Amsterdam is known for its labyrinth of canals, eccentric homes, and, of course, its vibrant nightlife. But one of the city’s most prominent features that I got to experience while studying abroad is its array of museums. There’s more than 50 museums in Amsterdam which cater to numerous interests: diamonds, photography, cats, as well as art and history. I purchased a Netherlands museum card, which allowed me to visit nearly a dozen museums for about $60.
While I’m typically not a big art fan, I found many pieces to appreciate. One of the most famous paintings I saw was “Girl with a Pearl Earring,” by Dutch painter Johannes Vermeer. The painting, which features a European woman wearing a blue and yellow turban and, like its namesake suggests, a large pearl earring, is housed at the Mauritshuis museum in The Hague, Netherlands. The Hague is a city in the Netherlands facing the North Sea, which I visited during my study abroad trip to go to the beach. It’s also the administrative and royal capital of the country. The Mauritshuis is a relatively small art museum that primarily houses paintings from the Dutch Golden Age, which “Girl with a Pearl Earring” is a part of.
Within Amsterdam’s museum square, I visited the Rijksmuseum, which is the national museum of the Netherlands as well as the country’s most visited. It contained around 8,000 art and history objects, including a vast quantity of blue and white china which caught my eye. I also stopped by the Stedelijk, a modern art museum, and the Van Gogh Museum, which displays works by the famous artist. The Van Gogh Museum displays one of his most famous works, called Sunflowers. It features sunflowers in a vase in the forefront of a yellow backdrop. I also learned at the museum that this painting, along with the four other sunflower paintings Van Gogh created, were meant to signify gratitude. It was pretty cool seeing a work of art I’ve only seen in pictures in real-life.
Besides some of the more famous museums, I also visited Amsterdam’s Tulip Museum, which talks about the history and growing process of Holland’s most notorious flower. While I loved the smell and aesthetic of this museum, I only wish I would have stopped in before I visited the Keukenhof in Lisse. The best description I can think of for the Keukenhof is an amusement park but for tulips. If I understood the history behind the flower I might have appreciated these fields more!
Probably my favorite museum that I visited was the Diamond Museum — its logo was literally “a sparkling experience.” My guilty pleasure is trashy reality TV and royalty, so it was really cool seeing the beautiful crowns and royal jewelry. I also learned about how diamonds are made as well as the human, environmental and labor rights violations that are prevalent in the diamond mining industry, particularly in Africa.
Before my study abroad trips, I’ve really only visited museums on school field trips or the Carnegie museums in Pittsburgh. And while they’re interesting and informative in their own right, learning so much about the culture, art and history of the Netherlands and Europe was an unmatched learning experience.