The Best Museums in Amsterdam

By Jon Price

Culture comes in all shapes and sizes in Amsterdam. Whether you’re looking for artworks by revered masters, time capsules from the Second World War or a glimpse into a shady section of society, this is a city that has it all. These are the museums that you should miss at your peril…

Art Attack

Reopened in 2013 following a decade-long refurbishment project which cost upwards of $400 million, the Rijksmuseum is Amsterdam’s answer to the Louvre – a grand gallery packed wall-to-wall with more than 8,000 artistic and historic masterpieces.

Visitors flock here from all around the world to admire Rembrandt’s ‘The Night Watch’, alongside stunning Golden Age paintings dating from the Middle Ages. Don’t miss the iconic works by the Dutch Masters, including Johannes Vermeer and Frans Hals. If you’re a real art aficionado, a private guided tour led by an expert is a must.

Seeing Red

Described as the world’s ‘first and only’ museum of prostitution and housed in a former brothel, this saucy and scandalous museum is aptly located in the heart of Amsterdam’s historic Red Light District. It offers a portal into one of the weirder aspects of the city’s fabric and its relaxed attitudes to adult entertainment and sex work. Step inside to discover how De Wallen - or the Red Light District as it’s known - first came into being in 1385, learn all of the industry’s secrets and hear first-hand stories of sex, crime and even murder. Completely unique to the city, the museum also contains reconstructions of both period and modern-day rooms, as well as a rather interesting Lost and Found collection…

Marvel at microbes

Just a stone’s throw away from the city zoo is arguably Amsterdam’s strangest cultural addresses. Micropia is a one-of-a-kind museum dedicated to microbes and aimed squarely at those who, er, are keen to get up close and personal with friendly and unfriendly bacteria.

First opened in 2014 by Queen Maxima of the Netherlands, this microbiological meeting place encourages visitors to look deep into petri dishes filled with all manner of magnificent microorganisms. Elsewhere there’s a sobering exhibit on how bacteria affects food after its use-by dates while younger visitors are also well-catered for and invited to collect stamps of their favourite microbes by tracking down each one and printing it onto a cardboard cut-out of a petri dish.

The man behind the legend

Van Gogh is truly one of the art world’s great enigmas. As one of the 20th century’s most prolific artists, he painted masterpieces as Almond Blossom, Sunflowers and The Potato Eaters – all three of which are on display here alongside several of the Dutch artist’s beguiling self-portraits.

Amsterdam’s brilliant Van Gogh Museum is an art lovers’ paradise, but those with a little more cultural curiosity should take the opportunity to follow in the great painter’s footsteps as part of a specially tailored Van Gogh tour taking in all of the artist’s Amsterdam influences, experiences and masterworks in one go. You’ll even get to learn why he chopped off his own ear and the mystery surrounding his death…

Wartime Secrets

No trip to Amsterdam is complete without a visit to the Anne Frank House – a city landmark that, throughout the 1940s, played centre stage to one of the most heart-wrenching personal accounts of what life was like during the Nazi occupation of Holland. In 2019, this fabled museum attracted an astonishing 1.3 million visitors, and with the tales these walls have to tell, it’s not hard to see why. Anne Frank’s ‘The Diary of a Young Girl’ has touched hearts for generations, but this interactive museum offers visitors the chance to experience Anne’s gruelling tale through photos, videos, and original items dotted throughout the very same building at Prinsengracht 263 where Anne’s family first went into hiding in July 1942. Not for the faint of heart.

MakeMyDay offers unique and handpicked experiences and tours in cities around the globe, including Amsterdam.

Image credit: Prawny at Pixabay.