WORDS BY SIMON E. SMITH
It’s well-known that in the Venice of the North two societal taboos are easy to come by: prostitutes and cannabis. But while many Brits hop across to smoke and shag their way through a long weekend, Amsterdam can offer much more for the culturally inclined. Here are four of the more sophisticated ways to do the city.
BODYWORLDS – THE HAPPINESS PROJECT
More illuminating than a space cake, the first BodyWorlds’ display is a man’s head halved down the middle and presented in a glass box. Using human specimens including whole body plastinates each room explores a different system, from digestive to reproductive nothing is left out. A highlight is a woman pulling herself out of her own skin.
The theme of this exhibition is the effect of happiness on the human body…laughter really is the best medicine. Don’t forgo an audio guide; you wouldn’t skimp on your health would you?
Nearly every Amsterdam native – or “Mokummer” - will tell you the best way to see their city is to get beneath it. This can be done by one of two ways: either by throwing yourself in a canal and swimming or jumping onto one of the famous canal cruises. With old bikes lodged in the bottom of waterways, the latter is more advisable. Circular cruises usually last up to 75 minutes and take punters past the city landmarks from the Westerkerk (Western Church) to the NEMO science museum.
BEER GLORIOUS BEER
Unlike in the UK, the Netherlands, along with the rest of Europe, actually has a drinking culture to be proud of. Here we have John vomiting into a gutter after too many Carlings on a Saturday...morning. The Dutch are a tad more cultured. There are a number of highly rated specialist beer bars where you can enjoy world class lagers, ales, stouts or malts with cheese on the side - try The Beer Temple or Craft and Draft. If you hear “YOU SCOUSE TWAT, YOU SCOUSE TWAT” from outside an establishment, don’t expect much more than a Stella.
INTERCONTINENTAL AMSTEL HOTEL
You could do a lot worse than having lunch at the InterContinental Amstel. Opened in 1867 the five-star hotel is located on the East bank of the river Amstel. The exclusive hotel boasts Sheiks and Dutch royalty as regular guests.
A great way to end a trip is to have lunch on one of the two terraces next to the river. Watch the boats pass by with envious looks as you offer a polite nod in their direction. They may think you’re an out of touch elitist but surely that’s a good thing.