The Best Art Museums to Visit in the Netherlands (Part 1)

The Netherlands has a long and rich history of art and a pride for it that seems to be integral to Dutch culture – rightfully so. There are more than 450 art museums in the Netherlands, and the ones below are just a starting point for many more to follow. While the first two are amongst the most renowned museums in the country, the last is an extraordinary hidden gem of personal preference. 


The Rijksmuseum

Let me help you out in case you are confused as to how this is pronounced: In Dutch an ‘I’ followed by a ‘J’ becomes a ‘ai’ and therefore the word is pronounced as ‘Raiksmuseum’. Translated this means the museums of the kingdom (of the Netherlands) and this is basically what it is all about, in a nutshell.

Found at the Museumplein, the Rijksmuseum is the largest and probably most majestic museum in Amsterdam, if not in the Netherlands at large. Seeing the building from the inside is an experience in itself.

All in all, if you want to familiarise yourself with the abundant Dutch culture, this is the place to go. The Rijksmuseum looks at the rich 800-year (from 1200 to now) history of the Netherlands through the lens of some of the greatest masterpieces of the past, while giving it a contemporary twist. With a well-tailored composition of historic art about the French occupation of the Netherlands, Dutch colonialism, modern Japanese lacquer, impressive (not so) miniature ship models, contemporary artworks and much more, the museum provides a versatility that covers every interest and taste. 

Tip: As the museum wants to preserve a calm atmosphere, it is trying to avoid overpopulation and daily admission is therefore limited. Given the large visiting demand, tickets are often booked out 2 to 7 days in advance, so make sure to pre-reserve your slot. Also, as the museum is quite large, you should plan an entire morning or afternoon, to fully enjoy your visit with no time pressure. 

van gogh art museum in the netherlands

The Van Gogh Museum

The Van Gogh Museum is also one of the Netherland’s most renowned museums, displaying some of the best-known works of one of the world’s all-time favourite Dutch artists: Vincent Van Gogh. 

The Van Gogh Museum is also located at the Museumplein, near the Rijksmuseum along with some other main tourist attractions. The art museum offers an inspirational and educational journey through the artist’s lifetime and artistic development in chronological order spread across the first, second and third floor, while the ground floor displays a range of Van Gogh’s captivating self-portraits. Visitors can get to know who he was, and why he was the person that he was, including his travels, mental illness, his relationship with family and friendships, as well as his artistic inspirations and techniques.  

The bright and spacious building offers almost perfect conditions for a relaxing and inspirational afternoon. Fun activities for children and adults alike are sometimes offered too, especially during peak seasons. 

Tip: A 2 to 7-day pre-booking is required here as well. Also, as the information written across the museum may sometimes appear short and to the point, those who are interested in more thorough detail will benefit very much from booking a tour guide.

The Outsider Art Museum

The Outsider Art Museum is located at the Hermitage, in Amsterdam, and is part of the Museum of the Mind which is located in Haarlem (we will get to this one in another post). The almost overwhelming vividness of the chaotical and colourful composition of art pieces, sculptures, writings all across the walls, fashion, interactive media and loud music, takes one’s museum visit to a whole new unexpected level. 

The three small rooms comprise two different exhibitions: The Democracy exhibition is an initiative orchestrated between fashion designer Duran Lantink, Jan Hoek, founder of Outsiderwear – a project in which talented outsider artists collaborate with emerging or already successful fashion designers, the Theatre LeBelle – a theatre dedicated to people with mental conditions and/or special needs and the Museum of the Mind. The For the Love of Art exhibition also displays various pieces of Outsider artists, who may be dealing with some kind of condition or disability, such as schizophrenia, autism, depression, addiction, etc.  

The museum aims to offer a space for understanding, equality and inclusion while increasing awareness about the subject matter. As per a statement written on the walls of the entrance corridor, the “Museum van de Geest (Museum of the Mind) believes in a society, where you are seen and heard if your mind works differently from what is perceived as normal, and where you participate on the basis of equality”. Thereby the museum aims to “give a voice to people in society who were previously unrepresented in the cultural scene”.

Even though this might not be the ‘conventional’ museum to spend a relaxing afternoon at, it is definitely an experience that may change your perspective and will leave a lasting impact on you. 

Tip: Since you are there I recommend paying a visit to the Amsterdam Museum too (more on this in another post). Also, behind the main entrance of the Hermitage, there is a beautiful yard where you will find the Dignita Hoftuin café. You can order the best carrot cake I have tried in Amsterdam (amongst other things they serve, of course) while supporting a good cause. When taking the exit behind the café you can also get the chance to pay your respects to the Holocaust Name Memorial.

Thank you for reading and feel free to leave your comment below!


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