As an avid world traveller, there are a few destinations that I simply never get bored visiting over and over again. The Netherlands on the western side of Europe is one of my favourite destinations that I visit every year.
There are so many charms that this country has to offer including its history, people, food, architecture, art and its exceptionally designed hotels that seem to grown every time. In this article, I would like to take you to three different cities and highlight an interesting place to visit in each location.
Amsterdam: Royal Palace of Amsterdam
The capital city that has been popular since the 17th Century, Amsterdam continues to be one of the most visited destinations for many travellers. These travellers continue to enjoy the perks that the city has to offer including beautiful canals, stunning museums, friendly local people, great restaurant and café scene, to its alternative fun lifestyle.
However, Amsterdam is also a city that keeps the track of Dutch design in history that has progressed over time. One of the design monuments, the Royal Palace, is located downtown. Known as Koninklijk Paleis van Amsterdam, it was built as a city hall during the Dutch Golden Age in the 17th Century and at one point, this building was the royal palace of King Louis Napoleon before it turned into the Dutch Royal House in 1813.
Designed by architect Jacob van Campen, the palace’s interior is adorned with beautiful white marble and a yellowish sandstone from Bentheim in Germany for the building structure. Inspired by the Antwerp Town Hall, Jacob focused on the power and prestige of Amsterdam featuring the work of Artus Quelijn sculptures and paintings by Dutch masters such as Govert Flinck, Ferdinand Bol, and Pieter de Hooch among others. One of the iconic highlights of this palace is the six-metre-tall statue of Atlas carrying the glove on his shoulders that symbolises the global reach of commerce in the 17th century.
The Royal Palace of Amsterdam is still part of the properties in the kingdom where official royal events took place, especially the famous balcony of the palace that was used during the investiture of Queen Beatrix in 1980 and the place where Prince Willem-Alexander and Princess Maxima kissed on their wedding day in February 2002. I have visited Amsterdam many times and I am still impressed with the new things I discover on each visit. This Royal Palace of Amsterdam is definitely worth visiting.
Rotterdam: Netherlands Architecture Institute
My day trip to Rotterdam may have been short, but the beauty of the city really captured my attention. During my introduction to Rotterdam, I was taken to the Netherlands Architecture Institute, which is more than just an institute. The organisation which was established in 1988 is a private organisation which manages the collection of archives that documents the history of Dutch architecture. However, aside from that, this institute also houses interesting various design exhibitions with a bookshop and a café where one can meet the Dutch design community.
The architecture institute was opened to the public on 1 July 2011. The building is one of the design marvels in the country. A competition was held among six well-known Dutch architects and Jo Coenen was commissioned to construct this building. His concept of blending of the design into the surroundings and the references to the history of architecture is simply fascinating.
Within the vicinity of this institute, we can also discover Sonneveld House Museum that was built in the Nieuwe Bouwen style, the Dutch branch of International School of Modernism. Designed in 1933 by architecture firm Brinkman and Van der Vlugt for the Sonneveld family, this house became a museum in 1977 under the collaboration of the institute with Volkskracht. This house is definitely one of the design masterpieces that captured a moment of the Dutch modern era.
My trip to Rotterdam was short, but it was really memorable and unique!
The Hague: Mauritshuis
After planning it in a few years, I managed to visit The Hague last winter for another day trip to meet a dear friend, Gretha Metekohy, who once worked at the Dutch Embassy in Indonesia. Knowing my penchant for everything fine and artsy, she took me on a walk around the downtown are to have a look at places such as Torentje (the Dutch Prime Minister’s Office), the legendary Hotel Des Indes, and impressive Michelin star restaurants. Nevertheless, one of the biggest surprises that I found in this lovely city was none other than the famous masterpiece by Jason Vermeer that is known as the ‘Girl with The Pearl Earring’ in a lovely art museum known as The Mauritshuis.
As with many museums in Europe, The Mauritshuis is a beautiful historical architectural gem that was built by the same architect who designed the Royal Palace, Jacob van Campen. Together with fellow architect Pieter Post, this Dutch Classicist building was made for the residence of John Maurice, Prince of Nassau-Siegen in 1641. The architectural design in this two-storey building emphasises a strict symmetry that contains four apartments and a great hall.
This building became a museum when it was bought by the Dutch state to house the Royal Cabinet of Paintings and the Royal Cabinet of Rarities. Open to the public since 1822, this museum features 800 paintings from the collection of William V, Prince of Orange. It focuses on Dutch and Flemish artists, with highlight including the masterworks of Rembrandt van Rijn, Paulus Potter, Peter Paul Rubens, Pieter Brueghel, Hans Holbein and many others. Of course, Vermeer’s ‘Girl with a Pearl Earring’ remains the most popular art piece to see when you are in this museum. However, it depends on your luck to see it as this painting is often exhibited around the world.
I really can’t help the feeling that the girl in Vermeer’s painting really looks like Scarlett Johansson. Perhaps they are related… Who knows!