Housed in a humungous former arsenal built in 1656, the National Maritime Museum (Het Scheepvaartmuseum) reopened in 2011 after extensive reworking and is dedicated to showcasing the importance of Amsterdam’s maritime history. During the 17th-century Golden Age, The Netherlands was one of the richest powers in the world, thanks to its trading wealth and an empire that stretched across the globe. It was a time of great progress in Amsterdam, when the Canal Ring was built and the middle classes grew rich. All this is reflected in interactive and audio-visual displays of model ships, maritime oil paintings, charts, silverware and weaponry; the growth of the fabulously successful Dutch East India Company (Vereenigde Oostindische Compagnie or VOC) is charted and visitors are whisked on a simulated journey through Amsterdam as a piece of cargo. Two now controversial issues that are dealt with sensitively through thoughtful exhibits are the European slave trade and the whaling industry.
For kids, the highlight of a visit to the National Maritime Museum is undoubtedly the full-size replica of the merchant ship Amsterdam, which foundered in 1749 on a voyage to the East Indies (the present-day Indonesia). The craft is ‘crewed’ by actors who fire cannons, sing sea shanties, tie ropes and even stage a burial at sea.
Kattenburgerplein 1. Admission €15 adults; €7.50 students and children aged 5–17; free with IAmsterdam Card. Opening hours are daily 9am–5pm. Accessible via buses no 22 or 48 to Kadijksplein or a 15-minute walk from Centraal Station.