Amsterdam's best museums and galleries
Want to know how the humble tulip changed the Netherlands forever or what life on a Dutch houseboat is really like? Go beyond the Rijksmuseum and other well-known attractions, and there really is a museum or gallery for absolutely everyone in Amsterdam. We've curated a collection of the best for your next visit to this truly cosmopolitan capital.
And if you want to see more of Amsterdam's top attractions, scroll to the bottom for our 24hr video guide to this beautiful city.
Comprised of six interconnected rooms, this museum provides a fascinating insight into how the arrival of the tulip shaped the modern day Netherlands. When tulips first arrived here, stock exchanges were created to buy and sell bulbs and people sold land, houses and heirlooms to invest in them, so much so that in 1634, the phrase 'tulip mania' was born! Although we’re not suggesting you go to such extremes, for a few euros you can pick up a few bulbs of your own at the museum shop.
Opening times: Every day between 10am and 6pm, apart from April 27th (King's Day) and December 25th
Price: Adults €5*, families of three or more €15, students €3
How to get there: The museum is in the city centre on the Prinsengracht, opposite the Anne Frank House
Don't miss: The fascinating (and very colourful) videos about how tulips are farmed.
This isn’t just a place for people who like luggage a lot. It’s for those who worship fervently at the arm candy altar. The founder, Hendrikje Ivo, has collected handbags and purses for thirty years. She eventually decided to put her 3,000 bags on display and today the enormous collection is a fascinating reflection of Dutch style throughout the ages, although there are items from the rest of the world too. Ever-expanding, the museum had to relocate in 2007 to a beautiful townhouse on the Herengracht canal but continues to hold a very personal, intimate feel for anyone interested in peeking inside a lifelong passion for fashion.
Opening times: Every day between 10am and 5pm, apart from January 1st April 27th (King’s Day) and Christmas Day. On Christmas Eve the museum closes at 4pm
Price: Adults €12.50, children (7-12 years) €3.50
How to get there The museum is on Herengracht, a short walk from the city centre. Alternatively, hop on tram nine or four and get off at Rembrandtplein.
Don't miss: The bag which inspired Hendrikje and Heinz Ivo to set up the museum. It’s a leather handbag which dates back to the 1820s, and which Hendrikje Ivo found during a visit to a small English village.
Located in an original shipping storehouse dating back to the Golden Age of Dutch naval trade in 1656, and built on its own artificial island on the harbour, today's Dutch Maritime Museum has plenty of historic integrity both inside and out. There’s a huge number of artefacts, but you can also discover the cramped conditions sailors endured, with a look around a detailed replica of the three-masted ship Amsterdam. For younger visitors there’s a video game-filled interactive section and a dressing room area where they can dress up as sea creatures to their heart's content. Into your history? Consider checking out the Hague on your next visit to the Netherlands with our guide to ten things to see and do in this often overlooked city.
Opening times: Every day between 10am and 5pm, apart from the 27th April (King’s Day), Christmas Day and New Year’s Day
Price: Adults €15, children (5-17 years) €7.50
How to get there: The museum is on Kattenburgerplein, a 20-minute walk from Amsterdam Central Station
Don't miss: The technical models of the ships. You don’t have to be a maritime geek to be impressed by the detail!
4. The Houseboat Museum
Let’s face it, the vast majority of us probably wouldn’t enjoy living within the cosy confines of a houseboat, but we’d jump at the chance to have a little snoop around someone else’s. Houseboat owner and museum founder Vincent van Loon was prompted to create this museum after noticing that passersby would constantly ask him about his boat. Although he no longer lives aboard the Hendrika Maria, a nose around the vessel, which has a sizeable living room, kitchen and bathroom and a skipper's quarters with a sleeping bunk, is a great way to learn about life on the sleepy Dutch canals.
Opening times: Days vary from month to month, so always check the website, but generally it’s open every day of the week between 10am and 5pm, excluding Mondays and public holidays
Price: Adults €4.50, children (5–15 years) €3.50
How to get there: The museum is on Prinsengracht, right in the city centre
Don't miss: Enjoying a drink in the boat’s lounge area – you’ll be amazed by how roomy it is, with décor reflecting a typical 1950s Dutch lounge
Expect minimalism, colour and probably a flock of local hipsters at this gallery, which is dedicated to modern art and contemporary design. There are exhibits by luminaries like Koons, Matisse, Mondrian, Picasso and Pollock and you can work your way round over 90,000 items, including video installations, sculptures, paintings and photography, journeying through movements from Abstract Expressionism to Pop Art. If it's all too exhausting, simply go and pose with a glass of bianco in the museum's stylish red and white restaurant. Love contemporary art? Take a look at our indispensable guide to the world's best street art locations.
