I don’t know about you, but, whenever I visit a new city, I always do some serious googling to find out what museums could be worth visiting. Especially in the Netherlands, finding impressive museums is no hard feat, with collections covering topics such as science, culture, history and the arts. Since first moving to The Hague over three years ago, I’ve done my fair share of museum visits, often dragging (sometimes begrudging) friends of mine with me. Now, I firmly believe that there are many educational gems waiting for us in the streets of Dutch cities, and I wholeheartedly encourage everyone to check them out. Here’s a list of my recommendations for the five best Dutch museums.
After serving as a hotel and drawing high-standing guests to its halls, the Mauritshuis was first opened to the public as a museum in 1822. It now houses the Royal Cabinet of Paintings, which includes world-famous, impressive artworks, such as Johannes Vermeer’s Girl with the Pearl Earring and Carel Fabritius’ The Goldfinch (on which Donna Tartt’s novel of the same name is based). If you’re a lover of Dutch Golden Age paintings, or can appreciate a good heritage building, then take a day trip to The Hague and spend a few hours at the Mauritshuis. Even better, you can get a 5 euro discount if you’re a student.
Location: Mauritshuisplein 29, Den Haag
For those modernists among us who aren’t into paintings from the age of Vermeer and Rembrandt, Kunsthal is a must-visit. Designed in 1989 by architect Rem Koolhaas, the building attracts architecture-lovers from all over the world. The cool thing about Kunsthal is that it’s far from one-sided and stagnant, and new exhibitions focusing on various artistic mediums are constantly in rotation. From haute-couture runway collections to intricate animal sculptures, the museum offers something for all lovers of contemporary art.
Location: Museumpark, Westzeedijk 341, Rotterdam
I admit that I’m not a big science person, so there are many science museums scattered throughout the Netherlands that I’ve likely overlooked. The closest I’ve ever gotten to visiting one is the Naturalis Biodiversity Center in Leiden, which, admittedly, is a natural history museum more than anything. It houses a truly remarkable collection of species in the categories of geology, botany, vertebrates, invertebrates and entomology. Believe me, seeing the museum’s dinosaur skeletons brings out the fascination of everyone’s inner child.
Location: Darwinweg 2, Leiden
Another fancy, high-culture must-see is the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam. It’s probably on the to-do list of next to all of the millions of tourists who visit the city each year and with good reason. Though a ticket doesn’t come cheap, visiting the museum is one of the most remarkable ways to discover all the goodness that (Dutch) art history has to offer. It even hosts the Netherlands’ equivalent of the Mona Lisa: Rembrandt’s The Night Watch. And of course, once you’re already in Amsterdam, you might as well push yourself to your cultural limits and check out some of the other museums the city has to offer, whether it be the Van Gogh Museum or the NEMO Science Museum.
Location: Museumstraat 1, Amsterdam
Last but not least on my list of museum must-sees is the Netherlands’ most ‘instagrammable’ museum, Voorlinden. It could very well be that you have seen some of the people you follow post cool pictures of them “swimming” in Leandro Erlich’s Swimming Pool or walking along Richard Serra’s Open Ended tunnel sculpture. Slightly shrouded in mystery, the Wassenaar-located Voorlinden Museum and estate gardens are difficult to reach if you don’t own a car. However, its delightfully diverse collection of contemporary and conceptual sculptures, paintings and installations will make the difficult journey worthwhile. The easiest way to get there is by taking a bus to Wassenaar and walking the remainder of the way.
Location: Buurtweg 90, Wassenaar
As a museum lover primarily interested in art, this was my list of top museums in the Netherlands. Pro tip: If you find yourself wanting to visit many museums, then investing in the ‘Museumkaart’ may be worth it, as you’ll be able to go to as many exhibitions as you’d like for a fixed annual fee of 64,90 euros.
In case you need more information on how to reach these museums, here's a detailed outline of public transportation in the Netherlands.