Taking a break in a museum café to give your weary legs a rest: lovely. It gives you a chance to talk about the collection you've just seen and let it sink in, to recharge or even just to satisfy the appetite you've built up. I've been guilty of all three. And what's great is that the quality and atmosphere are often surprisingly good: so good that you visit the café again, even if you're not hungry or tired, and don't feel like talking about the paintings that you just saw. Guilty again.
Fortunately, you don't always need to buy a ticket to get into a museum's café, which is great if you don't feel like art, but you do feel like eating. Or if you just want to have lunch in a different kind of atmosphere. The Plantage has enough of those kinds of places, and I personally recommend the Tropenmuseum's Grandcafé.
The Grandcafé offers exotic dining in an elegant atmosphere. While it tries to appeal to nearly everyone, I find it a bit too dark and chic, but its impressive views out over the recently redone Oosterpark, and into the museum, make up for that, as does the menu. The ingredients are locally sourced, but have an exotic twist. There's also a special children's menu. I found the cakes a bit dry and uninviting, but I can easily recommend lunch or dinner. Try a banana beer, or a cocktail served in a white pineapple! Don't let the interior turn you away: let the menu entice you, because the Grandcafé De Tropen is there for everyone!
It was big news in October 2015: after eight years, the Royal Barge was back in the Dutch National Maritime Museum. The Royal Barge, with its gold-plated ornaments, was built in 1816 for King Willem I, and used for decades as a 'golden carriage on water' by the Royal Family for official events. The last time it was used was quite a while ago, for Queen Juliana and Prince Bernhard's silver wedding anniversary in 1962. I'd never seen it.
The Royal Barge was on display in the Dutch National Maritime Museum until the museum's renovation in 2008, during which it was placed in storage. Moving the Royal Barge was quite an operation; a hole needed to be made in the outside wall of the building to remove it. While in storage, the barge was restored to its former glory and made seaworthy again; if King Willem-Alexander wants to use it, he can.
The Royal Barge's comeback was celebrated in style, with a spectacular opening ceremony and lead-up. It also has its own boathouse now. The barge clearly belongs there, just like a painting made more beautiful in the right frame - it's picture-perfect. But the boathouse is more than the right frame; it's also an exhibition room. Wall texts, a large screen with photo material and interactive screens reveal everything about the barge's history, its unusual protocol and its crew.
The Royal Barge has found its rightful home in the boathouse, moored next to the Amsterdam, a Dutch East India Company ship, and the Christiaan Brunnings, an icebreaker. Definitely go and have a look - the allure of the Royal Barge can only be experienced in person.