Experience natural history galore
The Teylers Museum in Haarlem houses over 200 years of art, science and natural history. Established in 1778, the extensive collections include paintings (many of which are by the Dutch Romantics), drawings by Michelangelo and Raphael, fossils, minerals, medals, coins, scientific instruments and books. When you visit, don’t miss the Oval Room, a stately neoclassical building with a library, observatory and laboratory which showcases experiments to the public. And it’s all free with your I amsterdam City Card.
Marvel at 17th-century masterpieces
Haarlem’s Frans Hals Museum boasts an array of 16th and 17th-century paintings and the world’s largest collection of portraiture by the eponymous artist. The museum’s extensive collection also covers the entire spectrum art from the period, as well as furniture, ceramics, glass and silver pieces that were crafted when the Netherlands was one of the culture capitals of the world. Visit the museum for free with your I amsterdam City Card.
Step back in time at the Fortress Museum
Head to Naarden, a historic fortified town that’s famous for its six-pointed star shape, with double ramparts and moats, to explore the Fortress Museum (Vestingmuseum). The site is spread across an open-air plot of land, where you can meander through a collection of historical cannons, and a labyrinthine network of underground passageways and vaulted casemates where ancient weapons and artillery are on display. You will have the opportunity to walk along the ramparts and view the fortress from the museum’s boat while learning about the importance of fortresses through the history of the Netherlands. While you are in the area, you should also make a visit to Muiderslot Castle (below). I amsterdam City Card holders get in free at both locations.
Prepare for battle
Located in the fortified town of Muiden, Amsterdam Castle Muiderslot is like something from a fairy tale. The 700-year-old medieval fortress – complete with drawbridges, towers and moats – has welcomed many famous residents and was part of the Defence Line of Amsterdam, which kept invaders at bay. With gardens, guided tours, falconry and kids’ treasure hunts, it delights visitors of all ages.
See windmills, windmills, windmills
There’s no better place to see a Dutch icon up close than the Zaanse Schans open-air museum. Located in the heart of the Zaan region, the 250-year-old park takes visitors back to the country’s industrial past and features working windmills that helped produce products like linseed oil, paint, mustard and paper. There’s also a preserved village of historic Dutch homes, warehouses, workshops and even a cheese factory. Your City Card provides free entry to all of Zaanse Schans’ museums and windmills, and you even get discounts at the local restaurant.
Cruise the Zuiderzee
The Rederij Volendam-Marken Express ferry service has been transporting tourists and locals between the historic Dutch towns of Volendam and Marken for over 80 years. After boarding, sit back and learn about the folklore of this fascinating area. And if you’re hungry, sample the delicious Dutch pie during the 45-minute trip across the Zuiderzee. Boats depart several times a day from the towns’ ports, and the shuttle is free with the I amsterdam City Card.
Explore the isle of Amsterdam
Hop on a ferry to discover Fort Pampus, a UNESCO World Heritage site. Built in 1887 as part of the Defence Line of Amsterdam, it sits on a man-made island in the middle of IJmeer. Though it was armed with large-calibre guns and a permanent garrison of 200 men, the fort never saw any action. With historical artefacts to discover, audio tours and an extensive events calendar, the island makes for a fascinating day trip. The ferry runs from April to November and there are several departures from Amsterdam and Muiden Tuesday to Sunday. The ferry is free for City Card holders.
Put the kids to work
At the Zuiderzee Museum, kids can get a taste of life in the Netherlands in the early 20th century by taking part in chores like cleaning, dusting and sweeping. There are also traditional games for them to play and special activities on certain days, including clog painting and writing lessons using an old-fashioned dip pen. Grownups will also enjoy this indoor-outdoor museum, which has an impressive collection of antique fishing boats and displays of ornate handicrafts. When you’re done, stop by the gift shop for a discount on smoked herring, a local specialty.
Zuiderzee Museum // Wierdijk 12-22, Enkhuizen
Get a glimpse into traditional Dutch life
The Volendams Museum depicts life in this fishing village from 1800 to the present day. With a unique selection of paintings, sculptures, pottery, life-size dioramas and traditional costumes, it offers a glimpse into the area’s culture and history. The collection also features works by celebrated Dutch artists – including Henricus Rol and Edwin Austrin Abbey – as well as unusual items, like a scale model of the Volendam shipyard and mosaics created in 1947 by a retired monk using more than 11 million cigar bands. Get free entry with your I amsterdam City Card to what is easily one of the Netherlands' most unconventional, and interesting, museums.