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36 Hours

Ceramic Guide - Amsterdam & the Hague

Ranti Tjan, former director of European Ceramic Workcentre, takes us on a journey to Amsterdam and the Hague in this wonderful and robust guide to key ceramic destinations and great restaurants, parks, and neighbourhoods in the Netherlands.
By: Ranti Tjan
August 24, 2023
 
In this edition of 36 Hours, we give tips to key ceramic destinations in Amsterdam and the Hague. The Netherlands, where both cities reside, is a tiny country (if you travel for two hours you’ll be out of the country) but has beautiful places, museums, and restaurants. 

WHERE SHOULD I STAY?

Amsterdam has hundreds of hotels, Airbnb, hostels, and apartments where you can stay. Prices are higher than average in Amsterdam compared to the rest of Europe. However, if you look carefully and book on time, you can find a nice room for a reasonable price. 

A well-priced, mid-range hotel is the city's largest hotel: the Amsterdam Rai. It is slightly outside the center, but a tram stop and train station are right outside the door. It is designed by Rem Koolhaas and is decorated with a lot of art and design. 

If you prefer to be in the center of the city, the country's most famous youth hostel is an option: Hans Brinker in the perfectly located Kerkstraat; they also have "Grown Up Rooms."

 

Another recommendation is the only hotel in the nicest street in Amsterdam, Hotel The Bank, in the Haarlemmerstraat. On this street are many small hipster shops, including a few ceramic shops, good lunch cafes, restaurants, and a beautiful original art deco cinema.

 

If you have a little more to spend, book a room at the Amstel Hotel, the hotel of royalty and pop stars, and the hotel where I cleaned dishes in 1988 to pay for my art history studies. Amsterdam has many phenomenal 5-star hotels, such as the Conservatorium Hotel next to the Stedelijk Museum or the Okura Hotel, with two restaurants with Michelin stars. I got married in Hotel The Grand, a beautiful hotel and the former city hall of Amsterdam.

TRANSPORT

The city has many beautiful neighborhoods and streets. Everything is within walking distance and there is a sophisticated public transport system of trams, buses, and the metro. Almost all hotels are easily accessible by public transport. 

 

  • TIP: Avoid the taxis, which are notorious in the city, although the services of Uber and Bolt are the exception. 

 

ITINERARY

 

DAY 1:

MUSEUMS IN AMSTERDAM

9 AM: RIJKSMUSEUM

When you are in Amsterdam, you should visit museums. The RIJKSMUSEUM is a must, in the Gallery of Honor with the many Rembrandts and Vermeers, many 17th-century ceramics are also exhibited, specifically Chinese and Delft Blue. The museum also has Meissen porcelain. 

  • TIP: Highly recommended is the Asian department where you will find more Chinese ceramics and special Korean and Japanese ceramics.
Rijksmuseum - 2014, photo courtesy: John Lewis Marshall

11 AM: STEDELIJK MUSEUM

In the permanent collection of the STEDELIJK MUSEUM, you will find 20th-century ceramics, including beautiful Art Nouveau pieces from the Rozenburg pottery. The collection changes regularly, so it is always a search for ceramics, but they do have it. The collection also includes 21st-century classics, such as those by Hella Jongerius or Babs Haenen.

1 PM: LUNCH

As in every metropolis, Amsterdam has dozens of restaurants that serve all cuisines of the world. Anyone looking for Dutch cuisine will notice that many top restaurants focus on local products and that the preparation method bears traces of the Spanish, Danish, and Peruvian example kitchens. The two restaurants of Joris Bijdendijk are among my favourites, Rijks and Wils, both awarded with a Michelin star. The beetroot millefeuille served in Rijks is worth a reservation.

2:30 PM: SHOPPING or PARKS

 

Amsterdam has many great specialized shops, such as the Holtkamp Bakery in the Vijzelstraat, the Pompadour Patisserie in the Berenstraat, and the phenomenal Atheneum Bookshop on the Spui. For the design and ceramics enthusiast, there is the FROZEN FOUNTAIN on the Prinsengracht. It is a design paradise that can only be equaled in Rossana Orlandi in Milan. The most current and influential works can be seen and purchased here. 

 

If you prefer sitting or walking around a park, Vondelpark and Westerpark are both incredibly beautiful parks to visit.

 

4 PM: MUSEUM van LOON or FOAM 

Then, to MUSEUM van LOON on the Keizersgracht. This is a beautiful mansion on the canal where you can see how a wealthy family lived in the 17th century. The house also has a beautiful art collection and regularly has contemporary art projects. Exactly across the canal is FOAM, the photography museum. There are always several exhibitions on display here that are often considered controversial.

