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Extensive reconstruction has been going on in the Amsterdam museum scene since 2003, due to which two of the three most famous museums are not fully accessible. Nevertheless, there is still plenty to see, more in fact than you can ever take in during a single stay in the city. The museum part of the Amsterdam tourist track typically leads through Rijksmuseum to see Rembrandt's Night Watch and Van Gogh Museum for his famous sunflower painting. However, you may want to reconsider your options, and go to some of the lesser visited museums instead, which harbour art just as breathtakingly beautiful.
List of principal museums
Some of the museums are listed below. Note that none of them are free, most are actually quite expensive. Unlike in other cities, you cannot buy an integrated ticket for all of them, either. More information on museums can also be found on the I Amsterdam website.
- Rijksmuseum - Although mostly famous for its Golden Age paintings, the collection of Rijksmuseum includes everything, from intricate doll houses (not currently on display due to reconstruction) to ship interiors. The tourist highlight is Rembrandt's painting De compagnie van kapitein Frans Banning Cocq en luitenant Willem van Ruytenburgh, aka the Night Watch.
- Hermitage aan de Amstel - An annex of the actual Hermitage museum in St. Petersburg. It has theme exhibitions that change periodically, depending on what part of their infinite storage rooms the main museum wants to put on display.
- Amsterdam Historical Museum - If you want to see outstanding 17th century paintings while avoiding the tourist buzz at Rijksmuseum, this is where you want to go. You can even sample their collection without paying; parallel to Kalverstraat near Spui, a publicly accessible corridor houses the museum largest works that you can go and see for free.
- Van Gogh Museum - The museum harbours the largest collection of works by Van Gogh in the world. The recent east wing of the museum has exhibitions on artists whose life or work are related to Van Gogh's.
- Stedelijk Museum - currently closed due to an extensive renovation and expansion project, the museum plans to re-open in 2012. Until the reopening, the museum presents Temporary Stedelijk 3: Stedelijk @, a program that includes performances, film screenings, lectures, discussions, music, book launches, interactive happenings and other events. For more information on the Stedelijk Museum and events, visit their website.
- Het Grachtenhuis - New museum introducing visitors to the canals of Amsterdam and their history. Located in one of the canalside houses on the Herengracht.
- Jewish Historical Museum - Fittingly close to the flee market on Waterlooplein, this museum sheds light on daily Jewish life in Amsterdam as well as on Jewish arts from past and present. A good place to go if Anne Frank's House sparked your interest.
- Vakbondsmuseum - Yep, leave it to the Dutch to start a museum that is all about the unions. Although the exhibition is interesting, most of the materials are in Dutch so less suitable for foreign visitors. The building (a fine example of Amsterdam School architecture) is well worth a peak, though.
- Allard Pierson Museum - Archaeological museum displaying objects from Mediterranean antiquity. Run by the University of Amsterdam. Good and cheap.
- Dutch Resistance Museum - They mean well, but unless you're really into this stuff, chances are you will find this museum rather boring. It's opposite the Zoo, though, so an ideal place to go if it suddenly starts to rain.
- NEMO - A privately run science museum. The building is more impressive than the interactive exhibitions, although it's a great place to go with your kids.
- Tropenmuseum - Formerly the Royal Institute for Tropical Studies, this is a wonderful museum to visit with your kids.
- Rembrandt House Museum - The place where the famous painter lived for a long time. The museum has an interesting collection of paintings, but tends to be very crowded.
- Anne Frank's House - Although not technically a museum, Anne Frank's house is worth a visit if you want to have some idea under what circumstances Jews in Amsterdam tried to live through World War II. Come early, unless you like queuing among herds of Japanese middle aged men and women for hours.
- New Church - Located on Dam Square, New Church is the Royal Family's 'house church' where inauguration ceremonies and royal weddings take place. The church is also in use for theme exhibitions, mostly on non-European art.
- Royal Palace - Currently closed for visitors due to renovations. It is expected to open again in 2009, when Queen Beatrix is rumoured to abdicate.
- Old Church - The centre of the Red Light District, Old Church is the only gothic church in Amsterdam. It is also the site of World Press Photo.
- Botanical Garden - If you like plants, this is your Mekka. The staff, all scientists, is very helpful and only too glad to tell you about their 'babies'.
- Canal cruises - One of the best ways to see Amsterdam is by taking to the canals. A number of companies offers tours departing from Central Station and Rokin.
- West Church - The one with the peculiar tower, which can be climbed mon-sat 10:00-17:30hrs.
- Vondelpark - Amsterdam's green lung, which stretches from Leidseplein southwest to Haarlemmermeer Station. A perfect place to cycle, run, blade, or have a picknick or a stroll on the greens. Open fires and BBQs are not allowed.
- Artis Zoo - Although this zoo with its cramped quarters must be a thorn in the side of animal lovers, it is also an oasis of quiet in the bustle of city life. Many Amsterdamers have a seasonal ticket, and consider the animals their friends.
- Begijnhof - The countless inner courts are the hidden gems of Amsterdam. This one, just off Spui, is the most famous. The inhabitants welcome visitors, as long as you take into account that people live there.
- Olympic Stadium - Built for the 1928 Olympics, this stadium is especially interesting for architecture buffs. There are guided tours, but very irregularly.
- Madame Tussauds - Whether despite or because the lack of 'high arts', this museum is wildly popular among tourists. From a local perspective, visiting it would be paying too much to see faces you get for free and moving in television.
- Heineken Experience - A rather boring beer extravaganza. Nothing in comparison to the Carlsberg tours in Copenhagen; better spend your buck sampling the real stuff, but if you are an enthusiast: go for it!
- The Hemp Museum, Sex Museum, Tattoo Museum and Torture Museum is another famous quadruplet of rather weird museum. Again, not really worth the money, but for enthusiasts only!