No one who visits Amsterdam or the coastal Netherlands can overlook the fact that the sea has been an essential force in Dutch history and culture. The National Maritime Museum (Het Scheepvaartmuseum) is dedicated to the intricacies of this relationship, with exhibits that span 500 years of maritime history. With twelve interactive exhibits, several which are tailored specifically to kids, the whole family is bound to be enthralled by the National Maritime Museum.
Even without the exhibits, the museum is worth a look: the monumental 17th-century headquarters of the museum - which underwent an extensive, five year renovation from 2007 to 2011 - has maintained an air of historicity despite its decidedly modern exhibitions. Constructed as storehouse for the Admiralty of Amsterdam, it retained that function - even after the Admiralty was replaced with a national navy - until the 1970s. At that point, it was turned into an exhibition space for the most treasured relics of Dutch maritime history - many of which had conveniently been stored there in the first place.
The current permanent exhibits contain a mix of history and modernity, from the 17th-century Dutch Republic to the present-day Port of Amsterdam. Several exhibits offer an intimate look at the Dutch East India Company, whose spice monopoly in Asia raked in enormous profits, but often by means of ruthless business practices; the candid exhibits explore all sides of the story. Other exhibits take a closer look at nautical instruments, at intricate ship models and ship decorations, and nautical art from masterful 17th-century canvases to photo albums. A special exhibit about the whale, in conjunction with the World Wildlife Fund, explores humans' relationship with this majestic mammal; the children's performance "Sal & Lori and Circus at Sea" takes kids 6 and under to an undersea world full of fabulous fish species.Moored outside the museum is an exact replica of the Amsterdam, a Dutch East India Company ship that was wrecked in 1749; built by an army of more than 400 volunteers, the intricately detailed copy is open for visitors to walk in and around. Some museum facilities are accessible even without a ticket, such as the front courtyard, museum shop, Restaurant Stalpaert, the library and the waterside patio - so for visitors who are just curious to take a look around, there's still much to see and do.
National Maritime Museum Visitor Information:
National Maritime Museum Location
- Daily, 9 a.m. - 5 p.m.
- Closed April 30, December 25 and January 1.
- Adults: € 15
- Children 5-17 and seniors: € 7.50
- "I amsterdam" card holders: Free
- By foot - From Central Station, follow Prins Hendrikkade east; turn left at Kattenburgerstraat. The walk takes about 20 minutes.
- By bus - Take bus 22, which departs from the Nicolaaskerk, opposite Central Station.
Visit the National Maritime Museum web site.