Although the Secret Annex, where Anne Frank and her sister, parents and four other fearful Jews lived from 1942–1944, is both a testament to human courage and a reminder of wartime horrors, hordes of camera-toting tourists outnumber ghosts of times past these days. Arrive after 8:30—a bit early if you’ve enjoyed Amsterdam’s nightlife the eve before—and you’ll wait in line for hours. Fortunately, you can avoid wasting time by purchasing an e-ticket. For non-planners, there’s free WiFi for playing on your smartphone or tab while queuing up. If you lose patience, buy Anne’s diary and other accounts of the Holocaust at the English Bookshop in Amsterdam’s Jordaan district.
Van Gogh Museum
Van Gogh Museum—repositories of Golden Age art, iconic sunflowers and tormented starry nights. While our destination museums are rife with artistic treasures, they’re also chock full of tourists, especially in high season (May–September), when millions descend on the Dutch capital. Avoid the queues with an e-ticket or Museumkaart, or make use of free WiFi while waiting in line. Once in, don’t count on marveling at the work of Dutch masters in solitary reverence at either of these popular tourist attractions, especially if you visit in summer or during school vacation time.
Maritime Museum Rotterdam
Since Rotterdam does happen to have one of the largest harbour’s in the world, you would think that I would have made it to the Maritime Museum a little sooner than I did. However, I always glanced over its name on the museum list thinking “ships…b-o-r-i-n-g”. Little did I know that the Maritime Museum Rotterdam is filled with loads of fun things, which had I known, I would have visited much sooner than I did! The Maritime Museum is located in the city centre of Rotterdam, about half way between Central Station and the Erasmusbrug. It is a large building, which apart from the ships behind it (only one of which is actually part of the museum) looks rather boring, even if there was a caged tiger making roaring sounds outside (not real of course!). Once inside, you get your ticket, hang-up your coat and head off to explore. However, the best bit in my opinion, of the whole museum is the free entry onto one of the former naval ships dating back from 1868, known as De Buffel (The Buffalo). The ship itself isn’t huge but it does have several levels that you are able to explore. The ship is filled with information (in several languages), has loads of hands on activities (of which I only managed to break one but it was quickly fixed, phew!) and all the areas are kitted out with replica furnishings, realistic sounds and even some dodgy mannequins. I could have easily spent hours aboard, especially as there was little chance of sea-sicknesses but I was pulled off the ship by a Resident Cloggie who didn’t find shoveling coal into the furnaces as exciting as I did. All-in-all the Maritime Museum Rotterdam is a pretty cool museum to visit and the exhibits they have change regularly. Access to the Buffel is via your museum ticket so don’t forget to pick it up at the entrance.
Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam
Across the way, the Stedelijk Museum , also now up and running after a 10 years hiatus, brings Matisse, Chagall and Bruce Nauman into the fray, as well as video art, performances, an exceptional collection of De Stijl, and designs including Ettore Sottsass teapots and the famous Gerrit Rietveld chair.