Amsterdam museums

By Marilyn Hill
This item appears on page 15 of the April 2014 issue.

I visited many of Amsterdam’s more than 50 museums during my Sept. 5-16, 2013, visit. A list of museums can be found on the “I amsterdam City Card” map, which you can buy for 2.50 (near $3.50) at the information booth in front of Centraal Station. The map is good and includes ferry routes.

Most of the museums I visited were in or near the Jordaan district. The eight museums described below were former residences.

• An orphanage until 1975, the Amsterdam Museum (Postbus 33+31 [0] 2, 1001 AC Amsterdam, The Netherlands; phone +31 [0] 20 5231 822), near Dam Square, will tell you everything you want to know about the history of the city, beginning in the year 1000.

I visited this museum twice. It is also where I bought a Museumkaart (not the more restrictive I amsterdam City Card) for 54 ($74). Providing admission and other benefits, it looks like a credit card and is good throughout the Netherlands for a whole year. You must sign the back and write in your birthday.

It’s best to purchase the card at one of the museums less frequented so you don’t have to wait in line. Individual entry fees at museums range from 9 to 15 ($12-$20), so the card is a bargain for someone who has enough days there to really make it pay, as I did.

• I had mixed emotions about visiting the Anne Frank House (P.O. Box 730, 1000 AS Amsterdam, The Netherlands; phone +31 [0] 20 556 71 00), but I’m very glad I did. The films shown made the experience even more enlightening.

This is the only museum where the Museum Card won’t zip you right in and you have to stand in line with everybody else. The first time I tried, the line was around the block. One of the staff at the front desk told me that sometimes people wait up to three hours.

The second try, I got in in about a half hour at the side door at the left of the main entrance. I learned that if I had used my pass to make a prior reservation, I could have gone right in at the appointed time.

The Hermitage, Amsterdam (P.O. Box 11675, 1001 GR Amsterdam, The Netherlands; phone +31 [0] 20 530 74 88), one of the largest 17th-century buildings in the city, had been a nursing home for women for hundreds of years. Downstairs, the old kitchen will take you back in time. I returned for a special exhibition. 

• The Museum Ons’ Lieve Heer op Solder, or Our Lord in the Attic (Oudezijds Voorburgwal 40; phone +31 [0] 20 624 66 04), was built in 1663. At that time, it was forbidden to celebrate Mass in public, so a wealthy Catholic merchant built a secret church in the attic! Opened in 1888, it is Amsterdam’s oldest museum, aside from the Rijksmuseum.

• The Rembrandt House Museum (Jodenbreestraat 4; phone 020 520 0400) is where Rembrandt lived and painted between 1639 and 1656, during the height of his fame, until the place was finally sold because he could no longer pay his debts. The furnishings in it are accurate for the period.

• In the Royal Palace (P.O. Box 3708, 1001 AM Amsterdam; phone +31 20 620 40 60), we were able to see all of the elegant rooms on the ground floor, from the grand Magistrate’s Chamber to the former Execution Chamber, including film about the royal family.

• Tassenmuseum Hendrikje, or Museum of Bags and Purses (Herengracht 573; phone +31 [0]20 524 64 52) is located in the former residence of Amsterdam’s mayor of 1664. 

This collection of 4,000 bags (including men’s) ranges from bags that were tied to ladies’ hoop skirts all the way up to the green purse that matched Madonna’s dress for her opening in “Evita.” This was another wonderful museum I never would have chosen to see without the Museumkaart’s “free” entry.

Museum Van Loon (Keizersgracht 672; phone +31 [0] 20 624 52 55) is a wonderful depiction of an expensive canal house from the 17th-century “Golden Age.” It was built in 1672 by the family of William van Loon, who in 1602 cofounded the Dutch East India Company. The opulent furnishings remain pretty much the same today. There is a beautiful formal garden and a charming coach house at the back of the property.


Portland, OR