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Art in Amsterdam's Red Light District

When in Amsterdam....the Red Light District hosts an Art Fair once a year. AIR (Art in the Red Light) is now in its 8th year. Contemporary Art, Photography and Jewelry go on display in the Old Church of Amsterdam.

AIR has been at the forefront to diversify Amsterdam's notorious Red Light District. The exhibition is displayed in the Gothic church in the middle of the district. This year the exhibition extends to the windows of the Church's outbuildings.
Installation by Jompet Kuswidanato  

59 local and international Artists are on display. Local artists include product designer Marjan van Aubel, landscape photographer and Amsterdam resident Wouter van Buuren and jeweler to the celebrities Otazu. International guests include acclaimed Indonesian visual artist Jompet Kuswidanato, Icelander and instillation artist Thorvaldur Thorsteinsson, and video, performance London artist Alexis Milne winner of the Start Point Prize.

Installation by Razia Barsatie

By Midas Zwaan

Printed Glass by Deborah Roffel

Paintings by Thorvaldur Thorsteinsson
By Tjalling Visser

In addition that all the art pieces are for sale each Artist provides a piece for auction. This auction is held towards the end of the exhibition. Part of the proceeds go to charity. AIR is supports Orange Babies, an organization that assist those suffering  AIDS in Africa.

The AIR exhibition runs 20 -23 September at the Old Church in Amsterdam.

The exhibition is free with admission. Those with an IAmsterdam Card or a Museum Card entrance is free.

When in Amsterdam...enjoy!

When in Amsterdam... - Blogged

Raging Bitch: Beer of the Week at Cafe Batavia 1920

When in Amsterdam.... drink a Raging Bitch. Beer of the week at Cafe Batavia 1920 is a Belgian style Indian Pale Ale. On pouring there was a lovely white head. The first sip was immediately full of hops but then changed to flavors of citrus, apples and grapefruit.

Raging Bitch at Cafe Batavia 1920
 For those that like gin and tonics this is a beer for you. The Raging Bitch was easy to drink. After having two Bitchs the evening was kicked off in a great fashion.

When in Amsterdam.....drink an Indian Pale Ale.

For more Batavia Beers of the Week:
- Affligem Dubbel
Maredsous Blonde
Delirium Nocturnum 
- Golden Dragon

When in Amsterdam... - Blogged

Amsterdam's Cafe Batavia 1920 Beer of the Week: Maredsous Blonde

When in Amsterdam....drink a beer that is not pilsner. Happy Queen's Day Weekend everyone. Amsterdam  is set for a long weekend of celebration. Therefore we need a beer that is not to heavy, a beer that is different to earlier weeks. This week's beer is to help you enjoy the freshness and excitement of Spring and the Amsterdam party atmosphere.

With the help of Cafe Batavia 1920 the beer of the week is Maredsous Blonde 6 Ale.

This was the first beer to be produced by the Benedictine Abbey of Maredsous in Denee, Belgium. This Blonde 6 is now brewed by the well renowned Duvel Moortgat Brewery.

On pouring the Maredsous Blonde there was a large sticky head with wheat citrus aroma. The taste is a little tart to start with a dry finish. Citrus, spice, fruit and biscuit flavors burst through and disappear on the palate. The 6 stands for 6% alcohol. This 6 is an easy to drink blonde Belgium beer.

When in Amsterdam....enjoy Queen's Weekend!

When in Amsterdam... - Blogged

28 years ago Famous Sex Theatre Burns Down

When in Amsterdam... - Blogged

On 16 December 1983 the famous sex theatre, which had opened in 1969, the Casa Rosso burned down. The theatre is famous for showing live sex acts performed on stage. The fire was started by a disgruntled former employee Joseph Lan at the former location of 92-100 Oudezids Achterburgwal. He poured petrol through the building and then reportedly lite it with gun. Lan was eventually arrested and sentenced to 12 years imprisonment. Click on the link to see the crowds watch the fire be put out.

ANP Historisch Archief

The owner of the Casa Rosso, Zwarte Jopie (original name Maurits De Vries)  wanted to leave the business and Amsterdam after the fire. The City authorities thought drug dealers from the nearby Zeedijk would take over the place. Jopie was encouraged to rebuild and moved the location of the theatre to its current spot 50 metres up the canal.

