The Dutch are as famous for their tolerance as they are for their clogs and windmills. Thus in Amsterdam sober and sinful attractions exist side by side. Amsterdam was built on the wealth of canny merchants, and the relative lack of blood in the city’s past speaks to the longstanding local preference for cozy, easygoing conviviality—a way of life that’s so ingrained that the Dutch even have a word for it: gezelligheid. That trademark warmth and niceness more or less seeps into your veins as you move through the city streets, some of the most bike-friendly on earth. Tulips bloom and houseboats bob on the tranquil canals. Aqueous Amsterdam is sometimes called the Venice of the North. Amsterdam has long held itself up. Visiting in 18th century, Voltaire observed: “Here, nobody stands in the street to watch a prince ride by.” The architecture—those narrow, leaning, gabled, houses that seem to be out of a storybook—lacks the monumental arrogance of other European capitals. It’s standard practice to keep the front curtains open. Fashion-wise, Amsterdam is certainly less exciting than nearby Antwerp. Dutchmen Viktor & Rolf have even claimed that the city’s lack of stylistic adventurousness is what they love about it. At the same time, there are smart little boutiques and antiques shops. There’s the plugged-in approach to contemporary art and design. There’s in-demand designer Marcel Wanders, who has his studio in the rehabilitated working-class neighborhood of Jordaan. It’s been more than three centuries since Amsterdam led the world in terms of wealth and global influence. But many of the city’s defining traits haven’t changed that much. It’s still foreigner-friendly, even if today’s immigrants are not Venetian glassblowers or French silk-weavers. The smell of nutmeg and cloves once wafted out from the United East-Indian Company’s headquarters; more recently, a visitor’s most pungent memory might be of the cannabis haze clouding scruffy coffee shops. As the city gets re-polished, the aromas are shifting yet again. There is a lot to commemorate in 2013, including the 400th anniversary of the city’s canals and Van Gogh’s 160th birthday. (The museum devoted to him here is world-class.) And this year marks the end of the ten-year renovation of the majestic Rijksmuseum, a closure that tested the patience and understanding of not only the locals. That’s right. In Amsterdam, the Old Masters are back.