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Amsterdamthe land of tulips

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Time Out: Amsterdam


Neither a freewheeling backpacker’s paradise nor the stolid, staid “Venice of the North,” Amsterdam is, in fact, one of Europe’s most dynamic cities, home to innovative art, design and dining scenes that are rivaled by its city planners’ own ambitions. It bursts into color in April; for proof, see the tulips blooming at the Keukenhof gardens. Then look across the River IJ to the up-and-coming Amsterdam Noord district, which is proving to be fertile ground for gallerists and restaurateurs—or anyone looking for a cocktail at a sky bar 20 floors above the city. But rest assured: The classic Amsterdam—the city of 17th-century merchant houses that rise above sun-dappled canals—still beckons.

Springtime breakfast is better on the patio at airy Café de Jaren, where a detox special (granola with coconut, banana, pumpkin seeds and Greek yogurt plus a ginger tea) comes with a view of the River Amstel. Settle in for lunch at cozy Tomaz, a temple of Dutch fare, and book in advance for dinner at the conceptually minded De Culinaire Werkplaats, where recent “eat’inspirations” (read: set menus) have focused on time and the beauty of imperfection.

Keukenhof, one of the largest flower gardens in the world, is utterly unmissable. For two months every year, it comes alive with color and intricately plotted displays of tulips and other flowers. This year, the garden will celebrate Dutch design—and one of the showpieces is a Mondrian garden, with squares of blossoms in primary colors. Located in the city of Lisse, Keukenhof is easily accessible by rail-bus connection or car from Amsterdam.

Take a free, 10-minute ferry from Centraal Station across the River IJ to explore the ambitious A’DAM Toren development, heading to 20th-floor Madam bar and restaurant for killer views over cocktails or to The Butcher Social Club for 24-hour burgers (weekends only, weekdays until 1 a.m.). Nearby, the EYE Filmmuseum hosts cutting-edge film installations as well as first-run movies.

While crowds rightfully line up to explore the Anne Frank House, the Dutch Resistance Museum offers a moving tribute to the plight of Amsterdammers during the five-year Nazi occupation. An afternoon with Black Heritage Amsterdam Tours, meanwhile, provides a new perspective on the Dutch Golden Age—including a stop at the fascinating National Maritime Museum or another national museum.

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