The Amsterdam Museum should be your first stop on your first visit to Amsterdam. (Note — if you are looking in a pre-2011 guidebook, this museum was previously known as the Amsterdam Historisch Museum.) Why go there first? Well, when you arrive in Amsterdam, the beauty overtakes you. The canals, the bridges, the gabled houses, the cafes, the bicycles — it all seems like a fairy tale village, and every photo you take could be a postcard to send home. All of this beauty is easy to take for granted, and if one ever stops to think about the canals and houses, the train of thought is something along the lines of “Of course they built a city here, look how gorgeous it all is.” But there is much more to the story, and for that, the Amsterdam Museum is the place to go.
The museum is centrally located near the Spui between Kalverstraat and Nieuwezijds Voorburgwal in an old orphanage. To enter, you walk underneath an archway bearing the city’s iconic, though often mis-interpreted, coat of arms (don’t worry-it is explained in the museum). Once inside, the museum starts you at the city’s humble beginnings as a fishing village when the river Amstel was first dammed in the 13th century. From there, the museum traces the growth of the city from medieval outpost to world super power, explaining how the city got its wealth and what they did with it. If you think the sub-prime mortgage crisis and subsequent recession are bad, good thing you weren’t around when the tulip bulb market collapsed in 1637. Naval history is also tightly woven into Amsterdam’s history, and the Dutch East India Company is covered extensively. Finally, the museum moves into the 20th century, covering the Nazi occupation during WWII and the social revolutions of the 1960s.
The museum is open daily from 10am to 5pm and admission is 10 euro.
This museum is very informative and fun, and well worth your time. Try to go at the beginning of your visit so you apply what you learned during the rest of your stay.