You probably don’t know this about me, but I LOVE museums. Well-designed museum experiences make me a happy camper (think apps, fun audio guides, interactive things and story routes that make your museum experience memorable). Amsterdam has many great museums and I’ll share the first five I’ve visited so far. But first, a few tips.
Amsterdam museums tips
Tip 1: Museum card
First-off, you have to know about the Museum card (for people living in the Netherlands). The website is in Dutch, so use Google translate. You buy a museum card for €60/year and get free or discounted access to many museums around the Netherlands, you order it online and it arrives to your home address within 5 business days. There are over 400 museums in the Netherlands and this card covers a significant part of them. Really worth investing into one if you’re planning to go to 5+ museums a year. And with winters this long and rainy, that’s very doable.
If you don’t live in the Netherlands, but planning to go crazy on museums during your visit, check out I amsterdam city card – it gives you free access to the most popular museums and more.
Tip 2: Lockers
Most museums won’t let you in with a backpack BUT a shoulder bag is ok. I saw bags larger than my backpack, people even carried their coats with them, but a backpack is a no-no. So you’ll need to check yours in. All those museums would have lockers, so the tip is: always have at least one 50c coin or a €1 coin (and take €2 too, just to be on the safe side) for the locker deposit.
Tip 3: Audio guides
Most museums have amazing audio guides, so my tip #3 is to have your headphones/earphones with you. If you don’t mind wearing headphones a million people worn before you, fine. Sometimes there are no headphones at all and the guide is like a little walkie-talkie that you hold to your ear (like in Stedelijk museum). Definitely would use my own headphones on those.
Pro-tip: if you are going together with someone, have a jack splitter. Take it and two pairs of headphones to save on audio guides when they’re not free (like in Van Gogh museum for example).
My first 5 museums in Amsterdam
I decided to sum up the first five museums I’ve visited in Amsterdam (in chronological order) based on a number of criterion. Overall, they are some of the finest museums of the World, so all are worth visiting. Also, for me, the museum experience is not complete without checking out a museum shop and sometimes even a café. So I added those too.
Times visited: 3 times, so it’s absolutely worth going there several times, and not having an exhausting one-time run. If you only have one chance to go, do the highlights tour with the app (more below).
Visit duration: 2+ hours
Price: free with Museum card, €17.50 for adults, free for <18.
Main collection: art and history (from old keys collection to Van Gogh’s masterpieces). The museum was on renovation for 10 years and reopened in 2013. It is the largest art museum in the country. Also worth mentioning that Rijksmuseum is kids-friendly (I saw many babies and toddlers too).
Cool things about it: there’s wi-fi, so you can Instagram your heart out. Also, download the Rijksmuseum app (without the app, the audio guide is €5). The app is handy – you can select the collections you wish to explore, choose how much time you have and then follow the app guiding you around the building. There are also special collections changing often, so the museum is worth visiting a few times a year.
Times visited: 2 times, need to go again to see the special exhibition
Visit duration: 1.5 hours
Price: free with Museum card, €17 for adults, free for <18.
Main collection: four floors of paintings, drawings and letters, in chronological order, so when you go up, you walk through Van Gogh’s life story.
Museum shop: anything you can think of in Almond blossom, Sunflowers and even the Potato Eaters designs!
Tip: book your time slot online to skip the queues (same goes for Museum card holders). It’s open until 10pm on Fridays. Also, see the tip on audio guides above (their audioguide is €5). Until Dec 31st they have a special guide by DJ Armin van Buuren about 11 of his favourite masterpieces. My sister loved it, Anton was not impressed.
Times visited: 1 (one is really enough)
Visit duration: ~2h
Price: free with Museum card, €14 and below, there’s a discount if you buy tickets to Micropia and ARTIS together.
Main collection: a cool exhibition about microorganisms that surround us. You will follow a route that has some logic to it, so spend some time looking around, reading about the microbes and playing at interactive stations.
Cool things about it: you can get a stamp card and stamp each microbe you see and at the end of the visit see if you “got ’em all”. You can also see the live microscopic view of some microbes, see how many microbes you share when you kiss someone, see the ant farm and watch the scientists work in the lab (there’s a lab talk at 1pm and 4pm where you can ask questions too).
Museum shop: no shop or café – it’s part of ARTIS, so they share them.
Tip: go there on a rainy day, spend a good few hours and start getting used to washing your hands like a maniac every 5 minutes after :-)
Times visited: 1
Visit duration: 3+ hours
Main collection: not exactly the museum and not exactly a collection, but it’s an amazing well-kept park with animals that look happy. I love zoos (see my post about Singapore zoo) and this one was worth every cent, you can spend a good half day there.
Cool things about it: the aquarium with all waters (and the inhabitants, of course) imaginable – they even have the Amsterdam canal display! A baby elephant was born there this year, such a cutie. I also loved the insectarium and the butterfly garden.
Museum shop and café: the café is well worth a separate visit – it’s very fancy and I can only imagine how mice it would be to sit and relax there with a cup of tea. The shop is nice, but nothing special.
Tip: come on a weekday and check the feeding schedule – you might catch a good sight of some animals.
Times visited: 1
Visit duration: 1.5 h
Price: free with Museum card, €10 for a regular visit, €16.50 for a movie+exhibition
Main collection. The main collection has many fun things to explore: the yellow Pods where you can do the quiz and see who knows classical movies better; the green screen where you can act in your own movie; a flipbook-making station, just to name a few. I particularly enjoyed the story benches where you sit and listen to stories about famous films told through a perspective of a director, composer, editor etc.
The special exhibition was Celluloid when we visited. I didn’t understand much, but Anton liked it. He loves film and know a lot about it so for him it was an interesting experience.
EYE is also a cinema with scheduled movie screenings, see the schedule here.
Museum shop and café: boy, do they have a nice café! A panoramic view that opens from it is amazing. The coffee is all right, but it’s not about the coffee there – it’s the experience. The shop deserves a separate post, I loved it! The second-best museum shop (after Van Gogh’s)) so far. Many movie-themed things like the Star Wars designer socks, movie posters and Hitchcock’s Raven dummy.
And that’s all for today – already plenty. I already have one new museum to start the Part 2, so please tell me about the museums of Amsterdam you enjoyed? Need 4 more for the next post :-)