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Dutch National Maritime Museum in Amsterdam

Het Scheepvaartmuseum

Het Scheepvaartmuseum is the Dutch National Maritime Museum located on the eastern docklands area of Amsterdam. The museum is one of the city’s premier attractions.

The Scheepvaartmuseum is housed in het Zeemagazijn (the Arsenal), a former Admiralty of Amsterdam storehouse built in 1656 which was designed by Dutch architect Daniel Stalpaert. It remained a navy building until 1973 when it was converted to the country’s national maritime museum.

The museum was closed between 2007 and 2011 and underwent a complete renovation – the resulting highlight of which is the stunning glass roof over the inner courtyard made up of some 1,200 glass pieces. The design is inspired by compass lines seen on old nautical charts.

Another feature of the building is its many interior arches and whitewashed walls.

maritime museum amsterdam courtyard glass roof
Courtyard and glass roof at Maritime Museum Amsterdam
scheepvaartmuseum amsterdam ticket desk
Scheepvaartmuseum – ticket desk
scheepvaartmuseum amsterdam west wing arches
Scheepvaartmuseum – west wing arches

The museum is divided into 3 gallery sections – West, East and North – you can pick up the ‘compass’ leaflet to guide you around.

Scheepvaartmuseum West Wing

This section has The Tale of the Whale (level 1) which looks at the large sea creature hunted to near extinction. Amsterdam Port & City (level 2) considers the relationship between the port and the city in the past, present and future. Doris The Diver is an interactive maritime experience for young children aged 2+.

scheepvaartmuseum amsterdam tale of the whale
Scheepvaartmuseum – Tale of the Whale
scheepvaartmuseum amsterdam port & city haverstad
Scheepvaartmuseum – Amsterdam Port & City
scheepvaartmuseum doris the diver
Doris the Diver

Scheepvaartmuseum East Wing

This section has Maps & Marvels (level 1) which includes one of the finest collection of maps and globes in the world. The Yacht Models (level 1) contains a collection of 74 models of sailing, rowing and motor boats in the Netherlands.

maritime museum amsterdam maps and marvels
Maritime Museum Amsterdam – Maps and Marvels exhibition
scheepvaartmuseum yacht models
Yacht Models

Navigational Instruments (level 2) is a beautifully presented exhibition showing how sailors used the stars to navigate; The Ship Decorations (level 2) highlights the symbolism and craftsmanship of carved ship heads, taking inspiration from biblical and mythological themes.

maritime museum amsterdam navigation instruments
Maritime Museum Amsterdam – Navigational Instruments
maritime museum amsterdam ship decorations
Maritime Museum Amsterdam – Ship Decorations

The East Wing also has two Solebay tapestries on show which were designed in England by maritime artist Willem van de Velde the Elder (1611-1693). The tapestries depict scenes from the 1672 naval battle between the Dutch and joint English-French fleet off the east coast of England near Solebay (Suffolk).

scheepvaartmuseum solebay tapestry
Solebay Tapestry

Scheepvaartmuseum North Wing

The main gallery on the ground floor houses the Republic at Sea exhibition with some 50 masterpieces telling the story of how the Netherlands became a significant naval power. The first and second floor hosts temporary exhibitions.

maritime museum amsterdam republic at sea exhibition
Republic at Sea exhibition

The current long-term temporary exhibition is Food For Thought, a close look at world food production through the lens of photographer and film maker Kadir van Lohuizen. It runs until 5 Jan 2025.

scheepvaartmuseum food for thought exhibition
Scheepvaartmuseum – Food For Thought exhibition

Maritime Museum jetty

From the North Wing, head outside (weather permitting) to visit the boats moored at the museum’s jetty.

scheepvaartmuseum amsterdam jetty
Scheepvaartmuseum – jetty

De Koningssloep (The Royal Barge) is a richly decorated royal ‘sloop’ vessel commissioned by King William I in the early 19th century.

royal barge at maritime museum amsterdam
Maritime Museum Amsterdam – The Royal Barge

You can also get on board and explore the replica VOC ship East Indiaman Amsterdam which is 48m in length and has 16 cannons.

 scheepvaartmusuem voc ship
VOC ship East Indiaman Amsterdam
voc ship amsterdam gangway
All aboard the VOC ship!
voc ship East Indiaman Amsterdam interior canons
Canons inside the VOC ship East Indiaman Amsterdam

The original ship was wrecked in a violent storm off the English town of Hastings (East Sussex) in 1749 on its maiden voyage to Asia. Having been preserved in mud over the centuries, the ship was excavated in the 1980s and was able to provide insight into shipbuilding techniques of the time.

In 1985 construction began on the life-size replica – which has been moored ever since at the Maritime Museum.

Also moored is the steamship Christiaan Brunings built in 1900 as an icebreaker and executive vessel.

panoramic view of Scheepvaartmuseum jetty
Scheepvaartmuseum jetty with Christiaan Brunings steamship in the foreground

Overall, the exhibits at the museum are presented in a modern and innovative way with full use of multimedia and excellent bilingual (Dutch/English) labelling.

A free audio tour is available in 11 languages (Dutch, English, French, German, Italian, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish, Chinese, Japanese, Korean) which can show you the collection highlights in 60 minutes.

The museum has a café-restaurant, shop and library just off the courtyard. Locker facilities can be found on the lower ground level under the courtyard.

scheepvaartmuseum cafe
Scheepvaartmuseum – cafe
scheepvaartmuseum shop
Scheepvaartmuseum – shop

The Scheepvaartmuseum is certainly one of Amsterdam’s crown jewels housed in a unique building and reflects the country’s rich maritime history and culture.

Also in the area: NEMO Science Museum and ARCAM Architecture Centre

Scheepvaartmuseum Essential Info

Opening Hours

1000-1700 daily. Closed on 27 April, 25 December and 1 January.

Scheepvaartmuseum Amsterdam Tickets & Admission

€18.50 for adults, €8.50 for children 13-17. FREE entry to children 0-12, I Amsterdam City Card, GO City Pass and Museumkaart holders.

Alternatively, order the I Amsterdam City Card online here or the GO City Amsterdam Pass which includes free entrance to the Scheepvaartmuseum.

How to Get to Scheepvaartmuseum Amsterdam

The museum is a 15-20 minute walk east of central station – either via the Central Library and NEMO or along Prins Hendrikkade.

By public transport take GVB bus 22 (direction Muiderpoort) or 48 (direction Houthavens) from the Central station IJ-side. Get out at stop Kadijksplein.

Address / Contact

Scheepvaartmuseum, Kattenburgerplein 1, 1018 KK Amsterdam
T: +31(0)20 523 2222, hetscheepvaartmuseum.com

Last updated 12 April 2024. This article was first published in 2013 and has been regularly updated.

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