Basically the first thing you should do after entering the Netherlands (ok you’re allowed to smoke one joint first 😉 ) is go and get yourself a MuseumCard. They allow you entrance into almost any museum in the country without having to stand in line and cost only about 60EUR.
Once you’ve figured this thing out, get a Public Transport Chip Card (yes, everybody hates these things, but what can we do) and you’re all set for one of the best proper Dutch activities: take trains to visit museums all over the country!
Here’s a list of all my favorite museums that you can visit for free and roughly what they’re about. I’m a bit of a museum-nerd, so there are a lot, for convenience I listed them per Province, with a link to their own websites and a star for my absolute favorites. (Oh, in case you’re wondering, those are the flags of the provinces) Enjoy 🙂
- Drents Museum – Assen
One of the oldest museums of the country and the go-to place for archaeology-lovers.
- Hunebed Centrum – Borger
Prehistoric farmers built interesting grave-monuments as megalithic graves.
- International Clog Museum – Eelde
Over 2000 different types of clogs and other wooden shoes from 43 countries and with the original craftsman tools.
- Print museum – Meppel
With everything you ever wanted to know about printing and binding books the old-fashioned way.
- Kids-world Museum – Roden
Filled with old (1700-1950) toys like dolls, doll-houses, mechanical toys, board-games, train-sets and tin soldiers.
- Safetymuseum – Almere
The world of police, firemen and ambulances in one big interactive experience.
- Aviodrome – Lelystad
A fascinating journey through the history of aviation.
- Botanical garden the Herb-courtyard – Buitenpost
The biggest herb-garden of the country with seventeen theme-gardens, each with their own collection of plants.
- Beach-combers museum – Buren (Ameland island)
Special stories and trophies of fisherman and beach-combers from this island.
- Ceramics museum Princes-court – Leeuwarden
Famous for its extensive collection of Asian, European and modern ceramics.
- Fries maritime museum – Sneek
A museum about the history of Frisian shipping from the 17th till 20th century and water- and ice-sports.
- Loo Palace – Apeldoorn
Used as a summer-home for our royals through three centuries and now open for the public. Check out the stables and garden too.
- Holland Open Air Museum – Arnhem
Pure Dutch history in this big museum-park: old crafts, a shipyard, beer-brewery, windmills, a dairy-farm and historical trams.
- National Liberation Museum – Groesbeek
Between these hills and woods lie dioramas, original film footage and music to take you through the liberation of the Netherlands after WWII.
- Valkhof – Nijmegen
Art from the Middle-Ages till the 20th century, with the biggest collection of Dutch pop-art.
- Kröller-Müller – Otterlo
Amidst the stunning Veluwe national park, with a great art-garden and loads of Van Gogh. Take a bike there through the park.
- Museuquarium Delfzijl
In this WWII bunker you can find all the treasures of the North Sea, with plants, animals, boats and other artifacts.
- Thermal Museum – Heerlen
The remains of a 2000 year old Roman bath house.
- Hoensbroek Castle – Hoensbroek
One of the largest castles in the country with 40 fully furnished rooms like the ballroom, dungeons and 60m high medieval tower.
- MOTI – Breda
The dynamic world of the picture shown and explained with film, design, photography, fashion, art, architecture, science and gaming.
- Van Abbemuseum – Eindhoven
One of the most spectacularly designed museums and leading in contemporary art with a collection including Picasso and Chagall.
- De Pont – Tilburg
Probably my favorite museum, housed in a former wool mill. The private collection of contemporary art includes more than 600 works and there are several temporary exhibitions throughout the year.
- Textile Museum – Tilburg
Inspiring exhibitions in the field of design, art and heritage, educational programs and specialized workshops are all held in this former factory.
- St Laurens Church – Alkmaar
This Gothic basilica is 35m high and has a very special painting of the Last Judgment on the wooden vault above the choir.
- Cobra Museum – Amstelveen
The Cobra movement was a breakthrough in modern art and here is the most important collection, including work by Appel and Corneille.
- Amsterdam Pipe Museum – Amsterdam
Manages a collection that is unique in the Netherlands and Europe, giving an overview of the smoking culture of the five continents of five hundred years.
