To explore a variety of museums in the Netherlands, we purchased a Museum Card which granted us unlimited access to over 450 museums for a year. The cost of the card was €65, and while some museums had free admission, others offered discounted rates when presented with the card. With our Museum Card in hand, we delved into the museum world and savoured every opportunity to learn and appreciate the exhibits.
Kasteel De Haar
Kasteel de Haar, also known as De Haar Castle, is an impressive and magnificent castle situated in the Netherlands, near the town of Utrecht. Originally constructed in the 14th century, the castle was ruined and abandoned. In the late 19th century, a wealthy Dutch baron named Etienne van Zuylen van Nijevelt commissioned its reconstruction as an opulent and grand home for himself and his family. The famous Dutch architect Pierre Cuypers was enlisted to oversee the castle’s redesign. Today, Kasteel de Haar stands as a striking example of neo-gothic architecture, complemented by gorgeous gardens and a moat. Its interior is decorated with beautiful artwork, antique furniture, and elaborate tapestries. I had the pleasure of visiting the castle twice, once with just myself and Rishi, and the second time with his family, during which we spent some time relaxing in the garden and taking in the breathtaking view of the castle.
Rijksmuseum is a world-renowned art museum situated in Amsterdam. It is considered to be one of the most prominent and extensive museums in Europe, housing a vast collection of Dutch art and history spanning from the Middle Ages to the modern era. The museum was established in 1800 and is housed in an imposing building designed by the Dutch architect Pierre Cuypers. The museum’s collection comprises more than 8,000 artworks and objects, including paintings, sculptures, decorative art, and historical artefacts, and is particularly renowned for its exceptional collection of Dutch Golden Age paintings, including masterpieces by Rembrandt, Vermeer, and Frans Hals. The museum’s most famous artwork is Rembrandt’s “Night Watch,” a massive painting that has become a cultural icon of the Netherlands. The Rijksmuseum’s exhibits are arranged chronologically, offering a comprehensive overview of Dutch art and history from the Middle Ages to the present day. We admired artworks ranging from intricate medieval sculptures to iconic works of the Dutch Masters, as well as notable items from the Dutch colonial era and the nation’s cultural heritage. As someone from a formerly colonized country, I felt empathy towards Indonesia when I saw the artefacts collected by the Dutch during their period of colonization. Besides the extensive art collection, the Rijksmuseum building itself is an attraction, featuring grand architecture, spacious galleries, and an impressive central atrium. Due to the museum’s size, we had to visit it four times and spend an entire day viewing the exhibits, dividing our visits by floor to keep track of what we had already seen. It was a unique and unforgettable experience for us.
Van Gogh Museum
The Van Gogh Museum is an art museum in Amsterdam dedicated to the life and works of the famous Dutch painter Vincent Van Gogh. It houses more than 200 of Van Gogh’s paintings, 500 drawings and 700 letters. Its famous works include “Sunflowers,” “The Potato Eaters” and “Bedroom”. The museum’s collection provides a comprehensive overview of Van Gogh’s artistic development and his creative process, from his early works to his later masterpieces, presenting a timeline of his artistic development, personal correspondence, and insights into his mental health struggles. The museum also features works by Van Gogh’s contemporaries like Paul Gauguin and Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, providing a wider perspective for visitors to understand his unique approach to art. The exhibit was a memorable experience that showcased Van Gogh’s unique style and how other artists influenced him.
Anne Frank House
The Anne Frank House is a museum located in Amsterdam, that is dedicated to the life and legacy of Anne Frank, a young Jewish girl who hid with her family and friends during the Nazi occupation of the Netherlands. The museum is located in the building where Anne Frank and her family hid for more than two years during World War II, known as the Secret Annex. The museum exhibits include original documents, photographs, and artefacts related to the life of Anne Frank and her family, as well as the historical context of the Holocaust. The museum also provided us with a glimpse into the daily life of the Frank family and their fellow occupants of the Secret Annex, as well as the challenges and dangers they faced while in hiding. Though we weren’t allowed to take pictures inside, we only realized it a little late and managed to capture a few snaps. Visiting the museum was an enlightening experience for me.
