 200 paintings, 400 drawings and 700 letters of the artist, among them the famous Bedroom in Arles and Sunflowers. https://www.vangoghmuseum.nl/en Sunflowers By Vincent van Gogh - hwEGmsM-FoHAwA at Google Cultural Institute, zoom level maximum, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=13528371
This beautiful English-style country villa was built in 1904 for the family of bankers, Sigmund Alsberg and Sarah Elizabeth Enthoven. Eduard Cuypers designed it - Pierre Cuypers’ brother, remember? The architect of the neo-Gothic church, the Rijksmuseum, and the train station? Towards the end of our walk, connections are made, characters are recognized and a picture of Amsterdam at the turn of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries emerges, when the city became a European capital, swampy meadows turned into avenues, vast wastelands into parks and architectural masterpieces were erected everywhere, so vivid and magnificent today. By the way, the Alsbergs were friendly with the Soissot couple - remember, the founders of Stedelijk - the city museum? Today, Alsberg Villa is estimated at almost 40 million euros and houses the Moco Modern Contemporary Museum, which opened on April 9, 2016. It also houses the works of Banksy and Andy Warhol.
https://mocomuseum.com/ Villa Alsberg circa 1930 By Unknown author - http://beeldbank.amsterdam.nl/afbeelding/ANWD00675000015, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=63894264
We are approaching Rixmuseum, the main museum in the Netherlands. In the middle of the last century, there was a very lively Museumstraat, which was also called the “shortest highway in Holland.” Now there is a large pool, which becomes a city ice rink in the wintertime. Between the pool and the museum building, once there was a big construction, spelling out “I AMsterdam” - which is a play on “I am Amsterdam”. It was one of the most popular places for countless selfies.
Photo Simplified Pixabay License
The creation of the most visited museum in Amsterdam is connected with the name of Napoleon, not of the emperor himself, but of his brother - Louis Bonaparte. He was king of the Kingdom of Holland, a vassal from France, from 1806 to 1810. Originally based in Hague, the museum moved to Amsterdam in 1808 and was housed in the royal palace. Then it changed addresses several times until it was accommodated in 1885 in the magnificent complex that stands before us, the work of Pierre Cuypers. The museum is one of the 20 most visited museums in the world and showcases in full the paintings of the Dutch masters. The most famous painting in the museum is Rembrandt’s “Night Watch”, which was created in 1642 for one of the three headquarters of the Amsterdam Civil Guard. Its special coating creates the presence of night. In 2017, after its renovation, the museum was preparing to receive a ten-millionth visitor. For this purpose, the lucky man was surprised with a night in the museum, and an opportunity to dream opposite of the most famous painting of the great artist. The painting "Thrush" by Johannes Vermeer, no less famous, is also displayed in the museum. Calm and restrained, today it tops the list of the most popular paintings of Rijksmuseum. The museum is also famous for its interactivity, unusual solutions, and invariable ability to capture the attention of the visitor, to overwhelm him with the power of art and to remain invisible, to accompany him on a personal journey into the world of the spirit and mystery of the human soul. We leave the museum at its main entrance, facing the canal. Turn to the left and go through a small and pleasant garden. Leaving the garden by the stone gate look at the villa of Eduard Cuypers. We mentioned him at the very beginning of our trip, leaving the hotel. So, our circle is closed, dedicated to Amsterdam of the late nineteenth - early twentieth centuries. But before we say goodbye, let's turn onto Paulus Potter straat — an unusual surprise awaits us here. Photo Rijksmuseum: inner courtyard with plaster casts of building fragments and interior parts By Rijksdienst voor het Cultureel Erfgoed, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=23973435
Prince Albert - cousin, and the husband of Queen Victoria, the greatest of all the queens of Great Britain, held a world exhibition in London in 1851. It was a stunning success. Two years later, in 1853, one of the most famous diamonds in the world, Kohinoor, was inlaid in the crown of Queen Victoria. A year before that, the diamond received a new cut at the request of Prince Albert himself at the factory of Moses Elias Coster. Take a look at the four houses on your right. On each of them has the inscription “Coster Diamonds”. This is the oldest diamond cutting workshop still in operation today. It was founded in 1840 by Moses Elias Coster. Eight years later, he was succeeded by his son Meyer Moses Coster. It was in Meyer’s time that the ancient diamond of Kohinoor was given a new facet. This work ended the bloody history of the most famous diamond in the world and forever strengthened it in the crown of the British Empire, as a sign of the greatness and glory of the Queen of the United Kingdom of England and Ireland and the Empress of India. Over the years, the Coster factory changed hands and migrated from Waterlooplein Square in the Jewish Quarter to the Museum Quarter. Queen Victoria wore all black until her death as a sign of mourning for Albert, who had died at the age of 42, and Amsterdam continued to live - to live, build, create, expand. Indeed, precisely these features are so characteristic of the city with the short name Dam - the northern brother of Venice and the “grandfather” of St. Petersburg
Photo of British Crown with the Koh-I-Noor Diamond By AlinavdMeulen - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=60460554