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Friday evenings in Amsterdam with Van Gogh
The Van Gogh Museum is quite simply one of the world's most enjoyable premier league art galleries. Most of the troubled artist’s major works are here, presented in a straightforward yet revealing chronological layout. And with not much else on display to be ticked off the must-see list, the place is a million times less daunting than other cities' big cultural hitters such as the Louvre or National Gallery.
But there's a down side to there being a digestible number of paintings on view: all too often, you find yourself having to stand five deep with fellow tourists to admire masterpieces such as Sunflowers.
Here's a solution. Every Friday, the Van Gogh Museum stays open until 10pm. Most tourists in Amsterdam are looking for baser pleasures than art in the evenings. So when I popped in around 8pm on a recent Friday, there were no queues whatsoever to get in (another problem during the daytimes), and the galleries were joyously uncrowded.
The other big draw of coming on Friday evenings is that there's always some entertainment laid on in the main hall. When I went, a DJ was spinning some spacey sounds, and images of visitors were being projected on to walls. You can also get a drink in a makeshift bar. Factor in the absence of school and coach tour groups, and from my experience the atmosphere has something of the sophistication of a private view.
The museum's website gives a detailed run-down of what's happening on forthcoming Friday evenings - the entertainment on the next one (ie on 7 May) has a predominantly Italian flavour, in the form of live music and wine tasting. There's also a free guided tour of the current Gauguin exhibition.
For more insider tips on Amsterdam, see Amsterdam insider tips.