Amsterdam's House Museums

The Anne Frank House is probably the most popular house museum in Amsterdam, but there a number of old, opulent homes that are famous in their own rights in Amsterdam.

The Rembrandt House (Museum Het Rembrandt Huis)

In 1639 Rembrandt was wealthy enough to buy one of the highest priced canal homes in Amsterdam. However, only 17 years later, he lost the property because of his outstanding debts. It seems Rembrandt may have been a great painter, but his money management skills were off.

To cover the artist’s obligations, his three-story home and its contents on Jodenbreestraat (translates to Jewish Broad Street) were sold in 1656. This necessitated an inventory of its contents, which made it possible for the property to be in exhibited in the same manner as Rembrandt’s time. The result is not only instructive, but a lavish visual treat. As a painter, Rembrandt had an eye for beauty and his opulent household furnishings and accessories reflect this. Though they are not exactly the same objects that he enjoyed, they are similar.

An added attraction of the Rembrandt House is that exhibitions are held in the attic of the painting and etching techniques from Rembrandt’s time. On the day we visited there was also a demonstration of how paint was made. Lapis lazuli was the source for the rich blue of the period, expensive because of its foreign source but vivid and colorful enough to justify using for those who could afford it.

Signage and audio guide in English

Museum Van Loon

Wilhelm Van Loon was one of the founders of the Dutch East Indies Company, an international trading organization from Holland established in 1602. Thereby, he and his descendants were wealthy.

In 1884, his progeny purchased a home on the prestigious Keizergracht, one of the three most important canals in Amsterdam. (The other two canals are the Herengracht and Prinsengracht.)

Though the house was built much earlier, in 1671, it is known today as the Van Loon House, in part because of Wilhelm Van Loon’s important place in Dutch history. It is representative of a typical canal house with a 17th century garden. Since the family was in early international trade, there is a lot of Chinese porcelain, a byproduct of the Dutch East India Company’s trade with China.

Signage in English

Museum Willet-Holthuysen

Like the two houses described above, this house dates from the 17th century as well. It was bequeathed to the city in 1895 by then-owner Louisa Willet-Holthuysen. Currently, it is being restored to her time, the late 19th century. Although interesting, the zealous decoration found in this time period, essentially Victorian, will not be appealing to all.

Signage in English

The double garden at Museum Geelvinck Hinlopen Huis

Museum Geelvinck Hinlopen Huis

This 1667 house is distinguished by a double lot. That means that its property is twice as large as other houses on canals in Amsterdam. Both the home and stable are on adjoining canals with a double garden in the middle between the two. The upper floors are closed in the main house; reception is in the stable. Interestingly enough, the room designated as Chinese contains mostly Dutch Delft rather than Chinese export porcelain.

www.geelvinck.nl

Signage in Dutch

The Anne Frank House Museum

Though a description of house museums in Amsterdam would not be complete without including this favorite for many, it would have little to no special appeal were it not for Anne Frank and her family. This is unlike the other homes described earlier that are distinguished in their own right.

I attempted to go to the Anne Frank House about 11:30 a.m. Even then, the line snaked for about a block and a half from the door. A passing local told me it is like this all the time and it is best to arrive first thing in the morning (it opens at 9:00 AM) or after 5:00 p.m. He also said that once I was in the house the exhibits would be challenging to see, much less to enjoy, because of the crowd.

Whether this would be true, I do not know, because I didn’t persist. Later, our daughter, who did stay with her two girls, told me that things were not that bad. Both she and the children enjoyed their time there.

For the patient or clever (getting there early or late or buying a ticket online before going), this is a popular option in Amsterdam.

Signage in English