When the winter is too warm for skating on the canals, Amsterdam has a number of outside ice rinks including the delightful Museumplein rink which is adjacent to the magnificent Rijksmuseum. Museumplein, or Museum Square, is home to a total of four museums and the other three are the Stedelijk Museum, the Diamond Museum and the Van Gogh Museum. Also located in the square is the United States Consulate.
The Museumplein was reconstructed ten years ago to a design by a Swedish architect. There is now parking and a supermarket underground and, above, is an artificial lake which is converted into an ice skating rink for the four months of winter. In the old days, before bicycles, children couldn’t wait for the cold weather to freeze the canals so that they could strap on wooden ice skates and get to school much faster than walking. At the weekends, families would skate to friends and relatives and enjoy biscuits and hot drinks served from barrows. Pea soup was also a popular way to get nutrition and warmth when out skating.
From December until March, the ice skating rink at the Museumplein is open everyday between ten o’clock in the morning until eight at night. The air is always full of tempting smells from stands selling Dutch pancakes, American waffles and doughnuts, and a number of other sweet-smelling goodies. The rink is free for skaters but there is a charge for hiring skates.
A full day can be spent at Museumplein serving the mind and body. Once the mind is tired of looking at all the exhibits in the Rijksmuseum, simply refresh by strapping on your skates and stretching your legs on the ice. Perhaps after a little lunch, you can visit the Van Gogh Museum and then in the early evening draw circles on the ice again! It doesn’t matter whether you are a beginner or an accomplished skater, ice skating at the Museumplein is one of life’s truly memorable experiences.