Fortunately, things get better. If the test of a great city is reinvention, then Amsterdam has a PhD in metamorphosis. Yes, the red light district is still a thing, unruly British stag parties still flood into the city’s blood-stream like the hallucinogenic drugs that are available everywhere, and even the main shopping street is lined with shops peddling mind-boggling sex toys. But Amsterdam has been busy in my absence, managing to pull off that most impressive of tricks – cleaning up its act without losing its rebellious, quirky edge. After three days, I discover it’s not for nothing this compact, lively and youthful capital was recently voted one of the world’s best places to live.
There’s exhibitionism of a different kind at the Rijksmuseum, one of the world’s most important cultural institutions, which opened last year after a 10-year, $537.5 million refurbishment.
It’s a little disconcerting to go from hand-bags to the Holocaust, but at the Anne Frank House, we queue patiently to pay our respects to the plucky teen whose diary was published after her death in a concentration camp. We’re not alone: the house where two families hid from the Nazis for two years is one of Amsterdam’s most popular tourist attractions and despite the cold, the queue unspools around the block. But the wait is worth it, and we climb the stairs to the annex in silence, watching videos, reading quotes and looking at photos which illustrate how cramped and uncomfortable conditions would have been. Traces of their occupation remain but the rooms are bare, stripped of their contents by the Nazis.
Photographs by: Martin Haughey