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Top 5 Best Museums in Amsterdam (the good, the bad and the naughty!)

Mel standing on the Iamsterdam sign pinterest image

Top 5 Best Museums in Amsterdam (the good, the bad and the naughty!)

Amsterdam is well-known for being the “naughty” capital of Europe. From its infamous red light district and epic nightlife to its liberal stance on cannabis in coffee shops.

But behind the racy facade is a city steeped in history, art and culture.

Not to mention there are over 50 museums in Amsterdam covering a range of topics! These include museums on its most famous resident, Anne Frank, its maritime history, its famous artists and its history with sex.

There’s pretty much a museum to suit everyone’s interests!

But if you’re visiting Amsterdam for a few days or even just a weekend – how do you decide which museums to visit?

Well fear not friends, I’ve got you sorted! Here are the five best museums in Amsterdam that will cover all your interest bases!


1) Anne Frank House 

The Anne Frank House is hands down my favourite museum in Amsterdam.

The historic house and biographical museum is dedicated to Jewish wartime diarist Anne Frank and has a uniquely deep impact on everyone who visits.

For those unfamiliar with the story – Anne Frank was a young jewish girl who moved to Amsterdam from her native Germany as anti-Semitic attitudes began to intensify when the Nazis took power.

Statue of Ann Frank outside the Ann Frank Museum in Amsterdam

When World War II broke out and the Netherlands were invaded in 1940, Anne and her family went into hiding in a secret annex on the Prinsengracht 263 in Amsterdam where her father owned a business.

After almost two years in hiding they were discovered and deported to concentration camps. Anne’s father, Otto, was the only survivor.

After the war, Otto Frank returned to Amsterdam and published Anne’s account of the war and her experience of being in hiding. The secret Annex was then opened as museum in 1960 to preserve her memory and educate future generations on the horrors of the holocaust.

Ann Frank's Annex in Amsterdam

Together with the publishing of her diary, the story of the secret annex has made Anne Frank one of the most inspiring figures of the 20th Century.

The ever-popular museum attracts more than a million visitors each year so sure to book tickets in advance as even in winter lines people wait for up to two hours to get it.

Inside Ann Frank Museum with photos of Ann in a white room
Photo credit: Heather on her travels

Visiting The Anne Frank House is a really moving experience so plan something mellow to do afterwards. I would suggest taking a walk up the Westerkerk Tower or have a look around the Tulip Museum and shop. Both are right next to the Anne Frank House and allow you to quietly reflect on your visit.

Price:

€21 (approx. £18)

Duration:

2 hours with a 30 minute introduction

2) Van Gogh Museum 

Vincent Van Gogh is one of the Netherland’s most famous artists (and one of my favourites!).

The Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam opened in 1973 and holds the most comprehensive collection of Vincent’s work in the world.

It includes more than 200 of his paintings, 500 drawings and hundreds of letters. As well as his Japanese prints and work by his contemporaries.

Outside the Van Goph Museum building in Amsterdam - a glass and concrete building with cloudy sky in the foreground

What’s wonderful about this museum is that you don’t actually need to be a fan of Van Gogh’s work to enjoy it (weirdly!).

Gone are the days that you’re required to be an art aficionado to appreciate the works of fine artists!

Van Gogh’s paintings are beautifully expressive and colourful with unique detailing thanks to his trademark brush stroke. I think it’s this distinctive style that makes his work that more fascinating and enjoyable to look at personally!

Self portrait of Van Goph in the Van Goph Museum in Amsterdam

The museum houses many of his most famous pieces including, “Sunflowers”, “The Potato Eaters” and “The Bedroom”. Sadly, one of his most popular and renowned paintings, “The Starry Night” is unfortunately in The Museum of Modern Art in New York, boo!

But there is lots to learn in this beautiful modern museum about Van Gogh’s colourful work and his equally colourful life (ear cutting incident and all!).

His work is a must-see whilst visiting Amsterdam!

Price:

€19 (or approx. £16)

Duration:

2 hours

Sunflowers painting in the Van Goph Museum in Amsterdam

3) Rijks Museum 

The Rijks Museum is one of the most stunning and popular museums in Amsterdam and tells the story of 800 years of Dutch art and history.

