Amsterdam is one of the top destinations in Europe, but it took me a while to finally decide to visit. Despite all the people telling me how amazing the city is, I did not know how to feel about it. And I have to be honest, apart from the obvious like Rembrandt, Vermeer or Mondrian, I didn’t know much about Dutch art or contemporary art in Amsterdam at all. But when I finally visited, the city turned out to be more than just canals, tulips, and whatever stereotype I had about it. And I really enjoyed the relaxed yet upbeat vibes the Holland capital offers.
Amsterdam has the great advantage of being a cosmopolitan city and one of the major capital cities in Europe, but much smaller in size than London, Paris, or Berlin. It is easy to get around, especially if you like biking. The city has a charming center and an incredible museum district, with all the biggest and most famous museums just steps away from one another. Here you can find all the classic and modern Dutch masters, scattered between the Rijksmuseum, The Van Gogh Museum, and several other institutions around the city.
When it comes to contemporary art, Amsterdam had a lot more to offer than what I imagined. The city has some good museums, as well as galleries and art centers. And despite not being extremely famous for contemporary art, Amsterdam is a great alternative and the perfect destination for a weekend getaway.
So without any further ado, here are the 3 best museums to visit in Amsterdam.
The main modern and contemporary art museum in Amsterdam is located, unsurprisingly, in the so-called Museum District. Just steps away from the Rijksmuseum and the Van Gogh Museum, the Stedelijk Museum is easy to spot, thanks to its peculiar “bathtub” shape.
Originally opened in 1895 to host some private collections donated to the city of Amsterdam, the museum was originally located in a Dutch Neo-Renaissance style building designed by Dutch architect Adriaan Willem Weissman. In the early 2000s, though, the original building underwent a series of renovations that added a new building as an extension to the museum.
Nowadays the Stedelijk Museum welcomes thousands of visitors every year, providing them with a varied series of different activities. The museum collection has modern masters from the XIX and early XX century, with works by Cézanne, Picasso, Matisse, and Chagall, and an entire collection of paintings and drawings by Malevich. Contemporary artists included in the collection span from the II World War to the present days, with both Dutch and international artists represented, such as De Kooning, Newman, Ryman, Judd, Stella, Lichtenstein, Warhol, Nauman, Middleton, Dibbets, Kiefer, Polke, Merz and Kounellis.
Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam
Museumplein 10, 1071 DJ Amsterdam
Open daily 10 AM to 6 PM
Tickets 10€ – 18,50€
Definitely smaller than Stedelijk Museum, and even a little quirkier, Moco Museum is another must-see contemporary art museum in Amsterdam. Opened in 2016, it is the latest addition to the Museum District but still one of the most visited museums of the city. It is housed in a 1904 townhouse, Villa Alsberg, that adds an extra layer of interest to your visit.
Moco stands for “modern contemporary” since the museum exhibits both masters of the XX century as well as younger but well-established artists. It hosts a permanent collection – Moco Masters – and temporary exhibitions with works by very well known contemporary artists, like JR, Daniel Arsham, Damien Hirst, Yayoi Kusama, or KAWS. The artworks are nicely arranged around the different spaces and in the outside sculpture garden, an extension of the museum itself. The museum is also famous for its Instagram-friendly settings, making it a perfect spot for your next influencer-like photos.
Moco Museum is directed at a younger audience and has a very pop vibe. It is a great museum to visit, especially if you are with people that do not appreciate very complicated conceptual art, as it has a more relaxed vibe. Plus it is just steps away from the other major museums of Amsterdam and easily accessible while in the Museums District area. It is significantly smaller though, so plan in advance and book online your tickets to avoid crowds and queues.
Honthorststraat 20, 1071 DE Amsterdam
Open daily 10 AM to 6 PM, Friday, Saturday and Sunday 10 AM to 8 PM
Tickets 16,50€ – 19,50€
Alas, to reach the last contemporary art museum you should visit in Amsterdam you will have to travel further than the Museum District. The CoBrA Museum of Modern Art, in fact, is around 30 minutes outside of the city center, south of Amsterdam, in Amstelveen. But the small trip is well worth it once you get there.
The museum is dedicated to the CoBrA movement, an Avantgarde movement that developed after the Second World War thanks to artists such as Karel Appel, Constant, Corneille, Christian Dotremont, Asger Jorn, and Joseph Noiret, that signed its manifesto in Paris in 1948. The artists came from the cities of Copenhagen, Brussels, and Amsterdam, thus the name of the movement.
The movement only lasted a few years, but still had a great impact on the European art of the time, introducing a style that can be directly linked to the American action painting.
Opened in 1995, the museum exhibits works by the founders and most prominent members of the movement, on display in the permanent collection. At the same time, it also hosts retrospectives and temporary exhibitions, pointing out the link and influence the movement had and still has on Dutch and European art in general.
CoBrA Museum of Modern Art
Sandbergplein 1, 1181 ZX Amstelveen
Open daily 11 AM to 5 PM, closed on Monday
Tickets 9,50€ – 15€