I’m writing this post from 2020, *that year* where most of us are confined to four walls. Gloomy times call for special measures of upliftment, so I thought I’d create a round-up of the most relevant, intriguing, and History‑rich museums in Amsterdam, the city with the most museums per square meter in the world. Institutions like these have saved the day countless times for me and I hope this compilation can be of use for you, too. Save this post for your future visits in-person, and/or send it to a friend! In the meanwhile, you can always opt for a virtual tour – check my suggestions here. Without further ado, let’s dive right in.
Overview – in no specific order:
- Artis Micropia
- Embassy of The Free Mind
- Stedelijk Museum
- Huis Marselle
- De Hortus
- Oude Kerk
- Royal Palace
Do you prefer to have this guide handy on your phone? I’ve got you covered here.
All the grandmasters of the Dutch Golden Age live at the National Museum for Art & History of the Netherlands (think Rembrandt, Vermeer, & the likes.) That fact alone makes the Rijks a must‑visit for me, but there is much more to explore, including their stunning art historical bibliotheca ‑ the Cuypers Library.
2. Artis Micropia
The Museum of Microbiology of Amsterdam is a fascinating space dedicated to the invisible universe of microbes. As relevant as ever during a global pandemic, with a bonus of being accessible to both kids and science illiterates like me. As entertaining and visually striking as it is eye‑opening.
3. Embassy Of The Free Mind
Located at a 17th-century mansion in the canal belt, this knowledge center focuses on philosophy and spirituality. It is home to a library (on Hermetic Philosophy,) artworks, study rooms, a leafy inner courtyard, and offers a whole range of cultural activities. An oasis of peace full of history to tell.
4. Stedelijk Museum
Amsterdam’s Contemporary Art Museum has a permanent collection of art and design from 1880 up to 1980, including works by seminal figures like Malevich, Mondrian, or Rietveld, as well as highlights by Kusama, Goldin, or Hirst. There are temporary exhibitions too, focusing on present-day & emerging artists. All of this inside a striking building that marriages traditional to 21st-century architecture.
5. Huis Marseille
Dedicated to leading modern photography, Amsterdam’s first photography museum is located in two interconnected canal houses (with a charming courtyard) which lend themselves as elegant environments for exhibiting image and spending an inspired and tranquil afternoon.
6. De Hortus
A beloved among locals, the botanical garden dates back to the 17th century and amasses over 4,000 plant species, including a huge greenhouse with three different tropical climates. Other highlights are the Palm House and the butterfly nursery. A treat of lush greenery and exoticism in the heart of the city.
The Photography Museum of Amsterdam is the one I have frequented more often throughout the years, and that’s probably because of their emphasis in stimulating emerging artists, while also showing iconic names like like Brassaï (depicted.) The organization is very active, with events, talent calls, and a magazine dedicated to new developments on artistic visual culture. Edgy is an adjective that suits FOAM well.
The City Archives guard artifacts and photographic material showcasing stories on the city, from its origin as a small settlement along the river Amstel in the 13th century to the Golden Age, and more recent movements ‑ think hippies and Provo’s ‑ that made Amsterdam worldwide famous. This permanent collection is free of charge, but they host (paid) temporary exhibitions on the history of Amsterdam, too.
At the National Maritime Museum, you can visit a replica of a VOC ship like the ones used during the so‑called Golden Age and learn about 500 years of nautical history of the Netherlands. The 17th-century building, with its glass-roofed inner‑courtyard and open views over the Ij canal, is awe‑inspiring.
10. Oude Kerk
Dating back to the 13th century, the old church is, guess what, the oldest building in town. The monument is not only a place of worship and an architectural gem, but it also hosts an array of cultural activities such as concerts, talks, and high-profile art exhibitions.
11. Royal Palace at the Dam
Built as the town hall of the capital city, the majestic Royal Palace is now a venue for stately receptions and events. The statue of Atlas, the Greek Titan God holding the sky on his shoulders (on the upper right corner in the picture) symbolizes the central position Amsterdam occupied in the world during the Golden Ages. The marble‑covered Citizen’s Hall, inside, depicts an even more enthralling figure of Atlas presiding world maps and star charts drawn all over the floor. It justifies, in and of itself, a visit to the monument.
Located in an imposing building at the edge of Oosterpark, this museum is the place for learning about world cultures, the Dutch colonial past, and the cultural diversity the country inherited. It explores topics of identity, migration, belonging, and different social issues. Another must‑visit anno 2020.
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