A memorial was built to remember the victims of the fire and stand there to this day.

When in Amsterdam....enjoy!

Sex Workers storm Amsterdam's International Documentary Film Festival (IDFA)

When in Amsterdam... - Blogged

Amsterdam is a busy place all year round. November is no different. As the clocks change time, the weather drops in temperature and the trees lose their leaves, Amsterdammers scramble to get building projects finished before winter and the film buffs take over down town Amsterdam.

It is the month of IDFA: Amsterdam's International Documentary Film Festival. When in Amsterdam has been attending a two week festival in its 24th year and the largest of its kind in the world. Over 300 documentaries are screened attracting 200 000 visits and around 2600 international visitors.

The city and especially the Rembrandtplein (square) area is crawling with industry people and film fanatics. Talking, selling, networking or just enjoying, you can't get away from the enthusiasm for documentaries in November. As the festival comes to an end it is time to tell you the stars and the prize winners this year.

This year the talk and especially the Dutch chatter has been about Amsterdammers, the Fokkens. Two sweet old Amsterdam ladies in grey knit sweaters identical twin sisters Martine and Louise.

At the age of 69 they have been working in Amsterdam's famed Red Light District for 50 years. One of the sisters still works while the other does not because of problems with her hips. A Documentary Meet the Fokkens about their lives and adventures premiered this year. In time for Christmas the imaginative sisters have also released a book about their lives.

There has been no better example of Dutch honesty then to watch and hear the Fokkens on the television and radio talk show circuit over the past two weeks. Click on the link of an interview with the sisters by the National Broadcaster with English subtitles to watch the women talk about their profession.

With over 300 titles and many events and exhibitions running paralel to IDFA it is hard to list favorites. Below is a list of this years prize winners.

Prize Winners:

Best Feature Length Documentary:
Planet of the Snail (South Korea) is a story of a deaf and blind man and his beloved.

Special Jury Mention and the Audience Award:
5 Broken Cameras (Palastine/France/Netherlands) tells the story of a Palastinian village dealing with Jewish settlement and encroachment over a period of 5 years.

IDFA Award for Best Mid-Length Documentary:
Montenegro (Argentina) is about the hermit life of a man and a dog on a quiet island.

Dutch Cultural Media Fun Documentary Prize:
Floating Bodies (Netherlands) about an unidentified corps

IDFA Award for 1st Appearance: The Vanishing Spring Light (China/Canada) life of West Street citizens in Dujiangyan City.

Best Music Documentary Prize (inaugural):
Last Days Here about the crack cocaine addicted front man Bobby Liebling

Best Green Screen Documentary
Bitter Seeds about why an Indian farmer commits suicide every 30 minutes.

Student Award for Documentary
The Betrayal (England/Norway) making mistakes in the world of Norwegian squatters and seeking forgiveness.

Blackberry sponsored Youth Award
Last Days of Winter (Iran) is a portrait about the lives of 7 Iranian boys in a youth detention center.

For more information visit the Film Festival's page:


All-time Top 10 Things to do in Amsterdam: a critical look

When in Amsterdam has realised that every website associated with Amsterdam travel has a top list of things to do in this city. Some websites only have Top 5 or 10 lists.

When in Amsterdam could provide our own list but honestly there is no Top 10 list. Waking up in Amsterdam the list changes day to day because of mood, weather and the place in question.

So we are going to give you the All-time Top 10 list of things to do in Amsterdam (updated 2014).

Our approach is simple: 

  • Collation
  • 100 web pages were analysed.
  • Search Terms were “top things to do in Amsterdam”, ‘top 10 things in Amsterdam’
  • To qualify the page needed to have in its title top things to do in Amsterdam. For Example: Top 5, Top 10, Top 20 things to do in Amsterdam.

We collated the results then ran a critical look at the list to provide you with an alternative.
Counting down from 10 to 1.

Amsterdam floating flower market
Timmer's Flowers and Plants: Amsterdam Floating Flower Martket
photo: Sonia Hermosin
10. Amsterdam’s Famous Floating Flower Market
The last market in Amsterdam still on the water. A wonderful place for colour and it is central. The Dutch are famous for cut flowers and bulbs. The 1637 stock market meltdown because of speculation on tulip bulbs made the Dutch synonymous with the Turkish flower.