6 PM: WANT A DRINK?

Have a drink on a terrace, a six-minute walk from FOAM, near the Amstelveld at Brasserie Nel. You’ll walk by beautiful canals and canal boats. 

  • TIP: you can rent a canal boat for a few hours with Boatyor Mokumboot. Make sure to organize in advance.

7 PM: DINNER

An informal bite to eat can be found at Fou Fow Ramen, the best ramen, udon, and tempura in the city, Elandsgracht or Prinsengracht 411. Vegan, and vegetarian options are available. 

A nice address is also Tolhuistuin, easily accessible by ferry behind Central Station. For those who want to eat from beautiful crockery: Rijks at the Rijksmuseum is very worthwhile.

Amsterdam, Restaurant Rijks, photo courtesy: Jan Kees

10 PM: FERRY TO NORTH AMSTERDAM

For a late drink: jump on the free ferry from behind Central Station to NDSM, which departs every 15 minutes. It takes fourteen minutes to reach a creative and cultural site in North Amsterdam that is in full development and where fine cafes have established themselves.

  • TIP: If you frequent Amsterdam and know the collection of the Rijksmuseum by heart, DELFT is a wonderful alternative, about an hour by train from Amsterdam. As a starting point near the station, there is the MUSEUM HET PRINSENHOF renowned for their ceramics presentations. Close by is the gallery TERRA, which exhibits contemporary ceramics and a huge assortment of both Dutch and well-known foreign artists and ceramists. A must for ceramic lovers. In Delft, you can also visit ROYAL DELFT the famous ceramics factory where they have created a ceramics experience for you that ends in a large shop.
 

DAY 2:

TILBURG and the EKWC

Tilburg, Museum De Pont, exhibition 2019, Norbert Prangenberg

9 AM: TRAIN TO TILBURG

For the second day (I recommend a Thursday for a quieter program), take the train from Central Station to Hertogenbosch and transfer trains to Tilburg. In total that is about 75 minutes, one way € 21.30.

 

10.30 AM: TEXTILE MUSEUM

There are two top European museums in Tilburg, within walking distance of each other. We will visit MUSEUM De PONT later. First, the TEXTILE MUSEUM specializes in developing textiles and has a fab textile lab where artists experiment with the latest and oldest techniques.

 

12 PM: LUNCH

A perfect lunchroom is Kras 2. A super relaxed couple serves the best sandwiches in town at lightning speed. You can also have lunch in the cozy center of Osterwijk, the next destination.

1:09 PM: Train from Tilburg station to Oisterwijk

The highlight of the 36 hour journey: a visit to the EUROPEAN CERAMIC WORK CENTER in Oisterwijk. Oisterwijk can be reached by train from Tilburg station in six minutes (the EKWC is within walking distance of the Oisterwijk station). 

  • TIP: There are only guided tours on Thursdays, namely at 1:30 pm. Groups of 8 people can also get a guided tour by appointment. The tour goes through the entire building and the specialized workshops (glaze, mold making, and kilns) are visited. Sixteen artists are at work in the EKWC. Every Wednesday a resident leaves, and every Thursday a new participant arrives, usually from abroad. They stay in the center for 12 weeks. At the entrance, you can see the works by Tony Cragg. The shop and the coffee are superb. 
Oisterwijk EKWC, 2019

4 PM: Museum De Pont

After visiting the EKWC, stop by the MUSEUM De PONT in Tilburg, which is open every Thursday evening until 8 pm. Museum De Pont is a private museum for contemporary art that is bursting at the seams with top quality. It is housed in a sublimely renovated factory and is, without doubt, one of the best contemporary art museums in Europe. 

You will find here, without exaggeration, the most memorable works of Anish Kapoor, Thomas Schutte, Ai Weiwei, Marlene Dumas, and many others. Important artists who work with ceramics are also represented in the collection, for example, Marien Schouten (his Green Room is astonishing) and Tilburg star Guido Geelen are almost always on display.

7 PM: DINNER

A good meal can be found afterward at several restaurants near Tilburg station: Raw, Restaurant de Houtloods, or Brasserie de Burgerij. For those who have more to spend make reservations at Monarh

If you continue directly to Amsterdam after Museum De Pont, you can go to Eerste Klas on arrival in Amsterdam, in a beautiful dining room in Central Station (platform 2), or Cafe Kobalt, a 17th-century café opposite the station where you can eat well and are completely among the locals.

 

DAY 3:

THE HAGUE

For the third day, there are two options: The Hague or Leeuwarden (2 hours and 5 minutes by train). 

