Amsterdam’s Top 10 Museums

Amsterdam is one of our favourite cities in the world. We love its huge range of top notch cultural experiences. When we lived in Amsterdam, we filled our weekends visiting the latest exhibitions. Curious which museum we like the most? Continue reading! And let us know what you think in the comments.

10. Ons’ lieve Heer op Solder

Ons lieve Heer op Solder
Ons lieve Heer op Solder

Ons’ lieve Heer op Solder (Our lord in the attic) houses in a 1630 canal house. The owner converted the top floors into a hidden/secret church (schuilkerk) in the 1660s. Despite the freedom of thought in the Dutch Republic at that time, there was no real religious freedom. Dutch citizens were supposed to be Reformed Protestants. The Dutch Republic tolerated other Christian religions, but they could not practice in public. Hence the need for hidden churches, although in reality they were a public secret.

This museum gives insight into that period of Dutch religious history. It’s a pretty building and the church itself is nice and intimate. Located in the red-light district, it’s a good change from the drinking and smoking tourism.

Go here if you want to know more about Dutch religious history or see another site to the red-light district.

9. Rembrandt House museum

The Rembrandt House museum was the house of the famous Dutch painter between 1639 and 1658. In 1658 Rembrandt went bankrupt and this house and his belongings were auctioned off. Thanks to that auction’s list, we know how it looked and what objects he had. This list made it possible to restore the house back into its original state and fill it with much of its original objects.

The museum provides a window into the life of the painter. There are no Rembrandt paintings here. But there are some paintings by his teachers and students. The museum also has a large collection of Rembrandt’s etchings.

Go here if you want to know more about Rembrandt and learn some context and background to many of his works. If you’re looking for his famous paintings, go to the ‘Rijksmuseum’.
*Or go to the Hermitage which has a big exposition of Rembrandt’s work from the Russian state collection.

8. Museum van Loon

Van Loon
Museum van Loon

Museum van Loon is a canal house museum which is obviously housed in a canal house. This house was built in 1672 and its first occupant was the Dutch painter ‘Ferdinand Bol’. Various wealthy families lived here until Hendrik van Loon bought the house for his son in 1884. This family gives its name to the museum and descendants of the family lived here until it became a museum in 1960. When they restored it back into its 18th century splendour.

Go here if you want a view into the lives of the wealthy merchants of the Dutch Republic. There was a time when a most of the houses would have looked very much like this one. Alternatively, go to the Museum Willet-Holthuysen which provides an almost similar experience.

7. Hermitage


The Hermitage Amsterdam is the Dutch branch of the world-famous Hermitage museum in Saint Petersburg, Russia. The museum houses in the ‘Amstelhof’, a former retirement home for elderly women. Amstelhof opened in 1682 and served as a retirement home until 2007. Part of this history is also on display in the museum. The museum hosts two or three different exhibitions per year with works from the Hermitage in Saint Petersburg.

Go here if the current exhibition has your interest. The quality of the works on display is usually very good. But be aware that ticket prices differ per exhibition and can be high.

6. Anne Frank house

The Anne Frank house is another museum in a canal house. This house was built in 1635 and served as the office of Anne Frank’s father Otto Frank company from December 1940. The family went into hiding here from July 1942 until their betrayal in August 1944.

The Nazis deported the family to Auschwitz, where they separated the women from the men. Anne’s mother died from starvation in Auschwitz, saving all her food for her daughters. In October 1944 Anne and her sister were relocated to Bergen-Belsen. Here they both died somewhere early in 1945, probably from Typhoid. Otto Frank survived the war and would go on to publish Anne’s diary.

The house has been restored to show the situation during their hiding. The museum added the next-door house to allow more visitors to enter and have extra exhibition space. With over a million visitors per year, expect to stand in line, so go either early or at the end of the day.

Go here if you want to know more about World War II in the Netherlands, the plights of its Jewish citizens and Anne Frank and her family in specific. It was here that she started writing ‘Diary of a young girl’ when only 13 years old. This diary still inspires and touches people all over the world.

5. Huis Marseille

Huis Marseille is the oldest photography museum in the Netherlands. It houses in two canal houses and has one room restored in Louis XIV style. There are several different exhibitions throughout the year. The focus is on documentary photography.

Go here if you love photography. It’s less crowded than FOAM and the exhibition have a more natural flow to them. The topics of the exhibitions tend to be more political relevant.

5. Foam


Foam is Amsterdam’s’ second photography museum. It’s also housed in a canal house on the Keizersgracht so its’s easy to combine with Huis Marseille. Foam tries to attract bigger crowds with household names. Often has great retrospectives of famous photographers. These exhibitions tend to focus more on glamour and portraits of famous people. Usually there are four different exhibitions on at the same time. Also with attention for upcoming photographers.