The Louwman Museum is an automotive museum located in The Hague. It is one of the world’s largest and most impressive collections of classic, vintage, and antique cars, with over 250 automobiles on display. The museum showcases the history of the automobile and the development of the automotive industry from the 19th century to the present day. The exhibits are arranged chronologically, allowing us to follow the evolution of the automobile through the different eras of design and innovation. The collection includes some of the rarest and most unique cars in the world, such as the oldest surviving motorcar, the 1886 Benz Patent Motorwagen, and the world’s first production car, the 1888 De Dion Bouton et Trépardoux. We also admired iconic automobiles such as the 1925 Rolls-Royce Phantom I Jonckheere Coupe, the 1938 Hispano-Suiza H6B Dubonnet Xenia, and the 1955 Jaguar D-Type, among many others. In addition to cars, the museum features motorcycles, carriages, and automotive memorabilia such as vintage posters, hood ornaments, and racing trophies.
The stories behind the invention and use of the vehicles caught my interest more. My favourite story from the museum was in 1888, Bertha Benz made history when she and her two sons drove a Benz Patent Motor Car type 3 on the world’s first long-distance journey, completing a 194 km round trip from Mannheim to Pforzheim to visit her relatives. She made a revolutionary, courageous choice without her husband’s approval, defying the expectations of her time. Legend has it that Mrs Benz ran out of fuel, so she bought some dry-cleaning fluid to finish her journey. She was a technical genius, somehow managing to fix the ignition with her garter and unblock the fuel pipe with her hatpin.
Royal Palace of Amsterdam
The Royal Palace of Amsterdam, known as Koninklijk Paleis Amsterdam in Dutch, is a magnificent edifice situated in the heart of Amsterdam. Constructed in the 17th century as a city hall, it was later transformed into a royal palace during the early 19th century by King Louis Napoleon. Although one of the three official residences of the Dutch royal family, the palace is primarily utilized for official events and state visits rather than as a dwelling place. The palace’s exterior is defined by its grandiose architecture, featuring a neoclassical frontage with imposing columns, grand staircases, and sculptures. The palace’s interior is equally remarkable, with numerous lavishly embellished rooms and halls that exhibit the history and culture of the Netherlands. During our visit, we explored different sections of the palace, including the impressive Council Chamber, the magnificent Empire Room, and the Grand Ballroom, which are utilized for official receptions and ceremonies. The palace also houses an extensive art collection that encompasses paintings, sculptures, and furniture, exhibited in its numerous rooms and galleries. Even though I have visited Dam Square, where the palace is located, on every trip to Amsterdam, I was unaware that visitors could explore the palace’s interior until I discovered it while researching for museums to visit with the museum card. We opted for a guided tour, which offered us insights into the palace’s rich history and the role it has played in Dutch society.
Frans Hals Museum
The Frans Hals Museum, situated in Haarlem, is dedicated to the Dutch Golden Age painter Frans Hals and his contemporaries. The museum showcases a vast collection of artworks from this period, including a range of genres such as traditional portraits, landscapes, still lives, and genre scenes. Its collection is particularly rich in works by Frans Hals, including his famous group portraits, such as The Banquet of the Officers of the St George Militia Company and The Regentesses of the Old Men’s Almshouse. Alongside Hals, the museum also boasts works by other important artists from the Dutch Golden Age, including Jan Steen, Adriaen van Ostade, and Cornelis van Haarlem. We visited Haarlem with the main intention of seeing the Frans Hals Museum, and I was impressed by the depiction of the Officers of the St George Militia Company in the paintings. The painting is known for its lively and informal style, which was innovative for the time, as well as its vibrant colours and sense of movement.
