As you stare at the sunflowers stuffed loosely into a yellow-and-white vase, you no longer hear the voices murmuring in a dozen different languages around you. For a thrilling moment, you are alone, experiencing a spark of connection to the mind of an astounding artist. Amsterdam’s Van Gogh Museum reopened after a face-lift that gives the spacious galleries a fresh lighting system, bright new wall colors, and more interactive displays. The enormous reintroductory exhibition, Van Gogh at Work, showcases more Van Gogh items than ever before offered here—more than 200 works, along with letters, sketchbooks, and other intimate artifacts that explain just how the artist created his masterpieces.
Van Gogh lived briefly in this thriving port city, famed for its 17th-century canals and gorgeous architecture. But he painted many of his pieces in Arles, near the coast of the south of France. You can almost feel the Mediterranean sun blazing from the bright blues and yellows. —Steve Millburg
When To Go: Van Gogh at Work is open daily through January 12, 2014. Tickets cost $19.57 USD (15 euros); vangoghmuseum.com.
Where To Stay: Stylish and still hip (John and Yoko’s “bed-in” took place here in 1969), the Hilton Amsterdam sits on a canal less than a mile from the museum. Rates start at $249 USD (189 euros); placeshilton.com.