Most people come to Amsterdam for the lifestyle, but they come back for the art. It’s one of the most eclectic cities in Europe with some of the most eclectic art collections to match. A quick stroll around will show you why this city has been considered a cultural hub for the street art scene for the last 40 years, and any visit to the art and history museums will immediately show you why its been a fine art center for much, much longer than that. Here are 6 museums and galleries to add to your itinerary.
1. The Rijksmuseum
Noted as one of the most important museums of the Netherlands, the Rijksmuseum is visited by over 2 million people a year, making it one of the most popular tourist attractions for art and culture lovers. The museum holds over a million artworks which span the course of the Middle Ages all the way to present day. Its collection is so vast, it’s often compared to NYC’s Met Museum. Some of the great artists on display include Frans Hals, Rembrandt, Johannes Vermeer and Van Gogh.
Seventeenth-century Dutch master Johannes Vermeer is a great example of the art movement known as the ‘Dutch Golden Age,’ a period when science, art and commerce in the country were at their height. Some of his most famous work is on display at the Rijksmuseum such as The Milkmaid and The Little Street.
With his focus on everyday actions of ordinary people, at first glance, Vermeer’s subjects and scenes can appear quite simple. But upon closer study, details begin to emerge which prove his paintings are full of subtle symbolism.
Vermeer is famous for painting interior scenes, often using rooms in his own home and his relatives as models. But, funnily enough, one of his most noted paintings is actually of the exterior of a house – The Little Street to be precise. This painting is said to be a depiction of the homes at 40 and 42 Vlamingstraat in Delft, Netherlands, with one of the homes belonging to Vermeer’s aunt Ariaentgen Claes van der Minne.
2. Rembrandt House Museum
One of the most famous artists to come out of the Netherlands is perhaps the great master – Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn. Known for his knack with painting emotions, Rembrandt’s work consists of portraiture, narrative paintings (that often have biblical subjects), and landscapes.
The famous artist’s home and workshop was located in Jodenbreestraat 4, right in the heart of Amsterdam. The Rembrandt House Museum gives art lovers a chance to visit his actual home and workshop, now turned museum, that lies right in the heart of Amsterdam. The house has been decorated and furnished to replicate how it would have looked when Rembrandt lived there in the 17th century, with his works on display throughout.
Though today Rembrandt is known as one of the great Dutch masters, this was not always the case. Rembrandt’s home went up for auction during his lifetime and the artist whose portraits have sold for over $180 million dollars had declared bankruptcy.
3. Van Gogh Museum
No visit to Amsterdam is complete without seeing the iconic paintings of Post-Impressionist Dutch artist Vincent Van Gogh; and what better place to see this work than in the Van Gogh Museum. Home to the largest collection of artwork by Van Gogh, the museum holds some of his most well-known, such as one of his Sunflowers collection, to his least well-known, such as Sunset at Montmajour, which was only recently discovered in a Norwegian attic, having been thought to be the work of another artist, and unveiled at the museum.
The museum holds the largest Van Gogh collection in the world with over 200 paintings, 400 drawings and 700 letters by the artist himself, making it the perfect place to pay homage to the Dutch great which has changed the way we look at sunflowers and starry nights.
4. Anne Frank House
If you are not one of the 30 million people who has read The Diary of Anne Frank, you may want to pick up a copy of the book before or after your visit to the Anne Frank House. The collection of writings chronicles the everyday life and thoughts of the young Dutch Jewish girl who lived in hiding in the annex at Prinsengracht 263.
The museum is the very house she, her family, the Van Pels family, and Fritz Pfeffer hid in for two years. The fate of the young girl was tragic and heartbreaking: her last diary entry was dated August 1, 1944. Three days later, she and her family were discovered hiding in their secret annex and the Frank sisters were brought to Bergen-Belsen concentration camp in Northern Germany and killed by the Nazis in February 1945. Their bodies were buried in a mass grave just weeks before British forces liberated the camp. Anne Frank’s diaries remain a living legacy and a testament to the hope, strength, and courage of a time which should not be forgotten.
Anne Frank’s original diaries are on display at the Anne Frank House as well as contemporary exhibitions with an account of the war and the 6 million lives lost to the Nazi regime which make for a moving experience.
5. Stedelijk Museum
Amsterdam may be home to some of the most prestigious 16th- and 17th-century artists such as Rembrandt and Van Gogh, but its artistic talent has made its way well into the 20th and 21st centuries. Home to the largest contemporary art collection in the entire city, the Stedelijk Museum features work by some of the recent greats such as Jackson Pollock, Andy Warhol and more, with 90,000 artworks to be exact. One of the first and best modern art museums in the Netherlands, the Stedelijk Museum is a perfect way to round off your tour of the art scene in Amsterdam.
6. Street Art Museum Amsterdam
Walk around any street in Amsterdam and you’re sure to see some eye-popping urban murals. The city’s street art scene has come to life since the 1970s, with an ever-growing presence of urban murals around town. Two hundred of these unique pieces are now housed in the Street Art Museum. The exhibits tell the story of the voices behind the murals, contextualizing both the message the artists are trying to convey, and the very streets they come from. The aim of the museum is to inspire curiosity and research into the lives and stories of the modern-day street art scene.