Amsterdam, the Dutch capital, is back in full swing this summer, thanks to the reopening of its top museums
This is the first summer for a decade when one of Europe's greatest art collections, the Rijksmuseum, is fully open; and the Van Gogh Museum is also back in business following its 40-year freshen-up.
To see what can be done with a formidable collection of art, one third of a billion pounds and 10 years, arrive at opening time for the miraculously resurrected Rijksmuseum. A refurbishment that has taken most of the current millennium is now complete, making it the hottest ticket in Europe. Pre-book a €15 ticket at bit.ly/RijksT in order to dodge the queue.
Go straight up to the Gallery of Honour, where The Shooting Company of Captain Frans Banning Cocq – better known as Rembrandt's The Night Watch – is the only painting returned to its original position. Then explore the other galleries, where the history of the Netherlands is articulated in a fascinating range of objects and images.
Next, having pre-booked a specific time/date slot through bit.ly/VVGtickets, go to the front of the queue for the Van Gogh Museum (9am-6pm daily, Fridays to 10pm; €15). The tragic story of a fragile genius is portrayed through the world's finest collection of Van Gogh's work.
Take a hike
Close by are Amsterdam's Western Islands. From Haarlemmerplein walk north under the railway and wander through the village collaboration of canals, cottages, houseboats and bridges to the apartment block at the far end. Then head back, with Centraal Station as your beacon.
Amsterdam has more than its fair share of grand cafés, and the Café in the Waag at Nieuwmarkt 4 (indewaag.nl) is one of the most spectacular, inside the oldest city gate.
Dining with the locals
Restaurant Anna at Warmoesstraat 111 (restaurantanna.nl) has a chic interior and exquisite dishes such as truffle risotto followed by grilled scallops, which more than compensate for the Red Light District location. For €47.70 the chef will select four courses for you.
Go to church
The Begijnhof, a flower-filled courtyard surrounded by gabled houses (begijnhof amsterdam.nl), was created for pious Catholic women who cared for the elderly and were themselves cared for by the Church.
Take a ride
Make your way to the northern exit of Centraal Station then pick your way across to the terminal for the IJ Buiksloterweg ferry. Every few minutes, it sails across to Waterland – a serene area, steeped in tradition, with a new and exciting cinematic addition.
Out to brunch
What really draws the eye – and the visitors to this side of the IJ – is the museum's Eye Bar Restaurant with a wide-screen view across the river. Coffee and croissants are served 10am-noon daily, followed by a lunch menu.
A walk in the park
Hortus Botanicus (dehortus.nl) began as a herb garden in 1638. Soon, the Dutch East India Company started bringing back strange and exotic plants from around the world, and the place blossomed into a small but delightful botanical garden.
Icing on the cake
If you are flying home, take a last look at treasures from the Rijksmueum at Schiphol airport, "airside" between D and E piers; open daily 7am-8pm; free.