There's a whole lot more to Amsterdam than sex and drugs.
The Dutch capital is a labyrinth of canals lined with architectural gems and studded with more than 75 museums covering everything from art and history to sex, drugs, even the Bible.
Amsterdam was once home to Rembrandt and Van Gogh. It’s a maritime hub famous for its liberal attitudes, coffee shops, canals, and red-light district.
Whether you’re looking to see original works of famous art, learn about what makes Amsterdam the city it is or explore Amsterdam’s liberal perspectives on sex and cannabis, there’s a museum for you.
These are Amsterdam’s 10 best museums.
The Amsterdam Museum
To get to know Amsterdam, head to the Amsterdam Museum. It’s more engaging than any book, website, or tour guide and tells the stories of Rembrandt, Van Gogh, Anne Frank, and Dutch history through a series of interactive exhibits. This is the best museum for learning the history of this 1,000-year-old trading city. The museum opened in 1926 and moved to a 16th-century orphanage in the city center in the 1970s. Its collection includes items from the orphanage.
The Anne Frank House is one of Amsterdam’s most visited museums. It includes the apartment where the Frank family hid from the Nazis and where Anne Frank wrote her famous diary. The exhibits are simple but offer an authentic glimpse into how the Frank family lived until being arrested by German police in 1944. Visitors can walk into the small, secret room where the family hid behind a bookcase before their arrest. Timed tickets are required and must be purchased online. You can buy tickets up to two months before your planned visit.
The Rijksmuseum is the largest art museum in the Netherlands and one of the country’s most famous museums and is fresh off a 10-year renovation, completed in 2013. The museum anchors an area called Museum Square, also home to the Van Gogh museum. The museum chronicles Dutch history, walking visitors through the Eighty Years’ War, Dutch colonialism, and World War II resistance and liberation through a collection of a million objects, about 8,000 of which are on display at any given time. The museum also has an extensive library of 2,000 paintings from the Dutch Golden Age, including pieces by Rembrandt and several of his students.
The Van Gogh Museum opened in the 1970s and holds the most extensive collection of Vincent van Gogh paintings in the world. The Van Gogh Museum’s collection includes more than 200 paintings, 500 drawings and 750 letters created by the artist and is one of many Dutch museums dedicated to Van Gogh. Among its collection are several self-portraits and many van Gogh’s best-known pieces, including “Sunflowers” (1889), “Irises” (1890), and “Almond Blossom” (1890). The museum was the Netherlands most visited in 2017, drawing in 2.3 million visitors.
Hash Marihuana & Hemp Museum
Amsterdam was the original pot capital of the world and a natural location for a Hash Marihuana & Hemp Museum. The museum opened in 1985 and chronicles both the story of cannabis in Amsterdam as well as the experience of cannabis consumption. The museum houses about 6,000 cannabis-related items, including a collection of reefer-madness memorabilia, Dutch paintings of Amsterdam’s original smokehouses, and quite a few pipes. It also has an interactive vaping exhibit,
Amsterdam’s homage to sex bills itself as the world’s oldest sex museum. The museum opened its doors in 1985 and explores the evolution of human sexuality over time. Exhibits cover the history of sex, Cleopatra’s sexual habits, and sexual repression during the Middle Ages. The museum’s collection includes a plaster Venus and a full-size wax Mata Hari in addition to erotic pictures, paintings, and sound recordings. This museum is small, but it is one of Amsterdam’s more famous museums and draws hundreds of thousands of visitors each year.
The Biblical Museum
The Netherlands played a crucial role in translating, printing and distributing Bibles, so it's only fitting Amsterdam would be home to a museum dedicated to it. The Biblical Museum museum tells the Bible’s story and explores the intersection of Christianity, art, and culture. The museum is home to several centuries-old Bibles, including the first Bible printed in the Netherlands in 1477. It also is home to a collection of Egyptian artifacts.
The Museum of Bags and Purses
This small museum is an accessory lover’s paradise. It started with a single bag that grew into a small exhibit in a Dutch family’s home. The museum has since moved into a 17th-century canal house in the city center, and its collection has grown to include more than 5,000 items. The Museum of Bags and Purses is one of only a handful of specialty museums focused on handbags and houses the world’s most extensive collection of purses and bags. The museum also is known for its afternoon tea service.
National Maritime Museum
Amsterdam is a maritime city, and there’s no better way to get to know it’s maritime roots than with a visit to the Maritime Museum. The museum is housed in a building from 1656 and traces more than 500 years of Dutch naval history through more than 400,000 objects and pieces of art. The museum sits on an artificial island in Amsterdam Harbor in an area where Dutch warships once prepared for battle.
You don’t have to go to Russia to see the wonders contained in St. Petersburg’s world-famous Hermitage Museum. The Hermitage’s Amsterdam outpost regularly displays collections from its parent museum. It houses two permanent exhibitions, one chronicling the relationship between the Netherlands and Russia and another chronicling the history of the building, which houses the museum. The Hermitage opened its doors in Amsterdam in 2009.