From stunning Golden Age masterpieces to cutting-edge contemporary art, Amsterdam is like a non-stop arts and culture festival. Here’s your must-see guide.
Amsterdam is a friendly, compact city. Even the buildings look cosily squashed together like a jostling crowd. And hidden amongst them you’ll find a dazzling array of museums and galleries devoted to arts and culture.
Revered the world over, the Rijksmuseum is the cherry on the cake of Amsterdam museums. The Rijksmuseum reopened in 2013 after a decade of renovations and is housed in a spectacular 19th-century building with a modern atrium and restaurant. Among its vast collection of artworks and objects is the Gallery of Honour, a grand corridor showcasing masterpieces from the Dutch Golden Age. Its centrepiece, Rembrandt’s The Night Watch, will take your breath away.
The Van Gogh Museum
Adjacent to the Rijks is the Van Gogh Museum, dedicated entirely to the famed artist. The custom-built space tells the tumultuous and tragic life story of the Dutch Post-Impressionist painter through an extensive collection of his work. Immersing you in dizzying colours, textures and moods, the museum offers a unique insight into the artistic passion that makes Van Gogh an enigma to this day.
The Stedelijk Museum
Often overlooked in favour of better-known Amsterdam art galleries, the Stedelijk museum is focused on modern and contemporary art, with a collection that covers almost every major art and design movement of the 20th and 21st centuries. Works by the likes of Matisse, Warhol, and Cezanne grace its walls, providing the perfect final stop on an art historical journey from the Old Masters of the nearby Rijksmuseum.
The Anne Frank House
The story of Anne Frank is as devastating as her diaries are inspiring. A visit to the Anne Frank House takes you to the Secret Annex where the young diarist hid with her family for over two years during the Nazi occupation of the Netherlands during WWII. The space itself, part of a 17th century canal house, is deliberately still confined, and the exhibition a moving testament to human hope and endurance during one of history’s darkest moments. Until 3.30pm each day, the museum is only open to those who have purchased a timed ticket online. (Advance tickets tend to sell out quickly, so it pays to be prepared).
The EYE Film Museum in North Amsterdam is dedicated to Dutch film in all its iterations, from cult classics to blockbusters. A trip there presents a good opportunity to get out of the busy city centre and visit a less touristy part of town. Behind Centraal train station, jump on a free ferry to Buiksloterweg. The ride across the River IJ takes just 3 minutes and runs 24/7.
The Hidden Gems
Once you’ve taken a look at the main Amsterdam museums and art galleries, why not explore some of the other hidden gems? Brakke Grond, the Flemish Arts Centre, stages significant contemporary art from Flanders across all formats. If you’re a photography fan, don’t miss FOAM, loved by locals for looking at the past, present and future through a creative lens.
If you prefer to explore a city by wandering or just getting a little lost in the atmosphere, head to the Jordaan, where it’s impossible to walk around without stumbling upon small and independent Amsterdam art galleries.