AMSTERDAM - Land of tulips, windmills and canals, the Netherlands is always an enchanting country to visit. But 2013 holds some special surprises.

Here in the capital, the eccentric and transgressive mix with more classic beauty and history: from the coffee shops and red light district to the many museums and over 7,000 monuments sprinkled throughout the city.

[Photo: Bertrand Hauger]

One stop that can't be missed is the opportunity to see the masterpieces of Vincent Van Gogh. The museum dedicated to the post-Impressionist master has been closed since Sep. 2012 for restoration but will reopen in May, to coincide with the museum’s 40th anniversary. 

[The Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam - Photo: Bertrand Hauger]

Another long awaited re-opening will come in April, when the Rijksmuseum debuts its new innovative external look by Spanish Architecture firm, Cruz y Ortiz. As for the interior, however, credit is due to Parisian architect Jean-Michel Wilmotte, who was able to marry the grandeur and classic design from the 19th century with modern flair.

The exhibition space, with its 80 rooms, will showcase 8,000 pieces of art and history that spans 800 years of Amsterdam, from the Middle Ages to the present. There will be paintings, prints, drawings, photos, silverware, Delft ceramics, furniture, jewelry, fashion and other objects from Dutch history. Perhaps its most famous piece is Rembrandt’s “Night Watch.” 

[The Rijksmuseum - Photo: Bertrand Hauger]

A golden age of canals

Even for those who only have a weekend to devote to the city, an initiative called 24H Amsterdam, launched by the local tourism office, organizes weekend programs with detailed step-by-step itineraries enabling visitors to make the most of the short time they have in the city. There will be five 24H Amsterdam weekends during the year, each one focusing on a different part of the city: center, east, west, south and north.

Discovering the city by foot has its advantages: even though the city is served by tram, metro and other very efficient means of transport, it is nice to let yourself be guided by the continuous ups and downs of bridges – all 1,500 of them – that cross the city’s canals.

[Photo: Bertrand Hauger]

The canals set Amsterdam apart, forming a concentric belt around the city – known as the Canal Ring – since the 17th century. They were listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2010.

This year, celebrates the 400th anniversary since construction began on the Canal Ring. The most prestigious part of the canals is the Gouden Bocht (“Golden Bend”), which has the most beautiful houses. The romantic Magere Brug is one of the most picturesque and romantic to admire. 

The canals are a source of national pride and will be celebrated in various exhibitions. “Along Amsterdam’s Canals” will take place at the Rembrandthuis until May 26, and will showcase a magnificent selection of drawings from the 17th to the 20th centuries. At the Amsterdam Museum, “The Golden Age” exhibit will also take place until May 26, an exhibit dedicated to showcasing the Dutch Golden Age in the 17th century.