With picturesque Golden Age canals lined by tilting gabled buildings, rich history and a lively cultural scene, it’s no surprise that Amsterdam has earned its reputation as one of the world’s most vibrant cities.
No matter what time of year you visit the capital of the Netherlands, there will always be an endless amount of things for you to see and do that lie well beyond the well-trodden tourist path. If you’ve stocked up at one of the city’s many excellent cafes or restaurants and are feeling hungry for a cultural experience, there are no shortfalls here. Whether you’re after a serving of art or history, or perhaps both, these are some of the best museums and galleries in Amsterdam that every visitor must experience.
Located: Museumstraat 1, 1071 XX, Museum Quarter
Open Hours: Daily from 9am – 5pm
After completing a decade-long, $441 million renovation in 2013, the Rijksmuseum has firmly made a name for itself as one of the best museums in Amsterdam and is the largest of the “big three” museums.
For visitors interested in art, you can’t go past the galleries filled with over 2000 Golden Age paintings, which include many from Rembrandt. However, the museum is also home to over 8000 displayed masterworks, so the Golden Age art gallery is definitely not a niche affair! From model ships, rich costumes and Asian art figures, there’s an endless amount of well-paced chronological artefacts dating from the Middle Ages to the Mondrian for you to sink your teeth into.You can visit the Rijksmuseum – Amsterdam’s most popular museum – on Trafalgar’s ‘Amsterdam Explorer’ tour, where you’ll be guided by a Local Specialist through the museum, which is home to masterpieces of Rembrandt, Hals and Vermeer.
2. Anne Frank Huis
Where: Prinsengracht 263-267, 1016 GV, Canal Belt
Open Hours: Monday – Friday: 9:30am – 4:30pm, Saturday – Sunday: 9am – 7pm
One of the only museums of Amsterdam that you’ll have to stand in line for is the Anne Frank Museum. However, don’t let the wait deter you; it’s well worth it.
It takes about an hour to complete a loop of the house, where you can walk through the attic space where the Frank family hid during World War II and where Anne penned her famous diary. Downstairs, in the space which once housed her father’s company office, visitors can see Anne’s original diary, as well as other manuscripts and interactive human rights exhibitions.
No matter how well you think you may know the story of Anne Frank, a visit to the Anne Frank Huis is a very sobering experience and will give you a greater understanding of what life was like in Nazi-occupied Holland.
3. Van Gogh Museum
Where: Paulus Potterstraat 7, 1071 CX, Museum Quarter
Open Hours: Monday: Closed, Tuesday – Friday: 10am – 5pm, Saturday – Sunday: 10am – 6pm
If seeing the famous ‘Sunflowers’ paintings in the flesh is on your bucket list, then a visit to the Van Gogh Museum is not to be missed. The museum is home to more than 1400 pieces of Vincent van Gogh’s work, which includes more than 200 of his paintings.
However, what makes a visit to this museum of Amsterdam unique is the inclusion of van Gogh’s lesser known works; drawings and letters that dive deep into his depression and a video installation displaying his rise and the works of artists who have been inspired by him make for a particularly unparalleled experience.
4. Royal Palace
Where: Dam Square, Amsterdam
Open Hours: Friday: 12pm – 5pm, Saturday – Sunday: 10am – 5pm
Originally built with the intention of being the City Hall of Amsterdam in the early 17th century, a trip to the Royal Palace of Amsterdam is well worth it for museum and gallery enthusiasts alike.
The 350 year old building, which is located in central Amsterdam, was transformed into a Palace in 1808 by King Louis Napoleon Bonaparte and has remained that way ever since. It is one of three palaces in the Netherlands which are at the disposal of the monarch. While the Royal Palace isn’t King Willem-Alexander’s place of residence, he does use the palace for Royal Events, such as the reception of foreign heads of state and the King’s New Year reception.
Just as impressive as the other museums and galleries in Amsterdam, visitors to the Royal Palace can admire endless marble floors, magnificent paintings, delicate sculptures, sparkling chandeliers and an annual exhibition.You can visit the Royal Palace on an optional excursion on Trafalgar’s ‘Best of Holland’ tour, where you’ll be guided by a local specialist through the palace, which is rich in history with interiors that make this Amsterdam icon a must-see.
