Stuart Forster provides an overview of some of the best art museums in the Netherlands.
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I think that the Netherlands does museums incredibly well. It’s fair to say that the country has several world-class art museums. Amsterdam’s Rijksmuseum, Van Gogh Museum and Hermitage all fall within that category.
The Groninger Museum in Groningen, Mauritshuis in The Hague and Kröller-Müller Museum in Otterlo count among the institutions providing reasons to explore beyond Amsterdam.
The country’s leading museums do a great job of making art accessible and understandable. Contextual captioning, multilingual audio guides and apps provide background information about artists and their works.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, several Dutch museums and galleries utilised technology to make their collections and exhibitions accessible virtually.
Art museums in Amsterdam
Amsterdam’s Rijksmuseum tells the story of the Netherlands and displays some of the country’s best-known artworks, including The Night Watch by Rembrandt van Rijn.
Masterpieces by other notable Dutch Golden Age artists hang in the Gallery of Honour, which is designed to lead the eye to the Night Watch Gallery.
Several of the national museum’s artworks are displayed in the Rijksmuseum Schiphol, airside in Amsterdam’s airport.
Prefer modern and contemporary art? Head across the Museumplein to the Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam, whose collection was initially housed in the Rijksmuseum.
The popular Van Gogh Museum is sandwiched between the Stedelijk Museum and the Rijksmuseum.
An offshoot of the St Petersburg institution with the same name, the Hermitage Amsterdam is housed in a grand building that was once a retirement home. Formerly known as the Amstelhof, the building opened as a museum in 2009. The Hermitage’s temporary art exhibitions are each shown for around six months.
Art museums in Rotterdam
Housed within a Modernist villa in Rotterdam’s Museumpark, the Chabot Museum houses Expressionist works. It bears the name of Dutch artist Henk Chabot, who lived from 1894 to 1949.
From the Chabot Museum, it’s a short walk to the Kunsthal Rotterdam, also in the Museumpark. Designed by Rem Koolhaas and Fuminori Hoshino, the building has seven exhibition spaces used to host temporary exhibitions. Picasso on Paper and Peter Lindbergh: A Different Vision of Fashion Photography count among the exhibitions shown in the Kunsthal.
Also in the Museumpark, the Museum Boijmans van Beuningen (under redevelopment until 2026) is another of the Netherlands’ world-class art museums. The museum’s vast art collection includes works from the Middle Ages to contemporary pieces. Reading like a who’s who of art world greats, artists represented in the collection include Pieter Bruegel the Elder, Vincent van Gogh and Salvador Dali.
The Boijmans’ enormous mirror-clad Depot storage facility will give visitors access to the museum’s entire collection.
Art Museums in The Hague
The name of the Kunstmuseum Den Haag translates into English as ‘The Hague Art Museum’.
This modern and applied art museum is housed in a beautiful Art Deco building designed by H.P. Berlage. Designer clothing and household objects feature in the collection.
The museum holds the world’s largest collection of artworks by Piet Mondrian. Viewing them, it’s possible to see how he evolved from a landscape artist into the creator of abstract compositions. His unfinished masterpiece, Victory Boogie-Woogie, counts among the paintings displayed.
Several other works by artists associated with the De Stijl movement are displayed in this Dutch art museum. They include compositions by Bart van der Leck.
The museum features coastal landscapes by artists of the Hague School. Don’t miss the nearby Museum Panorama Mesdag to see Hendrik Willem Mesdag’s works.
The Hague’s Mauritshuis
The Mauritshuis houses an outstanding collection of Dutch Golden Age artworks. Vermeer’s Girl with a Pearl Earring and several works by Rembrandt count among them. The canvases are displayed in a 17th-century building constructed as a palace for Johan Maurits, the governor of Dutch Brazil.
In English, the name of Escher in Het Paleis means ‘Escher in The Palace’. On the Lange Voorhout, the grandest street in The Hague, the museum is housed in the former winter palace of Queen Emma of the Netherlands.
Maurits Cornelius Escher (1898-1972) was a graphic artist. He created perspective-defying and thought-provoking works that people can mull over for ages. Many of his pieces feature optical illusions. More than 120 of his prints are displayed in the grand building.