Museum JAN is an art museum that specifically highlights the beauty of glass art. Its collection comprises a remarkable selection of one-of-a-kind glass objects curated by its founder, Jan van der Togt. Jan’s personal fascination with aesthetics led to the gathering of exceptional international artworks. The museum itself was stunning, although photography was not allowed during our visit.
Prehistorisch Dorp, or the Prehistoric Village, is an open-air museum located in Eindhoven. The museum offers visitors a chance to experience daily life in prehistoric times, from the Stone Age to the Iron Age. The village is set in a wooded area and features reconstructed dwellings, workshops, and other structures based on archaeological findings. We could learn about the tools, crafts, and customs of prehistoric communities through demonstrations, hands-on activities, and educational exhibits. The museum hosts special events throughout the year, including the Historisch Foodfest during our visit on Easter Monday, where we learned about the history of food and could taste various dishes at the stalls. The Historisch Foodfest shed light on the cuisine of migrants. Agriculture, the Roman expansion, trading with the Vikings, the discovery of the New World and the arrival of migrant labourers all contributed to introducing diverse flavours to the kitchen. Additionally, we enjoyed archery and writing with feathers and ink.
Nemo Science Museum
The NEMO Science Museum is a popular science museum located in Amsterdam. It is housed in a distinctive green building with a sloping roof that resembles a large ship, located on the banks of the IJ river. The museum offers hands-on exhibits and interactive installations that allow us to explore various scientific principles and concepts in a fun and engaging way. The museum covers a wide range of topics, from physics and chemistry to biology and earth sciences. The museum boasts a range of popular exhibits such as the giant soap bubble laboratory, the chain reaction exhibit, a 3D printer workshop, and a high-voltage electricity show. Luckily, we were able to catch the chain reaction exhibit and also had fun exploring the optical illusion tilted house, touching a 4.6-year-old meteorite, and playing reflex and willpower games.
National Maritime Museum
The National Maritime Museum, also known as Het Scheepvaartmuseum in Dutch, is a museum located in Amsterdam. The museum is dedicated to the maritime history of the Netherlands, which played a crucial role in the country’s economy and culture. The museum is housed in a historic building that was once used as a naval storehouse in the 17th century and features a collection of maritime artefacts and exhibits, including models of ships, navigation equipment, and artworks related to seafaring. One of the main highlights of the museum is the full-size replica of the Dutch East India Company (VOC) ship, the Amsterdam, which we could explore. The museum also features interactive exhibits and multimedia installations that provide insights into the maritime world, including the role of Dutch merchants and explorers in global trade and exploration. We observed that India was the focal point of many old maps and that every sailor aspired to locate India.
Our primary interest in visiting this museum was to visit the VOC ship. The VOC was a prominent Dutch trading company during the 17th and 18th centuries, and the Amsterdam was a typical ship used by the company for trading purposes. The replica was built using traditional shipbuilding techniques and materials to accurately portray what life was like aboard a VOC ship. We explored the ship and its various decks, including the living quarters, cargo hold, captain’s quarters, and crew quarters.
National Military Museum
The National Military Museum is a museum located in Soesterberg, that showcases the history of the Dutch Armed Forces. The museum features a large collection of military artefacts, including weapons, vehicles, uniforms, and equipment from various periods in Dutch military history. The museum is divided into several sections, each dedicated to a different era in Dutch military history, from the medieval period to modern-day conflicts. One of the highlights of the museum is the collection of military aircraft, which includes both Dutch and foreign planes. While I did not find the rooms filled with weapons, particularly enjoyable, I did find the display of military aircraft to be quite interesting at the National Military Museum.
Concluding our museum trips, we can say that the Netherlands boasts a plethora of captivating museums that exhibit different facets of the country’s affluent cultural legacy, scientific progress, and military chronicles. The overall experience was unique, enriching, and highlighted the history and culture of the Netherlands.