With more than 60 museums – ranging from historical, arts & masterpieces, cultural to porn, vodka and cannabis – Amsterdam has the highest museum density in the world. The most notable and famous of these museums are Rijksmuseum (The State Museum), Rembrandthuis (Rembrandt House Museum), Anne Frank Huis (Anne Frank House) and Van Gogh Museum.
Opened in 1885, the Rijksmuseum is the Dutch national museum. It re-opened in April 2013 following an extensive 10 year renovation. Located at the Museum Square, the museum houses a large collection of Dutch paintings, arts and crafts by famous painters like Rembrandt, Johannes Vermeer and Jan Steen.
The massive collections exhibited in 13 sections of the museum vividly retell 800 years of Dutch history and culture.
A stone’s throw away is Van Gogh Museum. This museum, opened in 1973, houses the largest collection of works by Vincent Van Gogh, the famous Dutch artist. The collection includes 200 paintings, 500 drawings and 700 letters. One of his most famous work, Sunflowers, is exhibited on the first floor of the museum.
One of the most interesting churches in the city is Ons’ Lieve Heer op Solder (Museum Our Lord in the Attic also known as Museum Amstelkring). This 17th century canal house located in the red light district houses a secret Catholic church in its attic.
The church was built in 1663 by a wealthy Catholic merchant named Jan Hartman when Catholic masses were prohibited to be held in public. For 200 years, this church served as the parish church for Catholics living in the city center.
Hartman and his family lived on the ground floor while the hidden church occupied the entire top floor of the canal house and the two houses behind it. Worshippers had to climb narrow staircases to get to the church.
A good place to go to learn about the city of Amsterdam is Amsterdam Museum. Located in the city centre, the story of the Dutch capital is re-told through exhibits arranged in chronological order on three floors of the museum.
It covers Amsterdam at the earliest developments, growth in the Golden Age, the social and economic aspects and the diverse culture of the city inhabitants. They even have exhibits on prostitution, marijuana as well as the Ajax football club.
Anne Frank Huis (Anne Frank House) is another must visit museum in Amsterdam. In fact long lines are a common sight at this museum. To avoid the long queue, it’s best to go early in the day or late afternoon. One can also buy ticket online (www.annefrank.org) and select the many time slots available. Print the tickets and just turn up at the time slot booked and get in through a separate entrance, avoiding the long lines.
This house at Prinsengracht 263 is the hiding place of Anne Frank and her family during the Nazi occupation of Amsterdam in World War II. It is in this house that Anne wrote her diary. For more than 2 years they lived secretly in the annex before they were betrayed and sent to different concentration camps. Only Otto Frank, Anne’s father survived the war. Anne’s original diary and notebooks are displayed in this museum.
Be warned though, some of the stairs are very steep and narrow and once you are in the house you have to continue up the stairs as there is no other exit. The exhibits and stories told in this museum are really moving and some might be upset and sadden by them.
5 minutes walk from Anne Frank House is the world’s one and only Woonboot Museum (Houseboat Museum). As Netherlands is a low-lying country, with about 20% of its area located below sea level, it’s not surprising to find canals throughout the country. In Amsterdam alone, there are 160 canals. Due to this, there are still over 10,000 houseboats in Netherlands, 2,500 in Amsterdam alone.
The Houseboat Museum was created in 1997 by Vincent van Loon, a houseboat resident. He converted a 1914 freighter, Hendrika Maria into a houseboat in 1960s before turning it into a museum.
In this world’s only Houseboat Museum, visitors can see for themselves what it’s like to live on a boat. It’s amazing how such limited space in a small vessel can be turned into living quarters that include a living room, playroom, sleeping bunks, kitchen and bathroom.