by Sarah J.F. Braley | June 01, 2005

Canal boat in Amsterdam

Floating tour:
Explore Amsterdam
on a rondvaartboot
(canal boat) cruise.

The home of Rembrandt van Rijn and Vincent van Gogh is a maze of canals drawing water from the Amstel and IJ rivers. As the advent of the European Union has opened up the neighboring countries to one another, this colorful, vibrantly offbeat city is becoming a convenient entrance point for the rest of the continent, attracting corporate outposts and other new business.

    With more than 20,000 hotel rooms and excellent air access, the city draws groups of all sizes. The popular Amsterdam Airport Schiphol, just 20 minutes away, is served by more than 90 international airlines. As of January, KLM now offers 40 self-service check-in kiosks at Schiphol; other airlines are adding them as well.
    Meetings held in the Netherlands can recover the 19 percent value-added tax (VAT) applied to expenses such as hotel rooms, taxi fees and various meetings costs.

On the river
One section of town called the Oostelijke Handelskade (or Eastern docklands) is getting a new look. Along the IJ River near the railway station, several developments have just opened or are under construction, giving a new face to land previously dominated by vacant warehouses.
    A new hotel is being built just east of the train station, near the five-year-old Passenger Terminal Amsterdam, the city’s cruise hub. Here, the 410-room Mövenpick Hotel City Harbour is scheduled to open in autumn 2006 with about 11,000 square feet of meeting space.
    In the same area, the 119-room Lloyd Hotel opened in November with meeting space for up to 50.
    Opening this month during the Holland Festival is the Muziekgebouw aan ’t IJ (Music Hall on the IJ), a 735-seat venue right on the riverbank. A side hall seats 125.
    For an evening event with great views of the city, the new IJ Tower has function space on the top floor and can accommodate board meetings of 20 people, dinners for 150 and receptions for 350.
    Nearby is Fifteen Amsterdam, British chef Jamie Oliver’s first foray outside the United Kingdom. The 200-seat restaurant, which opened last December, serves modern Mediterranean cuisine.

Museum district
On the outside canal ring, not far from the Rijksmuseum, the Van Gogh Museum and the café-filled LeidsePlein, the 230-room NH Amsterdam Centre has been renovated from top to bottom. The property offers two restaurants and 10 conference rooms for groups of up to 280 people.
    At the Rijksmuseum, the main building is closed for renovations and scheduled to reopen in 2008. In the meantime, the Philips Wing, already redone and filled with a selection of masterpieces from the permanent collection, remains open. In all, the museum owns nearly one million works of art, including 20 paintings by Rembrandt.
    Next year, the Netherlands will celebrate Rembrandt’s 400th birthday, and works by this Dutch master, along with another genius of light and color, Caravaggio, will be on display at the Van Gogh Museum from Feb. 24 through June 18, 2006.
    A bit north toward the city center, not far from the Amsterdam Historical Museum, is Brasserie Harkema, which opened in October 2003. This Dutch take on the classic Parisian eatery seats up to 228 people and offers private dining for 48 in the entresol (mezzanine).

Edge of town
Expo XXI,
a 30,000-square-foot event venue, opened in May, part of the $1.3 billion Mahler mixed-use development in Amsterdam’s Southex financial district.