Amsterdam is the city of nonconformity, amusement, romantic boat rides, and incredible nightlife. “Venice of the North” is often one of the first stops for tourists wishing to get to know the old continent. Amsterdam is also one of the world’s culture capitals, the prestigious meeting point of history, tradition, and contemporary art. The capital of the Netherlands is home to numerous museums, some of which are must-sees while others offer quite unusual collections.
Whether you are planning a short stay or can spend more time in Amsterdam, the city has much to offer to all history and art enthusiasts. From standing exhibitions of the works of the most renowned world painters to collections of notable contemporary art, Amsterdam’s museums never fail to impress. As Amsterdam is one of the world’s most popular weekend destinations, the following five museums should be on every visitor’s list. For tourists planning to spend more time in the capital of the Netherlands, this list can be a good starting point for an unforgettable museum experience.
Rijksmuseum – the principal national museum in the Netherlands
Tourists eager to learn about Dutch history and the rich art heritage of the capital, usually start their tour of museums at the National Museum. The Rijksmuseum is the Netherlands’ largest museum and an Amsterdam staple. Its standing exhibition takes visitors on an 800-year-old journey, showing artefacts from the country’s early days. Among a million items and works of art, an impressive pottery collection and the paintings of some of the most celebrated painters stand out. The Rijksmuseum is home to Rembrandt’s Night Watch and many of his other famous works, paintings by Van Gogh, and other artists of the Netherland’s golden age. The museum is frequently under renovation in order to keep abreast of the times but it is, nevertheless, open to visitors every day and entry is free of charge. The museum building was designed by Pier Sujpers, between 1876 and 1885. Besides being the most famous art history museum in this part of Europe, the Rijksmuseum also showcases important works of contemporary art and iconic items from the close of the 20th century, such as a dress from 1965 designed by Yves Saint Laurent.
Van Gogh Museum - a treat for Van Gogh enthusiasts
The Van Gogh Museum is the most popular museum in Amsterdam, visited by over a million and a half of lovers of Van Gogh art every year. It opened in 1973 and soon became a world-famous attraction. The museum complex incorporates two buildings. The original building was the work of renowned Dutch architect, Gerrit Rietveld, who died during its construction. The new, elliptical building, designed by Japanese architect, Kisho Kurokawa, was completed in 1999 and is connected to the main building by a basement-level foyer. The new building houses the permanent exhibit of Van Gogh’s work, while the artist’s personal items are displayed in the main building. In addition to artwork, visitors of the Van Gogh Museum can see a collection of over 500 drawings and sketches, and nearly a thousand letters from the artist’s correspondence with his brother, Theo. This museum is particular in that it houses a research group studying the life and works of Van Gogh, the development of his style, and his personal relationships. The museum exhibits include the works of the artist’s contemporaries and friends, Monet, Manet, Redon, and Paul Gauguin.
Anne Frank House – a grim memory of a dire period of Dutch history
Amsterdam has two large memorial museums dedicated to Jewish suffering during World War II, the better known of which is the Anne Frank House. Anne Frank and her family hid in the attic of this house, where they tried to escape their tragic fate. It was here that she wrote her now famous diary, one of the most beautiful works of world literature and a moving testimony to the terror faced by Jews under the Nazi regime. Visitors to the museum house can go on a virtual journey through the rooms, learning about the time when soldiers of the Third Reich took entire families from their homes and sent them to concentration camps. Besides the tragic fate of the Frank family, the exhibit shows the history of the Netherlands under Nazi occupation. Visitors can see the rooms where the family hid, their personal items and photographs, and part of the original diary of Anne Frank. Those wishing to visit this unique museum should arm themselves with patience, as a queue winding around the building is a common sight.
Madame Tussauds Amsterdam – step into the world of the celebrated and famous
Madame Tussauds Amsterdam wax museum is one of the city’s main attractions and part of a worldwide museum chain. This museum represents a unique concept for fans of pop culture but also for those more interested in traditional themes. Visitors enter the museum to the flash of cameras, a fitting greeting in a place where so many of the world’s greatest celebrities can be seen. Madame Tussauds Amsterdam museums are known for their hyperrealistic wax figures of the most famous people of our time but also of iconic figures from the past. Here, you can take a picture with Marilyn Monroe or Albert Einstein, take a selfie with Kim Kardashian, compare your height to that of Tom Cruise, or take pictures with famous movie characters, including the once longstanding champion in popularity, E.T., the famous extraterrestrial from the homonymous movie. The exhibits in Madame Tussauds Amsterdam wax museum are frequently supplemented by new figures, but one of the most popular parts is the Dungeon, which displays the dark side of human history. The experience in this part of the museum is made even more realistic with the help of sound and light effects. This makes a visit to the museum more like a theater show than a tradition tour of historical relics. The making of a single wax figure takes more than six months, every detail is made by hand, and the figures become smaller, or rather shorter, with time.
Eye Filmmuseum – a must-see for lovers of the seventh art
The Eye Fimmuseum is situated on the bank of the homophonous River IJ, and dedicated to the history of moving pictures. The building was designed by a team of Viennese architects and is a true visual attraction, standing out in the city’s panorama. The angular construction, covered with tiles and giving the impression of a husk, is in itself a monument to film. The light effects on it are reminiscent of a movie projector, while the position of the lighting and the shape of the building make it appear different when viewed from different angles. Its geometric style is even more perceptible inside the museum, where the expansive space and unexpected shapes take visitors’ breath away as soon as they enter. The museum houses a restaurant and coffee shop offering a view of the river. The museum exhibit takes visitors on a journey spanning nearly 200 years, from the era of silent movies at the close of the 19th century to the latest achievements of modern cinematography. The museum has four cinemas, interactive exhibitions for children and adults, and a large exhibition space, displaying projectors, movie cameras, and props. The collection of the Eye Filmmuseum includes over 40,000 filmmaking achievements and, besides being displayed in the museum building, it is often shown at outdoor projections and film festivals.
If you are planning a visit to this city, our Guide to Amsterdam will provide you with useful information about interesting tours, gastronomic specialties, and other attractions than can help you to make your travel plan.