What are the best museums in Amsterdam? That's almost like asking what is the best grain of sand on the beach. This city, the capital of the Netherlands, is home to the leading cultural institutions of the country. And as the center of a former trading empire, Amsterdam has found itself in possession of some priceless works of art over the years. The city's museums are some of its top attractions, and as cultural highlights, compare favorably to just about any city in the world. If you're a fan of history, Amsterdam's museums will keep you occupied no matter how long you visit for.
In fact, Amsterdam has so many museums that you'll have to be a little selective in what you choose to visit. Whether you're into maritime history, modern art, the haunting story of the Holocaust, or the still-radiant work of the Dutch Masters, you'll be in your element here.
And before you go spending a fortune at the best museums in Amsterdam, you should know that if you plan your trip right, many of the city's museums offer free entry or at least a reduced price. Therefore, some of Amsterdam's best museums are also some of the top free things to do in Amsterdam.
With such a wealth of art and history to explore, you won't want to be burdened down by heavy bags. That's why you should track down a Bounce luggage storage facility in Amsterdam to store your things while you get your culture on. Be aware that many of Amsterdam's museums don't allow heavy bags inside, and they don't always have storage lockers either. So the best thing to do is drop off your luggage at a Bounce location so that you don't need to worry about it anymore.
The granddaddy of Amsterdam museums is the stunning Rijksmuseum. One of the jewels of the city's Museum Quarter, the Rijksmuseum is the most visited museum in the Netherlands and sees foot traffic of around 2.5 million visitors per year, placing it comfortably in the top 20 most visited museums on the planet.
It's not hard to see why. The Rijksmuseum holds more than a million pieces of art, and can display up to 8000 of them at any given time. Its permanent collection displays the best of Dutch artwork, and is possibly the best place on earth to experience the work of Dutch Masters and the Dutch Golden Age.
The museum focuses on art produced between the years 1200 and 2000, and is best known for priceless works by some of the world's most famous artists. Rembrandt's colossal masterpiece The Night Watch is probably the jewel of the collection, but the museum also holds works by Vermeer, Hals, and other renowned Dutch artists.
Additionally, the Rijksmuseum displays historical artifacts from Dutch history, including the stern of the British warship HMS Royal Charles captured in the Raid on the Medway. There is also an impressive collection of Asian art, and the museum often hosts traveling exhibitions from around the world.
Van Gogh Museum
For a man who only sold one painting during his lifetime, Vincent van Gogh has become one of the most popular and celebrated artists of all time. Although van Gogh worked for much of his career in France, he was born in the Netherlands, and Amsterdam is now home to the world's largest collection of this troubled painter's art. Located in the Museum Quarter close to the Rijksmuseum, the Van Gogh Museum is another of the most popular art museums in the city and in the entire country.
As you'd expect, the galleries here are devoted to the work of Vincent van Gogh. You'll also find exhibits on how these priceless works of art were restored, and a gallery devoted to artists who both influenced van Gogh and were influenced by him. Plus, the museum has another wing that is dedicated to temporary exhibitions that visit the city from time to time. Plus, the building itself is a work of art, so it's no wonder why this is one of the most popular museums in the city. Fans of Vincent van Gogh will have already made their minds up to pay a visit to this stunning collection, but even if you don't know too much about the artist, there's no better place to start than this and see what all the fuss is about.
Anne Frank House
If you're a museum freak, you could spend days exploring some of the best Amsterdam museums without ever leaving the Museum Quarter. However, one of the most popular museums in Amsterdam isn't located in the Quarter at all. Instead, millions of tourists travel to the Prinsengracht near central Amsterdam to learn more about the Nazi occupation of the Netherlands through the story of one famous little girl.
Anne Frank's story is as tragic as it is well-known. Anne and her family were Jewish, and when Amsterdam was occupied by the Nazis during the Second World War, they were forced to go into hiding in the attic of this canal house in Amsterdam. It was while in hiding that Anne Frank wrote her famous diary which has become a classic of literature and one of the most profoundly affecting historical documents of that tragic era. Visiting the house where the Frank family lived gives you a glimpse into the fear of living under a totalitarian regime. And although the story has a sad ending, the exhibition of Anne's famous writing is a reminder of the human capacity to transcend suffering.
The Diary of Anne Frank is often used in schools to this day to teach children about the Holocaust. Therefore, the Anne Frank House can be a good place to bring kids on a trip to Amsterdam. Just be aware that the history surrounding the life of Anne Frank is quite upsetting, so it may be better for older children. If you're looking for other things to do with kids in Amsterdam, check out our guide.