Museum Beelden aan Zee in Scheveningen
This seafront sculpture park’s name translates into English as ‘Sculptures by the Sea’.
The pavilion and surrounding sculpture park are set amid the dunes of Scheveningen, a seaside resort near The Hague. In addition to sculptures, medallions and portraits are displayed.
More than 5,000 artworks are in the Museum Beelden aan Zee’s permanent collection, including works by Fernando Botero, Tom Claassen and Jaume Plensa.
The museum has a frequently changing programme of temporary exhibitions.
Museum Overlinden in Wassenaar
Easily reachable from The Hague and Leiden, the Museum Overlinden in Wassenaar exhibits modern and contemporary art. The airy museum building is set in tranquil gardens.
If you’re in Wassenaar the nearby Clingenbosch Sculpture Garden may also appeal.
Cobra Museum for Modern Art in Amstelveen
This museum in Amstelveen is named after the Cobra art movement, which was active from 1948 to 1951. Experimental and avant-garde, the movement featured Danish, Belgian and Dutch artists. Its name features the initial letters of those countries’ capital cities – Copenhagen, Brussels and Amsterdam.
Works by members of the Cobra movement form the core of the Cobra Museum voor Moderne Kunst’s collection.
Dordrechts Museum in Dordrecht
One of the oldest art museums in the country, the Dordrechts Museum was founded in 1842.
The collection spans six centuries and includes works by members of the Dordrecht-based Cuyp family. Aelbert Cuyp is regarded as one of the greatest landscape painters of the Dutch Golden Age.
Unsure what the Dutch Golden Age was? It refers to the period of unprecedented wealth in the 17th century, after the Netherlands gained independence from Habsburg rule. That wealth enabled merchants to commission artworks, fostering the careers of some of the greats in European art, including Rembrandt van Rijn.
Works by three of Rembrandt’s apprentices are displayed in Dordrecht. Paintings by Ferdinand Bol, Arent de Gelder and Nicholaes Maes are on show.
So too are works by notable Romantic artist Ary Scheffer and Realist-influenced paintings by members of the Hague School, active in the late 19th century.
Frans Hals Museum in Haarlem
Frans Hals lived from around 1582 to 1666 and was renowned for his loose yet bold brush strokes. His technique influenced Impressionist painters.
Located in the city where he lived and worked, the Frans Hals Museum displays more works by the artist than any other in the Netherlands.
Fries Museum in Leeuwarden
To English speakers, the Fries Museum’s name may be misleading. It tells the story of Friesland and has an expansive collection, including artefacts about resistance during World War Two.
Paintings by Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema are displayed in the museum, which looks onto Leeuwarden’s Wilhelminaplein public square.
Groninger Museum in Groningen
Notable for its mishmash of contemporary architecture, the Groninger Museum stands across the street from Groningen’s railway station.
The art displayed in the museum encompasses works created by members of De Ploeg, the Groningen-based collective. Established in 1918, De Ploeg spans Constructivism, Expressionism and Impressionism.
Works by De Ploeg founding members Jan Altink, Jan Wiegers and Johan Dijkstra count among those displayed.
Kröller-Müller Museum in Otterlo
Located within the Hoge Veluwe National Park near Arnhem, visiting the Kröller-Müller Museum makes for a cracking day out. Pedalling around the national park on free-to-use bicycles is an option to free up head space between viewing artworks.
The museum is named after art collector Helene Kröller-Müller. It houses the world’s second-largest collection of works by Vincent van Gogh plus paintings by Piet Mondrian and other De Stijl artists.
The sizable sculpture garden features more than 160 artworks by renowned sculptors, including pieces by Auguste Rodin and Henry Moore.
Kunsthal KAdE in Amersfoort
Amersfoort’s Kunsthal KAdE is located within the Eemhuis, an eye-catching multi-use building that also houses a library and archives. The gallery hosts temporary exhibitions.
Amersfoort is a lovely city to explore. For art lovers, Piet Mondrian’s birthplace, the Mondriaanhuis, represents an attraction not to miss.
