Let's start with Amsterdam: The Van Gogh Museum and the Rijksmuseum.
Admittedly, I found the VGM underwhelming, and wondered if all his best work is scattered around the globe at various other museums, or if I was just spoiled by the very good MoMA exhibit earlier this year.(MoMA owns Starry Night, I think, so probably my scatter-theory has some merit). The Rijksmuseum was partially closed for renovation, but they thoughtfully had a "greatest hits" section open which included Rembrandt's Night Watch and Syndics of the Draper's Guild, and Vermeer's Milkmaid, and View of Houses in Delft (1658), below.
The only streetscape he ever painted, for which he applied paint in varying layers of thickness to depict glass versus paint, bricks, etc.
The Milkmaid is very still, calm, and peaceful, milk being the only movement in the picture.
Rembrandt loved a single light source and was interested in directing the viewer's eye.
Nightwatch isn't a nocturnal scene at all but rather a dark indoor scene illuminated by a single shaft of sunlight -- the misnomer is the result of dirt on the painting.
At this point I am beginning to become utterly spoiled by all the visual goodness around me, and Rotterdam has yet more in store.
Rotterdam was bombed to pieces during WWII, so it lacks the medieval center most European cities have (see what I learned at the Maritime Museum!). But it rebuilt astonishingly quickly embracing new and daring architectural forms, like Piet Blom's Cubic Houses:
Apparently the houses are meant to represent abstract trees that, when taken together, become a forest. But I think the cube houses provide a parallax view from certain angles, evoking the columns in an ancient structure, or the naves in a Gothic cathedral: