Because so much of my Amsterdam/Netherlands experience was experiencing the culture of the city by going to different museums, I thought for this blog post I’d do a review of all of the museums I’ve been to in Amsterdam, and consequently a list of just a few of the many many many museums that are here.
Anne Frank Museum: So the Anne Frank Museum is definitely one of the most famous (and touristy) museum in Amsterdam. For me, it was a lot less powerful than I thought it would be, and felt very touristy, although that was probably aided by the huge group of Dutch students who were shouting and pushing each other and just being overall disrespectful throughout the entire museum, which was extremely annoying. I would’ve liked to have spent more introspective time as I walked through the house but overall, it was definitely a really cool experience to actually see and walk around the house that Anne Frank describes in her diary entries.
Paleis ‘t Loo: The Paleis ‘t Loo is a state museum open to the public, and like the name might suggest, is a palace, located in Apeldoorn, Netherlands. It was one of the residences of the House of Orange-Nassau from the 17th century until the death of Queen Wilhelmina in 1962 and it houses a significant art collection, and many different rooms in the different styles of the royalty who lived there at different times, which is definitely a cool thing to behold. It is also home to a gorgeous garden and beautiful architecture. It’s definitely a wonderful place to learn about Dutch history and the monarchy. Plus, if you’re lucky like I was, you’ll bump into a couple of old ladies who will tell you all of the juicy monarchy gossip about bastard children and illegitimate thrones that you won’t hear on your tour.
Kröller Müller Museum (and Hoge Veluwe National Park): The Kröller Müller Museum is an art museum and sculpture garden. It also houses the second largest collection of paintings by Van Gogh, after the Van Gogh Museum, as Van Gogh seemed to be the theme of my European art experience, popping up in almost every big museum I visited. A cool fun fact is that it was founded by Helene KrölIer-Müller, a rich patron and one of the first major European woman art collectors, who donated all of her works to the state of Netherlands to protect her collection and estate. I honestly wasn’t that impressed with the paintings, as a lot of them were in the style of modern art, featuring great paintings consisting of a singular line on a blank canvas. But, the sculptures are definitely worth a visit, and the land is gorgeous as it’s situated on Hoge Veluwe, a national park.
Alkmaar Cheese Market/Museum: When you visit the Netherlands, you obviously have to explore cheese as much as possible. To do so, we visited the famous Alkmaar Cheese Market, where a mock traditional cheese market is held every Friday morning from April to September. Watching the cheese carriers carry huge stacks of cheese around Waagplein (the weighing square) is definitely a fun experience. Plus, if you’re lucky you’ll get to try some of the cheese or even get carried by a cheese carrier, something I was very disappointed I didn’t get a chance to experience. If you’re ever there, make sure you take some time to learn about the cheese carriers; they’re part of a historical guild with lots of traditions and rules and it’s definitely fascinating to hear about the cheese carrier culture! The museum itself explains the history of cheese making in the Netherlands if you’re interested in that!
Sex Museum: I know, it’s clichéd, but I had to go to the Sex Museum while I was here just to experience it. Honestly, I hated it. I thought it might be a little educational (since it’s supposed to be about sex throughout history) and a little entertaining (I mean who doesn’t like laughing at penises?) but really it just made me uncomfortable. While there were definitely articles from history about sex, there really wasn’t very much information on the artifacts, and I’m honestly not sure how real any of them. It just felt like an opportunity to put old looking statues up with huge penises. As for the entertainment part, it was almost funny because of how ridiculous it was, but the blatant misogyny and exploitation of women and sex kind of ruined it for me. But I guess I got my clichéd picture with a giant penis, so it was worth it! Although our museum cards don’t work there so you have to pay….so I might have to take that back.
Rijksmuseum: Honestly, the Rijksmuseum, while beautiful, was a little overwhelming. It is so huge and I felt like I couldn’t truly get a sense of the entire museum and all that is in it in one day. I think it’s the type of museum where you’d want to visit on multiple days, picking a different floor or section to explore each day. But it’s definitely worth a visit, as it houses so many amazing works of art, from paintings, to sculptures, to more actual stuffed horses. Plus, it has a pretty cool art library that’s definitely worth a visit.
Tropen Museum: We went to this museum as part of a class trip following the reading of a famous Dutch book on Dutch colonialism in the Indies. It’s designed to help you learn about the “cultures of the world,” but in reality it felt a bit exploitative and didn’t really address the Dutch role in abusing the Indonesian culture through colonialism. While it addressed some of the historical aspects of that colonialism, it definitely seemed to gloss over it. The entire museum just felt like cultural appropriation as we walked around looking at all of the “cool ethnic” pieces displayed around the museum.
Van Gogh Museum: By far my favorite museum. Not only is there a ton of beautiful Van Gogh, but the entire layout of the museum is so helpful and interesting. Starting on the first floor, you first learn about Van Gogh’s inspirations and contemporaries, learning about the type of work that was popular when he was first starting out. You get to see some of his early works and then his later works, learning about his life throughout the progression. On the last floor, you also get to see some of the works that he’s inspired, essentially coming full circle in a way. I’m definitely partial because I love Van Gogh, but I truly think this museum is a must see, even if you’re not an art or museum person. Plus, it doesn’t take too long to get through the entire museum, and you can get some pretty cool things from the gift shop, including larger prints that aren’t that aren’t that expensive at all.
One last tip: If you plan to go to stay for a while and/or go to a bunch of museums, consider buying a museumkaart or museum card. It’s valid for an entire year and while it’s pretty expensive (about 60 euros currently), it gets you into 32 museums in Amsterdam, including the Anne Frank House, the Tropenmuseum, the Rijksmuseum, and the Van Gogh Museum which are all on this list.
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<p>A rising senior double major in Politics & International Affairs and Theatre, with a minor in Women's Gender, & Sexuality Studies, Andrea Anderson is passionate about social justice, exploring the world through different lenses, and tea. Though she may come across as shy and timid at first, this 4'10" girl never backs down from a feminist debate and she is is as willing to try something new as she is inclined to sit back with a glass of wine and an episode of Gilmore Girls. Her favorite things in life include hugs, Harry Potter, and Indian food, and she is so so excited to explore the beautiful culture of Amsterdam this summer.</p>