by Jen Bidding Venmans
Many tourists who visit the Netherlands usually only go to Amsterdam and then onwards to Paris, Berlin, or London. I get it. You’ve just flown 5,000 miles and you only have two weeks, so you want to see as much of Europe as possible. For those of you who are art lovers, like I am, there is far more art to see in the Netherlands than what is contained in Amsterdam’s Holy Trinity of museums: The Rijksmuseum, the Van Gogh Museum, and the Stedelijk Museum. While seeing these museums is an absolute must, just know that you are only scratching the surface of what the Netherlands has to offer. Below you will find six great art museums in six different Dutch cities outside of Amsterdam. The museums can all be accessed via public transport, using NS Rail and public bus services. Or better yet, rent a car and have a look around this beautiful country. Enjoy!
1. Kröller-Müller Museum, Otterlo
Founded in 1938, the Kröller-Müller Museum is located in the Hoge Veluwe National Park in Otterlo. This museum owns the 2nd largest collection of Vincent van Gogh paintings in the world. What I love the most about this museum is how you can park outside the park, pick up one of the free bikes, and cycle through the woods to the museum. Not only is their collection of paintings brilliant, but they have a massive sculpture garden, beautiful shop, and an excellent café where you can dine al fresco. This museum and park would make a perfect day trip from Amsterdam.
2. Van Abbe Museum, Eindhoven
The Van Abbe Museum doesn’t seem to get a lot of local press, but this place is run by some real movers and shakers who curate some fascinating exhibitions. The museum reminds me of an urban museum you’d find in New York City or Los Angeles. Their exhibitions never fail to impress me, or make me stop and think. I always feel energized and excited when I leave here. The Van Abbe is located in Eindhoven, which is famous for being a technology think tank and design centre. Make a day of it: Visit designer Piet Hein Eek’s design shop and then take in the Nat Lab for dinner and a movie. Nerd Alert: the Nat Lab is the former Philips laboratory where the CD-rom and video recorder were invented.
3. Boijmans van Beuningen, Rotterdam
This place is amazing. Boijmans van Beuningen exhibit a vast European art collection that dates back to the Middle Ages, and is housed in what I consider to be an architectural marvel. I can’t walk past it without stopping to photograph the windows, the courtyard, the spire,.. It’s stunning. They also have a great gift shop, but the food in the café is mediocre. For lunch you can walk across the park to the Kunsthal, another art museum. The Kunsthal’s exhibitions can be hit or miss, mostly great, but can sometimes makes me scratch my head – like their exhibition about tomatoes. The Kunsthal also has a very interesting bookshop and café. Their building was designed by the famous Dutch architect Rem Koolhaas.
4. The Gemeente Museum, The Hague
The Gemeente Museum was designed in the Art Deco style by the father of modern Dutch architecture, Hendrik Petrus (H.P.) Berlage in 1935. After a trip to the United States in 1911, Berlage’s work became heavily influenced by Frank Lloyd Wright and he brought many of his design ideas back to Europe with him. The Gemeente Museum owns the world’s largest collection of works by Piet Mondriaan, as well as a vast collection of modern works by Picasso, Kandinsky, Bourgeois, Bacon, and Charlotte Dumas. Make a Day of It: While in The Hague, be sure to visit the M.C. Escher Museum, the Dutch graphic artist famous for the mathematically inspired woodcut and lithographs. Most importantly, do not miss the great Dutch masterworks, such as ‘The Girl with the Pearl Earring’ and ‘The Goldfinch’ at The Maurits House.
5. De Pont Museum of Contemporary Art, Tilburg
Founded in 1988, the architects Bentham Crouwel beautifully transformed this former wool mill factory into a stunning contemporary art museum. Tilburg is a tiny city in the south of Holland. It lacks the allure and prestige of Amsterdam, but it does have interesting and deep roots in the Dutch textile industry. The people who run this museum have connections. One afternoon my husband and I visited, and Anish Kapoor was there walking around. Make a Day of It: Be sure to check out the Textile Museum, too. We’ve taken Textile Design artists there and they were blown away by it. Not only do they show you the textile processes from the past, but the newest avant-garde techniques. You could combine this trip with your Eindhoven trip; they are only about 20 minutes apart by train.
6. Het Noordbrabants Museum / The North Brabant Museum, ‘s-Hertogenbosch
The last museum is located in the medieval city of ‘s-Hertogenbosch (aka: Den Bosch). If it sounds familiar to you, it is because it was the birthplace and home to the famous Dutch artist Hieronymus Bosch. The North Brabant Museum just hosted the first ever retrospective of Bosch’s work bringing together his drawings and paintings from collections from all over the world. They exhibit historic works, as well as contemporary Dutch paintings and photography. Make a day of it: Den Bosch is a beautiful tourist destination, with excellent cafés, shops, and boat tours of the Binnendieze (medieval canals that go beneath the city). Also, be sure to visit the St. Jan Cathedral and witness 500 years of Dutch gothic architecture.