There are some exceptionally unconventional attractions dotted around Amsterdam that might not be in the same league as the Rijksmuseum or Stedelijk, but nonetheless have their own distinctive charms. Many are well respected names in the Netherlands and have been attracting eager visitors for decades, while others have only recently opened their doors. Ancient or modern, all of these attractions are wonderful additions to Amsterdam’s cultural landscape.
Considering that 40% of Amsterdam is made up of water, it’s relatively unsurprising that many of its residents have decided to commandeer houseboats and settle on the canals. De Poezenboot caters to furrier Dutch citizens and houses several adorable kitties inside a floating barge anchored to the banks of the Singel canal. The boat is the only aquatic cat sanctuary in the world and encourages visitors to pet and play with their fluffy menagerie.
When the AIDS epidemic was sweeping headlines in the late 80s, a team of vigilant activists decided to launch a business completely devoted to safe sex. They named this establishment the Condomerie and have been dispensing condoms, erotic art, and invaluable information ever since. The shop sells a huge variety of condoms and its staff are on hand to dole out advice concerning contraception, protection, and STDs.
Electric Ladyland is a psychedelic gallery devoted to fluorescent art. Its founder was drawn to naturally occurring luminosity while working as a geologist and decided to convert his basement into a tripped out monument to all things glowing. This small space contains a collection of fluorescent rocks, and neon artwork from the 1960s, as well as a whole room that is illuminated by phosphorescent minerals. Entrance is by appointment only.
This beautiful museum’s humble exterior poorly reflects the treasures that it stores inside. The museum was created to preserve an historic townhouse dating back to the Dutch Golden Age and its whole collection appears to be frozen in time. Its winding, narrow staircases lead to an attic room that was converted into a Catholic chapel in 1663. At the time, Catholicism was outlawed in the Netherlands, forcing practitioners to observe mass in secret. Today, the chapel’s altar and pulpit remain completely intact, allowing visitors a glimpse into Amsterdam’s past.
During WWII the Dutch government built a system of atomic bunkers throughout the Netherlands. After tensions subsided, most of these shelters were abandoned and fell into disrepair. In 2011, a group of artists acquired a secret bunker in Vondelpark and subsequently set up a non-profit cultural platform inside its subterranean halls. Today, Vondelbunker holds an eclectic range of events that accommodate the Amsterdam underground scene, including alternative movie nights, left-field plays, and musical workshops.
Cannabis has a fascinating history and is an unbelievably versatile plant. Unfortunately, its recreational use has overshadowed its influence on world culture, a fact that the Hash Marihuana & Hemp Museum is eager to amend. The museum has a huge collection of items connected to cannabis and retraces the lost history of this important shrub. Recently, the institute opened a new gallery dedicated to the hemp industry, and a satellite museum in Barcelona.
Micropia is the only zoo in the world dedicated to microorganisms. These tiny creatures cover every inch of our bodies and help to sustain the world as we know it. The zoo is eager to convey this message and uses several impressive interactive exhibitions to uncover the invisible world of microbes. There’s plenty to see inside Micropia and the zoo actually functions as a microbiological laboratory.
Museum Vrolik has an exquisitely morbid collection. The institute houses thousands of human anatomical specimens donated by a number of medical professionals. Many of these limbs, organs, and skeletons are contained within large transparent jars while others have been mounted onto pedestals. All of its collection is unbelievably valuable and was originally used for research and training purposes.