Best Museums in Amsterdam

Amsterdam Museums

If you are day dreaming about a visit to Amsterdam, you may also be dreaming about visiting the best museums in Amsterdam. Amsterdam is home in fact to more than 50 thought provoking and interesting museums. Here is a partial list of some of the very best museums in Amsterdam:


BEST MUSEUMS IN AMSTERDAM

Het Grachtenhuis Museum
This museum is located on the beautiful and upmarket Herengracht canal. The canal district itself is a UNESCO world heritage site, and its history is told with 3D animation, models, projections and an interactive multimedia exhibition. It’s a very modern look at Amsterdam’s history and a great way to start to your visit.

Tulip Museum
The tulip is synomous with the Netherlands, so this museum is quite popular with both Dutch people and tourists alike. If you love tulips, botany, or history in general, this is the museum for you.

Anne Frank House
The Anne Frank House is one of the world’s most thought provoking and popular museums. The main building of the museum is the actual hiding place where Anne Frank wrote her diary during World War II. As you walk through the rooms of the house, you’ll easily imagine how hard it was to live there during World War 2. The original diary is on display at this location. This is a must visit (I’ve been twice) but get there early because the lines can be long. Here’s my post on the Anne Frank House.

Amsterdam Museums - The Anne Frank House

NEMO Science Museum
NEMO is a hands on museum and is very popular among children. It’s a must visit if you’re on vacation with kids or adults who are interested in science and technology. The “I Amsterdam” City Card or Museumkaart will get you free admission.

Torture Museum
This place brings out the macabre in everyone. View a bizarre collection and learn about some of the oldest and cruellest torture methods in history. Thankfully most of these methods are no longer in use. Most of the artifacts on display were actually used which makes this museum just a little more disturbing.

National Maritime Museum
The museum contains many artifacts associated with shipping and sailing and is dedicated to maritime history. The collection here contains world maps, models, paintings and weapons. A replica of the 18th-century ship Amsterdam (which sailed between the Netherlands and the East Indies), is located in the waters just outside the museum.

Van Gogh Museum
The world’s largest collection of Van Gogh work is located here and needless to say is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Amsterdam. In addition to seeing many of his works, you’ll learn about the man himself and his life story. You won’t be disappointed!

The Rijksmuseum
Dedicated to arts and history in Amsterdam, this is the Dutch national museum. Over 800 years of Dutch history is showcased with national treasurers and artifacts. The museum is located in the Amsterdam South borough at the Museum Square, and is very close to the Van Gogh Museum. Again, a must visit!

There are of course more museums, including the Museum of The Canals, the Costume Museum, the Heineken Experience, the Houseboat Museum and more. They make for an interesting day and a way to quickly immerse yourself in Dutch culture and history.

Can you think of any other interesting or strange museums that are in Amsterdam?

The Amsterdam Series (Part 4) – The Canals

Amsterdam is sometimes referred to as the “Venice of the North”. The canals of Amsterdam date back to the 17th century and the “Golden Age” of the Netherlands. Canals were dug and built for defense and water management and actually fill a full quarter of Amsterdam’s surface area. Just imagine walking through the constant mud in the streets back in the 1600s prior to the canals! The history of the canals is fascinating and can be further explored at one of Amsterdam’s best museums, the Het Grachtenhuis Museum.

Amsterdam Canal Facts

With more than 100 kilometres of canals, 1,500 bridges and 90 islands, there is a lot more to the canal system than meets the eye. The original and main canals, the Prinsengracht, Keizersgracht, Herengracht and Jordaan, were added to the UNESCO World Heritage List in 2010.

Some not so good Amsterdam canal facts. An average of 18 people drown in the canals every year. Some die as the result of crime. More than half the deaths are believed to be the result of carelessness. The victims apparently fell into the water and were unable to get out. Exit stairs and flotation aids are few and far between. It is widely believed that the vast majority were actually urinating into the canal; fell in and were just to drunk to swim to safety and climb out (as evidenced by their open zippers). The canals are constantly dredged by city crews who find every form of garbage possible (and the occasional corpse).

Amsterdam Canal Skating

A good canal fact. When the canals freeze in winter, which now happens infrequently, Amsterdam almost goes crazy. The Dutch invented the modern ice skate in the 13th century and have loved ice skating ever since. The almost mythical Efenstedentocht “11 Cities Tour” 200 km. ice skating marathon last ran in 1997 with thousands of participants. When the canals froze in winter 2018, winter spirits were lifted and Amsterdam was a buzz when it was time for a skate.

You can feel and see the Dutch enthusiasm and spirit on this great You Tube video:

Amsterdam Canal Cruise

To truly appreciate the canals, you really need to take a cruise. It’s big business here. Over 3 million people take a cruise every year on a variety of different boats. Locals naturally cruise too- they are the ones eating, drinking and having a great time. Like a picnic on the water. The locals could cruise all day in their own boat; for the rest of us, it’s normally a 60 – 90 minute trip. Unlike a canal cruise in Venice, this is not a slow moving boat with a gondolier. The boat moves quickly- there is a lot of Amsterdam canal to see. Our boat captain tells us his boat is the oldest in operation- about 200 years old with a large rudder for steering. He knows every turn, every canal and water levels. The route for today’s cruise is totally dependent on the water level. Most canals are narrow and bridges are low. As I’m speaking with the Captain on the aft deck, I duck several times as we pass under low bridges. There is so much to see along the way- the canals themselves, bridges, house boats, historic buildings, people. Life in Amsterdam.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

As a first time cruiser, and return visitor to Amsterdam, I have to say that an Amsterdam canal cruise is a must. Until now, I feel that I missed half of the city. A cruise gives you a unique and complete view of Amsterdam life. It’s a masterful blend of history and modern day life here in this vibrant city.

The Amsterdam Series (Part 2) – The Anne Frank House

There are a whole lot of reasons to visit Amsterdam – the museums, the canals, the nightlife, beer, etc. But the Anne Frank House should be at the very top of your list. The actual house in Amsterdam where Anne Frank and her family lived in secret during World War 2.

The Diary of Anne Frank was written within these very walls. Anne was born in Germany in 1929 and emigrated with her family to the Netherlands in 1933 to escape Jewish persecution in Nazi Germany. In 1940, the Netherlands was invaded by Germany and the Frank family went into hiding shortly thereafter. Anne collected her thoughts within the diary while in hiding but never finished her work.

“I don’t want to have lived in vain like most people. I want to be useful and bring enjoyment to all people, even those I’ve never met. I want to go on living even after my death!” Anne Frank.

In 1944, everyone hiding in the Secret Annex was arrested. Only Anne’s father, Otto, survived the war and internment. The hiding place and annex have been preserved as a museum that visitors discover room by room with audio and short video. The hidden staircase, artifacts, and the actual diary are all here. You are taken through her short life- the early years in Germany; emigrating to Holland; the German invasion; the hiding place; the arrest; the return of Otto Frank; and the publishing of the diary. It’s a moving experience that will bring tears to your eyes!

 

The Anne Frank House should be on your travel bucket list (and you get the vibrant city of Amsterdam as a bonus). It is very much a pilgrimage – there are approximately 1 million visitors per year. It is entirely possible to wait in line for 3 hours or more just to get in. Go early in the morning and/or when raining- the line may be short. You will never forget the experience. http://www.annefrank.org/en/