Art museums in the Netherlands

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.

Bas relief depiction of Dutch Golden Age artists on the facade of Amsterdam's Rijksmuseum, one of the best museums in the Netherlands.
Bas relief depiction of Dutch Golden Age artists on the facade of Amsterdam’s Rijksmuseum, one of the best museums in the Netherlands.

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.

Facade of the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, the Netherlands' national museum, which exhibits a broad selection of Dutch Golden Age masterpieces.
Facade of the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, the Netherlands’ national museum, which exhibits a broad selection of Dutch Golden Age masterpieces.

Several of the national museum’s artworks are displayed in the Rijksmuseum Schiphol, airside in Amsterdam’s airport.

The red and black flag of Amsterdam bearing three white crosses.
The red and black flag of Amsterdam bearing three white crosses.

Prefer modern and contemporary art? Head across the Museumplein to the Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam, whose collection was initially housed in the Rijksmuseum.

Sign for the Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam.
Sign for the Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam.

The popular Van Gogh Museum is sandwiched between the Stedelijk Museum and the Rijksmuseum.

Van Gogh-Roosegaarde cycle path near Eindhoven inspired by Vincent van Gogh's painting The Starry Night.
Van Gogh-Roosegaarde cycle path near Eindhoven inspired by Vincent van Gogh’s painting The Starry Night.

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.

Facade of the Hermitage Amsterdam, one of the Netherlands' best art museums, in the Amstelhof building.
Facade of the Hermitage Amsterdam, in the Amstelhof building.

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.

 

 

Exterior of the Chabot Museum in the Museumpark in Rotterdam,
Exterior of the Chabot Museum in the Museumpark in Rotterdam,

From the Chabot Museum it’s a short walk to the Kunsthal Rotterdam, also in the Museumpark. Designed by celebrated Dutch architect 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.

Sylvette, a sculpture depicting an artwork by Pablo Picasso, in Rotterdam.
Sylvette, a sculpture depicting an artwork by Pablo Picasso, in Rotterdam.

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.

Tower of the Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen in Rotterdam.
Tower of the Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen in Rotterdam.

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 among the collection.

Exterior of the Kunstmuseum De Haag in The Hague.
Exterior of the Kunstmuseum De Haag in The Hague.

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.

A visitor to the Kunstmuseum Den Haag views one of Bart van der Leck's artworks during the institution's 100 Years of De Stijl exhibition
A visitor to the Kunstmuseum Den Haag views one of Bart van der Leck’s artworks during the institution’s ‘100 Years of De Stijl’ exhibition.

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.

Facade of the Mauritshuis, the art museum in The Hague that specialises in art from the Dutch Golden Age
Facade of the Mauritshuis, the art museum in The Hague that specialises in art from the Dutch Golden Age.

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.

A visitor photographs Vermeer's Girl with a Pearl Earring at the Mauritshuis in The Hague
A visitor photographs Vermeer’s Girl with a Pearl Earring at the Mauritshuis in The Hague.

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 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.

Aelbert Cuyp's portrait of Sijctghen, a 20-year-old duck, displayed at the Dordrechts Museum, one of the oldest art museums in the Netherlands.
Aelbert Cuyp’s portrait of Sijctghen, a 20-year-old duck, displayed at the Dordrechts Museum, one of the oldest art museums in the Netherlands.

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.

Blue sky over Dordrecht seen from Zwijdrecht. Many renowned artists painted by the riverbank because of the famed 'Dordrecht light' including JMW Turner..
Dordrecht seen from Zwijdrecht. Many renowned artists painted by the riverbank because of the famed ‘Dordrecht light’.

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.

Courtyard of the Frans Hals Museum in Haarlem
Courtyard of the Frans Hals Museum in Haarlem.

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.

Staircase in the Groninger Museum in Groningen.
Staircase in the Groninger Museum in Groningen.

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.

Rainbow in the Groninger Museum on a grey day in Groningen
Rainbow in the Groninger Museum on a grey day in Groningen.

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.

Meneer Jacques by Oswald Wenckeback outside the Kroeller-Mueller Museum in the Netherlands Hoge Veluwe National Park
‘Meneer Jacques’ by Oswald Wenckeback outside the Kroeller-Mueller Museum in the Netherlands’ Hoge Veluwe National Park.

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.

Facade of the multi-purpose Eemshuis, the location of the Kunsthal KAdE, in Amersfoort.
Facade of the multi-purpose Eemshuis, the location of the Kunsthal KAdE, in Amersfoort.

Amersfoort is a lovely city to explore. For art lovers the Piet Mondrian’s birthplace, the Mondriaanhuis, represents an attraction not to miss.

Exterior of the Mondrian House, known as the Mondriaanhuis in Dutch, the birthplace of Piet Mondrian, in Amersfoort.
Exterior of the Mondrian House, known as the Mondriaanhuis in Dutch, the birthplace of Piet Mondrian, in Amersfoort.

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.

Train in the blue and yellow livery of the Nederlandse Spoorwegen, Dutch Railways.
Train in the blue and yellow livery of the Nederlandse Spoorwegen, Dutch Railways, which provides transport between Dutch cities.

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.

De Stijl-influenced composition
A De Stijl-influenced composition.

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.

Reprints of Vincent van Gogh's artworks at the Museum Vincentre in Nuenen, where Vincent van Gogh created his first masterpiece.
Reprints of Vincent van Gogh’s artworks at the Museum Vincentre in Nuenen, where Vincent van Gogh created his first masterpiece, The Potato Eaters.

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.

The Noordbrabants Museum in s-Hertogenbosch, which displays Vincent van Gogh paintings.
The Noordbrabants Museum in s-Hertogenbosch, which displays Vincent van Gogh paintings.

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.

Facade of the Van Abbe Museum in Eindhoven, one of the top Dutch art museums
Facade of the Van Abbe Museum in Eindhoven, one of the top Dutch art museums.

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.

Sign outside of the Vermeer Centrum Delft.
Sign outside of the Vermeer Centrum Delft.

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:


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:

Vincent van Gogh: The Complete Paintings:

 

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:

Google map showing Dutch art museums

Further information

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 north-east of England.

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