Amsterdam's Open Monuments Day
Every year, Amsterdam’s Open Monuments Day flings open the doors of – well, Amsterdam’s monuments. But these aren’t just any old monuments – these are important buildings dripping in the grand details of history and heritage, usually closed to the public for a variety of reasons. They may be hotels, with certain rooms used only for meetings; they may be buildings of politics, where people shout at each other all day; or they may be people’s houses, into which you can’t exactly pop for a beer and a guided tour. Even adding a convivial “proost!” (cheers) to your intrusion would raise attractive Dutch eyebrows. So, they have Amsterdam’s Open Monuments Day for all of your nosey needs. For more info, just read on.
Amsterdam's Open Monuments Day: history
Running since 1987, Open Monuments Day is a little younger than you’d expect (and it doesn’t just cover Amsterdam, but the whole of the Netherlands). It’s part of European Heritage Days, an international organisation that covers a whole bunch of countries – 48 to be precise. Of course, the Netherlands were one of the first to take part in this modern event (no surprises there – they've somewhat of a precedent for doing and *cough* legalising things we don’t), and since then, millions of people have travelled to join in. With monuments like the Royal Palace, pictured left, to take in, it's little wonder.
Amsterdam's Open Monuments Day: themes
Held over the second weekend of September every year, which – in 2014 – is set for 13 and 14 of the month, Open Monumentendag (see how good my Dutch is?) also sees an annual theme change. In 2012, the country showcased the relationship between nature and culture with ‘Green of the Past’ (think private gardens and farmhouses) and in 2013, something a little less romantic, ‘Power and Glory’ (probably a lot to do with all those wealthy merchants). The inspiration for 2014 is ‘Travelling’ – appropriate to us lot making the one-hour flight across. Added to the usual monuments will be coach houses, depots and – come on – there must be an exhibition on trams...
Amsterdam's Open Monuments Day: monuments
Some 4,000 monuments open to the public at this time, so it’s safe to say there’s a lot of choice – and too much to see. As a small sampler, past years have seen free admittance to 17th-century canal houses and churches like Oude Kerk (left), academic libraries and university lecture rooms, hotels like the Waldorf Astoria and hidden courtyards like Van Brienenhofje. Because I’m just that sort of writer, I’ve done a bit of digging for you (and it wasn’t easy – see below!): this year, there are 23 houses open to the public in the capital, including Grachtenhuis Hammerstein, completed in 1670. Amongst other features, it’s home to beautiful paintings, frescoed ceilings and oh-so-priceless chandeliers.
Amsterdam's Open Monuments Day: events
Amsterdam's Open Monuments Day is not just a case of flinging doors open. Many buildings organise a host of educational and fun activities or events onsite, so you can see everything from a musical performance to a historical exhibition, grab a guided tour or take the kids along. For this reason, don’t try running around the city in a bid to see everything, ‘cause you won’t! Research what will be open, and find monuments grouped in an area of the city, by making your choice on the Open Monuments Day website. But-before-you-run-off-and-click-the-link (phew) wait! It’s in Dutch. If you’re not up for translating through Google or can’t be doing with the double-Dutch (sorry about that…), read on.
Amsterdam's Open Monuments Day: guide
There’s no English translation on the website, but there is a short ‘English summary’, and navigating the link I just gave you isn’t as hard as you’d think. It’s a search bar: your ‘Openstelling’ (date) is already chosen, but you can choose ‘Locatie’ (location), ‘Themamonument’ (type of monument) and even ‘Activiteiten’ (activities) – I can ingeniously make out film (film) and market (markt), though from there your guess is as good as mine… Once you’ve clicked to search, you’ll see a collection of pretty places, complete with addresses. And with almost 900 holiday homes in the heart Amsterdam to choose from, you’ll no doubt find somewhere nearby.