Musuem Vrolik is a small anatomical museum located within the Amsterdam UMC (AMC) hospital and is part of the University of Amsterdam.
It has a unique and extraordinary collection of around 10,000 anatomical and embryological specimens with a particular emphasis on congenital defects. It is perhaps not suited for young children and anyone with a sensitive disposition.
The museum is named after Gerard Vrolik (1775-1859) and his son Willem Vrolik (1801-1863), both professors of Anatomy in Amsterdam. They acquired a private collection of specimens (Museum Vrolikianum) at their home in order to better understand the natural forces of growth and development and malformation.
On their death the collection was donated to Athenaeum Illustre in Amsterdam, predecessor to the University of Amsterdam with the help of rich benefactors. In 1984 the Museum Vrolik was opened at the AMC hospital.
Museum Vrolik houses an extensive collection of human and animal skeletons. This includes bones from people with diseases such as rickets and tuberculosis which were common in the 18th and 19th century.
There are anatomical displays of human organs with a focus on heart and lungs, digestive system, urinary tract/genitals and brain/spinal cord. Embryonic development is looked at in detail and perhaps the most striking part of the museum is dedicated to congenital malformations.
These specimens are preserved in liquids in glass jars and show children with severe defects such as cyclopia, Siamese twins, brain and skull abnormalities, spina bifida, dwarfism, umbilical hernia and sirenomelia (Mermaid syndrome).
Preservation techniques were developed from the 17th century using spirits, originally pioneered by Amsterdam anatomist Frederik Ruysch (1638-1731). Improved conservation methods subsequently allowed for the detailed study of tissue and organs.
Each cabinet display has a laminated sheet with explanations in Dutch and English. Guided tours for groups of up to 15 people are normally available on request – these cost €35 + entrance fee for each person.
Please be aware that photography is not allowed inside. We have included panoramic photos for illustrative purposes for prospective visitors but have refrained from any explicit close-ups out of respect for the specimens.
The museum desk has a small shop selling a range of items. There are café facilities within the AMC hospital itself.
Museum Vrolik will certainly appeal to medical students and anyone with an interest in anatomy, biology and medicine. It is worth the effort to travel out of the city and pay a visit.
Of a similar (but less academic) note, the Body Worlds Amsterdam exhibition in the city centre features ‘plastinated’ human bodies.
Museum Vrolik Essential Info
|Opening Times||1100-1700 (Mon-Fri), closed on weekends.|
|Admission Prices (2023)||€10 for adults, €5 for children 5-17. Free entry to children 0-4. Note, Museumkaart and Iamsterdam City Card are NOT valid.|
|Getting There||The museum is located inside the Amsterdam UMC (AMC) hospital in south-east Amsterdam, at the outskirts of the city. You can reach it by taking the train or metro to Amsterdam Holendrecht station.|
Book GVB (Amsterdam transport) 1-7 day tickets online here which would cover your trip to the museum.
From the station it is 5-10 minutes walk to the AMC location. Go to the main entrance and follow the signs to the J section of the hospital where you will find the museum (room 130) on the ground floor.
Museum Vrolik, Amsterdam UMC (AMC location), Meibergdreef 15, 1105 AZ Amsterdam
T: +31(0)20 566 4928, museumvrolik.nl
Last update 23 March 2023, first published in 2019.
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