Updated: Jun 29, 2022
I am now back home in Austin, Texas from my three-week adventure in The Netherlands.
As an investment banker, I lived and worked in Europe in the mid-2000s and spent a lot of time in Holland while I was there.
Now as a digital nomad entrepreneur, I can really relax and appreciate the unique experiences that every locale offers.
Whenever I visit a place, I try to take in as much art and culture as I can find, and I would consider the museums in The Netherlands to be world-class.
The Dutch are well known for their art, whether it be Hieronymus Bosch in the 16th century, Rembrandt in the 17th century or Van Gogh in the 19th century. While in Holland, I saw works from all three of these master artists and much more.
The first museum on my list was the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam. Home of Rembrandt’s famous The Night Watch, the Rijksmuseum is the national museum of The Netherlands.
When I visited in early April, you needed to make a reservation for entry.
As you arrive, you enter the Rijksmuseum's modern lobby, which is a stark contrast from the 19th-century exterior of the building.
The Rijksmuseum's works range from the medieval times through the 20th century, with a particular focus on the Dutch masters, including Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn.
Painted in 1642, Rembrandt’s most famous painting The Night Watch needed to be restored, and the Rijksmuseum recently finished its months-long restoration with the large format piece now on view behind a large plexiglass wall on the second floor of the museum.
Here is the description of the famous work from the Rijksmuseum website:
Rembrandt's largest and most famous painting was made for one of the three headquarters of Amsterdam's civic guard. These groups of civilian soldiers defended the city from attack. Rembrandt was the first to paint all of the figures in a civic guard piece in action. The captain, dressed in black, gives the order to march out. The guardsmen are getting into formation. Rembrandt used the light to focus on particular details, like the captain's gesturing hand and the young girl in the foreground. She was the company mascot. The nickname Night Watch originated much later, when the painting was thought to represent a nocturnal scene.
To read more about The Night Watch, click here.
The Dutch have always been a maritime nation, and there are multiple areas of the Rijksmuseum featuring models of ships alongside paintings of naval battles. There is also a large antique armor and weapons area inside the building.
If you do plan to visit the Rijksmuseum, I would try to get an early reserved arrival time, as the museum can be quite crowded in the afternoon. On the Sunday when I toured the premises, the line for the coat check was at least 15 minutes long at 1pm and was only getting longer by the minute.
I also recommend allocating several hours for your visit. There are four floors of art to peruse, and the vast amounts of content can make it almost overwhelming. I get the same reaction when I visit the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.
Next up was the Kunsthal in Rotterdam. Rotterdam has always been a city known for its engineering and design acumen, and a visit to the Kunsthal only furthers your appreciation for Dutch ingenuity.
I had never heard of the Dutch animation trio of Job, Joris and Marieke; however, they have been named the “Dutch Pixar,” and their animated short films have won an international Emmy and been nominated for an Oscar.
The museum has an outstanding exhibit featuring many of this trio’s content, including an incredible 3D screening of their soon-to-be-released 2022 film, “A Triple Life,” which was the highlight of the Kunsthal for me.
Here is their short film “A Single Life,” which was nominated for an Oscar in 2015:
The Kunsthal's second floor featured an exhibit of Alexander Calder’s work. Calder is one of my favorites, and his aerial structures created out of colored metal and wire are world-renowned (a Calder show just ended at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City in January 2022).
Further upstairs were profound short documentaries from a Kurdish filmmaker ERKAN ÖZGEN who deals with complex issues surrounding war, trauma, and violence in a unique way.
Visiting the Kunsthal takes about two hours to see everything on offer, and I really appreciated its edgy take on the modern world. Works in the Kunsthal provide similar social commentary as you find here at Social Musings by Austin, and surprisingly I found the bite-sized Kunsthal even more enjoyable than the massive Rijksmuseum.
For more information, visit the Kunsthal’s website here.
THE KRÖLLER-MÜLLER MUSEUM (Otterlo)
I also visited the KRÖLLER-MÜLLER museum in Otterlo, The Netherlands.
The museum is a little over an hour's drive from Amsterdam and is located in the Veluwe area of The Netherlands, which is a large forested area with a national park.
The KRÖLLER-MÜLLER is famous for both its extensive Van Gogh collection (the only larger being in Amsterdam at the Van Gogh Museum) as well as its vast sculpture garden, home to over 100 sculptures.
Inside the building you can find multiple galleries with special exhibits as well as the Van Gogh collection.
One of my personal highlights of the entire trip was interacting with the masterpieces of Vincent Van Gogh, one of my favorite artists of all time.
After perusing the collection inside, I headed outside to the museum's famed sculpture garden.
In Holland, spring had finally arrived and the garden is close to being in full bloom.
While touring the gardens I noticed that there were many families having a picnic on the grounds and enjoying their afternoon amongst the art.
I would allocate at least two to three hours to see everything that the KRÖLLER-MÜLLER has to offer. I also recommend having lunch at De Waldhoorn, which is a lovely outdoor café in Otterloo about ten minutes away from the museum.
The Jeroen Bosch House (s'-Hertogenbosch)
Finally, I paid a visit to the house of Hieronymus Bosch in his hometown of Den Bosch.
The Jeroen Bosch House recently opened to the public on April 1, 2022, and I was one of the first visitors to the museum.
Tickets are timed-entry and require a reservation, as only 6 people are allowed on the tour every 20 minutes.
As you walk into the centuries old house, you realize what it must have been like to live in the 15th-century (think no running water, stench and tight spaces).
In those days, most people had rotting teeth and would sleep sitting up in bed, as they feared they would die if they slept lying down.
The museum not only features the restored house but also provides a guided video tour, and as you walk from room to room and up and down narrow staircases, you learn about Bosch's life and how he came to be one of the era's most important painters.
I have always loved Bosch's strange and macabre works, and the Jeroen Bosch House features chilling images which you would expect from this enigmatic artist.
The last time I was here in Holland I visited the Jheronimus Bosch Art Center, also in Den Bosch, which featured the painter's masterpieces.
My advice would be to visit the house first and then the Art Center, as the two really complement each other. You could do each of these establishments in one afternoon.
I hope that you have enjoyed my review of some of Holland's finest cultural institutions.
If you are interested in more details of my trip, check out the Social Musings by Austin Instagram account here and look in my Story Highlights for Holland.
Please check out the latest episode of the Social Musings by Austin podcast on Apple Podcasts. This month I delve into the difficulties of Breakups in the Digital Age as well as discuss my trip to The Netherlands in further detail.
You can find the podcast here.
At the end of the episode, you can hear my brand new song, "Staring at the Nightlight," which is also available on the Social Musings by Austin SoundCloud channel, which can be found here.
Later this month, I will have a special Memorial Day post to honor our heroes so please stay tuned.