I moved to Amsterdam 24 years ago to study, and now split my time between here, Luxembourg – I am currently the music director of the Orchestre Philharmonique du Luxembourg – and Toronto, where I’ll be starting with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra next September. In Amsterdam, I’m based in Oud‑Zuid (Old South), the city’s cultural centre. All of the storied museums are here: the Rijksmuseum, the Van Gogh Museum and the Stedelijk Museum, as well as the Concertgebouw. It’s busy and active in front of the concert hall, but behind, where I live, it is calm, with peaceful streets, low buildings and lots of bicycles. For me, that’s an ideal combination.
Inside the musical haunts and storied museums of Oud‑Zuid.
Gustavo’s 5 Spots in Amsterdam
Conservatorium Hotel —used to be the site of the Sweelinck Conservatorium, where I studied, and then taught from 2002 to 2008. The [neo‑Gothic] exterior is original, but inside, the corridors, shops and lighting are modern – the contrast is very special. Even if you’re not staying, it’s worth it to walk through or to have a drink at the bar. There’s a skincare store in the spot where I used to teach.
Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam —
always has something new, so every time I go, it feels like the first time. I like taking my daughter to this museum over others, because modern art feels fresh and surprising – there’s a room with vintage pinball machines for kids, too.
Olive & Cookie —
is a tiny vegetarian café with one long table in the centre – it’s like being in someone’s kitchen. The owners, a Serbian‑Croatian couple, are always there, cooking and serving customers. Their chocolate and mascarpone cake is spectacular.
Café Welling —
a historic bar right behind the Concertgebouw, attracts many locals. I like to take people here for a gin because it’s authentic, old‑style Amsterdam – it could be part of a museum. They also host small jazz performances.
The Concertgebouw —
is one of the most prestigious concert halls in the world because of its acoustics and the number of great artists who perform there. It sounds like a dream inside: It’s a big building, so the music is like smoke, diffused in a beautiful, warm and refined way.