Go here if you like photography and have an interest in more main stream art. The museum is a bit of a maze, so it can be hard to follow the flow of the exhibitions. The small rooms can feel crowded, especially on weekends and holidays.

Both Foam and Huis Marseille have their strengths and we recommend visiting both. But if you are strapped for time or on a tight budget, see what’s on where and pick what interest you most.

3. Stedelijk Museum


The Stedelijk Museum (Municipal museum) is the best modern art museum in the Netherlands. It has great works by Cezanne, van Gogh, Malevich and Mondrian and some good pop-art and CoBrA works. Yet, mismanagement and housing problems plagued the museum since the 2000s. It closed for almost a decade and failed to make an impact since its reopening. The museum leans on its previous fame and success too much. A recent remodeling of the collection and the interior hasn’t improved the situation.

Go here if you like modern art. The period from 1880 to 1980 is well covered and there are various gems on display.

2. Rijksmuseum

The Rijksmuseum (National museum) predates its current building and was founded in 1800. It moved to this dedicated building, designed by Pierre Cuypers in 1885. Cuypers also designed the central station which has a very similar style. The museum building was completely restored in the first decade of the 20th century. Now the building is an attraction on its own. The museum has re-emerged as the most popular museum in the Netherlands, drawing over 2 million visitors yearly.


The Rijksmuseum covers the complete Dutch history. It also includes art from its former colonies and trading contacts. The main draw of the museum is its ‘Golden Century’ collection of Dutch art from the 17th Century. Dutch masters like Rembrandt, Frans Hals and Vermeer form just the basis of an exhaustive collection.

Go here for the Rembrandt’s and the 17th Century masterpieces. And don’t forget the Asian wing which is also very interesting. Skip the 19th century collection unless you are particularly interested in that period. That part of the collection is not as strong as the rest.

1. Van Gogh museum

The Van Gogh Museum is the one must see museum in Amsterdam. If you have only time for one museum, go here. It is the best artist dedicated museum in the world. On display are top quality pieces from Van Gogh covering his entire professional career. The works of art are combined with his letters to give a personal context to the works and form a better connection with the artist.

The collection is expanded with works by artists who inspired Van Gogh like Delacroix and Millet. There are also works by artists with whom he worked, like Cezanne. And the museum shows artists who he inspired like Van Dongen.

Visit this museum if you have even a remote interest in art.

If you liked this article also read our overview of modern art in Japan or our top 5 museums in Brussels.

Top 10 museums Amsterdam

Five days in Tokyo | Nature in the city

This day in Tokyo is one of nature, this may seem surprising in one of the biggest cities of the world, but there are a lot of green spaces in Tokyo when you look for it. We will also visit the Mori art Museum for some great contemporary Japanese art and the best panoramic view of Tokyo. The neighbourhoods were visiting this day are also excellent for shopping, so if this is something you like, make sure to bring enough excess baggage space.

Shinjuku Gyoen

Shinjuku Gyoen

We start the day in Shinjuku Gyoen. The great size of Shinjuku Gyoen makes it a great place to escape the bustling city scape. It interestingly combines three forms of gardens. One part is dedicated to the traditional Japanese Garden. Another to the French formal garden. Elements of this style are a geometric plan, constrained and trimmed vegetation to demonstrate the mastery of man over nature. Another element is a terrace overlooking the garden, so you can get an overview of the design. The third part is dedicated to the English landscape garden, this style is known for its rolling grounds and big patches of grass against a woodland background with some big centrepiece trees. When you’re done exploring the garden, you can either head over to nearby Shinjuku for some shopping or continue straight to the Meiji shrine.

Shinjuku shopping

Shinjuku ward is huge and you can shop for days if you would like. The area around Shinjuku station has a cluster of many brands and shops and is a good option for a short, focused shopping trip. If you want your shopping to be more of an experience head over to Harajuku station and go down Takeshita-dori. It’s as much a shopping as a people watching experience. Just around the corner lies Jingumae where all the top brands have their flagship stores. Go there for more a more exclusive shopping experience or to watch the beautiful modern architecture of the exclusive shops.

Meiji Jingu

Meiji Jingu
Meiji Jingu

Harujaku station is also the starting point for a trip to Meji Jingu, the great imperial shrine in Tokyo. The shrine was completed in 1920 to commemorate emperor Meiji and his wife empress Shōken, whose return to power is marked as the Meiji Restoration. Under his leadership Japan opened towards the outer world and started on a path of rapid industrialisation and modernisation.

