© Zach Nelson / Fodors Travel
Only a short walk away from Waterlooplein (follow the tram tracks) is Amsterdam's noted Plantage neighborhood. Compared with many parts of the city, there's a gracious and spacious feel to the Plantage with its wide boulevards, parks, and elegant 19th-century architecture making it similar to the Museum District. It's a nice wander with a handful of family attractions and some excellent museums.
Its earliest roots are in the 17th century, when the area was divided into 15 parks and it was a recreational zone for the wealthy. Rare plants brought back on VOC ships were taken to the Hortus Botanicus, one of the oldest botanical gardens in the world, where famous botanists like Linnaeus researched. On the corner of Linnaeusstraat (the street where Theo van Gogh was murdered), the Tropenmuseum provides insight into the many tropical cultures, some of which Holland once colonized. Top draw in the area is Artis Zoo and its Neoclassical aquarium built in 1882, which
you can also appreciate from the roadside.
Opposite the zoo is the marvelous Verzetzmuseum (Resistance Museum). There are other poignant reminders that, from the late 19th century up to the Second World War, this was a neighborhood for wealthier Jewish families. In little Wertheim park is the Auschwitz Memorial with its engraved message: Nooit Meer (Never Again). After German occupation in 1941, Jews were forbidden to assemble in public places, and the Hollandsche Schouwburg became the Jewish theater where weddings (banned from the Town Hall) could take place (there's a film of one of the last in the exhibition upstairs). When the Germans requisitioned the theater in 1942, Jews were gathered here to be sent to their death. Between 1941 and 1944, 104,000 Jews were deported from the Netherlands; 1,169 survived.
Also opposite the zoo, but on the other side, is the new Amsterdam Tattoo Museum, that is centered on global tattoo legend Henk Schiffmacher's huge collection of tattoo-related objects from all over the world.
Along the Amstel river, the enormous Hermitage Museum has been a big cultural hit since it reopened in 2009 with artworks direct from its base in Russia.
Amsterdam, North Holland, 1018, Netherlands