Amsterdam, one of Europe’s leading artistic and cultural centers, is home to over 50 museums and galleries. In fact, it boasts more museums per capita than any other European capital. Most museums are close in proximity and easily accessed on foot or by water taxi in this pedestrian friendly city of canals. If you are able to dedicate a day or two or three for museum exploration, consider purchasing the Amsterdam Card. Another great option is the Museum Boat which allows passengers to “hop on and off” at 12 different stops, with each stop located adjacent to fine museums.
Here are a few of my recommendations for the best museums in Amsterdam.
Van Gogh Museum
The creator of any list of Amsterdam museums would be remiss without mentioning the Van Gogh Museum. It contains the world’s largest and most comprehensive collection of the Dutch artist’s masterpieces. But, it’s not just about Van Gogh; the museum has a permanent collection of works covering all of the Netherland’s most famous painters. There is also a rotating exhibit that features interesting works from across the globe. This is certainly one of the most popular museums as evidenced by the frequency with which one will see tourists and travelers carrying the purple, triangular-shaped boxes which contain Van Gogh prints that are sold only in the museum gift shop.
Founded in 1800, the Rijksmuseum is the premier history and arts museum in the Netherlands. With more than 8000 treasures on display in 80 galleries, each floor showcases a different century. The Rijksmuseum is home primarily to works of the great Dutch painters. Rembrandt van Rijn, Frans Hals, Johannes Vermeer and Peter aul Rubens are all represented, as well as Vincent van Gogh and many contemporary artists.
The Rijksmuseum is the most architecturally beautiful museum in Amsterdam, and it is filled with national treasures. While the restoration of the main building is underway, the Rijksmuseum is displaying the crème de la crème of its permanent collection in the newly furnished Philips Wing. ‘Rijksmuseum, The Masterpieces‘ offers the unique opportunity to view all the highlights of the Golden Age in one place.
But, you will also be enchanted by the Asian pavilion, the library, and the Teekenschool (a multidisciplinary education centre.) The architecturally significant building was closed for ten years in 2003 in order to achieve a complete renovation. With great fanfare, the museum was reopened by Queen Beatrix on April 13, 2013, just weeks before the Queen abdicated the throne.
Modern renovation architects Antonio Cruz and Antonio Ortiz have retained the original core architecture and exposed the huge galleries and almost cathedral-like entrance to the museum. Last time we were there, only a small portion of the museum was open, so to see the museum as it was originally intended was an astounding experience. By the way, if the museum reminds you of the Centraal Station in Amsterdam, it is because Pierre Cuypers was the architect for both.
Another little-known fact is that, in Amsterdam where bikes are king, there is a bike thoroughfare under the museum for bike commuters.
To complete the project, the museum garden has been re-landscaped to provide a quiet place to contemplate and rest after your foot-tiring cultural experience.
Open Daily from 9:00 am til 6:00 pm. (to avoid the crowds in high season, visit the museum after 4:00pm.)
Prices: Adults: 14 €, Children under 18 are free.
Free WiFi is available in the museum
Anne Frank House
On the leafy canal Prinsengracht, Anne Frank penned her now-famous diary which details her experience in hiding from the Nazis between 1942 and her betrayal in 1944. Today, visitors can tour the actual house, including the hidden rooms upstairs. The Anne Frank House provides a very vivid portrayal of the life and conditions that Anne endured, so expect this to be a heavy, serious experience. If you’ve not read Anne’s diary, you can buy it in the gift shop – translated into over 50 languages.
Ons’ Lieve Heer Op Solder
Translated as “Our Lord in the Attic”, this museum includes a 17th century home and a church that was hidden in a canal house so that Catholic worshipers could escape religious persecution during the Reformation. The main altar area is beautifully decorated in muted pastels and there are a number of other displays that explore the religious history of the Netherlands. This is certainly an Amsterdam must-see, and being located in the heart of the red light district adds to a visitors over-all experience.
FOAM Photography Museum
While few tourists stop at this fine canal side museum, those who like photo art will find it a delight. With quirky, unusual snaps and a rotating set of displays, this museum is small but packs a punch. The space is interesting as well – not only in its cutting edge architecture, but also in the exquisite, relaxing back garden.
This museum is not just for the backpacker, beer-drinking crowd, though they are well represented. The Heineken Experience explores the long history of beer-making in Amsterdam and provides visitors with a complete view of the beer making process. A recent, extensively remodeled exhibit includes a ride through the brewery while demonstrating the entire brewing process from the perspective of a beer bottle.
Written by Andy Hayes for EuropeUpClose.com