Stroll through Amsterdam’s charming Canal District and discover the city's hidden gems. The city's elegant canal-side mansions house some of the most fascinating museums with collections ranging from stately to quirky and including everything from ancient artefacts to cutting-edge art.
Het Grachtenhuis (Museum of the Canals)
A great place to start exploring Amsterdam's hidden museums is Het Grachtenhuis (Museum of the Canals). This recent addition is a tribute to the Canal District, with multimedia exhibitions showing how the now grand district is really an engineering marvel built on swamp land. From here, visitors can easily explore other museums housed in canal mansions and the museum is even equipped to help them plan their itineraries. Free admission with the I amsterdam City Card.
Museum Van Loon
Visit Museum Van Loon and step back through time into Amsterdam's sumptuous Golden Age. And as of 24 September 2011, Van Loon is the only residence of its kind complete with an original stately carriage house! Among the most powerful 17th century families, the Van Loons belonged to the city's governing families and were among the founders of the mighty VOC – the Dutch East India Company back in 1602. With much of its original interior intact , the museum collection comprises paintings, antique furnishings and objects. Get ready to ooh and ahh! Free admission with the I amsterdam City Card.
Museum of Bags and Purses
One of the eight leading fashion museums in the world and the only museum with such an extensive, specialised collection of bags and purses, the Museum of Bags and Purses (Tassenmuseum Hendrikje) takes visitors on a tour of the development of bags and purses from the sixteenth century to the present. The collection provides a fascinating survey of function, design, fabric and decoration in purse fashion through the ages. Built in 1664, the historic museum building boasts an impressive antique interior. Free admission with the I amsterdam City Card.
Soak up the authentic 19th century atmosphere at the Willet-Holthuysen Museum and find out what life was like in Amsterdam for both wealthy and ordinary members of society. Built in 1687, the house and its fine collection of art and furnishings were bequeathed to the city of Amsterdam by its last resident, Louisa Willet-Holthuysen. The mansion is beautifully preserved and highlights include the magnificent Blue Room, ornamental gardens and servants' quarters. The museum also offers a collection of historic paintings and luxurious antique objects. Free admission with the I amsterdam City Card.
Museum Ons' Lieve Heer op Solder (Our Lord in the Attic)
On the Oudezijds Voorburgwal you'll find one of Amsterdam's most unexpected museums. At first glance, Museum Ons’ Lieve Heer op Solder (Our Lord in the Attic) looks like a typical 17th-century canal house, but there's a historical church hidden behind the classical facade. This clandestine church in the attic dates back to the time when Catholics were not permitted to openly practice their faith. The building is now a museum where you can admire grand chambers and remarkable exhibitions in addition to the hidden church.
One of the oldest museums in the Netherlands, the Biblical Museum brings the stories of the Bible as well as Biblical scholarship and archaeology to life. It is is home to a large collection of ancient Jewish and Egyptian religious artefacts. Museum highlights include a reconstruction of the Tabernacle tent that is said to have housed the Ark of the Covenant and a first-rate collection of Bibles, including the oldest printed Bible in the Netherlands. The two historic canal-side mansions that house the museum collection were designed by renowned Golden Age architect Philips Vingboons. Free admission with the I amsterdam City Card.
FOAM Amsterdam exhibits all genres of photography, from fine art to documentary, and historical to contemporary. It’s a museum with a great international reputation and serves as a creative hub where photographers can meet to engage with each other and the public. Apart from its large exhibitions of established photographers, Foam also regularly exhibits new talent in smaller scale shows. The museum offers a continuous rotation of three exhibitions and sells signed prints by upcoming photographers. Free admission with the I amsterdam City Card.
Huis Marseille Museum of Photography
The former residence of a wealthy French merchant, Huis Marseille is named from the Southern French city, a stone map of which can be seen on the building's facade. The well-preserved 17th century interior still has the feel of a "gentleman's home", but is now the setting for a rotation of themed exhibitions from photography and astronomy to domestic landscapes. The museum often purchases works for its permanent collection from its temporary exhibitions. Free admission with the I amsterdam City Card.
Museum Geelvinck is another mansion showcasing 17th century patrician wealth. Located on the Golden Bend of the grandest canal of all - Herengracht , the house was built as a status symbol for a Golden Age power couple, as Albert Geelvinck and his wife Sara Hinlopen both belonged to regent families. Highlights include ornamental gardens, as well as sumptuous themed salons, such as the Blue Room, Red Room and Chinese Room. Free admission with the I amsterdam City Card.