Unusual museums in Amsterdam
Amsterdam’s museums are world-famous and even without having visited the city, most people know about the Rijksmuseum, the Anne Frank House and the Van Gogh Museum. But did you know about the quirkier, smaller museums? Amsterdam has all sorts of unusual collections - dedicated to cats, fluorescent art, washed-up beach finds and microbes to name just a few! If you’re the kind of person who likes to go off the beaten track, then you should certainly explore some of these more unusual museums, which often have the bonus of being situated in stunning locations.
The recently opened Nxt Museum is the first exhibition space in the Netherlands dedicated entirely to New Media Art. If you're not sure exactly what that means, think immersive audio-visual projections in a colossal industrial space. The museum showcases experiential pieces that trigger thrilling emotions, abstract stories and incredible sensory reactions, collaborating with creatives and visual artists from around the world - all working at the cutting edge of art and technology.
Museum Het Schip
Dive into the whacky architectural style of the Amsterdam School movement at Museum Het Schip. This expressionist building (called "the ship" because of its nautical shape) hosts some fascinating permanent exhibitions about this early 20th-century design movement that draws comparisons to Art Deco.
This massive industrial complex in NDSM answers the question of what happens when you take urban art off the streets and place it in a gallery context. STRAAT Museum in NDSM is entirely devoted to graffiti and street art, featuring a huge range of works by international artists including large scale murals.
Museum Tot Zover
If you’re interested in how the Dutch approach the inevitability of death, then the Dutch Funeral Museum is just the ticket. Tot Zover offers an array of changing contemporary and historical exhibitions featuring art and photography plus a growing selection of online galleries delving deep into our relationship with death. As befitting a funeral museum it’s located in a cemetery - the only Dutch museum to be – and housed in the former director's residence.
They’re as everyday as anything can be, they’re on and in you and you can’t see them. We’re talking microbes and Amsterdam has an entire interactive museum devoted to these fascinating lifeforms. Step into Micropia to learn all about the hundred thousand billion of them sharing your body through engaging exhibitions and educational activities.
You might have heard about people being “barking mad”, well you certainly won’t find them at the Cat Cabinet (Kattenkabinet). This feline monument was founded in memory of a frisky tomcat, John Pierpont Morgan, who was the long-time companion of the museum's founder. The collection is dedicated entirely to the role of cats in art and culture throughout history. Even if you’re not cat crazy, then a stroll through the impressive rooms of this beautiful canal house - also used in the film Ocean’s Twelve - is an unexpected treat.
Museum Perron Oost
With a surface area of just 6 m2, Museum Perron Oost in the Eastern Docklands is perhaps the smallest museum in the world. In 1993, artist and designer Joep van Lieshout transformed the former cattle market area and railway tracks into a miniature park. Since 2013, the museum in the former supervisor's house has told the stories of local residents in the form of theatre, film, dance, music and visual art. The building is so small you can even see the exhibition through the windows.
Museum van de Geest | Dolhuys
Following an extensive redevelopment, the Museum van de Geest (Museum for the Mind) | Dolhuys is located in a former asylum and home for lepers. Built during medieval times, it’s now dedicated to showcasing the work of outsider artists and aims to shed light on the creativity of writers, artists, and scientists with mental illnesses.
Below the Surface
The subterranean museum, Below the Surface focuses on all manner of things unearthed by diggers during the construction of the North/South metro line running through the centre of Amsterdam. And it goes way back, we’re talking shells from 114,000-124,000 BC right up to more contemporary finds such as decorative radiator caps, film canisters, Moroccan coins and mobile phones from 2005 when construction began. 700,000 items were found in total, with 9,500 on display between the escalators at Rokin metro station. Archive admirers take note as the Below the Surface website has taken classification to the next level with 134,282 items catalogued with all kinds of fascinating data. Think teeth, thimbles and tiles for starters.
Van Eesteren Museum
Devoted entirely to architect and urban planner Cornelis van Eesteren, the Van Eesteren Museum in Amsterdam Nieuw-West is a collection of buildings and districts sure to impress architecture enthusiasts. Encompassing pavilions, houses, gardens and entire suburbs it gives insight into van Eesteren’s ambitious plans for the extension of Amsterdam.
Street Art Museum Amsterdam
Street Art Museum Amsterdam (SAMA) is a curated collection of works from internationally recognized street and graffiti artists. The museum’s collection is located outside on the streets and buildings of Nieuw-West and showcases a variety of artistic styles combined with stories about immigration, inclusion, environmental justice and other issues. Tours through the collection provide a unique experience that can be tailored to visitors from a wide range of backgrounds, ages and interests.
Embassy of the Free Mind
The Embassy of the Free Mind is a museum library, where the European culture of free thinking imparts its knowledge to all those who walk through its doors. Housed in the grand 17th-century canal house of the ‘House with the Heads' on the Keizersgracht, this is the place to learn about history, science, art and spirituality and how they’re all connected. It’s also a platform for freethinkers to talk about life irrespective of religion, culture or age.
The Mouse Mansion
This one’s hard to classify; it’s a shop, a museum and a studio that all have The Mouse Mansion series of books in common. In fact, it’s here where this family affair creates all the sets for the books featuring squeaky characters Sam and Julia. Their crafty handiwork and magical environments will delight those who love all things small and wonderful, especially furry mice.
Located in the Jordaan, the Pianola Museum is home to a collection of pianos that can essentially play themselves with just a little assistance from music recorded on perforated paper rolls. Back in the day this was hi-tech. Along with the self-playing instruments, you’ll find an array of related paraphernalia including a range of pianos, pipe organs, gramophones and phonographs. The library houses some 30,000 music reels and books and the collection includes gramophone records, phonograph rolls and LPs. The museum also stages concerts throughout the year.
Just outside of Amsterdam in the picturesque beachside town of Zandvoort, you’ll find the Juttersmuseum. This absorbing museum is full of finds that beachcombers have discovered on their early morning walks come rain or shine. Wondering what to expect? Well just about anything. From mammoth teeth to bits of metal from NASA rockets, even dolls and toys and all manner of plastic, all of which relay tales of human history and its relation to the sea.
Back in the day, two families lived between the looms in Wevershuis (weaver’s house). The mill was in use until the beginning of of the 20th century where cloth for windmills and sails was crafted. Experience the cramped confines for yourself and see where the families lived and worked.