Why 2013 is Amsterdam's Year

If 2012 was all about London, 2013 is shaping up to be Amsterdam’s year. There may not be an Olympics or Jubilee scheduled in the calendar, but there are a succession of key anniversaries and events taking place in the Dutch capital. We take a look at five worth getting excited about:

Frozen Amsterdam canalFour centuries of Amsterdam’s canals

Arguably Amsterdam‘s most iconic sight, 2013 marks 400 years of the city’s historic Canal Ring – a UNESCO World Heritage site and one of the world’s most unique urban landscapes. The three most famous are Herengracht, Prinsengracht, and Keizersgracht; symbols of the Dutch Golden Age. There are more than 100km of canals in total, in addition to 1,500 bridges and 1,550 monumental buildings.

Canal celebrations tend to culminate on Koninginnedag (Queen’s Day) on 30th April, a national holiday that marks the birthday of Queen Beatrix’s mother and predecessor, Juliana. But visit in winter and you may witness the canals freezing over – if the ice is thick enough, as it was last February, locals sporting skates clamber down to the waterways en masse, temporarily finding an alternative to the bicycle as the preferred method of getting around.

Over the course of 2013 various festivals, concerts and exhibitions will be taking place on or alongside Amsterdam’s canals. Among the best will be the Light Festival in December, though you can still catch last year’s until 20th January.

Where: The central Grachtengordel (canal belt).
Cost: Free.

> Amble Amsterdam’s canals with Lonely Planet Amsterdam

Meerkat Artis zoo175 years of the Artis Zoo

The Netherlands’ oldest zoo, located just east of the city centre in the Plantage district, was founded way back in 1838 – making it 175 years old this year. Home to more than 6,000 animals from approximately 900 species, this is a zoo with a difference – more relaxed than its London counterpart, Artis is regarded as a cultural meeting place: a place to sip a cappuccino on the terrace in the company of penguins or zebras.

If the weather’s bad, head to the aquarium, butterfly pavilion, planetarium or insectarium, the latter of which is converted from an old food storage unit. The aquarium, meanwhile, features scenes replicating a number of eco systems, from a tropical coral reef to the Amazonian rainforest.

Look out for special events taking place over the course of the year, and when you leave Artis be sure to check out Entrepotdok canal immediately to the north – home to a selection of excellent cafes, terraces, houseboats and, if you’re lucky, a free view of the giraffes.

Where: Plantage Kerklaan 38 – 40.
Cost: Adults €18.95, Children €15.50, 65+ €17.50.

> Zoom to the zoo with the Amsterdam Flexi Map

Night WatchReopening of the Rijksmuseum

A decade ago, a large section of the iconic Rijksmuseum – the largest museum in The Netherlands – was closed for extensive renovations. While construction work was completed last July, museum-goers have to wait until to April before it fully reopens. But what a treat they have in store…

Architects Cruz y Ortis have built on Pierre Cuypers’ 1876 creation to devise 1.5 km of art, with exhibits dating right back to the Middle Ages. Some 80 halls accommodating 8,000 items have been beautifully restored, which collectively tell the stories of eight centuries of Dutch art and history. Such is the extent of the transformation that just a single item hangs in its original place: Rembrandt’s world famous The Night Watch.

It’s worth noting that the entire museum will be closed between 18th March and 13th April to allow museum staff to prepare for the reopening. Between now and then, the Philips Wing and the first floor will remain open.

Where: Jan Luijkenstraat 1.
Cost: TBC March 2013. Entrance to the Philips Wing is €10.

> Roam the Rijksmuseum with the Supertime Amsterdam Map/Guide

Van Gogh MuseumThe Van Gogh Museum’s 40th anniversary

Temporarily located in the Hermitage Amsterdam (but only until 25th April) the Van Gogh Museum is undergoing major renovations as it celebrates its 40th birthday, and Van Gogh’s 160th, before reopening in the spring.

In addition to housing the largest collection of paintings, drawings and letters by the Dutch post-impressionist, the Van Gogh Museum displays a range of exhibits by the artist’s contemporaries – attributes that encourage 1.6 million people to visit the museum every year (making it one of the 25 most-visited museums in the world).

The Van Gogh Museum doesn’t simply display the artist’s work – it tells the story of Van Gogh as an artist; how and why he explored different themes, what inspired him and why he did what he did, as told through his letters.

Where: Hermitage Amsterdam, Amstel 51 (until 25th April), then Museumplein (Paulus Potterstraat 7).
Cost: €17.50.

> Mosey to the museum with Red Maps Amsterdam

Concertgebouw-AmsterdamThe Concertgebouw’s 175th birthday

In April 1888, Amsterdam’s concert hall – revered the world over for its excellent acoustics – opened its doors for the first time. Arguably rivalled only by Vienna’s Musikverein and Boston’s Symphony Hall, the Concertgebouw puts on more than 700 concerts each year featuring the world’s finest orchestras, conductors and soloists.

To mark its 125th anniversary, the concert hall will host a huge range of Jubilee concerts in its Main Hall and Recital Hall, with stars including Angela Gheorghiu, Valery Gergiev and Bernard Haitink having already signed up to the Jubilee programme.

The Concertgebouw will concentrate on a different period each month, running in chronological order – with themes encompassing music, images and text. These will culminate in a large-scale education project at the end of the year, based on West side Story.

Where: Concertgebouwplein 10.
Cost: Click here for concert ticket prices.

> Commute to the concert hall with Amsterdam City Flash

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