There’s no better way to understand a destination than to see how locals live. From exploring cozy houseboats to touring grand canal homes, here’s how to get an inside look at life in the Dutch capital.
Museum Van Loon
Built in 1672, this grand canal house was the former home of the Van Loon family. The Van Loons were well connected in Dutch society: Willem van Loon was a co-founder of the Dutch East India Company, and later generations included Amsterdam mayors, bankers and ladies in the queen’s court. The home’s ornate interior gives visitors an inside look at the life of the Dutch merchant upper class, including the art collection that the Van Loon family built over 500 years. Behind the Van Loon home is a formal garden and a coach house where you can see the family’s classic horse carriages.
Built in 1687, this double-wide canal house was home to several very wealthy families. The final residents were Abraham Willet and Sandrina Louisa Geertruyda Holthuysen. When Louisa died in 1895, she bequeathed the house, including its contents and impressive art collection, to the municipality of Amsterdam on the condition that it become a museum. The house is furnished in 18th and 19th century style, including a grand salon with elaborate interior textiles from Paris that cost more than 540,000 euros.
Rembrandt House Museum
The famous Dutch artist, Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn (yes, Rembrandt was his first name), lived and worked in this house from 1639 to 1658. Guided by an audio commentary, you’ll explore his living quarters and his studio where demonstrations of 17th century art techniques take place every day. You’ll also see an impressive collection of Rembrandt’s works, including a nearly complete collection of his etchings.
Museum Ons’ Lieve Heer op Solder
Our Lord in the Attic Museum gives you a look at Dutch life in the Golden Age. You’ll see parts of various homes to gain a sense of how different classes lived while listening to an audio commentary that shares details about the buildings and their former owners. But the most fascinating part of this museum is the church in the attic. Catholicism was tolerated in the Netherlands after the Dutch Reformation but only if hidden from sight. The homeowner, Jan Hartman, combined the attics of three canal houses in 1663 to build this soaring Catholic church hidden from view.
More than 2,500 houseboats line Amsterdam’s canals. At Het Woonbootmuseum, you can get an inside look at one converted from a former sand and gravel freighter originally built in 1914. Operating as a museum since 1997, Het Woonbootmuseum lets you take your time exploring to see what life in a houseboat would really feel like. To fully immerse yourself in the experience, enjoy a coffee in the living room or on the sunny deck.
Tip: If you plan to visit more than a few of these houses, consider purchasing an I Amsterdam City Card which includes free admission to all the homes as well as unlimited public transit to get you to and from.