I love Amsterdam, but I am just a tad uncomfortable there at times because I feel that I should better understand the place. After all, it is not a small city. There is a great deal going on with loads of folks wandering around. And it has a rather unique history. that nastiness with the Spanish, for example. What was that all about anyway?
It helps to have a few things to anchor your attention. Sort of like the canal thing in Venice. BTW, Amsterdam also has loads of canals which are pleasant to check out.
Sir Kenneth Clark couldn’t resist as he opined on the flowering of Dutch culture in part 8 of his Civlisation series. And I would highly recommend watching this episode as a prelude to your visit to Amsterdam. If you need a bit more of a push to watch the great man introduce your to Amsterdam, you might read this wonderful article about Clark from the Guardian.
I think Rembrandt is the key figure to keep in mind. He is your anchor! His work, of course. But also his life story. It captures what is at the root of the Dutch love of prosperity. I do not think of this as love of ostentation, though you do find ostentation around. It is more love of comfort. And this is what I am looking for in Amsterdam hotels, cafes, restaurants, etc. Indeed, I find that The Hague is even more comfortable. But that is another story.
Lonely planet has a nice list of comfort food. Here is a snippet
It is this love of comfort that motives the Dutch love of reasonableness. They do not like a fuss. Which is why, perhaps that a Dutch artist like Van Gogh spent such a great deal of time elsewhere. And yet, you will find a brilliant Van Gogh museum in Amsterdam.