Home to over 400 museums and thousands of artworks by the Dutch masters – including the biggest collection of Van Gogh in the world – Amsterdam is definitely not lacking in the points-of-interest department. So how does one choose which top museums are worth your time? You could go the mainstream route and do the usual Rijksmuseum-Stedelijk-Hermitage combo, or take the path less traveled. Read on if you're into the latter:
Electric Ladyland: The Museum of Fluorescent Art
Claiming to be the first and only museum of its kind in the world, Amsterdam's Electric Ladyland isn't the Jimi Hendrix shrine it sounds like – but it does rock some seriously funky vibes. Surrounding visitors with dazzling painted walls, minerals, artwork, and fluorescent lights, the psychedelic array of colors are really something to experience. The creators of the museum emphasize "participatory art", where every person is more than a viewer, but become a part of the whole piece. Trippy.
Crazy cat ladies (and gentlemen), the Katten Kabinet is the cat art museum you've all been waiting for. Sophisticated and regal feline works by Picasso, Rembrandt, Toulouse-Lautrec and other major painting masters are hung throughout the 17th-century patrician house, along with kitten sculptures and plush gilded furniture in every corner. The five resident cats also make for a hilarious contrast with the seriousness of the museum itself – especially considering that it's located in the Financial District and surrounded by bankers and lawyers. Don't forget to take a piece of the museum home with you with their quirky cat-butt clothing and postcards.
The Hash, Marijuana and Hemp Museum
Given Amsterdam's reputation for the green stuff, it's really no surprise that they have a whole museum dedicated to the beloved marijuana plant. Far from being a seedy-looking hole-in-the-wall though, the Hash, Marijuana and Hemp Museum is housed in an elegant Art Deco building filled with stained-glass, and displays thoroughly-curated artifacts from around the world throughout many eras. From Cheech & Chong to 19th century medicinal cannabis extract, they've got it all.
Madurodam Miniature City
For anyone who's ever wanted to be a giant, rejoice. The Madurodam is guaranteed to make you feel like a real-life Gulliver in the land of Lilliput with its intricately-crafted version of mini-Amsterdam, where cathedrals are only double your height and the humans are smaller than your pinky finger. There is no better place to play King Kong (just don't actually destroy anything), and endless hilarious photo ops abound. We can only imagine that the experience is extra-satisfying for those who are 5'2".
For the musically-inclined, the Pianola Museum is a must-see hidden gem. While it may feel like you've just stepped into a cramped antiques store of old unwanted instruments, the bustling activity states otherwise. Concerts here are held regularly, and visitors can choose from listening to a talented live player, or sit down for am eerily beautiful 'player-less concert'. From Wild West-style honky tonk pianos to more sophisticated ones that self-play scrolls created by Debussy and Stravinsky, the wide range of music makes for some amazing browsing.
The Torture Museum
Ever wondered what an actual iron maiden is besides being a metal band? Turns out it's a medieval European instrument of torture – and you can see a real-life version of it at Amsterdam's Torture Museum. We highly recommend getting in touch with your dark side and exploring the barbaric objects they have in store, including tools of punishment that were used in the days of witchcraft as well as the Spanish Inquisition. As disturbing as the concept of torture may be, there's something fascinating about it – and is probably the most interesting way of learning history that you'll come across.