“Amsterdam is the museum paradise, but you need to have the expertise to plan your itinerary during a short stay.”
A real treat for art and history lovers, Amsterdam is home to over 50 museums, many of them famous across the globe. On the other hand, the city challenges the tourists when planning the itinerary given so many options – great ones but trick ones as well, some shops are labeled as museums to deceive tourists. So, I decided to share with you which museums I would visit if I were in Amsterdam for a short stay. Before you ask, I considered a short stay, a period of 2 days (or 1 night) in the city.
Said that let’s talk about what matters… how can you maximize your experience in the city by visiting the best museums even if you have only a few days? First of all, I would like to disclaim that this blog post was written based on my personal cultural-artistic taste but also on my expertise with thousands of tourists from all around the world. Secondly, my recommendation tries to balance art and history collections and different periods of the culture of Amsterdam – old versus modern approach. Last but not least, I consider the duration of the visit once you will spend about 48 hours or less in the city.
After visiting more than 20 museums in Amsterdam, including all the most famous ones repetitively, I might be one of the most prepared people able to recommend a museum to you. Just to make it clear, I say this without willing to appear superior or arrogant, but rather showing that people need to invest time and study to be considered an expert in some field. Nowadays, I have the impression that most of the blogs ‘copy and paste’ the content from other blogs and keep it very superficial. Tired of this, I decided to start my own blog about culture, history, and lifestyle in Amsterdam. Check below my recommendations.
Anne Frank’s House: a museum with a strong story
If you follow me for a while, you should know I am a huge admirer of Anne Frank’s history, personality, and writing style. She is one of my greatest inspirations to write this blog and keep following my dream of living in Amsterdam, so I would definitely visit Anne Frank’s House. Also, I would recommend reading Anne Frank’s Diary before the visit. It really adds background and new information, which makes the visit to the annex even more intense.
Anne Frank House at Prinsengracht 263 in Amsterdam is where she went into hiding with her family for more than two years during World War II. Now, converted into a museum, it contains a sobering exhibition about the persecution of the Jews during the war, as well as discrimination in general. Some of you will consider the museum or the story emotional, deep, etc … but I think it is one of the strongest attractions in the city. It is definitely a must-see. Taking about 1 hour to cover the entire route, the museum offers a free audio tour available in nine languages: Dutch, English, French, German, Hebrew, Italian, Japanese, Portuguese, and Spanish.
Visiting the Anne Frank House, it is one of Amsterdam’s most popular tourist destinations. Thus, you have to buy it in advance on the official website, because normally the tickets are sold out in 1-2 months ahead. The Anne Frank House can only be visited with an online ticket for a specific date and time. 80% of the tickets are released exactly two months in advance at noon. The remaining 20% are released on the Anne Frank House website on the day itself at 9 AM.
On the official website, you must join the virtual queue at 8:45-9 am. This is the hour gap when you can get a good position to buy the tickets when Anne Frank’s House Museum usually releases the tickets left for the same day… also, do not refresh your page to not return to the end of the line. So later don’t say I did not warn you!
Van Gogh Museum: discover the life and work of Vincent.
The Van Gogh Museum has the largest collection of artworks by Vincent van Gogh – along with its 3 floors, you will find, among other things, more than 200 original works by the Dutch painter. Among these, the collection includes world-famous paintings, such as Self-portrait as a Painter (1887-88), Sunflowers (1889), Almond Trees (1980), and The Potato Eaters (1885).
The paintings are organized chronologically, which makes it possible to easily observe the artist’s evolution, with the rural scenes from the beginning to the tormented works at the end of his life. In addition, you will learn about the importance of his brother, Theo, and his family, in Van Gogh’s life and career.
The museum offers guided tours and audio-guides in several languages (including Brazilian Portuguese), both of which cost 5 euros per person. Between those two options, I recommend the audio guide as the quality is excellent, the content is didactic and easy to handle. Besides, you don’t have to wait for the guided tour time schedule and do it at your own pace.
The visit lasts an average of 1 hour and 15 minutes. This allows enough time to properly explore the permanent collection. During the year, the opening hours change due to the high season in the summer – for example, in July and August, the operation is from 9 am to 9 pm. Thus allowing greater flexibility for who is visiting the city, this is an essential tip for optimizing your itinerary. Normally, the museum closes at 5 pm during the rest of the year – except weekend nights, when it is opened until later.
Moco Museum: a boutique museum with a wide range of inspiring art.
If you love disruptive and street art, the Modern Contemporary (Moco) Museum is THE attraction for you in Amsterdam. Situated at the Museumplein and sandwiched by the renowned Rijksmuseum and Van Gogh Museum, Moco was created to make a wide range of modern and contemporary art available to the general public.
With artists like Banksy, Jean-Michel Basquiat, JR, OS GEMEOS, KAWS, Keith Haring, Jeff Koons, Yayoi Kusama, Andy Warhol, and more, it offers visitors an unparalleled collection of subversive art in which irony and humor are used to reflect on modern society. A one-of-a-kind experience aimed at a wide audience, a visit to Moco is a true eye-opener.
Located in a breathtaking mansion, the museum is not that large and it can be visited in less than 1 hour. However, if you wanna take many instagramable photos, you can definitely spend more time at Moco’s garden and darkroom. I recommend visiting it just after Van Gogh Museum if you want to optimize your visit to the Museumplein region.
Summing up, the three museums I chose are very central and accessible. If you are organized enough, you will be able to schedule the Anne Frank’s House for the first day. After spending one hour in the museum, you will be free to explore one of the most famous neighborhoods in the city, the Joordan. There, you will see the beautiful canals and little houses, try the traditional apple pie and much more. You can read my blog about the neighborhoods in Amsterdam to find out what else to visit.
On the second day, after spending about two-three hours in the Moco and Van Gogh museums combined, you will be in the Museumplein, where the Rijksmuseum is located. As the name already says, the royal museum looks like a castle and is a must-see, even if you don’t have the time to visit their inside collection. From the Museumplein, you can easily walk to the Vondelpark, De Pijp, Leidseplein, and much more.
Read my other blogs to know the best places to eat and visit in those neighborhoods. Do you still have questions? Let me know in the comments!