Opening times: Every day of the year, from 10am until 6pm. On Fridays it closes at 10pm
Price: Adults €15, children (18 years and below) free
How to get there: The museum’s on Museumplein, which is just short walk from the city centre, but tram five will also get you there – get off at Van Baerlestraat
Don't miss: The exhibition of work by artist Saskia Noor van Imhoff. It runs until the beginning of May (2016). Saskia’s colourful installations feature everyday and “found” objects
Learn more about one of the world’s greatest - and most tragic - artists by joining the 1.6 million people who visit this museum every year. Van Gogh’s life and all-too-early death is explored through letters, photographs and sketches as well as some of his most famous paintings. The museum is well laid out, with the various exhibits organised into categories which each reflect a different period of his life: The Netherlands, Paris, Arles, Saint-Remy and Auvers-sur-Oise.
Opening times: Every day between 9am and 6pm, apart from Fridays, when it’s open until 10pm
Price: Adults €17, children (under 18) free
How to get there: The museum’s on Museumplein, which is just short walk from the city centre
Don't miss: The new exhibition, Easy Virtue, which explores prostitution through the eyes of Vincent van Gogh and many other well-known nineteenth century artists
Although perhaps not Amsterdam’s cheeriest attraction, the Anne Frank House is one which will stay with you, long after you’ve left its memory-touched walls. This building is where Anne lived with her family for two years, hidden away in a tiny room accessed by a secret door. Anne might be long gone, but her diary and notebooks are here for all to see, as is a selection of objects belonging to both her family and the people who helped keep her presence a secret. It’s a tough but essential stop-off for anyone visiting Amsterdam, and one which tends to get crowded, so visit later in the day and book online before you go if possible.
Opening times: Opening times vary, so consult the website, but generally it’s open from 9am until 7pm every day, apart from on Saturdays when it closes at 9pm
Price: Adults €9, children free
How to get there: The Anne Frank House is situated in the centre of Amsterdam at Prinsengracht
Don't miss: The documentary film featuring 22 famous figures including writers and actors like Emma Thompson, on how Anne's story has impacted them
This gadget-filled paradise isn’t just for children – it’s for big kids, too, with all aspects of science covered. Make giant soap bubbles in a laboratory, produce videos in the media lab or solve a murder mystery using DNA technology: you can easily spend a whole day running giddily around the corridors. The place is huge, with several cafes and a large outdoor terrace which is the perfect place for a pit stop when the sun’s shining.
Opening times: Tuesday to Sundays, between 10am and 5.30pm, excluding public holidays
Price: Adults €15, children (under 4) free
How to get there: It’s on Oosterdok on the waterfront, which is within walking distance from the city centre, but we recommend getting on bus number 22 or 48, and getting off at the Kadijksplein stop
Don't miss: The laboratory section. Don a lab coat and safety glasses and channel your inner Einstein.
Visit this palatial building for the jaw-dropping collection of art or just to pause for thought in the secluded internal courtyard. You’re unlikely to see the same exhibit more than once, because the collection is constantly being refreshed with new exhibits loaned by the original Hermitage museum in St Petersburg. Gaze at everything from grand group portraits from Golden Age names like Pickenoy to new ideas like a whole gallery dedicated to 'Outsider Art', usually made by those with no formal art education, or who use art as an expression of mental health issues. When it’s time for a breather, head to the Neva, the in-house café overlooking ornate landscaped gardens.
Opening times: Daily between 10am and 5pm, excluding public holidays.
Price: Adults €17.50, children (up to 11 years) free
How to get there: It’s on Amstel 51. It’s easy to get there on foot, but if you’re short on time, take tram nine or 14 from the city centre and get off at the Waterlooplein stop
Don't miss: Spanish Masters, the current exhibition of work (until 29 May 2016) by greats like Goya and Velázquez. Expect masterpieces galore.
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*Published August 2016. Prices correct at the time of publication but may be subject to change and/or availability.