Critical look:
  • The market has no educational aspect at all.
  • The market is not really floating.
  • A retail market servicing mostly tourists from Europe.
  •  Custom’s regulations restrict other visitors from taking back bulbs to their countries.
  • It is worth a look if in the area especially for the Timmer's family stall famous for their quality cut flowers and plants.

  •  Alsmeer Flower Market: An hour by bus outside Amsterdam it is the World’s largest flower market and the world’s 4th largest building. You can’t help but learn on the self-guided tour.
Named after the famous 17 century poet and playwright Vondel it is Amsterdam’s central park. The park was created in 1864 after Victorian England made such gardens popular. It has a Picasso sculpture, wonderful bike paths, the film museum and a theater.
Vondel Park, Amsterdam

Critical look:

  • As is commonly reported Vondel Park receives 10 million visitors a year. 
  • On a sunny day finding a quiet spot in Vondel Park is not possible.
  • The smell in parts also demonstrates the lack of toilet facilities. This has been added to over the last few years.(thanks to comments section)
  • The high numbers of visitors and its central location, the park attracts people that want to be noticed. Unsocial behaviour and drunkenness does occur at the end of a hot day.
  • Westerpark is central and large like Vondel Park. The east-west layout results in more sunshine hours, if you are lucky to get a sunny day in Amsterdam. Large range of bars, eateries and toilets.

8. Visit the Albert Cuyp Market
With over 220 stalls and situated within the old Latin Quarter of Amsterdam, the Albert Cuyp market is the largest street market in the Netherlands and professes to be one of the largest daily markets in Europe. Named after the 17th century painter the market has operated since 1905.

Critical look:
  • It is not the most affordable of Amsterdam street markets.
  • Expensive nature means working class Amsterdammers go to other street markets.

  • Dappermart: cheaper, more rustic, fewer tourists, rated top 10 shopping streets in the world by National Geographic 2007.

7. Ride a bike
With an estimated 600 000 to 1 million bicycles circulating in Amsterdam, the city is one of the bike capitals of the world. The compact and flat nature of the city makes biking a fast and affordable travel option in Amsterdam.

sightseeing Amsterdam bike
Amsterdam bike
Critical look:
  • Most anger from locals towards visitors is about biking or walking in bike paths. 
  • Many Amsterdammers believe that visitors should take a test before being allowed to rent or ride a bike in Amsterdam.
  • Riding a bike in Amsterdam City Centre traffic is not for beginners.

  • Walk smaller areas and take Amsterdam trams in between – bike riders don’t mess with trams.
  • Take a guided walking tour of Amsterdam's Old City Centre  with a private, small or larger group tours. 
  • Take a countryside bike tour or a neighbourhood bike tour and enjoy Amsterdam with good bike paths. Dutch biking the way it is supposed to be, enjoyable.
The second or third largest beer maker in the world depending with whom you talk started in Amsterdam. The old brewery has a tour called the Heineken Experience.

heineken brewery
Heineken Experience, Amsterdam
Critical look:
  • They have not made beer in this brewery since the 1980s.
  • The tour concentrates on the advertising and marketing power of this international brand.
  • The tour only includes two half pints of Heineken. Trying to make friends with people who don't like beer on a brewery tour. Just to savour more of the product is a thirsty persons dilemma.
  • Spending the price of entrance to the Heineken Experience at one of Amsterdam’s active micro-breweries or quality beer bars will result in more beer. 
  • Amsterdam’s micro-brewery scene is building: Brouwerij ‘t IJ, Prael, De Bekeerde Zuster (the twisted sister) are well worth visit for beer lovers. Some Breweries conduct tours for groups and or individuals.
  • There are beer tours as well as pub and club crawls for the young.

5. Canal Tour
Amsterdam is known as the Venice of the North. Even though the canals do not smell and the canals are not deep like Venice 20% of Amsterdam's surface is water. With over 100 kilometers of canals, around 90 islands and 1500 bridges traveling by water is a great way to see the city.

