Whilst we were in Amsterdam, we got to see and do a lot. I couldn’t possibly blog about every activity we did because it would take me forever but also, I’m not ego-maniacal enough to think every detail was that interesting (yet – there’s still time for this head to grow!) So in this post, I’m cutting to the chase and giving you a rundown of the top three museums in Amsterdam to visit for a taste of Dutch culture and history. Every museum we visited was architecturally stunning and packed full of everything from interactive exhibits to walking tours. For hours of learning and exploring, you should definitely pop into one these….
- Rijksmuseum (The Dutch National Museum)
As one of the biggest museums in Amsterdam, it’s also one of the most architecturally impressive.
The museum offers an overview of Dutch art and history from the Middle Ages right up to contemporary times. They also work to conserve and restore items of historical importance, as well as funding research and publications about historical objects.
One highlight was the historic research library.
Established in 1885, it’s the largest public art history library in the Netherlands containing over 400,000 volumes! The library is open to the public and it’s a well-respected space. When we went in, you could have heard a pin drop. You also felt like you were stepping back about a 100 years as the library has retained many of its classical features. Definitely a stunning place for study.
Another highlight was seeing the most famous Dutch artists being represented – there were collections from Rembrandt and van Gogh, to name just a few.
You could definitely tell where Rembrandt’s most famous painting was… because you could barely see it! The crowds of people surrounding it was a sight to behold!
We did eventually get up-close to the piece – my photo really doesn’t do the artistic majesty of the the painting justice. This painting was renowned for it’s use of light and dark – both subtleties are not observable in my badly taken photo (just Google it!).
2. The Van Gogh museum (does what is says on the tin!)
Although you can see pieces from van Gogh’s art collection in Rijksmuseum, nothing can quite beat going to the van Gogh museum which has the most extensive collection of his works in the world. When we visited, we were a little concerned about even getting into the museum. We knew it was so popular that there was often a very long line snaking down the street to just purchase an admission ticket. Thankfully, the museum had started a new system of issuing online tickets so you could prebook tickets and a time-slot to visit the museum in – no more waiting around for hours to get in!
The museum also has a strict no photo’s policy for most of the exhibits so photos are lacking but I must admit, it was nice to be completely immersed and not viewing things behind a lens. The exhibits are dedicated to educating the public about van Gogh’s turbulent and young life, how he evolved his art style into the distinctive brushstrokes we all recognise today and what the museum do to preserve his legacy. It’s a fascinating journey into the life of an intriguing man, all laid out over three floors worth of a building. I personally had no idea that van Gogh had an art style that was different to the one we all know him for today.
Near the end, there is exhibit space dedicated to showcasing new artists and here, I was able to take some photos of some truly beautiful work.
Located in the slightly sleepier outskirts of Amsterdam central, this museum is well worth extracting yourself from the inner city. Hermitage Amsterdam has links with other museums in Amsterdam and often houses collections from them as well as from their partner museum in St. Petersburg. Their mission is to use art and history to inspire modern thinkers – mission accomplished!
I ended up visiting Hermitage alone because my partner was poorly. Despite being solo, I was in good company with my trust audio-guide, the three hours I was there flew by…
One of the coolest things about the museum was how it really bought history to life through videos and interactive displays. I’d heard so much about the Dutch Golden Age and the bustling and thriving port that is largely responsible for the city’s successes today so I was really eager to visit the Panorama room. This had a video timelapse of the city so you could see before your very own eyes how things had developed over time.
Hermitage was an excellent place to learn about Dutch democracy and how this had also evolved right up to the present day. There was an impressive gallery featuring portraits of influential Dutchmen and women.
There are of course many other fantastic museums to visit in the Netherlands but I really don’t think these can be beat as the top three. If you can think of any, drop me a comment!