From Van Gogh To The Heineken Experience

One of the most visited museums in Amsterdam is the Van Gogh Museum, where a large collection of his paintings are on display.
One of the most visited museums in Amsterdam is the Van Gogh Museum, where a large collection of his paintings are on display.
Characterized by spacious, open spaces, the Van Gogh Museum seemed to attract a surprisingly young audience.
Characterized by spacious, open spaces, the Van Gogh Museum seemed to attract a surprisingly young audience.
The color yellow seemed to be a favorite of the artist and the Museum staff made sure you didn't forget such details.
The color yellow seemed to be a favorite of the artist and the Museum staff made sure you didn’t forget such details.
The so-called Heineken Experience in the company's former production facility should not be missed in Amsterdam.
The so-called Heineken Experience in the company’s former production facility should not be missed in Amsterdam.
While the old production facility is now a tourist attraction, most of the old equipment has been left intact for visitors to experience.
While the old production facility is now a tourist attraction, most of the old equipment has been left intact for visitors to experience.
An incredible informative experience culminates with some serious Heineken beer tasting and a souvenir to take home.
An incredible informative experience culminates with some serious Heineken beer tasting and a souvenir to take home.

Amsterdam is a city of contrasts.  On the one side there is the city of great art and imposing architecture, while on the other there is a somewhat more earthy side, to put it mildly.  What’s even more interesting about the city, though, is the fact that so much of what makes Amsterdam what it is seems to lie inside its somewhat uniform buildings.  Sure, there are the marvelous canals crisscrossed by beautifully undulating bridges packed with bicycles of all kinds, but enter some of those building lining the canals and you’ll be amazed at what you’ll find inside.

Such is the case with two of Amsterdam’s most famous attractions: the Van Gogh Museum at Stadhouderskade 55 and the old Heineken factory at Stadhouderskade 78.  From the outside, the buildings housing these two local landmarks are a bit industrial in character, but what lies inside is quite remarkable and more than worth the time you have to spend in line before getting inside (which on a rainy, cold day made the Van Gogh Museum line to get inside a bit of a challenge for the hundreds of people inching their way to the ticket booth).  But once inside, you are treated to some of the most creative art you’ll ever see anywhere.  The four-story museum was divided according to the different stages in Van Gogh’s short creative life (about ten years total), from the days when he was perfecting his style in Paris to his mental asylum days in Arles and Saint-Rémy.  A definitely troubled life, but an incredible creative one.

About a quarter mile from the Museum Quarter park, a somewhat different experience can be found at the old Heineken factory (which moved its production to a new location in 1988).  What is now termed the Heineken Experience will set you back about 18 Euros, but it will be some of the best money spent in Amsterdam.  The old equipment is still there, to include the still-in-use stables with the black Heineken horses.  They even “turn you into beer” in a small theater where the audience is put through the beer-production process as if it were the liquid itself with a vibrating stage that is at various points subjected to heat lamps simulating the fermentation process.  And to top it all off, there is the tasting room followed by an incredibly slick bar where you get the two beers that were included with the admission price (which also include a free canal ride aboard the Heineken boat and a souvenir at their downtown store).  Not too shabby, and quite educational to boot.  This city is definitely growing on me.