Critical look:
  • Few Amsterdammers use their canals.
  • There are three main canal tour companies in Amsterdam. They run tours that are similar with recorded messages, and their boats have no historic relevance to Amsterdam.
Amsterdam local boat tour
Local Boating Experience, Amsterdam

  • Find a local Amsterdammer with a boat. Finding a local boat cruise is easier to find when the weather is good. Inquire with other tour providers you may use. Amsterdammers' have a network of boat operators in the city. 
  • Visit Het Grachtenhuis (Canal House Museum) learn how Amsterdam's world heritage listed canals were created.
  • Rent your own boat and captain yourself. Sleopdelen, Boaty. Becareful, when the weather is good on a weekend, out come the party boats.

4. Red Light District
Situated in the oldest part of Amsterdam this area provides an eclectic mix of sex shops, brothels, coffeeshops, hotels, gay bars and around 300 red light windows. Since 2000 Amsterdam legalised sex workers. The Red Light District is the main centre of this industry in Amsterdam.

Critical look:
  • There is more to Amsterdam than the Red Light District. The area is often full of young men peering at the scantly clad women.
  • On weekends the neighbourhood can be over loaded with travelling parties of men and women. Exciting for early evening walk.
  • Take a guided walking tour of the Red Light District. The area is the oldest in town and full of hidden secrets. A little bit of knowledge goes a long way compared to peering into the bewitching red lights.
  • Go during the day and see the shopping, art and history side of the area.

The greatest collection of Dutch art and history in the Netherlands. Normally ranked in the top 20 of museums in the world. The Rijksmuseum was under construction between 2003 and 2013. The masterpieces are layed out in a new style with focus still on the grand hallway of Masters. Classics by Rembrandt, Frans Hals and Vermeer are well represented.  

rijksmuseum amsterdam sightseeing
Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam.

Rembrandt House: Comparable there are no crowds and you can see what sort of bed the old master Rembrandt slept in and toilet he used. Also the largest collection of Rembrandt etchings in the world

2. Van Gogh Museum
The expressionist painter was famed for his rough style, sharp colours and considered a trail blazer for modern art. This museum houses the largest collection of Van Gogh paintings under one roof and tells the story of the man from child hood to his end at 37 years old.

van gogh museum amsterdam sightseeing
Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam.

Critical look:
  • Van Gogh did not spend a lot of his life in the Netherlands.
  • His fame has only come about through Van Gogh's influence on 20th century art.
  • Expect large lines.
  • Pre-purchase your tickets at the tourist information centre at the front of Central Station. Go late to avoid the crowds. 
  • On Friday night the museum is open to 10pm with a relaxed and enjoyable environment.
  • Go on a day trip to Kroller Muller Museum to experience the largest private collection.

1. Anne Frank Museum
The location of the Jewish Frank family hiding place during WWII. Teenage Anne documented her experience from the annex of this Amsterdam house during Nazi occupation. The book has become one of the world's most widely read. This popularity accounts for approximately 1 million visitors a year to this museum.

anne frank house sightseeing
Anne Frank House Museum, Amsterdam.

Critical Look:
  • For a small museum there are a lot of people at certain times. 
  • The museum has a difficult job balancing the broader context of the period.
  • It is more of a pilgrimage than a museum.

  • Avoid the long lines and buy on lineGo late in the evening or arrive early before it opens and the school groups arrive. 
  • Resistance museum provides you with a greater snap shot of World War II in Amsterdam and the Netherlands. Rated one of the best museums in the Netherlands don't expect long lines here maybe just a school group now and then.
  • The Jewish Historical Museum provides detail on the Jewish community's influence on Amsterdam through the centuries. Ticket to this museum includes entrance to the Portuguese Synagoge and nearby Deportation centre.  

Overview of Amsterdam's Top 10 Things to Do:
  • The 'Big 3' as the industry calls them, fill out the top three. 
  • Sex, alcohol and boats are four, five and six. 
  • Bikes, markets, parks and flowers round out the list. 
Quite a range for a small city of less than 1 million people. Have you got a suggestion? Let us know what you enjoyed in Amsterdam.

For more things to do check our list for Spring 2014.

When in Amsterdam.....enjoy!
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