Amsterdam Museums: Which Museums in Amsterdam are Must-See?

There are many Amsterdam museums and generally they are of excellent quality.

Most museums in Amsterdam are serious stuff but Amsterdam wouldn't be Amsterdam if there weren't an Amsterdam Sex Museum and a Hash Museum as well.

This page lists the museums that should be on the short list of first-time visitors. If you have special interests, however, please see our (almost) complete list of museums in Amsterdam.

Like Amsterdam as a whole, Amsterdam museums are very much accustomed to English language visitors. They all have English language signs, brochures and/or guides, and their web sites have English sections (but sometimes you'll have to a look a bit for the "English" button).

Especially during the summer and weekends, expect long waiting lines. Here's how to avoid them.

Amsterdam Art Museums

  • Rijksmuseum: 17th century art - No visit to Amsterdam is complete without a visit to the Rijksmuseum.This national museum specialises in 'Dutch Masters', paintings by famous artists like Rembrandt, Vermeer and Jan Steen from the 17th century, when Dutch art and society were blossoming. The Rijksmuseum is only partly opened, due to massive renovations lasting until 2013, but the good news is that really all the highlights have been put together in a very sophisticated exhibition.

  • Van Gogh painting

    Painting by Van Gogh

  • Van Gogh Museum: 19th century art - However, the Netherland's most popular museum (1.5 million visitors annually) is the Van Gogh Museum. Dutch painter Vincent van Gogh is one of the most important painters of the 19th century internationally, and the Van Gogh Museum owns about a quarter of his many paintings. The museum also displays works by his contemporaries, including Monet and Gauguin.

  • Stedelijk Museum: modern and contemporary art - Leading in modern and contemporary art is the Stedelijk Museum. It has quite a reputation internationally. Some keywords regarding the collection are works by Piet Mondriaan and Lucebert, and works from the CoBrA, expressionist, minimalist and Arte Povera movements. However, as the existing building of the Stedelijk is closed due to renovations (too), you can only visit it's exhibitions on temporary locations in the city, e.g. at the Nieuwe Kerk (see below).

  • Nieuwe Kerk, Amsterdam

    Nieuwe Kerk, Dam square

  • Nieuwe Kerk (New Church) - Located at the Dam, next to the Royal Palace, the Nieuwe Kerk isn't a museum by itself, but it houses temporary (and often very good) art and cultural history exhibitions. It's worth to keep an eye on their online agenda.

Luckily, the Rijksmuseum and Van Gogh Museum (the two best visited museums of the country) are located right next to each other around the Museumplein, making it easy to visit them.

Amsterdam History Museums

Anne Frank House

Anne Frank House from the outside

  • Anne Frank House (Secret Annex) - With 1 million visitors annually, it's the most visited Amsterdam history museum. In the 'secret annex' of this house at the Prinsengracht, the famous Jewish girl Anne Frank and her family went into hiding for the Nazi's who had occupied Amsterdam. After two years of hiding, the family was betrayed and everyone but Otto Frank died in concentration camps.

    In this house, Anne Frank wrote the diaries that made her famous. Besides the original Secret Annex, the museum houses an exhibition related to Anne Frank. Waiting lines before the museum can be long. Go early or buy tickets online; the museum is one of the few that doesn't accept the Iamsterdam Card or Museumkaart.

  • Jewish Historical Museum - Amsterdam had a large Jewish community until it was decimated in World War II. Several Dutch words have a Jewish origin, including the nickname for Amsterdam, "Mokum". The Jewish Historical Museum shows the religion, history and culture of the Jews in the Netherlands. It's located in the former Jewish quarter of Amsterdam, at the Jonas Daniel Meijerplein 2-4, opposite the 17 century Portuguese Synagogue which is still in use.

Typical Amsterdam Museums

  • Sex Museum (Venus Temple) - The most exciting of Amsterdam museums is of course the Sex Museum at the Damrak (not to be confused with the less interesting Erotic Museum in the Red Light District). The Sex Museum was the first such museum worldwide, and is actually quite serious - it's the fourth best visited museum of Amsterdam (and the 20th best visited attraction of the entire Netherlands). It shows that, when people think today's morals are loose, it's still little compared to e.g. the ancient Romans or Greek.

  • Hash Museum - The Hash Museum, located in the Red Light District, explains all the details of cannabis (of which hash and marihuana are products). It's not a major museum, but may still be entertaining for people interested in Amsterdam's drugs policies.

How To Avoid Waiting Lines At Amsterdam Museums

As mentioned, waiting lines can be long at Amsterdam museums, especially during the summer and weekends. But often, you can simply bypass them by buying a ticket online in advance, which is possible at most of their websites.

Contrary to some reports, even when you don't have to buy a ticket, you will still have to stand in line if you have a free access card such as the Iamsterdam Card or Museumkaart. Almost all museums in Amsterdam accept them, but e.g. the Anne Frank House doesn't.

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