5. Stedelijk Museum
Where: Museumplein 10, 1071 DJ, Museum Quarter
Open Hours: Daily 10am – 6pm, Thursday 10am – 10pm
While not as frequented as some of its famous neighbours, a visit to the Stedelijk Museum is a must for anyone who enjoys thought-provoking modern and contemporary art. This art gallery in Amsterdam is home to more than 90,000 pieces, which includes a mix of 3D printed vases, Dutch avant garde and video art to name a few.
Don’t let the lack of foot traffic deter you from visiting this art museum; if anything, we enjoy it that way – it means more time to get a good look at Mondrian.
6. EYE Filmmuseum
Where: IJpromenade 1, 1031 KT Amsterdam
Open Hours: Sunday – Thursday: 9:30am – 10pm, Friday – Saturday: 9:30am – 11pm
A little difficult to get to (its location on the waterfront requires a little navigating), but totally worth it! The EYE Filmmuseum in Amsterdam is a celebration of all things cinematic.
The museum, which is housed in a stunning modern architecture building, hosts a permanent exhibition that charts the history of film, as well as revolving shows on acclaimed directors. There are also regular films screened across four on-site cinemas.
Visiting this museum in Amsterdam is an adventure within itself. Not only do you get the opportunity to experience the modern approach to art and cinema that the museum is known for, it’s also a great opportunity to explore the less touristy Noord district (where the museum is situated).
7. FOAM Photography Museum
Where: Keizersgracht 609, 1017 DS, Canal Belt
Open Hours: Daily 10am – 5pm
Located in a canal-side building is one of the best museums in Amsterdam; the FOAM Photography Museum. Inside the small canal house, are walls lined with punchy photography.
However, don’t be fooled into thinking that FOAM is just another museum in Amsterdam; it’s so much more than that. In addition to big blockbuster exhibitions featuring works by the likes of Diane Arbus and Richard Avedon, FOAM also houses smaller shows featuring the works of contemporary photographers, as well as lively lectures, forums, an in-house magazine and a graduate lab that regularly feeds into the museum’s exhibitions.
So, if you’re in need of some grounding after seeing the works of some of art and history’s greatest, or a fresh perspective through the lens of Amsterdam’s up-and-coming, FOAM is not to be missed.
8. Museum Van Loon
Where: Keizersgracht 672, 1017 ET, Canal Belt
Open Hours: Wednesday – Monday: 11am – 5pm
Located in the heart of the canal district, resides the Museum Van Loon; an insider peek into the home of an Amsterdam patrician family. Built in 1672, this impeccably preserved canal house, which was once the residence of artist Ferdinand Bol, exudes wealth and a Golden Age splendour.
While there are a number of other canal-house museums in Amsterdam, the Museum Van Loon remains special, as it’s managed to retain the atmosphere of a grand family home. In fact, the Van Loons still reside upstairs (this area is off-limits to the public).
You can visit the Museum Van Loon on an optional excursion on Trafalgar’s ‘Best of Holland’ tour, where you’ll be guided by a local specialist through the residence, where you’ll discover the large collection of paintings, fine furniture, precious silver and porcelain from several centuries.
Where: Westerstraat 106, 1015 MN, De Jordaan
Open Hours: Sunday 2pm – 5pm
Tucked away in the De Jordaan district, the Pianola Museum is one of the smallest museums in Amsterdam that punches a large amount of quirk and eccentricity.
Inside the museum, you’ll find numerous pianolas (player pianos), as well as reproduction pianos and related objects. The museum archive also has a collection of more than 30,000 music rolls which can be played on the different instruments inside the museum.
Once a week, the museum hosts a concert, where the audience sits around and listens to a playerless piano perform pieces created by the likes of Debussy, Prokofiev and Stravinsky.
For a museum experience quite unlike any other, there’s nothing that compares to the Pianola Museum in Amsterdam.
Have you been to any of these museums and galleries in Amsterdam? Or, are you hoping to tick some (or all) of them off your bucket list in the future? Is there a favourite of yours that we’ve missed on this list? Let us know in the comments, or visit our website to learn more about how you can travel Amsterdam with Trafalgar!