With the world’s highest concentration of culture per capita – Amsterdam had 81 museums at last count – you might have to pace yourself to avoid a cultural overload. Luckily, several of the city’s big-hitters, like the Van Gogh Museum, Rijksmuseum and contemporary Stedelijk Museum, are conveniently clustered in the museum quarter (Museumplein). Selfie-lovers take note: the square is also home to those giant ‘I amsterdam’ letters that have graced many an Instagram feed.
Anne Frank House and De Oude Kerk (Amsterdam’s oldest building) should both be at the top of any history buff’s culture hit-list, while the futuristic Nemo Science Museum, with its interactive displays, is ideal for keeping kids entertained. Those seeking a contemporary culture fix should venture further afield to districts such as Jordaan, for independent art galleries that experiment with innovative technologies.
When it comes to the blockbuster museums, pre-book online to beat the queues. Savvy spenders looking to tick off a few cultural hotspots should consider purchasing the Amsterdam Museum Card or Amsterdam City Card, both of which offer free entry or reductions at some of the capital’s most popular museums. Struggling to make your mind up where to start? Take a look at our list…
If you’re a fan of the earless artist’s work, you’ll be in heaven at this beautifully laid out Amsterdam museum. It’s home to the world’s largest collection of Van Gogh’s paintings, including his infamous Sunflowers, as well as examples of Japanese ukiyo-e prints that inspired his work.
Don’t miss the exhibition wing, which houses temporary pieces by his contemporaries and other artists who were influenced by his work.
Need to know: The interactive multimedia guide is well worth the money – it even won a Dutch design award.
Amsterdam’s maze-like photography museum cleverly offers a well-curated selection of works across a multitude of rooms and different levels. Its adventurous exhibitions have featured work from big-hitter talents, such as August Sander and Diane Arbus, as well as up-and-coming names.
The light-filled, modern interior contrasts beautifully with the 18th-century canal building.
Need to know: The garden is a great place to enjoy some arty musings over a cup of coffee from the café.
With over 100 rooms and galleries, the legendary Rijksmuseum is always a safe bet. Over 3,000 paintings vie for your attention, including Rembrandt’s epic The Night Watch, which gets an entire room to itself. The old masters section – packed with works by Frans Hals, Johannes Vermeer and Ferdinand Bol – is least crowded in the late afternoon.
Need to know: Head to the first floor for the astonishing collection of 17th-century dollhouses (designed for grown-ups), one of which inspired Jessie Burton’s novel The Miniaturist.
This 17th-century architectural treasure was originally the city’s town hall, until 1808 when Louis Napoleon – Napoleon Bonaparte’s brother, no less – transformed it into the ornate palace you still see today.
Need to know: As it’s still used by the Royal House of the Netherlands, it’s a good idea to check opening times before going.
For a different take on the city, head to this ambitious art project that’s revitalising the Nieuw-West area of the capital. Well off the beaten tourist track, the open-air museum features over 150 eye-popping works from international graffiti artists, from Barcelona to Brazil.
Need to know: Visitors rave about the museum’s tours, which reveal the stories behind each piece.