LAM in Lisse
Lisser Art Museum – commonly referred to by its acronym, LAM – is on the Keukenhof estate. The garden is famed for its spring tulip shows.
Food-related art is displayed in the museum, which opened in 2019.
Museum de Lakenhal in Leiden
Facing onto Leiden’s Oude Singel canal, the Museum de Lakenhal displays works of art and tells the story of this university city.
The art collection encompasses pieces from the Dutch Golden Age, including Jan Steen’s Merry Couple. A colourful Bram van Velde self-portrait from 1922 and Contra-Composition VII by De Stijl’s Theo van Doesburg are also displayed.
Museum Drachten in Drachten
You’ll sometimes see the name of the Museum Drachten written as Museum Dr8888. That’s a play on the word ‘acht’, Dutch for eight.
Dadaist works by Kurt Schwitters and compositions by Theo van Doesburg feature in the museum’s collection.
Noordbrabants Museum in ‘s-Hertogenbosch
This museum in bears the name of the province (North Brabant) of which ‘s-Hertogenbosch is the capital. It stands within the former governor’s palace and tells the story of the region.
The Noordbrabants Museum is the only place in the province of Vincent van Gogh’s birth that displays original paintings by him. They’re housed in a pavilion named after the renowned Post-Impressionist.
The art collection spans from the Middle Ages to contemporary works.
Heironymous Bosch lived and worked in ‘s-Hertogenbosch. Works by several of his associates are displayed in the museum. To learn more about Bosch’s life and see reproductions of his works head to the nearby Jheronimus Bosch Art Center.
Van Abbe Museum in Eindhoven
This modern and contemporary art museum is in a striking building on the periphery of Eindhoven. A.P. Kropholler’s 1930s design merges with Abel Cahen’s extension.
The Van Abbe Museum’s collection features works by Wassily Kandinsky, the Guerrilla Girls and Karel Appel.
Vermeer Centrum Delft
The Vermeer Centrum Delft is in the heart of the city where Johannes Vermeer worked. It contextualises his work, methods and displays reproductions of his paintings.
Travel to the Netherlands
KLM operates direct flights to Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport from airports across the United Kingdom.
Travelling to the Netherlands by ferry is also an option. P&O Ferries operates services from Newcastle and Hull to Hook of Holland. Stena Line also sails to Hook of Holland from Harwich. Ferry travel brings opportunities to dine together and learn about the North Sea wildlife.
Eurostar operates direct train services from London’s St Pancras International station to both Rotterdam and Amsterdam.
Travel in the Netherlands
I find travelling by train an easy way of getting between cities in the Netherlands. Fares are based on distance and departures are frequent.
The Nederlandse Spoorwegen website makes it easy to plan journeys between stations.
Hotels in the Netherlands
Need accommodation in Dutch cities so that you can explore and view art in the Netherlands? You can book hotels in the Netherlands via Booking.com:
Books about Dutch art
If you’re planning a trip to view art in the Netherlands you may appreciate reading about leading Dutch artists and art movements. Here’s a handful of books that you may enjoy:
Rosalind Ormiston’s Vermeer and the Dutch Masters:
M.C. Escher: The Graphic Work:
Taschen’s Rembrandt: The Complete Paintings:
Taschen’s Vermeer: The Complete Works:
The Story of De Stijl: Mondrian to Van Doesburg:
Search for other books about art, artists and the Netherlands on Amazon:
Art museums in the Netherlands
The map below shows some of the best art museums in the Netherlands:
See the Netherlands Board of Tourism and Conventions website for ideas about things to do in the Netherlands.
Stuart Forster, the author of this post, was named the Travel Writer of the Decade at the Netherlands Press Awards of 2020. His work has been published by the likes of Rough Guides, Discover Benelux and The Independent.
Photos illustrating this post are by Why Eye Photography, a photography company based in the northeast of England.
Thank you for visiting Go Eat Do and reading this post about art museums in the Netherlands. Looking for reasons to visit Holland and other states in the Netherlands? You may enjoy reading this A to Z of reasons to visit the Netherlands.
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