After gezellig and lekker (see previous posts), my vote for most uttered word in the Dutch vocabulary is mooi. Far easier to translate (meaning, simply, beautiful) and pronounce (like moy in English) than the first two, mooi describes anything that is pleasing to look at, in a nice or sweet way.
To compliment someone say, “Je bent mooi” (20,000 hits on Google—a number possibly enhanced by the Dove Campaign for Real Beauty). Melt your lover’s heart with, “Ik vind je heel mooi” (I think you’re really beautiful). Ramp it up with, “Je bent het mooiste meisje dat ik ooit heb gezien” (You’re the most beautiful girl I’ve ever seen).
Mooi can apply to a city as well as an attractive thing or romantic interest. Indeed, it’s the word I use most often to describe the global village that captured my heart in 2007. Some 10 million visitors join me annually here, drawn by Amsterdam’s tolerant vibe, shimmering canals, historical landmarks and quirky culture. A few come for the museums, others are seduced by the weed and many are magnetized by the sheer physical beauty of this international melting pot.
In any season, the Netherlands’ capital is a spectacular destination. You can warm up with hot cocoa and ollieballen in December after ice skating in Leidseplein or Rembrandtplein—entertainment squares where holiday food booths hawk the sugary donuts and rinks lure skaters. Spring brings tulips and an abundance of other bloemen. Autumn ushers in cultural season and Amsterdam Dance Event, when renowned DJs and musical artists from around the world congregate to showcase their talents.
Whenever you come, here are three beautiful, not-to-miss sights in Amsterdam:
17th Century Canal Ring: Added to UNESCO’s World Heritage List in 2010, Amsterdam’s canal ring—an urban extension that served as a model of large-scale planning until the 19th century—encompasses four concentric canals (Singel, Herengracht, Kaisergracht and Princengracht) to the west and south of city center. Numerous smaller ones connect a network of bridges, bike paths and sidewalks. Serene swans glide down the tree-lined canals, which are illuminated at night and have become a symbol of Amsterdam’s cultural heritage.
Highlights include the bridge on the corner of Reguliersgracht and Herengracht, offering a view over 15 others, and the Magere (Skinny) Brug, one of the city’s most picturesque, defined in the evening by lights reflecting off the water. Numerous canal tours offer views of gabled houses where wealthy merchants lived in the 16th―17th centuries, as well as popular landmarks like Anne Frank’s former hideaway on the Prinsengracht.
Vondelpark: Beloved by locals and popular with tourists, Vondelpark is a 120-acre oasis of green on the southwestern edge of a buzzing city. Situated west of Leidseplein, it became a state monument in 1996.
Vondelpark was designed by landscape architect L.D. Zocher and opened in 1865 as the Nieuwe Park. It was later renamed after 17th century writer and playwright Joost van den Vondel, whose legacy is celebrated in a statue in the park. In the 1960s‒70s, Vondelpark was a magnet for the peace-loving “flower children” and has evolved into a symbol for a place where everything is possible and (almost) everything is allowed. The park hums with activity on summer days, when residents converge to enjoy A’dam’s rare sunshine. An array of bars and restaurants (Blauwe Theehuis, Café Vertigo, Groot Melkhuis, Vondeling and Vondeltuin) provide numerous options for snacks and drinks.
Vondelpark also is home to a skate rental shop, open-air theater, playground, bandstand and rose garden. From June‒August, concerts are held in the 19th-century Pavilion, which houses the Nederlands Filmmuseum and a movie theater screening everything from 19th century silent films to contemporary digital productions. Also in summer, music, dance and cabaret performances take place in the open air theater.
Experienced bladers can experience the park up close and personal on Friday Night Skate. A different 15―25-km route is covered each week, starting between 20:15―20:30. No reservations are necessary to attend the free event, which departs in front of Café Vertigo in the Filmmuseum. The two-hour ride ends at Café De Vondeltuin.
If you’re lucky enough to be in Amsterdam on April 30 for Koninginnedag (Queen’s Day), don’t miss the annual vrijmarkt (free market) in Vondelpark during which children hawk old treasures and showcase their talents.
The Begijnhof: You won’t have to stand in line to visit this top A’dam attraction as you do for other popular tourist spots, e.g. Anne Frank’s house and the Van Gogh Museum. A serene inner courtyard surrounded by typical Amsterdam-style houses, The Begijnhof’s history dates back to 1150, when a group of Catholic women banded together in a religious community. It encompasses the Miracle of Amsterdam and a few other scientifically inexplicable events that happened along the way.
The women in the sisterhood were called Begijnen. Without taking monastic vows, they lived like nuns, cared for the sick and educated the poor using The Begijnhof as their sanctuary. Today it’s still occupied by single women. While no longer a beguinage in the strict sense of the word, it’s a site for daily masses. Weddings and baptisms also are held, and priests are available for confession and personal talks.
More than nine centuries after its beginnings, The Beginhof retains its sanctified atmosphere and reputation as one of Amsterdam’s mooiste attractions.