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The stately entrance of the old Amstelhof, now Hermitage Museum, Amsterdam!

So I was told to put my words where my mouth is – if I am not such a big fan of the new and ‘improved’ Stedelijk Museum, which museums WOULD I highly recommend in Amsterdam? (See post/review regarding the Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam)

Well, that’s easy! Let me take you on a little tour… :)

First Stop: The Hermitage Museum, Amsterdam
Few museums can beat this incredible space. Located in one of Amsterdam’s most stately and impressive old buildings, a former retirement home for women known as the Amstelhof (founded in the 1600s), this museum right on the Amstel river is a wonderful spot to while away an afternoon.

The interior was beautifully restored to highly the rich features of the original building, plus provide open and vast as well as intimate and quiet exhibit spaces. Easy to navigate and easy to enjoy in just a couple of well-spent hours. Beautiful lighting, lots of detailed information, and a few great digital apps to help make the experience more interesting. Plus a really ‘chic’ restaurant and cafe to debrief your visit in :)

Add to all this the unique history of both the Amstelhof institution, and the Hermitage Museum… and cool :)

Most of you may know the Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg… well… turns out the Dutch have a long-standing connection to St. Petersburg. Founder of that gilded city, Tsar Peter the Great, actually made an incognito visit to Amsterdam and to London in the 1620s to ‘steal’ ship-building technology and sailors for his goal of developing a Russian Navy. (Forget that little pesky problem of no warm-water port! My history students should all remember the craziness that comes from that! But I digress…)
This museum builds on that history – a satellite museum of the one in St. Petersburg, much of what you will see on exhibit here in Amsterdam comes out of the vaults of St. Petersburg or private Russian collections. Your only other chance to see these beauts… Russia!

The ‘queen’ of Museumplein, Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam

Don’t miss their upcoming exhibit on our favorite cookie Tsar, Peter the Great :) If it’s anything like their opening exhibit… well.. hold onto your perestroika! You can see why this is my favorite in Amsterdam!

Second Stop: The Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam
Sometimes one just needs to go to a spot that is tried-and-true. It’s an ‘institution’ for a reason!

Queen of architecture and skyline on Museumplein, the Rijksmuseum building designed by P.J.H. Cuypers, opened it’s doors in 1885. Based on one of the world’s oldest collections with origins dating back prior to the 1700s, this museum holds some of the highlights of art history in it’s beautiful halls.

Partially closed for the last few years for a major renovation, the museum is reopening in 2013... and we are all looking forward to seeing the ‘new’ spaces. But even the section that IS currently open is great to enjoy! It’s manageable in size for a museum

Even the dogs like to go to the Rijksmuseum :)

visit, it’s a great source of the story of Dutch history, and there’s some incredible art. So don’t wait for 2013 :)

(For pictures of the stunning renovation process… click here!)

Third Stop: Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam
Unfortunately you have to wait to experience this stop until sometime in 2013 – at least, to experience it in it’s ‘natural habitat.’ The Van Gogh museum is temporarily closed for safety upgrades and renovations. Highlights from the collection are on display at the Hermitage during this time. So you can now do two stops with one cup of coffee :)

But once the Van Gogh re-opens, this is a must-see. I like this museum for it’s great open spaces, the smart lay out of the collection, and for the detailed information provided on the tags on the wall. (I am not an audio-tour fan, if you didn’t know. Sometimes I’ll shell out the extra $$ for them if I am in a museum where I don’t know the collection well – but most of the time it’s more fun to read the guidebook, to do some research ahead of time, or make notes and do some follow-up research.) At the Van Gogh, what’s wonderful about the information provided, is that much of it is quoted excerpts from Vincent’s OWN letters written to his brother Theo. The letters are incredible resources of information – Van Gogh’s own insights and thoughts on his paintings shared with his brother to help him sell the pieces.

I also like that this museum often as music performances in the evening inside the space, has a great digital presence with good newsletters, interesting apps (the Van Gogh Mile app is VERY cool!), and a cafe that has a wonderful view over the green grass of Museumplein. (Hopefully that is not lost in the remodel.)

The view from the ferry of the Eye Film Institute, Amsterdam (The white spaceship looking thing!)

Next Stop: The Eye Film Institute, Amsterdam
Two reasons why this museum is a great next stop – it’s a beautiful modern building with lovely views across the water BACK towards Amsterdam’s center… and it has a great cafe, a perfect spot for a glass of wine and some tapas or  coffee and tart to recover from all your museum-ing.

To get to this museum you take the free Buiksloterweg ferry from behind Amsterdam Central Station (a a pretty 4-minute ride), exit the ferry and then walk to the left. You can’t miss the building :)

Nice spot for a glass of vino and a view: Eye Film Institute, Amsterdam

This space is incredible – smart, funky, cool (would have been a REALLY nice location for the new Stedelijk Museum… but whatever…) Downstairs in the basement is a highly interactive and digital permanent display (that is free!) Try the film quizzes in the yellow ‘pods’ – all of us competitive folks will have a blast… plus you’ll learn something about Amsterdam, Dutch film, and Dutch film stars.

The museum has cinema spaces typically showing a mix of current and ‘classic’ films, as well as interesting temporary displays.

A nice spot for a romantic drink, an end to a museum-filled day, and a great view.

Last Stop: Scheepvaart Museum, Amsterdam (Maritime History Museum)

Still standing? Maybe this is a good museum to visit on day two…

“Boys like boats” :) Check them out at the Scheepvaart Museum, Amsterdam!

Again, I like the space… space and how it’s used often is half of the museum-experience for me. It’s part of makes us ‘see,’ part of how a curator can communicate. (If you study the history of museums, for example the British Museum in London, the documents such as letters by the founding members, talk about using the WAY the collection is laid out and organized as part of the educational experience that was the goal of the museum. Kinda cool considering that was 1700-and-something. Kinda not cool since they were of course talking about the ‘lower classes.’ Doesn’t, however, change the fact that lay out of a museum is crucial to the experience. Especially if you only visit museums once in a travel-while.)

Speaking of the British Museum – the Scheepvaart Museum has a stunning courtyard enclosed with a glass roof reminiscent of the British Museum space, and a really wonderful collection that explains so much about this core-component of Dutch-Amsterdam history.

And if you like boats… this is the place to stop :)

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