Originally opened by King Louis Napoleon in 1808 in the Royal Palace on the Dam, the Rijks Museum has more than 8,000 items of Dutch art dating from the Middle Ages to the 20th Century.

Outside the Rijks Museum in Amsterdam with the Iamsterdam sign in the foreground

The building is also historically significant itself as it was designed by famed Dutch architect, Pierre Cuypers in a Renaissance and Gothic style in the late 1870s.

Rembrandt painting with a crowd in front it at the Rijks Museum in Amsterdam

With 80 rooms spread over four floors, don’t expect to see everything in a single visit.

By breezing through all the floors and only stopping on occasion at points of interest such as Rembrandt’s work, I got around the museum in just over two hours but was too hungry (and hungover!) to carry on.

If you want to see as much of the exhibitions as possible, I suggest loading up on snacks so you can take your time to see everything as it’s well worth it!

Price:

€20 (or approx. £17)

Duration:

Up to 4 hours

Ship model at the Rijks Museum in Amsterdam

4) Amsterdam Museum 

Amsterdam has a long history with entrepreneurship, creativity, citizenship and free-thinking. And nowhere quite encapsulates that better than the Amsterdam Museum.

17th century white arch leading to the entrance of the Amsterdam Museum in Amsterdam with a sign on the wall for the museum
Photo credit: Paul O

In the museum you’ll discover the story of Amsterdam through a large number of historical items from its beginnings as a trading port to the modern day.

The building itself has a cool history too as in the Middle Ages, Saint Lucien’s Monastery was situated here and in 1578 the City Orphanage was established.

Large soldier holding a staff in Roman uniform statue in the Amsterdam Museum in Amsterdam

The Amsterdam museum is a great starting off point for getting to know Amsterdam and understanding its history and culture.

I really enjoyed visiting as it’s super interactive and the different exhibition rooms make it a refreshing experience from your usual history/art museum.

Price:

€20 (or approx. £17)

Duration:

2 hours

Historic painting of a map of Amsterdam Amsterdam Museum in Amsterdam

5) Sex Museum

And lastly…for the “bad” and “naughty” section of this ‘best museums in Amsterdam list’ we have – the Sex Museum! Yes, the Sex Museum.

Located in the busiest spot of Amsterdam, in front of the Central Station, it’s the unofficial welcome wagon of Amsterdam!

Row of town houses outside the Sex Museum in Amsterdam with crowds of people walking past
Photo credit: René

The Sex Museum tells the story of human sexuality through, art, unique objects and rare old photographs. All presented in an interesting and light-hearted way.

Each room offers a different take on sex – starting with the representation of sexuality throughout history with a bizarre collection of artefacts.

Other rooms include endless victorian photographs of various sexual positions and even wax figures of Marilyn Monroe’s first nude photoshoot!

Ancient medieval totem of three people in a sexual position in the Sex Museum in Amsterdam
Photo credit: Miltof

There’s also plenty of hilarious photo opportunities. These include two huge plastic phallus chairs standing erect for you to rest on part way through the exhibition!

Unfortunately, I was laughing so hard we didn’t get chance to take advantage of this particular photo spot, so sadly for Footsteps on the Globe readers there is no photo evidence of this LOL.

But don’t worry – this museum really is just a bit of fun!

It’s a great museum for after hours too as it’s open later than most until 7pm. So have a cheeky visit on your way out for the night. It only takes about an hour to get through and you’ll have a right giggle!

Price:

€9 (or approx. £8)

Duration:

1 hour

Mannequins of Marilyn Monroe's first nude photoshoot in the Sex Museum in Amsterdam
Photo credit: JoAnna Kopp

No matter how long you have to visit Amsterdam, make time to visit at least one of these museums. They all have different things to offer and show you something unique about Amsterdam in each one.

One thing is for sure though, you’ll have the best time no matter which ones you choose.

Are there any museums in Amsterdam you would have added to this list? Let me know in the comments below 😊

Mel x

About the author

Hi, I’m Mel! The adventure-seeking vegan travel blogger behind Footsteps on the Globe. On this blog you'll find my latest adventures, travel inspiration as well as tips and tricks on how to be vegan around the world. You don’t have to give up being vegan to follow your travel dreams and I’m here to show you how!