Four centuries after the Golden Age, a period of prosperity and artistic achievement that transformed Amsterdam from a fishing village into a wealthy hub of international trade, this delightful city is in the middle of a new renaissance. Amsterdam is built on a manageable scale; walking and biking along the famous canals are ideal ways to view the 17th-century gabled merchants’ houses, as well as to visit the many flower markets, cafés and secondhand bookstores. Glass-topped boat trips and (if the winter gets cold enough) ice skating along the waterways offer other perspectives, especially at night, when many of the city’s bridges are illuminated.
Amsterdam’s art museums should be mandatory stops: Highlights include the Van Gogh Museum, the largest collection of the artist’s work, and the Rembrandt House Museum, home to hundreds of the old master’s etchings, which are displayed in his former coach house. The Rijksmuseum is one of my favorite museums. Vermeer’s “The Milkmaid” and “Woman in Blue Reading a Letter” are, for many, objects of pilgrimage. Amsterdam is now also home to a branch of St. Petersburg’s Hermitage Museum.