For those who prefer their art a little more modern, the Stedelijk Museum is one of the best museums in Amsterdam to visit. Located in the Museum Quarter with many of the other big museums in Amsterdam, the Stedelijk is devoted to contemporary art. One of Amsterdam's top art museums, this bastion of culture displays works from the early 20th century and into the 21st. You'll see art by luminaries like Marc Chagall, Matisse, Jackson Pollock, Andy Warhol, and other renowned names in modern art. Plus, you'll also be able to discover the cutting edge of new art, and may well come away with some new favorites from this impressive collection. The permanent collection is housed in Stedelijk Base, and is the place to see the most famous items in the collection. Plus, the museum also hosts a rotating exhibition of photography, sculptures, drawings, and other forms of art from around the world, so you can always explore what's new and exciting in the art scene. Who knows? Perhaps you'll leave inspired to create some art of your own.
National Maritime Museum
Amsterdam has been a port city since its birth, and it was the trading and seafaring prowess of the Dutch that created the Dutch Golden Age and made the Netherlands both a political and cultural world power. This interesting story is told through the exhibits at the National Maritime Museum, where you can get a better sense of the history of Amsterdam and why its culture, cuisine, and even architecture look and feel the way they do.
Located at the water's edge in the center of town, the National Maritime Museum is easy to reach. The map collection is particularly interesting, containing as it does the very first map that described Magellan's voyage around the world. Plus, outside, you'll find a stunning replica of the Amsterdam, an 18th-century ship that was part of the fleet of the Dutch East India Company and regularly traveled from the Netherlands to the farthest reaches of Asia.
Museum of Prostitution
Amsterdam's red light district both attracts and repels visitors, depending on what they're interested in. But there's no denying that this is part of the city, and has been for centuries. After all, Amsterdam spent its whole life as a rowdy port, and the red light district was a central part of the culture of the town.
Amsterdam's red light district still functions the way it always has, as a neighborhood devoted to human vices including legal prostitution. However, the story of how the red light district shaped the city and how it has survived into the present day thanks to the liberal laws of the Netherlands is a fascinating one. And in a way, it's a miniature version of the history of the city itself. The Prostitution Museum is one of the quirkier Amsterdam museums, and tells the story of the world's oldest profession in this historic city. While this may not be one for the kids, this museum, located in a former brothel, will give you a better understanding of what makes the city tick. If nothing else, you'll be able to say you visited the only museum devoted to prostitution in the world.
The red light district remains one of the most vibrant areas of Amsterdam. As well as a great place to indulge in vices, it can also be an excellent place to eat, drink, and be merry. If you're looking for some of the best street food in Amsterdam, you'll probably find it here.
Rembrandt House Museum
Few places combine vice and high art better than Amsterdam. A six-minute walk from the Museum of Prostitution, you'll find the Rembrandt House. This was the home owned by the famous Dutch painter, and his studio has been preserved much the way he left it. For fans of this enigmatic artist, the Rembrandt House offers an experience totally different from seeing his work in a museum. Seeing the famous Rembrandt light pouring through the windows to illuminate the studio where the master worked is an unforgettable experience, and even if you're not the biggest fan of Rembrandt's work, you probably will be by the time you leave.
What are the best free museums in Amsterdam?
Amsterdam is many things, but cheap isn't one of them. If you find yourself running out of money in the capital of the Netherlands but still want to enjoy some culture during your visit, you can find several free museums that are well worth exploring. Check out the Multatuli Museum to learn more about the Dutch occupation of Indonesia, or The Dutch Theater to see a memorial to the thousands of Jews who were deported from here to concentration camps during the Second World War.
Which are the best museums in Downtown Amsterdam?
The Anne Frank House, the Museum of Prostitution, and the Rembrandt House are all close to central Amsterdam. All of them lie within a 20 minute walk of Amsterdam Centraal Train Station, which is the gateway to the city for most visitors.
The Museum Quarter is a little further away, at around three km or 1.8 miles from Centraal. That's still very walkable, and even easier to reach by rental bike or public transit.
Are there any cheap museums in Amsterdam?
The best way to save money on the best museums in Amsterdam is with an Amsterdam card. The Amsterdam City Card may sound expensive at €65 for 24 hours, or €85 for 48 hours. However, this handy card gives you free access to Amsterdam's public transit system. It also gives you free entry to more than 70 museums and attractions, including the Rijksmuseum, the van Gogh Museum, and Rembrandt House.
When it comes to culture, Amsterdam has as much to offer the visitor as just about any city on earth. You could spend weeks exploring the extensive collections of Amsterdam's many museums and still not exhaust everything there is to do. Even if you're not a huge museum fan, the city offers such a great variety of attractions that you're bound to find something you like. So drop off your bags at a Bounce luggage storage in Amsterdam and learn more about the art and history of the Netherlands. The spectacular exhibits in the museums of Amsterdam are bound to inspire.