It's no surprise that a country renowned for its 17th-century art boasts one of Europe's museum capitals. But Amsterdam offers more than just fine arts museums; with institutions devoted to history, science, fashion, architecture, popular vices and more, there's a museum for everyone. The recommendations below pair Amsterdam museums with different fields of interest, so visitors can find their perfect match.
Amsterdam Art Museums
Amsterdam's art museums have won over millions of visitors with their unique, world-class collections. The popular attractions in Amsterdam's Museum Quarter span a historical period from medieval times to modern and contemporary art, and are a must-see for tourists with time to museum-hop. The Museum het Rembrandthuis is also a perennial hit and, on the other end of the historical spectrum, the Cobra Museum celebrates a revolutionary art movement from the 1950s.
Amsterdam History Museums
Amsterdam's history museums are worldwide in their scope, and run from Mediterreanean antiquity to the Second World War. The Allard Pierson Museum is the University of Amsterdam's own collection of classical antiquities, and its floors showcase the classical periods of different Western and Near Eastern civilizations. More focused in its exhibitions is the Amsterdam Historical Museum, a lively retrospective of how a modest settlement on the Amstel blossomed into the modern capital. Last but not least, the Dutch Resistance Museum offers an intensely intimate perspective on World War II resistance efforts in the Netherlands.
Amsterdam Science Museums
Science buffs have an impressive variety of museums in Amsterdam, from the children's paradise that is the Science Center NEMO to the University of Amsterdam's fine collections. Housed in an massive ship hull, NEMO is a wonderland of interactive exhibits to stimulate the mind. The Zoological Museum Amsterdam celebrates biodiversity with its 13 million animal specimens that appear in its exhibits at Artis Royal Zoo; on the more macabre side, the university's Museum Vrolik explores the human anatomy with its own authentic specimens -- not for the squeamish!
Amsterdam Fashion Museums
For fashionistas, Amsterdam has a trio of museums that celebrate three popular accessories: purses, diamonds and shades. The Tassenmuseum Hendrikje has an enviable collection of purses from medieval Europe to the contemporary fashion world. Frames of all shapes and sizes are on exhibit at the Brilmuseum (Glasses Museum), whose attached museum store lets visitors take home their own pair of specs; visitors with deeper pockets can do the same at the Diamond Museum, which explores this prominent Dutch industry.
Amsterdam Architecture Museums
Amsterdam has two dedicated architecture museums -- ARCAM and Museum het Schip ("The Ship") -- as well as a number of 17th-century canal houses that are open to the public. ARCAM offers an overview of Amsterdam's urban expansion in the form of an innovative panorama, as well as tools to become acquainted with the city architecture in situ; Museum het Schip, meanwhile, concentrates on the seminal Amsterdam School of architecture, responsible for dozens of Dutch landmarks. The exquisite 17th-century canal houses that have been repurposed as museums are architectural wonders filled with authentic period furniture.
Vices in Amsterdam Museums
With its cannibis coffeeshops and decriminalized prostitution, Amsterdam is bound to have a few museums for these popular tourist draws. The Hash, Marihuana and Hemp Museum takes an informative look at the cultural history and uses of cannabis, from recreational marijuana to hemp as a wonder fiber. Sex is the self-evident theme at the popular Erotic Museum and Sex Museum. Fans of the milder vice of caffeine can check out the small but well-appointed Coffee and Tea Museum (web site in Dutch only), above Geels & Co. at Warmoesstraat 67. The museum is open Sat., 2 - 4:30 p.m.; admission is free.