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One of the best parts of visiting Amsterdam is to visit the many museums in Amsterdam. As an Amsterdam resident, I had the Museumkaart, which gave me access to majority of the museums in Amsterdam (as well as the rest of the Netherlands), which meant that I’d often take an afternoon to explore a museum.
I hope that I can inspire you to visit some of my favorite museums in Amsterdam. I also include some advice about what ‘museums‘ in Amsterdam to avoid. (I put this in quotes as some claim to be museums, however I truly think that you can skip them as they’re bonafide tourist traps.)
I’ll first go into the best museums in Amsterdam (in my opinion) with a note about who they’re suitable for and which museums in Amsterdam to skip.
Tips for visiting Amsterdam’s museums
If you’ll be visiting quite a few museums during a short period visiting Amsterdam, I recommend investing in the iAmsterdam card, which will allow you access to Amsterdam’s best museums. I’ll be noting in this guide which museums accept the iAmsterdam card. The iAmsterdam includes public transportation as well as discounts to many attractions and a free canal cruise.
If you’re living in the Netherlands, I recommend the Museumkaart, which gives you access to most Dutch museums for only sixty euros a year. Non-residents can buy a Museumkaart, however it expires after thirty days if not registered by a Dutch resident. I bought one for my parents-in-law who loved it!
The best museums in Amsterdam
Is it possible to write about museums in the Netherlands without mentioning the world famous Rijksmuseum? The Rijksmusuem was actually started in the Hague, but moved to Amsterdam in the early 1800s. It’s the most popular museum in the Netherlands and one of the best art museums to visit in the Netherlands without question.
The Rijksmuseum focuses on the culture and history of the Netherlands although their collection of Dutch masters is particularly notable. If you’re not into the Dutch masters (like my significant other), you’ll still find plenty to see in the Rijksmuseum, including small collection of modern art, intricate miniature dollhouses, fashion, Asian art, antique ships, and stunning Delftware. The museum is quite sizable, so if you only have a couple hours, check the floor plan to figure out which parts of the Rijksmuseum you’ll be focusing on.
The Rijksmuseum is free with a Museumkaart and the iAmsterdam museum card. If you buy your ticket in advance online, you can skip the line! Admission (2018) costs 17.50 euros although youth under 18 get into the Rijksmuseum for free.
Anne Frank House & Museum
Anne Frank’s House is a must-see for any visitor of Amsterdam. Whether or not you’ve read her diary, the museum is incredibly moving. I visited with a friend who had never read her diary prior to visiting the Anne Frank House yet was incredibly moved by Anne’s story. For me, seeing the actual attic made it even more vivid. (Maybe bring some tissues.)
Photos aren’t allowed inside the Anne Frank Museum. To get tickets to the Anne Frank House, you’ll need to purchase them online about two months ahead. If you don’t luck out, you can try your luck waiting in line. The morning is reserved for those who already have tickets while the afternoon and evening is reserved for people without tickets. I recommend going in the evening.
The Anne Frank House is free to visit with a museumkaart, however you must reserve ahead. Tickets cost 10 euros for adults and there is no discount with an iAmsterdam card.
Van Gogh Museum
The Van Gogh is one of the best museums in Amsterdam for Impressionist lovers although I tend to shy on the side that it’s a bit overrated given that the Van Gogh is actually quite small compared to other museums and not all of Van Gogh’s famous pieces are in the museum (like I expected). What I did appreciate is the spacious layout in the Van Gogh museum, so despite the crowds, you can feel like you’re appreciating Van Gogh’s work without battling the crowds. Similarly, I liked learning more about Van Gogh’s life history.
The line at the Van Gogh museum can be quite sizable, consider heading to the museum on Friday or Saturday night when the museum is open until 9pm to avoid the crowds. You can buy your tickets in advance online.
Ons’ Lieve Heer op Solder
Ons’ Lieve Heer op Solder is one of my favorite museums in Amsterdam without question. As a history geek, there’s nothing like entering the secret church in the attic, which used to be common within Amsterdam within the Golden Age. Although this often shocks people who don’t know about Dutch history, non-Protestants were not allowed to worship openly in the Netherlands.
One of the houses sits on one of Amsterdam’s loveliest canals. (The museum is actually made of three houses that were combined in order to ensure there was enough space for the church in the attic.) The views over Amsterdam are great and I love that the house has been set up to be as ‘original’ as it would have been during the Golden Age. Never crowded and perfect if you love history!
Cost (2018): 11 euros for adults and reduced rates for children. Free with the Stadspas, iAmsterdam card, and Museumkaart. Admission includes free audio tour.
The Stedelijk Museum is one of my favorite modern art museums in the Netherlands. It always has interesting, thought-provoking, and different exhibits. Definitely check the exhibition list, but I always enjoy seeing work from Koons, De Kooning, Kandinsky, and Warhol within its walls. There’s nothing like spending an afternoon at the Stedelijk before sitting out on museumplein with a picnic.
Admission to the Stedelijk Museum can be a bit steep at 17.50 per adult, but it’s free to enter with a museumkaart, the iAmsterdam card, and the Holland pass. Children are free.
As someone interested in photography, I absolutely love FOAM. Every time that i visit the FOAM museum, I’m inspired by the creativity and thoughtfulness of photographers. The museum does a great job of letting the work speak for itself. It’s a small museum, but you’ll be surprised how much time that you can spend inside. I usually spend at least four hours inside and it was truly special to visit FOAM for one of their opening exhibitions.
Tickets are 11 euros per adult although those with a museumkaart, Holland Pass, or iAmsterdam card get in for free.
