Het Grachtenhuis (Museums of the Canals) is a multimedia museum which highlights the development and importance of the city’s canals and charts some 400 years of history.
The museum is located in a double-fronted grand merchant house on the Herengracht canal in the centre of the city.
The Grachtenhuis was built between 1663 and 1665 for Dutch merchant Karel Gerards. It was designed by the renowned architect Philips Vingboons (1607-1678) in a symmetrical Dutch baroque style.
Over the years it was home to a series of other Dutch merchants including Jan Willink who helped finance both the development of New York and the American government during the War of Independence.
Today this listed building is run by a foundation having been restored and opened as a museum in 2012.
A visit to the museum comprises of a lively audio-visual presentation (which lasts about 30 minutes) through 5 darkened exhibition rooms on the upper first floor.
The first two rooms on the tour give an insight into the initial development of the canals and city walls, how the canals were subsequently expanded into the horseshoe shape as the city grew and how the garden areas between houses on adjacent canals were kept free from industrialisation.
Room 2 is themed as a city planning meeting room and there is a fascinating collection of old Amsterdam maps on view.
Stepping into Room 3 you will find the floor made of sand – which is what much of Amsterdam is built on. The model displays show how wooden piles are used in the construction of the city’s buildings.
Room 4 has a large scale model of the canal house itself – peer through the windows for some video effects inside. The room is also surrounded by an illustration of notable houses located on the 3 main canals of the city – Herengracht, Keizersgracht and Prinsengracht.
Room 5 has a large model of how the Amsterdam canal belt looks today. An accompanying video screen shows some notable canal moments – such as the Beatles visit, the Euro 88 football celebrations and various cars being pulled out of the canals.
You then continue the tour by heading downstairs to the period rooms. Here you will find some further exhibits giving background on the house. The Andriessen Room has murals made by noted Dutch artist Jurriaan Andriessen (1742-1819). Temporary exhibitions run often in these rooms.
You can get some nice views of the garden, unfortunately this is not currently open to the public. There is a museum shop on site but no café facilities.
The hand-held audio tour is currently available in 9 different languages – Dutch, English, French, German, Italian, Spanish, Chinese Mandarin, Japanese and Russian.
With Amsterdam’s canal belt having UNESCO World Heritage status, the Canal House museum presents its history in a modern, unique way and is a worth a visit.
It is recommended to pre-book a ticket and timeslot online in advance.
Museum of the Canals Essential Info
|Opening Times||1100-1700 Tue-Sun, closed Mondays.|
|Admission Prices (2021)||€15.00 for adults, €7.50 for children 4-12. Free entry for children 0-3, Museumkaart and Iamsterdam City Card holders.|
|Getting There||The museum is short distance from Koningsplein in the heart of Amsterdam, served by trams 2, 11 and 12. Just walk west along the Herengracht canal (south side). Or take metro 52 to Rokin and walk via Spui.|
Museum of the Canals, Herengracht 386, 1016 CJ Amsterdam
T: +31(0)20 421 1656, grachten.museum
Last updated 9 September 2021. This article was first published in 2012 and has been regularly updated.