Leeuwarden, Museum Princessehof, Yoon Seok-Hyeon

Leeuwarden

Leeuwarden is one of the most beautiful cities in the Netherlands and hosts the NATIONAL CERAMICS MUSEUM PRINSESSEHOF. One of the most impressive ceramics museums in Europe, housed in a beautiful building, a former palace, and the birthplace of artist Escher. The shop of this museum has a large collection. 

In Leeuwarden, the FRIES MUSEUM is also worth a visit, with both contemporary and classical art. You can have a great lunch in the café of the Fries Museum. In Leeuwarden, you can walk for hours and wander through this 17th-century city with a rich history. The second option is The Hague.

For this guide, we will focus on the Hague:

9 AM: TRAIN to the HAGUE

The Hague is a 51 minutes train ride and the city is where the government of the Netherlands is located, as well as all embassies. The Hague is located by the sea and has its own dynamic seaside resort of Scheveningen. It is a residential city with beautiful parks such as the world-famous Westbroekpark where one of Europe's most beautiful rose gardens is hidden. The Hague has several museums that are worth a visit.

10 AM: KUNSTMUSEUM DEN HAAG

Ceramics enthusiasts will, of course, go to the KUNSTMUSEUM Den HAGG, which can be easily reached from Central Station by tram 17. The Kunstmuseum Den Haag has a rich collection of art and design and is housed in an extraordinarily beautiful brick museum by the architect Hendricus Berlage. 

The interior distinguishes itself from other museums by the brilliant map that takes you from the buzz of the city, through nature, into culture. The rooms have daylight and you stumble across Mondrian, Rietveld, and Van Doesburgh. The museum always shows international icons such as Kandinsky, Bacon, or Nauman. Large solo exhibitions by ceramic artists are regularly presented here and there is a very nice presentation of Delft Blue in the period rooms.

Den Haag, Kunstmuseum entrance hall

12 PM: LUNCH

Those who want a good lunch or dinner in The Hague can do so at Cottontree on the Lange Voorhout. Cafe de Posthoorn is located across the street from Cottontree, a classic Hague address, for an excellent lunch. 

In the summer, Lange Voorhout has many different markets, antiques, books, or a farmers' market. Art in public spaces can regularly be seen on the street and from the Lange Voorhout you can walk straight into the Denneweg, one of the most beautiful shopping streets in the city. The other side of the Lange Voorhout leads to the Noordeinde, a more upscale shopping street.

2 PM: MAURITSHUIS

For 17th-century art, visit the MAURITSHUIS in The Hague, a small but fine museum, full of Rembrandts and paintings by Dutch masters such as Vermeer, Hals, Coorte, and Saenredam. The museum is in the heart of the city and is attached to the government center Binnenhof. The BINNENHOF will be renovated in the coming years, but the museum is open as usual.

5 PM: Indonesian for Dinner?

Head back to Amsterdam for a delicious meal. The Netherlands is famous for its Indonesian cuisine. Two hotels that have excellent Indonesian kitchens include Hotel Jakarta and Hotel Hyatt Regency. We wouldn't recommend hotel restaurants if they weren't this good! In the center, you can also go to the large Kantjil en de Tijger or for innovative Indonesian, have dinner at Restaurant Blauw. If you want to go to a small authentic Indonesian restaurant, you can go to Jun.

Amsterdam naturally has ceramists who like to receive visitors. Feel free to contact the ceramists listed on MoCA/NY's Ceramic World Destinations map. Studio artists to consider visiting include Corien Ridderikhof, who has her studio in the heart of Amsterdam and uses a batik technique to achieve a contemporary Delft blue. Also,  schedule a visit with ceramicist Deirdre McLoughlin who sculpts whimsical ceramic forms that delight the eye, and Barbara Nanning, an expert glassmaker, whose works are hypnotically tantalizing.

Corien Ridderikhoff
Deirdre McLoughlin
Barbara Nanning

There are also neighborhoods and squares in Amsterdam that you should avoid as an experienced tourist. The ramparts and the area around Dam Square are more for English bachelor parties, and you should also avoid the two most famous entertainment squares, Rembrandtplein and Leidscheplein. 

The flower market on the Singel is mainly for tourist groups, much more inclusive is the Reguliersbreestraat behind it, the country's most famous LGBTQ street with good restaurants and noisy cafes.

To explore more galleries, museums, design stores, and other destinations in the Netherlands, go to the Ceramic World Destination Map!


Ranti Tjan

Ranti Tjan is independent curator and facilitator of art, ceramics and design. He is former director of the European Ceramic Workcentre.

Contact address: Ranti.tjan@gmail.com


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