Museums and galleries
The Rijksmuseum has been digitising for years. Hundreds of thousands of images from our collection are now available on Rijksstudio to view, download, print, turn into puzzles … Our best-known artwork is Rembrandt’s The Night Watch: catch up with the current restoration project at Operation Night Watch, or take a virtual tour of the museum with our free app.
We have started doing some things specially for the lockdown, such as Masterpieces Up Close, an interactive platform exploring 18 paintings, including Vermeer’s The Milkmaid. We’re also producing three-minute video talks by curators – mine will be about 19th-century British amateur photographer Anna Atkins: the first person to come up with the idea of putting photographs in a book, she took striking cyanotype images of plants, which look like modern art, and it took her 10 years (1843-1853) to make her books by hand.
The Van Gogh Museum has lots of ways to enjoy the museum at home, such as reading Vincent’s letters or using the Unravel Van Gogh app, for details you can’t see with the naked eye. At the Anne Frank House, virtual visitors can look around the Secret Annex online. The Stedelijk Museum of modern art is streaming live tours of its permanent collection and one of its temporary exhibitions, such as the new show by Korean video artist Nam June Paik, every Friday at 2pm; the tours are then available on Facebook and YouTube.
And outside of the city’s museums, sightseeing company Stromma is working on a virtual cruise along the city’s canals.
A writer who gives a good introduction to the city is Nescio, pen name of Jan Hendrik Frederik Grönloh (1883-1961), who is famous in the Netherlands. He wrote novellas and short stories about penniless artists and poets, mostly before or during the first world war. His work wasn’t translated into English until 2012, and is published as Amsterdam Stories.
I also recommend two photographers – some of their images are on the City Archives website. The first is George Hendrik Breitner (1857-1923), who walked the streets of Amsterdam for years, taking snapshots. His fascinating body of work is the best record we have of the city from that period.
The second is Ed van der Elsken (1925-1990), a street photographer and film-maker. He is best-known for Love on the Leftbank, his photobook of Paris, but he also took great portraits of 1950s Amsterdam. Martin Parr is a big fan. Breitner and Elsken are the two best guides you could have to the streets of Amsterdam.
My Rembrandt, a 2019 documentary by Oeke Hoogendijk, is a fascinating story about various people and their relationship with the artist. It is partly set in Amsterdam, and you can watch it online, for example on mubi.com. By contrast, The Hitman’s Bodyguard is a recent Amsterdam-based comedy-thriller starring Samuel L Jackson and Ryan Reynolds.
Ramses Shaffy (1933-2009) was the country’s most famous singer and actor. He was born in France – his mother was a Polish-Russian countess, his father an Egyptian diplomat – and lived in Amsterdam for much of his life. Most of his songs are in Dutch, but they are still enjoyable for English speakers. He was a fan of French chanteurs, and that shows.
And while live music is off the agenda, watch past performances of classical music on the Royal Concertgebouw’s website
My favourite Instagram account about Amsterdam is @streetartfrankey – it’s really funny and inventive. The same photos are published in the Amsterdam daily Het Parool.
Food and drink
Food in Amsterdam is cosmopolitan these days. There is a traditional Dutch cuisine, but it isn’t too famous for a reason! One of the few traditional Dutch dishes we cook in my house is a kind of comfort food called stamppot. You boil potatoes with one or more other vegetables (carrots, endive, kale, onions), then drain, add hot milk and mash. We serve it with smoked sausage and pickles.
We drink a lot of beer in the Netherlands, so visit virtually with a Dutch beer. Heineken is the most famous, but there are lots of small breweries in Amsterdam, such as Brouwerij ’t Ij. We also like making home brew – a good activity during lockdown. And jenever, Dutch gin, is having a revival among young people. They drink it neat, but it’s strong, so you should eat something with it! It goes well with beef sausages, cheese and mustard.
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