You enter the shrine through a huge torii. The shrine is a favourite spot for traditional Japanese weddings. So, head over there in the weekend to catch a glimpse of a Japanese bride and groom. The shrine lies in a big forest with trees donated by the Japanese people. If you’re still up for more parks, head over to the next-door Yoyogi Park. On Sunday, it’s the always busy with groups of people engaging in their different hobbies like martial arts, cosplay and Japanese rock.

Mori Art Museum

Tokyo by night

For the perfect panoramic view of Tokyo and some great contemporary art, head over to the Mori Art Museum. This art museum has a collection of contemporary art from Japan and Asia. It also hosts many exhibitions of other contemporary art. The museum has long opening hours, it’s open until 22h every day except Tuesdays, so it’s also ideal as an evening activity. When you arrive at the building where the museum is housed, you’re greeted by a huge spider created by Louise Bourgeois.

Tokyo City View

Via the top floor of the building you can gain access to the outdoor panorama deck of Tokyo City View. Here you have the best unhindered views of Tokyo since you’re not behind glass.

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Imperial Shrine of Yasukuni

Five days in Tokyo | War, art, tech and anime

This day in Tokyo brings us to Yasukuni shrine, Yūshūkan war museum, the National Museum of Modern Art Tokyo, Mitsui Memorial Museum and Akihabara neighbourhood. As many of the sites for this day are indoors, this itinerary is ideal for rainy or particular hot days. The second world war and its aftermath in Japan is main theme of the day. From the controversial Yasukuni shrine and its adjecent war museum to Akihabara which started out as an illegal market in post-war Japan.

Imperial Shrine of Yasukuni

We start the day at the most controversial shrine of Japan, the Imperial Shrine of Yasukuni. This shrine commemorates those who died in the service of the Empire of Japan during wars from 1867–1951. Among the enshrined are various convicted war criminals. It gives an interesting insight into the way Japan copes with its history as an aggressor during the 20th century.


Kamikaze plane

The war museum Yūshūkan is located next to the Imperial Shrine of Yasukuni. This museum adds to the controversy of the place because it is seen by many to give an apologetic and revisionist vision of the events leading up to the second world war and the war itself. It’s good to get your own preconceptions challenged and travelling is an ideal way to do this. As an historian with a particular interest in the time period it provided me with views I had not encountered before.



From the war museum, it’s a short and pleasant walk through the Kitanomaru park to our next stop. In the park are several museums and the impressive Budokan, home of the Japanese martial arts. When there are no concerts or events you can freely watch some trainings or tournaments there. At the end of the park lies the National Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo (MOMAT). This is a great museum for discovering Japanese modern art. Especially interesting are the artistic responses to the second world war from several Japanese artists.

Imperial Palace

From the museum, you can partly overlook the Imperial Gardens and the Imperial Palace. The Palace is off limits but the East Gardens can be visited, there are limited places available, you can book ahead online or call the imperial household to see if they have places available that day.



Akihabara is the main area to go to for shopping electronics and experience ‘otaku’ culture. Whether it’s maid cafes, anime shops or video game parlours. Lights are flashing, billboards are shining bright and trucks with huge displays are driving around promoting shows or new music albums. If you’re hypersensitive to noise or light, then this isn’t a place for you.

If you are looking for any manga, anime, sci-fi or fantasy related materials, head over to Radio Kaikan for seven floors of separate shops. Here you can buy figurines, cards, dvd’s, posters and everything else.

For one of the biggest electronics shop in the world go to Yodobashi Akiba. Here you’ll find the widest selection of electronica available spread out over nine floors. Head over to the massage chair section to get a free full body massage and be reenergized for some more shopping.

If you’re looking for cheap souvenirs or something random go to Don Quijote. Here you can buy almost everything from food to X-rated costumes.

Mitsui Memorial Museum


When you’re done shopping head over to the Mitsui Memorial Museum. This private museum of the Mitsui group houses great Japanese and Asian art. One of the highlights of the museum is a detailed reconstruction of the interior of the Joan tea ceremony room. The museum has continuously changing exhibitions on national treasures from different shrines, temples and other Japanese cultural heritage sites, highlighting different Japanese cultural and historical periods.

Next to the museum is Tokyo’s oldest and most prestigious department store, Mitsukoshi. Go there for some high fashion shopping and the excellent food delicacies available in the basement.

Heading down the road towards the water you reach Nihombashi, this is the centre of Tokyo and the place from where all distances in Japan are calculated. Sadly the iconic red-lacquered bridge was already replaced by a stone one at the beginning of the 20th Century. Nowadays this bridge is overlapped by several sections of highways making it far less photogenic than in the past.

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5 days in Tokyo