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.
Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam
Get to Amsterdam in the spring and this spirit is there in all its glory. This afternoon, the sun shines straight overhead like a spotlight, and the town is surrounded by squares and trapezoids of solid colours and some multi-colours. Having explored Wanders world of the whimsical at the Andaz, I head to the Stedelijk Museum. I come to a room of paintings by Piet Mondrian, who studied art here in the early 1900s. I’ve loved his simple abstract geometry of primary tints in squares and rectangles my entire life, but now I realise his paintings were entirely representational, blocks of colour that could pass for the right-angled fields of blooming tulips—“an absolute of perfect sensations,” as the artist Barnett Newman wrote. In 1999, I didn’t go to the Van Gogh Museum because my friend and I had money for one of two options: tickets to our first Opera or the Van Gogh Museum.
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.
Built in 1408, this soaring church has been the stage for royal weddings and coronations, including King Willem’s marriage to Maxima and his crowning as Holland’s first king in a century in 2013. Now used for major art exhibitions, it has a gift shop that leads to a free display about the church’s turbulent history.
Gemeentemuseum Den Haag
In 1935, the last piece of work to be carried out by H.P. Berlage, one of the Netherland’s first modern architects, was completed. Sadly, Mr. Berlage died one year before that building, the Gemeentemuseum in Den Haag, was finished. Now the low brick building that overlooks a rectangular ornamental pond is home to the largest collection of Mondrian paintings in the world. Berlage was a fan of using brick in his buildings as he felt it added visual strength and mass to the walls. He specifically used brick rather than marble or stone for the Gemeentemuseum because he felt the building should not impress the public but instead should invite them in. In addition to the Piet Mondrian collection, you will find works by Picasso, Appel and Klee, amongst others.
Housing modern and contemporary art, the Groninger Museum is made up of three main pavilions that when put together create a radically modernist, attention grabbing venue. Finished in 1994, the building boasts the internationally renowned Alessandro Mendini as head architect, a striking spiral staircase and an assortment of colours, shapes and materials throughout. Originally costing 25 million Guilders (approximately 11 million Euros), the building was paid for mainly by Gasunie, who in celebrating their 25th anniversary wanted to give a gift to the city of Groningen. And even if you aren’t a fan of art, this museum is still well worth a visit – because the building is one of those places you just have to see.
Museum van Loon
You can step back in time at Museum van Loon, one of the best preserved of Amsterdam’s canal houses, offering a glimpse into the grandeur of 17th-century Holland. Built as a private residence in 1672, the museum was once the home of painter Ferdinand Bol (a pupil of Rembrandt). In 1884, wealthy merchant Hendrik Van Loon purchased it as a wedding gift for his son Willem, a founding member of the Dutch East India Company, whose grandson became mayor of Amsterdam. Today, its ornate detailing, historic paintings, exquisite furnishings, and precious silver and porcelain are reminders of the splendor of an earlier era. In the rear, a garden laid out in formal style borders a coach house where the Van Loon’s collection of historic carriages and harnesses is displayed.
Museum De Dubbelde Palmboom- CLOSED
De Dubbelde Palmboom, is one of the three locations that make up the Museum Rotterdam. As you probably guessed the museum focuses on things about Rotterdam. The exhibitions change over time but on this particular visit they focused on technology through the ages, recycling, rooms and shops from earlier time periods and a couple of smaller exhibits. You aren’t allowed to take photos in the museum which was really disappointing because not only were the displays worth taking photos of but so was the building, a double gated warehouse from the 19th century. We had a great time. We started off playing with the old phones, as I attempted to connect RC’s telephone call to another telephone in the area via the old fashioned switchboard. We played records on the turntable, laughed at the Sony discman, attempted to beat each other at Atari and left messages in morse code for future guests. Downstairs we printed off stickers, dug for broken artefacts and walked down the carpeted street complete with life size, old fashioned shops and home interiors.