Head to Amsterdam’s aptly named Museumkwartier any day of the week and you’ll find impressive museums, impressive collections—and impressive crowds. If standing in line to see artistic masterpieces and historical artifacts isn’t how you want to spend your time in the Dutch capital, fear not. Step a little off the well-worn path and you’ll soon discover some of Amsterdam's best under-the-radar museums, featuring everything from microbes to cats, sustainable fashion, house music, street art, and a preserved, hidden church.
The world’s first museum entirely dedicated to microbes, Micropia sits alongside Amsterdam’s Artis Royal Zoo and Hortus Botanica—one of the world’s oldest botanical gardens—covering all aspects of nature, from the microscopic to the mega. Fun for the whole family, Micropia is filled with neon lights, interactive exhibits, and fascinating displays that bring this usually invisible world to the human level.
Don't miss: The Microbe of the Month talk, which is given in Dutch and English.
Lovers of cats and art, rejoice—KattenKabinet is the place to see cat-themed art by the masters, such as Picasso, Rembrandt, and Van Gogh, without any of the lines of the large galleries. Set on the first few floors of a 17th-century townhouse, the museum was originally built as an homage to museum curator Bob Meijer’s cat, J.P. Morgan, but has grown since then, complete with baroque-style curation, a full Cat-a-Logue, and, of course, some feline friends to lead you around.
Don't miss: Petting the resident cats, of course.
If Amsterdam is best known for one thing, it would probably be its canals. More than just a nifty way of cruising around the city streets, these days the canals are also known for their houseboats. From the modern to the magnificent and the cozy to the quirky, the aptly named Houseboat Museum showcases the best of the best, while its location—on a houseboat on Prinsengracht—offers non-boat dwellers a taste of life on the water.
Don't miss: Chatting to the onboard guide who can answer any questions you may have about canal-dwelling.
Not for the squeamish, Museum Vrolik is one of Amsterdam’s most unusual museums. Originally built around the research collections of Gerardus Vrolik, a 19th-century medical professor, and his son, Willem, Vrolik Museum is entirely dedicated to human and animal anomalies. Housed in the University Medical Center, the museum—which is open to the public—includes human remains and skeletons.
Don't miss: The extensive fetal abnormality collection. Again, this museum is not for the faint of heart.
The world has changed a lot since the Tropenmuseum first opened its doors in 1864, and the Tropenmuseum—which was once known as the Koloniaal Museum—has done a great job at keeping up with the times too. Housed in an impressive building in Amsterdam’s leafy Oost, the museum is now dedicated to world cultures and what it means to be human on our planet today, with a focus on the universal themes that underpin life in all countries all around the globe.
Don't miss: The exhibits on the horrors of Dutch colonialism and its repercussions.
The push for sustainable living has made some inroads in the fashion industry, but there is still a lot of misinformation out there. In response, the pioneering Fashion for Good museum aims to dispel the myths around fast fashion, making visitors think about the impact of their fashion choices. It’s also a great place to learn about all the awesome initiatives taking place in the clothing world.
Don't miss: The on-site gift store, of course. It's the perfect place to pick up an ethical souvenir or two.
During the 17th-century Protestant Reformation, being a practising Catholic was not only illegal, but it could also get you into a lot of trouble, which meant many Catholic churches were built in secret. The Museum Our Lord in the Attic is one such place, with the top three floors of a Golden Age canal house converted into a pink Catholic church. It’s a great way to learn about the history of the Netherlands, and visitors can tour both the church and the house itself.
Don't miss: Guided or self-guided audio tours of the museum, which can provide an extra level of insight.
Across the IJ River in the hip NDSM Wharf area, Straat Museum is one of Amsterdam’s coolest. Entirely focused on street art and graffiti, Straat Museum charts the culture of the art form and its progression from the underground to the mainstream. Set in a former warehouse, the museum is a visual smorgasbord featuring huge pieces by over 150 artists from around the world, who finally have a place to share their stories.
Don't miss: The informative timeline that details the history and key terms related to street art and graffiti.
Since its emergence in Chicago in the early '80s, house music has risen from rave to radio, with the cultural impact of the genre felt in ripples around the world. In the center of Amsterdam, Our House Museum offers electronic music lovers the chance to dive into the past, present, and future of the scene through interactive exhibits. Great for lovers of music, culture, and rave vibes, the museum features lasers, smoke, and, of course, an epic soundtrack.
Don't miss: The mini club session which rounds out your visit, as well as the house music–related memorabilia.