Every city in Europe has its fair share of best-kept secrets, and Amsterdam is no different to this. The Dutch capital is home to many galleries, historical monuments and museums for the culturally-minded sightseers. Look beyond the major landmarks and there are stories and secrets around every corner waiting to be explored by those on a tour Amsterdam program. Here is a selection of four lesser-known attractions, which are worth seeking out during your trip.
A Sculpture by Picasso in the Vondelpark
Pablo Picasso was a widely-known painter from Spain. However, he also sculpted things. It is easy to walk past “Figure découpée l’Oiseau” in the most popular Dutch park without realizing that it is sculpted by Pablo Picasso himself. The sculpture was made as part of a public exhibition of sculptures to mark the centenary of the Vondelpark, and Picasso donated “The Bird” sculpture to Amsterdam following the expo. It has stayed in the park ever since.
This row of Dutch houses commissioned by Samuel van Eeghen in the 1890’s is reflective of the period fascination with the faraway and exotic. Inspired by various property styles of European nations, Samuel van Eeghen had Tjeerd Cuipers design a row of seven residences representative of as many nations. The result is an eclectic and fascinating architectural tour of Europe of the 19th century on a short stretch of the Dutch street.
A Horse-Riding Arena
Almost halfway along the Overtoom, you may notice a whiff of horses, which you would expect in the countryside rather than in a built-up area. Follow this pastoral smell, and you will be rewarded by an ornate arena devoted to equestrian things. Tucked away behind a rather usual façade on Vondelstraat, the interior of this riding school has lots of decorative Baroque features. There is even a café having a balcony that overlooks the arena where you can sip coffee or tea while watching horses trot about with their trainers. Go to the Overtoom part of the property to see ponies and horses in their stables.
Fo Guang Shan
Flanked by conventional buildings in Centrum, the heart of Amsterdam, Fo Guang Shan appears more magical because of its incongruous surroundings. This Buddhist temple, tucked back just a bit from the Dutch road behind an arched gateway, is like a piece of Shanghai right amid Amsterdam. Guided tours of the temple are available on Saturdays, and some of those include a meditation session.