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The 17th-century gabled canal houses of the historic center are Amsterdam’s calling card. But the city’s rich mix of architectural styles entice visitors far beyond the Canal Belt.
Reopened in April 2013 after a ten-year closure, the Rijksmuseum has been beautifully restored. Eight hundred years of Dutch art—including Rembrandt’s Night Watch which hangs amidst the arches and murals of the magnificent Gallery of Honour—is displayed across five floors of airy galleries.
Combining elements from expressionism, Art Deco and Jugendstil, the Amsterdam School style of architecture emerged around 1910 and is characterized by rounded contours, decorative brickwork, wrought iron and stained glass.
One of the most stunning examples of the style is the Scheepvaarthuis near Central Station. Originally serving as offices for the city's largest shipping companies, it now houses the luxury Grand Hotel Amrâth. The hotel’s extraordinary stained-glass stairwell—as well as the bar and restaurant—are open to non-guests.
Other examples of Amsterdam School design can be found in the houses of the genteel Oud Zuid district, where the ARTZUID sculpture route is organized every two years.
Not all of Amsterdam’s architectural highlights come with a history lesson, however. Newer kids are appearing on the block too. The Stedelijk is worth a visit as much for its building as its collection of contemporary art. The original museum, dating from 1895, has been expanded with a new 98,400-square-foot wing, a dazzling white composite structure with a wide lip that some locals have likened to a bathtub.
Equally dazzling is the EYE Film Institute. A multi-layered edifice of glass and white tiles in Amsterdam Noord, its design echoes the concept of movies as a combination of light, space and motion.