Museum Van Loon
This historical home and museum is a delightful place to spend the afternoon. It’s definitely one of the best lesser known museums in Amsterdam and it’s especially appealing if you’re a cat lover… The home itself is beautifully decorated with stunning views of Keizersgracht. More notably, it has expertly manicured garden that is often not too crowded along with a carriage house with a cafe. My favorite part is the friendly neighborhood cat that makes his way into the garden (and all the hearts of the staff).
Tickets cost 9 euros for adults although entry is free with a Museumkaart or iAmsterdam pass.
Joods Historisch Museum
One of my favorite museums in Amsterdam is the Jewish Historical Museum. For those interested in history and religion, it’s fascinating to learn about Dutch Jews and their role in Dutch society. The museum serves as a living museum as services are still held at the Portuguese Synagogue. The Portuguese Synagogue is a stunning building dating back to the 1600s and entering this beautiful building is always one of my favorite parts of visiting. (I especially love the lamps.)
Admission to the Jewish Historical Museum costs 15 euros for adults although admission is free with a Museumkaart, iAmsterdam card, and Holland Pass. I strongly recommend trying to go for one of their Candlelit concerts that are held each month for a few euros.
The Dutch Resistance Museum is an amazing testament to human courage. Although people know Anne Frank’s story so well, there were so many heroes in the Netherlands who tried to save their fellow human being. You can learn their stories and learn about Dutch history. The Dutch Resistance Museum was named the best historical museum in the Netherlands, so if you have a spare afternoon, why not?
Admission to the museum costs 11 euros for adults. Admission is free with the iAmsterdam card and the Museumkaart.
This canal house that was left as a museum is full of cat related art and cats. Surprise? It’s pretty small, so you can maybe spend 1-2 hours here although slightly longer… if the one of the cats falls asleep on your lap. I find the Kattenkabinet a bit expensive given how small the museum is, but it’s still delightful.
Tickets cost seven euros. They do not accept museumkaarts or iAmsterdam cards. You can pay with card or cash.
I put off going to the Scheepvaartmuseum (the National Maritime Museum) for a while as I’m not really into ships and I thought it was for children. I really regretted not coming here sooner as I really learned a lot about ships although my favorite part of the museum was the map room. I really enjoyed the 18th century replica of a ship, which allowed me to really imagine what life was on a ship, and the golden royal ship. (Go outside to find out!) It’s a great way to spend an afternoon geeking out.
The museum has done a fantastic job with making interactive exhibits that allow you look at their pieces up close without damaging the rare maps. (It’s a bit funny how hilariously bad these approximations are from what they turned out to be. Imagine mermaids floating in the sea.)
Tickets cost 16 euros for adults although you can enter for free with your museumkaart, the iAmsterdam card, and the Holland pass.
Amsterdam museums/attractions to skip….
Some of these attractions brand themselves as museums, so let’s clear this up ASAP. I feel kind of bad when a lot of my visiting friends head to one of these places as there’s far more authentic places in Amsterdam that are considerably cheaper. There’s so many off the beaten path things to do in Amsterdam…so skip these. 😉
Sex Museum (Venustempel)
The Venustempel is actually the oldest sex museum in the world. You can see sex illustrations through the ages although it’s really more of an erotic collection. If you’re interested in sex, I’d recommend heading straight to the Red Light District to see the friendly ladies in the window. Free and something you won’t see in most places. 😉
Ripley’s Believe or not
I really don’t get why people visit Ripley’s Believe or Not. A lot of the items are fakes, so instead of seeing fake items, consider going to one of Amsterdam’s more affordable and quirky museums above. They’ll be cheaper as Ripley’s in Amsterdam costs nearly 20 euros and there’s often a sizable line….
As someone who loves the Dutch Tulips, I always felt like this small “museum” was a ripoff as you can easily read about tulips in many books about Amsterdam and go to the Dutch tulips fields in the right season instead. Better yet, you can head to the Bloemenmarkt (Amsterdam’s Floating Flower Market) to admire the many stunning Dutch tulips that you can bring home with you.
Another tourist trap is the Erotic Museum. This Amsterdam “museum” is more for kicks with erotic sketches, silly phallic things, and peep show. It’s a favorite of those visiting with hen parties, but once again, I’d say to visit the Red Light District where you’ll also find lots of fun shops to step into. 😉
I’ve been to Madam Tussaud’s and although it’s cool the first time. I still recommend taking advantage of your trip to Amsterdam to visit something that you can’t do anywhere else, such as visiting a museum full of cat art, seeing the Dutch masters, or exploring a secret attic church.
Doesn’t every city have a Torture Museum? As much as I love dark history, you can go to a torture museum in most European cities for a fraction of the cost of the Torture Museum.
Skip this museum with long lines and instead visit Museum de Gevangenpoort in the Hague, which has the biggest collection of instruments of punishment and torture in the Netherlands. It’s a great museum just across the Binnenhof that will satisfy your itch for the dark side, I promise. (Plus, the Hague is a great day trip from Amsterdam!)
If you want to learn about Cheese, you can learn about it in SO many places in the Netherlands and Amsterdam. The cheese museum is often discussed as if it’s an actual museum, but it’s a cheese shop geared towards tourists with higher prices than normal ones.
A pro tip is that a typical Dutch cheese shop (not geared towards tourists) will stock many protected cheeses from all around the Netherlands and the shop keepers often know a lot about the cheeses. Instead, consider taking a half day trip to one of the authentic Dutch cheese markets in the Netherlands.