In short, the history of art is here at your fingertips (not to mention your potentially blistered toetips), as Rembrandts, Van Goghs, and Bill Violas are all on evocative display in the city's three main art museums: the Rijksmuseum, the Vincent van Gogh Museum, and the Stedelijk Museum of modern art.
The sheer quantity of quality on display in the museums located around Museumplein offers a remarkably complete lesson in the
history of Western art. But remember that when it comes to art, as with all good things in life, moderation is the key. Happily, what saves this neighborhood from drowning in its own rarefied air is the not-to-be-missed people's park and city's lung, the Vondelpark, where you can neutralize your art-soaked eyes with the restful greens of grasses and trees while sipping on a beverage or scoffing down a picnic. When you regain your energy, remember that this neighborhood also harbors the most elitist shopping options along the country's most famous fashion strip, P. C. Hooftstraat. And the antiques shops along Nieuwe Spiegelstraat are everything a shopaholic could wish for.
It's always been a plush district. At the end of the 19th century, the city wanted a zone for luxury housing here, but dithered on how to develop it even as the cultural institutions were being put in place: the Rijksmuseum (1885), the Concertgebouw (1888), and the Stedelijk (1895). Eventually the decision to create an open space was agreed. In 1973, the Van Gogh Museum joined the square. The past few years have seen some well-publicized cultural chaos with delays and confusion over the redevelopment of the Stedelijk and the Rijksmuseum. After what felt like forever (but was in fact only a decade), both museums reopened in 2013 and 2014 respectively. The question remains: were they worth the wait?