The Museum Willet-Holthuysen is a grand canal house in Amsterdam dating from the 17th century which is open to the public. It is currently run by Amsterdam Museum.
The double-fronted house was built in 1687 and is located on the Herengracht (or Gentleman’s canal) in the centre of the city.
The house is named after the well-to-do Louisa Holthuysen (1824-1895) and her husband Abraham Willet (1825-1888) who lived there in the 19th century. On her death she bequeathed the property to the city on the condition that it should become a museum. In 1896 the house was subsequently opened as a museum.
The Willet-Holthuysen Museum has a fine collection of period furniture, ceramics, silverware and paintings spread over 3 floors and gives a glimpse into what life was like for its wealthy inhabitants.
On the ground floor you will find the museum entrance and reception, the kitchen and access to the garden. This part of the house was mainly used by the domestic staff.
There is also a video room showing a short film about the history of the house and its inhabitants. The kitchen is actually a reconstruction using items and furniture from the late 18th century.
The first floor contains the main entrance hall where guests were welcomed through the main front door. At the opposite end of the hall is the beautiful gazebo-like conservatory with fine views of the back garden. It is here that Louisa took her tea in the summer months.
Also on the first floor is the grand ballroom, the most important room of the house and a venue for costumed balls, music and literary performances. It is elegantly appointed in the style of Louis XVI and is considered one of the finest 19th century Dutch interiors.
The Gentleman’s parlour has a painted ceiling (1744) by Jacob de Witt, although this originally came from another Herengracht residence. This room is where Abraham held regular art viewings for his fellow collectors.
The first floor also has the Ladies salon (where Louisa received guests) and the dining room with the table laid with a 275 piece service set. A pantry room at a mezzanine level between the first and second floors was used to store household effects not used on a daily basis.
The second floor is accessed by the central staircase adorned with statues depicting the mythological Judgement of Paris. On this floor is found the library (where Abraham could study and relax), the bedroom with large 4 poster bed and the octagonal collector’s room (where Abraham displayed his collectibles).
The garden (1972) has been reconstructed in the early 18th century French symmetrical style. A carriage house and stables were located at the back until a fire burnt them down in 1929. Note, if you are not visiting the house you can still get a free peek of the garden through the fence at Amstelstraat.
An free audio tour is available which provides background at various points around the house. Languages available are Dutch, English, French, German, Italian, Russian and Spanish. Private guided tours can be arranged on request.
For those interested in how life was in the 19th century for the wealthy Amsterdam set then the Willet-Holthuysen museum is worth a visit. Another grand canal houses in Amsterdam is the nearby Museum van Loon.
Museum Willet-Holthuysen Essential Info
|Opening Times||Daily 1000-1700. Open since 1 July 2021.|
|Admission Prices (2021)||€12.50 for adults, €10.00 for students. FREE entry for children 0-17, Museumkaart and Iamsterdam City Card holders.|
|Getting There||Museum Willet-Holthuysen is located on the Herengracht canal, a short walk from Rembrandtplein. From Amsterdam Central take metro lines 51, 53 or 54 to Waterlooplein or trams 4, 14 to Rembrandtplein.|
Museum Willet-Holthuysen, Herengracht 605, 1017 CE Amsterdam
T: +31(0)20 523 1822, willetholthuysen.nl
Last updated 2 August 2021. This article was first published in 2010 and has been regularly updated.