The year-end holidays are upon us—time to party, wrap presents and make resolutions that will turn 2013 into a banner year. It promises to be one for Amsterdam, as the city pumps itself up to celebrate 400 years of artsy, cultural and architectural achievements. For residents and visitors, this translates into festivities, special exhibitions and canal parades throughout the year, commemorating four centuries of innovation, world-changing art and global trade.
If you’re making vacation plans for 2013, here are six reasons why Amsterdam should be on your list:
1. 400 Years of Amsterdam Canals: Anyone who’s ever been to Amsterdam knows the canals are a gift for the senses. Spanned by illuminated bridges and lined by merchant houses with facades that hark back to the Golden Age, the four main canals are a watery passageway for local boaters, tourist canal boats and utilitarian vessels.
Whether 17th century merchants looked beyond a clever solution for A’dam’s explosive growth to creating an architectural masterpiece when they began constructing the Canal Ring in 1613 is anyone’s guess. In 2010, UNESCO added it to the World Heritage List as an achievement that both harnessed the power of water and provided viable options for economic growth and cultural development.
2. 125th Anniversary of The Concertgebouw and Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra: In April 1888, Amsterdam’s renowned concert hall first opened its doors. In the 125 years since, internationally-acclaimed soloists and orchestras have performed, including classical, jazz and pop talents. The Digital Concertgebouw will broaden exposure in 2013 with live concert broadcasts throughout Amsterdam.
As part of The Jubilee Program, concerts in the Main and Recital Halls will feature such stars as Angela Gheorghiu, Valery Gergiev, Bernard Haitink, Mariss Jansons, Leonidas Kavakos, Menahem Pressler, Christianne Stotijn and Eva-Maria Westbroek. Each month, a different historical period will be showcased in music, words and images, charting the evolution of The Concertgebouw from the late 19th century through the Roaring Twenties, Great Depression, two World Wars, the peace-loving ’60s, and the contemporary jazz and rock eras.
On April 10, The Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra will perform at a Jubilee of World-Class Stars. On August 24, the 120-musician ensemble will star at the outdoor Prinsengracht Concert. Throughout the year, Free Lunch Concerts will be presented Wednesdays at 12.30. The hour-long programs range from open rehearsals by the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra to ancient, classical and contemporary music. Arrive early, as the free concerts are very popular.
3. Reopening of the Rijksmuseum: After a decade of remodeling, The Netherlands’ largest museum will reopen on April 13, unveiling a refurbished building, revamped garden and new Asian Pavilion. The 80-hall interior will exhibit 8,000 works of art that open a window to Dutch history and culture, from The Middle Ages to today. Only The Nightwatch, Rembrandt’s most celebrated painting, will resume its former position. Through March 17, 400 masterpieces from the Dutch Golden Age will continue to be on view in the Philips Wing including doll houses, silverware, Delftware and such iconic works as Vermeer’s Kitchen Maid.
4. Reopening + 40th anniversary of the Van Gogh Museum: After months of renovation, one of Amsterdam’s most popular museums will reopen on May 1, 160 years after Van Gogh’s birth and 40 years after it opened. Van Gogh at Work, an exhibit exploring how the master went about his art, will be on display through the year. After its 2013 reopening, The Rijksmuseum will become the world’s first national museum to be open 365 days a year. Entrance is €15; children under 19 are free.
5. Artis Zoo Celebrates 175 Years:More than 900 species of animals and 200 species of trees make Artis Royal Zoo a nature-lover’s delight. In addition to flora and fauna, the oldest zoo in The Netherlands features an Aquarium, Planetarium and Zoological Museum, surrounded by flowering gardens and stunning 19th century architecture. Opened 175 years ago, the zoo is a great place to experience strolling giraffes wildebeest, zebras, springbok and oryx. From March 15 through December, the Sea of Flowers exhibit will run.
6. The Russians are Coming!: The special relationship between Russia and The Netherlands will be commemorated with numerous activities in 2013. From March 9¬September 13, a major exhibit, Peter the Great, An Inspired Tsar will run at the Hermitage Amsterdam. The exhibition will showcase the Tzar’s visits to The Netherlands in 1887 and 1717 and his life as an innovator who modernized Russia and strengthened it into a superpower. His visit to Amsterdam provided inspiration for his new capital, St. Petersburg and served as a source for art purchases, including Rembrandt, that laid a foundation for the collection of The State Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg.