I am a total museum addict. I love theatres, cinemas, comedy clubs, sport stadiums and other public spaces too, but I especially love museums the most. Nothing beats visiting a good museum and seeing a well presented exhibition. In a former life, I used to work on museum projects across France before moving to Amsterdam. France, and particularly Paris has some fantastic museums and I have visited a lot of them. On arriving in Amsterdam, I knew I would not have the same scope for museum visits. I was wrong. There are some absolute gems in Amsterdam and here are my favourite museums in Amsterdam. I hope that when they re-open, we can all safely get more culture in our lives.
My Favourite Museums in Amsterdam
There are many museums I often frequent, but decided to write about the 10 museums I absolutely love to visit. There are many not on this list, that deserve a mention, but that is for another article. Be sure to tell me what your favourite museums are in Amsterdam.
10 Museums in Amsterdam I Love to Visit
Yes, there are fabulous museums in other Dutch cities too. In fact, my favourite museum in The Netherlands is not even in Amsterdam. It is The Mauritshuis in The Hague. The Amsterdam museum scene was greatly boosted in recent years by several notable events. The re-opening of the Rijksmuseum after so many years and the re-looking for the Stedelijk. In 2009, the Hermitage opened. Then there is the addition of new players such as the MOCO. Over the years, I have seen many world class exhibitions in different museums across the city. These cultural distractions further dilute the pull of Amsterdam as ‘Sin City’. Having ready access to so much culture matters, especially at times like these when all the museums are closed. Follow the links to the websites of the different museums. Some of them have brilliant online content to see and enjoy.
So here are my favourite museums in Amsterdam (not in any particular order, I love them all)
What a place to open a museum, slap bang right on Museumplein. It makes perfect sense! Back in 2016, the MOCO opened its doors to the public. The MO-CO (MOdern and COntemporary), gave lots of people direct access to the interesting works by the well known artist Banksy. This was a massive draw and very different from any other museum in Amsterdam. The museum’s brilliant line says it all: “where the rockstars of art hang out!”. The exhibitions over the years have all been brilliant and eye opening. You can see artworks by the likes of Basquiat, Keith Haring and many other famous artists. The real bonus though is discovering all the less well known artists that the MOCO shines a light on. Right now, the Studio Irma installation in the basement is my all time favourite art work that I have seen in Amsterdam.
The National Maritime Museum
This is the real curve ball surprise in the selection. I have never been a fan of ships, sailing, naval history or anything of that ilk. However, I absolutely love going to this museum. This is partly due to the impressive building and the open spaces it has inside. It’s beautiful. The other reason is the brilliant exhibitions. The current photo exhibition about rising water levels in the world is an object lesson of the need to be concerned about the climate. The Tale of the Whale is a great exhibition and the kids will love it. If you have not visited, I really recommend you have a look and book a visit. You’ll be glad you did.
Van Gogh Museum
Have you heard of this one? I’m being facetious, of course you have. Here is another Amsterdam museum that had a make over in recent years. As you enter, you have an excellent view of the Rijksmuseum as you go down into the central downstairs area of the museum. At the bottom, turn left and you can go into the permanent exhibition and see the very best creations of Van Gogh. The world’s premier collection of Van Gogh artworks, letters and insights into the life and works of the artist.
Turn right and you can go into the wonderful space that houses the temporary exhibitions. Recent exhibitions were The Artist in the Picture or the Millet-Van Gogh one. Both were stunning. The main reason I love returning to this museum all year long is that it simply makes me feel very happy. I learn something new about the artist and his works every time I go. Tip, be the first person in the museum in the morning. Then go straight up to the top floor and enjoy having the whole place to yourself for 30 minutes. The Van Gogh Museum is my happy place.
Anne Frank House
This is an ever busy museum that is famous the world over. I have been many times with my kids and it is important that everyone does visit it. Why? Well, because it is the museum of living history, by which I mean there are people still alive that lived through the same horrors that the Frank family did. That means it is still so recent that man’s inhumanity towards other humans was so overtly occurring.
It is an amazing look into an incredible story that ended so awfully for almost all the Frank family. The diary will bring goosebumps to anyone that reads it and is full of such human warmth that it is essential reading for everyone. It is just one story that survived when all the millions and millions of other stories disappeared, never to be heard. This story survived and has had a massive effect on the lives of so many people. That is what makes the Anne Frank House an essential visit.
The Rijksmuseum, or, as I like to call it – the King of Museums. What a fantastic museum! It is massive and well worth several visits a year. This is especially true when the wonderful temporary exhibitions are on display. Yes, it closed for 10 years, but the result it a world class museum. Each and every room is just brimming with fabulous artworks and pieces of historical interest.
Of course, I am often magnetically drawn to the 17th Century room and The Nightwatch. Not only, to see the magnificence of Rambrandt, but also because I love Vermeer. In fact, I love that whole room. Again, if you enter first in the morning and rush up to this room you can have the whole place to yourself for almost 30 minutes. Happy days. Another fabulous thing about this fine establishment is that you can cycle through it and breath in the culture without stopping and that can brighten any rainy day.
This is the Amsterdam Photography Museum. In the past, I used to go from time to time. I love a beautiful photo. Then I found myself going to every new exhibition launch. I would also visit each exhibition several times. It is a perfectly formed and beautiful museum. I have seen many beautiful things there, most notably the Alex Prager’s Silver Lake Drive exhibition. My eyes were opened and my mind was blown. It is this kind of discovery that makes FOAM so brilliant. The variety and frequency of the installations in incredible. Well worth regular visits.
Verszetsmuseum – The Resistance Museum
The Resistance Museum is an under visited venue of historical importance. The museum is easy to find as directly opposite the Artis zoo. The museum feels a little ‘old’. It is not fitted with all the latest tech you find in many museums. However, that does not matter, as once you go through the museum, you will be captivated by the displays and the story they tell. It is quite bleak as the war years were really awful in The Netherlands, especially just before liberation by the Allies. There is lots to learn here and well worth taking the whole family.
Our Lord in the Attic
This museum is not enjoyed by millions of people every year. Why? Because it is in the Red Light District and most people walk straight past the museum. Wat jammer! This is one of the most amazing museums in Amsterdam, or indeed, the whole country. I have to admit it took me quite some time to discover it, but once I did I bring visitors and friends here all the time. It is like stepping back in time. You can see a hidden Catholic Church in a canal side house that dates from 1663. It is simply breathtaking and Our Lord in the Attic is a must see.
The Museum of the Canals
If you love the Amsterdam canals, then you absolutely need to visit this brilliant museum. It is located inside a beautiful building on the Herengracht. In one hour, you will learn exactly how the Amsterdam canal belt was built in the 17th century. How the builders imagined and executed the plan, effectively creating the Amsterdam we know and love today. A sequence of fantastic multimedia displays are used to tell the story of the canal belt, which all the kids will love too. Once you have done the full tour you will be amazed by how they actually build Amsterdam. The Museum of the Canals is one of my top tip visits in Amsterdam for museum lovers.
Wow, what a stunning piece of architecture! The very distinctive bathtub shape is highly visible on the Museumplein. This isn’t quite the brand new museum it seems. It was established in 1874 and has one of the largest art collections in the world. The breathtaking new entrance it beautiful, but the best of this museum is the endlessly changing exhibitions. The selection of the years has been stunning and because of the big spaces this museum affords to the artists you can see very large exhibitions and retrospectives. The Stedelijk Museum is just a wonderful place to see some stunning art.
So there you have it, my favourite museums in Amsterdam. My top ten museum choices and why I love them. What are your favourites?
To see more Amsterdam museums, look at our handy museums guide.
If you lied then, then please read more of our local Amsterdam big articles.