Amsterdam is justifiably famous for its picturesque canals and cultural attractions such as the Rijksmuseum. Yet if you look further, there are some fantastic lesser-known sights that you really shouldn’t miss. Museum Van Loon is one of our favourite Amsterdam hidden gems, so let’s go on a virtual tour that will hopefully entice you to visit! With an enviable location on Keizersgracht, this canalside private residence was designed by architect Adriaen Dortsman in 1672. He is known for his work on the Walenweeshuis, formerly an orphanage and now the French consulate, as well as the distinctive round Lutheran Church. The house is topped by four sculptures representing Ceres, Mars, Minerva and Vulcan. They symbolize agriculture, war, justice and fire, which the original owner considered to be sources of his wealth.
History of Museum Van Loon
During our recent stay at another canalside townhouse, Hotel Pulitzer Amsterdam, we were fortunate to visit Museum Van Loon. It was one of a pair of adjacent townhouses commissioned by Jeremias van Raey, a Flanders merchant who lived in one of the houses. He rented what is now Museum Van Loon to the 17th century painter Ferdinand Bol, who was one of Rembrandt’s pupils. There’s an exhibition dedicated to the artist in the coach house of the museum until 8 January 2018. He was one of the best known painters of the Dutch Golden Age and 25 paintings from private collections and international museums are on display. They’re not just his own works, as he and his second wife Anna were collectors of paintings by Rubens, Rembrandt and Van Ruisdael. It’s nice to think that the works will once again be on show in the place where they were originally displayed! In the main house, there is a fantastic collection of art, like this painting of two little girls.
Interior of Museum Van Loon
The interiors and staircase were renovated by the Van Hagen family who lived here at the end of the 18 century. Today, Museum Van Loon is a great insight into what an Amsterdam private house would have looked like. The basement kitchen, where staff would have prepared meals for the family living here, has a gleaming set of copper pans and cooking equipment.
If you’re wondering how the museum got its unusual name, it’s in honour of the last residents, the Van Loon family. They came fro the town of Loon op Zand, and Willem van Loon was one of the founders of the Dutch East India Company. This painting of him as a child is by the artist Dirck Dircksz. van Santvoort and dates from 1636. It has an unusual octagonal frame that really draws your eye in.
In 1884, the honorable Hendrik van Loon bought the house for his son Willem Hendrik as a wedding gift. Willem Hendrik was an accomplished historian, children’s book author and illustrator. He lived here with his 2 children and wife Thora, who was lady in waiting to Queen Wilhelmina. Family photographs are dotted around the house, and that’s what makes this dwelling so charming. Their descendants still own the house today and have offices here.
The bedrooms boast stucco work and colourful silk wall hangings. When you visit, keep an eye out for the bedroom doors – the real doors have been painted to blend in with the wall colourings, and fake doors have been created instead to ensure symmetry of design.
This vibrant bedroom has a floral theme and a lovely chandelier. There’s also some ornate furniture on display.
Van Loon Garden and Coach House
Museum Van Loon is unique in being the only museum in the Netherlands where the original canal house, coach house and garden can be viewed as a whole. The garden has a classical design and is a lovely haven of peace, with benches to relax on. At the end of the garden, you’ll see the coach house, also created by Adriaan Dortsman. When the house was first built, the coaches would go in through Kerkstraat and be stored there. When the Van Loon family acquired the house, they built up a great collection of carriages and harnesses. These can be viewed when the coach house is not hosting an exhibition, like the current one: Ferdinand Bol: the house, the collection, the artist.
Visiting Museum Van Loon
Museum Van Loon is one of the many great attractions that you can visit for free with the I amsterdam City Card. Billing itself as “the card that offers more than you can visit (but you can try)”, it gives you free entrance to cultural attractions such as museums, unlimited public transport and a free canal cruise. It also offers a range of discounts on bicycle and boat rental as well as at restaurants and bars. The City Cards vary in length from 24 hours to 96 hours, can be ordered online and delivered to your home or collected at the airport or train station.
Where to Stay near Museum Van Loon
The Pulitzer Amsterdam is one of our favourite places to stay in Amsterdam. This collection of historic townhouses boasts a huge inner courtyard, stylish decor, a superb restaurant and cocktail bar.
Museum Van Loon is open daily from 10 am to 5 pm. It is closed on 27 April (Kings Day), 25 December and 1 January and will close at 3 pm on 24 December.
Admission is free with the I Amsterdam City Card or € 9 for adults, € 7 for students or groups of 10 persons and more, € 5 for children aged 6 to 18 and free for children under 6. There will be a € 1 surcharge on all adult tickets during the exhibition Ferdinand Bol: the house, the collection, the artist.
A 50 minute guided tour of the house, garden and coach house is available for € 79 plus € 7 entry per person. It’s also possible to book guided tours after opening hours for an additional fee, as well as light refreshments. There are also special tours in Dutch for partially sighted and blind visitors where they can touch certain objects, with a cost per person of € 5 plus the museum entrance fee. All tours must be booked in advance.
The dining room and coach house make a very special venue for meetings, dinners and weddings. They’re a licensed wedding location that can host up to 80 people.
There’s a small but charming cafe in the basement which serves tea, coffee and some tasty looking cakes.
Museum Van Loon, Keizersgracht 672, 1017 ET Amsterdam
We hope you’ve enjoyed this tour of the Van Loon Museum, one of the best Amsterdam hidden gems in our opinion! Is this somewhere you’d have liked to live?