Since Amsterdam is one of the most visited cities in Europe, if not the world, it’s not hard to run into a museum on every corner. The Dutch capital’s rich heritage is showcased in numerous galleries and museums that tell the stories of the city and the legends who’ve lived there. Here, Culture Trip lists some of its most significant.
The I Amsterdam City Card gives you access to all major museums, public transportation and canal cruises. Passes can be bought online with 24-, 48-, 72-, 96-, and 120-hour options, saving you quite a few euros when venue-hopping and sometimes even letting you bypass the queue.
Prinsengracht is one of the most picturesque streets in Amsterdam, full of green trees, historical Dutch buildings and boats floating along the canal. The secret annex, tucked away behind a bookshelf in a building at Prinsengracht 263, hid Anne Frank and her family for two years during World War II, before they were eventually discovered. After the war ended, Otto Frank, the only surviving member of his family, returned to Amsterdam, and the Anne Frank House was restored and opened on May 3, 1960. The rest of the museum is a quiet memorial to all the lives lost during the Holocaust. On November 19, 2018, after two years of renewal work, King Willem-Alexander officially re-opened the museum. With this renewal, visitors will not only learn about Anne Frank and her life, but also about the Holocaust itself.
Drawing over two million people a year, Rijksmuseum is the most-visited museum in the country. With a rotating display of around 8,000 artworks and objects (from an entire collection of one million), it may be most accurately compared to New York’s Met Museum, and houses works from all the most notable artists and historical periods. Conveniently located on Museum Square, and offering free admission to anyone under 18 (€17.50 for adults), the museum has recently reopened its main wing after a 10-year renovation, almost doubling its exhibition space. Breathtaking inside and out, this museum of wonders has to be seen to be believed.
Situated in the original residence of Rembrandt van Rijn, and the Rembrandt House Museum contains hundreds of etchings, drawings and copperplates by the Dutch master, as well as a generous selection of works from his contemporaries and pupils. A collector in his own right, the museum also houses a number of Rembrandt’s personal effects that survived his bankruptcy and the subsequent auction of many of his belongings.
Housing the largest collection of Van Gogh’s works in the world, with around 200 paintings and over 1,000 letters and drawings, the Van Gogh Museum has been a magnet for scholars and aficionados since its opening in 1973. Each room follows a certain period of Van Gogh’s career, so visitors can appreciate his life in conjunction with his works. Not only do you get to see the most famous paintings like Sunflowers, The Yellow House, and his self-portraits, but you’re taken through Van Gogh’s life with letters to his brother Theo, which are often rather amusing. The flow of the museum leaves visitors enthralled by the world Van Gogh inhabited and with a better understanding of his psychology. Located just a short distance from the Rijksmuseum in Museum Square, admission is free for anyone under 18, with an adult entry fee of €17.
A museum without a gallery or specific building, the Street Art Museum is a four-kilometre route through Amsterdam Nieuw-West that features around 200 art pieces, from graffiti to paste-ups. Not only do visitors hear about the art, but they get an idea of the history and local residents in the area, as well as social politics and culture in Amsterdam. This tour lasts about two hours and is a fantastic way for visitors to get away from the usual tourist areas and explore more of what Amsterdam has to offer. Group tours (€20 per person) and private tours (€30 per person) can be booked through the website. Anna Stolyarova, who works for the museum, says “We are the first to introduce VR into the tour as of 1 July 2019, so the visitor can experience the making of the artwork whilst standing next to it.”
Located in a canal house along Keizersgracht, another stunning street with historical architecture, the Museum Van Loon is named after the Van Loon family who lived in the house in the 19th century. Willem van Loon co-founded the Dutch East India Company in 1602. The house is remarkable, with a lavish garden that will make visitors feel like they’ve entered a Roman palace, with enormous rooms fit for royalty. The interior will make you wish you lived there, and you’ll leave feeling hugely jealous of the previous occupants.
With over 100,000 visitors every year, this preserved 17th-century canal house is the second oldest in Amsterdam, and has been open to the public since April 28, 1888. The first floors are home to fascinating historic furniture and decor, but climb the narrow stairs further and you’ll discover something really special. The name translates to ‘Our Lord in the Attic Museum’, as a Catholic church was built on the top three floors of the house as a schuilkerk; a ‘clandestine church’ which once allowed religious dissenters from the Dutch Reformed Church to come for Mass, as they were unable to worship in public.