Museums and Galleries

An overview of some of Hollands best museums, including the Van Gogh Museum and the novel Archeon - an archaeological theme park.

Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam

The world's greatest collection of work by this pivotal artist. See Top Ten Things to Do.

Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam

Art flourished alongside Amsterdam's growing prosperity in the 16th and 17th centuries, producing a 'Golden Age' of Dutch painting. Contributing to this rush of talent were artists such as Aelbert Cuyp, Jacob van Ruisdael, Meindart Hobbema, Gerrit Dou, Jan Steen, Pieter de Hooch, Vermeer, Frans Hals and, of course, Rembrandt. All are represented in the Netherlands' premier gallery, the Rijksmuseum (State Museum). It also has extensive collections of Asiatic art, European painting, sculpture, and costume and textiles. BUT NOTE: The Rijksmuseum is currently undergoing a massive renovation programme, due to last until 2008. However, more than 400 highlights of its collection from the 17th century - including Rembrandt's famous 'Night Watch' - can be seen in a special exhibition called 'The Masterpieces' in the Philips Wing, along with other artefacts that illustrate the stupendous wealth and vigour of Amsterdam's Golden Age.

Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam

This is Amsterdam's modern art museum, with a prestigious collection of work by international artists, such as Manet, Matisse, Cézanne, Chagall, Picasso, Mondriaan, Roy Lichtenstein, and so on. BUT NOTE: its usual home is currently undergoing renovation, and so temporary exhibitions will be presented on two floors of the modern Oosterdokskade building until Autumn 2008.

Anne Frank House

Hidden behind a bookcase in this unassuming building on the Prinsengracht is the tiny apartment, the 'Annexe', where the young Anne Frank and her family spent two years hiding from the Nazis during the German occupation of the Netherlands in the Second World War. Then in August 1944 they were betrayed, and Anne (now aged 15), her family, and others hiding with them (eight people in all) were despatched to concentration camps. Only Anne's father survived, along with Anne's diary, an extraordinary testament to the courage, forbearance and humanity of all those involved in her story. The empty apartment and the museum provide a deeply moving presentation of this tragic episode of Nazi oppression. The 'Diary of Anne Frank' has sold millions of copies worldwide, and the Anne Frankhuis receives corresponding numbers of visitors. If visiting in the summer, make advantage of the evening opening hours, when it is less busy.

National Maritime Museum, Amsterdam

The wealth of Amsterdam came from the sea, from the herring fleets and plucky merchant vessels of the 17th century that sailed half way around the world to bring cloves, silk, porcelain, and lacquered furniture from the East. The Nederlands Scheepvaart Museum, housed in the old naval arsenal dating from the 18th century, celebrates this maritime tradition with the world's largest collection of boats. It includes a full-scale replica of a three-masted Dutch East Indiaman, 'Amsterdam', animated by actors in contemporary dress to evoke the glory days of the Dutch East India Company (VOC).

Nemo Science and Technology Centre, Amsterdam

Named (in part) after Captain Nemo from Jules Verne's 'Twenty Thousand Leagues under the Sea', this innovative museum is housed in an extraordinary green-hued, copper-clad, ship-like building designed by the partnership of Renzo Piano (co-architect of the Pompidou Centre in Paris); it lies across the water from the National Maritime Museum. Nemo is dedicated to introducing youngsters (5-10 age range in particular) to the world of science and technology, through engaging, well-thought-out, hands-on displays. The sloping Upper Deck has magnificent views over Amsterdam.

Frans Hals Museum, Haarlem

This contains not only a fine collection of painting by Franz Hals (1580-1666), one of the great artists of Holland's 'Golden Age', but also work by his contemporaries, plus furniture, Delftware, silver, clocks, and modern paintings.

Mauritshuis, The Hague

The royal collection of paintings: small, but perfectly formed. See Top Ten Things to Do.

Kröller-Müller Museum

A wonderful blend of top-ranking modern art and parkland. See Top Ten Things to Do.

Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, Rotterdam

Holding one of the great national art collections of Holland, this museum owes it name to the collectors who founded it. It includes work by Old Masters such as Jan and Hubert van Eyck, Albrecht Dürer, Pieter Brueghel (his famous 'Tower of Babel') and Rembrandt, and a good selection of more modern work by artists such as Monet, Van Gogh, Dali, Magritte and Andy Warhol. It also mounts cutting-edge exhibitions of contemporary art.

Bonnefantenmuseum, Maastricht

A good collection of Old Masters (Lucas Cranach, Pieter Breughel the Younger, David Teniers and so on), and modern work (Richard Serra, Mario Merz, Luc Tuymans) has been housed in a remarkable set of buildings (1995) designed by the Italian architect Aldo Rossi. Its emblematic silver salt-cellar 'Cupola' looks out over the River Maas.

Groninger Museum, Groningen

This museum is worth seeing for its building alone: a set of remarkable, uncompromising architectural shapes at the water's edge, conceived by several international architects and designers: Alessandro Mendini, Philippe Starck, Michele de Lucchi and Coop Himmelb(l)au (Wolf D. Prix and Helmut Swiczinsky). It opened in 1994. The museum contains a good range of Dutch and international art (including work by Rubens, Rembrandt, Carel Fabritius, Corot, Jongkind, Van Gogh, Gauguin, Andy Warhol, Anselm Kiefer, Jeff Koons), plus a noted collection of applied arts, including porcelain salvaged from the wreck of a ship of the Dutch East India Company coming from China. It also runs a programme of highly respected exhibitions by contemporary artists.

Paleis Het Loo, near Apeldoorn

Built originally as a hunting lodge for Stadholder (ruler) William III in 1686, this elegant neo-classical palace served as a royal summer residence until the 1960s. Now it is open the public, who can view a series of sumptuous rooms decorated in styles ranging from the 1680s to the 1930s, and wander in the extensive formal gardens.

Zuiderzee Museum, Enkhuizen

A historical open-air museum recreating the life of a fishing port in about 1900. See Top Ten Things to Do.

Archeon, Alphen aan den Rhijn

This open-air 'archaeological theme park', south-east of Amsterdam, sets out to show what daily life was like for people during three eras of the past: prehistoric times, the Roman period, and the Middle Ages. Costumed actors demonstrate the realities of hunter-gathering, Roman gladiatorial combat, and life in a medieval monastery, and animate domestic settings and craft workshops. Fun for all the family, and particularly for children.

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