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July 27th, 2007



Sun, snooze, kick, skate, eat, drink, shop, make out, toss, or stroll. Museum Square has what you’re looking for on a hot day (or cool afternoon) when the Rijksmuseum and Van Gogh Museum have burrowed into your aesthetic conscience a need to see a little grass and trees and people. You know, the “How the hell do those guys do that?” sort of moment that can last through to your next European holiday. No need to wait that long; get outside and let your senses lead you for a time.

museumplein_4Museum Square (otherwise known locally as Museumplein) is largely a grassy plain next to the two popular and crowded Amsterdam museums. Visitors usually find a bench along the edges, or have a drink at the museum café’s outdoor tables overlooking the field. I like to get into the local mix and find a spot on the grass, exchange a few Dutch words with women who like the looks of me (and get perfect English spoken in reply). I can’t stop recommending Talk to Strangers! It’s a great way to find local haunts, the Best Restaurant tips, and possibly pick up a date.

The plain is a hang-out spot for locals and expats. For you, I think, it’s a break from the crowds, a walk-through-and-breath-deeply park, and even a park for recreation to unwind. There’s enough to see in Amsterdam (two much in two-days, the average stay for tourists) that’ll keep you interested and your motor running. Yet a run from one great museum to another really deserves a break to … clear the aesthetic palate, so to speak. I suspect this is why Museumplein has been refitted with new benches, has the cool I AMsterdam logo in Gulliverian size (makes a great photograph backdrop), and is so well manicured.

museumplein_3But…yes, a good park has ways to draw you into its world. The wide field is as inviting as it looks—its thick grass is cool betwwen the toes and soft on the butt. Your teen travelers can get a pickup game of basketball, or borrow someone’s deck over at the skateboard ramps. Fountains exercise the eyes, or put you into a snooze. Get into it…then grab a water taxi (€17; $20 for all-day privileges) to your next stop.

Food and Drinks in Museum Square
Museumplein has drinks & snack carts (one with fresh fruit) set up along the crushed stone avenue on its north end from early morning until late afternoon. Plastic chairs & tables give you a chance to rest and snack. If you want bar and table service, a café inside a glass rectangle also sits on the north edge of the park. In season it offers outdoor tables with a nice view of the park. You can make a picnic from both these on-the-plein options.

If you want a unique picnic lunch that is oh-so-Amsterdam, take a two-block walk down to the front of the Rijksmuseum, at the canal. On the corner, just opposite the crosswalk leading to the water taxi stop, a fresh seafood kiosk serves a dozen varieties of seafood sandwiches—herring and mustard, sardines, shrimp and dill, octopus, seafood salad, to name a few. Add a few beers to the order and take it all back to the park. It’s a meal that will set you right for the rest of the day.

(read more about Museumplein’s highlights here)

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