- Anne Frank House – Amsterdam
Anne Frank and her family hid here in WWII for more than two years. Quotes from the diary, historical documents, photographs, film images, and original objects. Very impressive.
- Old Church – Amsterdam
One of the first structures of the city, embedded in the ramparts and now basically part of the red-light district but twive a year home to exhibitions of world-renowned contemporary artists.
- Diamond Museum – Amsterdam
Learn all about carbon atoms, specialists who transform rough stone into sparkling jewels and how to distinguish a real diamond from imitation.
- EYE – Amsterdam
Eye-catcher by the water behind Central Station, this spectacular building annually presents four major exhibitions on movie and film.
- FOAM – Amsterdam
The place to be for photography-lovers. From documentation to fashion, contemporary to historical, famous to new talent. Inspiring, small, uncomplicated but critical and free every Thursday at 18:30.
- Hermitage – Amsterdam
This amazing building is home to the ever-changing collection of the best and biggest museum in the world: Hermitage of St Petersburg. Only big names in here.
- Hollandsche Schouwburg – Amsterdam
This theater was a deportation center for Jews in WWII and is now a monument in memory of the victims with a wall bearing the names of 6,700 of the 104,000 Dutch-Jewish victims.
- Rijksmuseum – Amsterdam
Walk between all the Dutch masterpieces and make sure to pay attention to the beautifully renovated building while you’re at it.
- Stedelijk – Amsterdam
An international institution dedicated to modern and contemporary art and design with a collection considered one of the most important in Europe.
- Ships in bottles – Enkhuizen
With the biggest collection you’ve ever seen and how to make one yourself/
- Teylers Museum – Haarlem
History of science, physics and biology combined in an authentic building.
- Fort Island Pampus – Muiden
Take the ferry for 25 minutes from Muiden to get to this old fort island and take the fun interactive audio-tour.
- Tin figures museum – Ommen
Just like the real world, but only 30 millimeters high with tin figures depicting fairy tales and myths.
- Kade – Amersfoort
Everything modern: art, architecture, design and contemporary visual culture.
- National Military Museum – Soest
About the significance of the army and other armed forces for the Netherlands in the past, present and future.
- Railway museum – Utrecht
In an actual old train-station stands the first steam locomotive of the country and way more.
- Zeeuws Museum – Middelburg
Located in a medieval abbey in the center of town, with contemporary presentations of archaeology, regional costumes, paintings and silver.
- Flood museum – Ouwerkerk
The flood of February 1953 is a black page in the history of the Netherlands. More than 1,800 people drowned. This place gives a picture of the events during and after the flood.
- Statues by the sea – Den Haag
The museum for sculpture lovers. The subject of the permanent collection is human images. The outside part is in the sand-dunes and especially lovely.
- GEM – Den Haag
Part of the Hague Municipal Museum and the collection represents contemporary art in form of (cideo) installations, painting and sculpture to film, photography and drawings.
- Municipal Museum – Den Haag
Just the building is worth a visit and it’s home to the biggest Piet Mondriaan collection in the world, among other prints, crafts, music and fashion.
- Louwman – Den Haag
The world’s oldest private collection of automobiles includes more than 230 antique and classic cars.
- Mauritshuis – Den Haag
The best Dutch and Flemish art from the Golden Age. Make sure to check the monumental ceiling paintings and have a piece of cake.
- Panorama Mesdag – Den Haag
The largest painting in the Netherlands, 360º look around and experience the Scheveningen at the end of the 19th century. With its 14 meters and a circumference of not less than 120 meters to the cylindrical painting evokes a magical illusion of reality.
- Hortus Botanicus – Leiden
Diverse gardens, both inside and out, to wonder about the rich nature.
- Windmill museum – Leiden
Provides information about the history and technology of grain grinding mills. With original grinding mechanism, which is also occasionally still in operation.
- Ethnology museum – Leiden
This is basically a museum about people, from all over the world. The enormous cultural diversity in human themes such as mourning, celebrating, decorating, praying and fighting.
- Boijmans van Beuningen – Rotterdam
A journey through the history of art of the early Middle Ages to the present. One of my absolute favorites.