Travel Guides Crafted by Experienced Archaeologists & Historians

Western Netherlands
Art, History & Archaeology Sites & Museums

Including Flevoland, North Holland, South Holland and Utrecht

Archaeology & History Sites in Western Netherlands

Anne Frank House

The Anne Frank House offers insight into one of the more harrowing chapters of modern history. This is where the Frank family and four others hid from persecution during the Nazi occupation of the Netherlands. After they were discovered, they were sent to extermination camps, where Anne was killed. Her diary was posthumously published in 1947, with the House opening in 1960. Although queues to see the space where the young author scripted her famous journal tend to be long, it is an altogether unique experience.

Canals of Amsterdam

Any visit to Amsterdam must include experiencing this remarkable system of 17th century canals. Criss-crossing throughout the city, including through its medieval heart, the canal system has had UNESCO World Heritage status since 2011. Constructed in part for purposes of infrastructure and partially for city defence, the grachtengordel (canal-belt) is an integral feature of Amsterdam. While the canals can be observed from many of the city’s streets and bridges, you can also take a boat tour for a more immersive experience on this world-famous waterway.

Duivenvoorde Castle

Located in Voorschoten, Duivenvoorde Castle has origins stretching back to the 13th century. Substantial 17th-century alteration resulted in the castle obtaining its present appearance, a luxury home surrounded by attractive gardens. A French Baroque garden was added in the 18th century, largely replaced in the 19th with an English country garden. Over eight centuries, the castle was never sold, meaning that it passed down through familial succession from its first recorded owner, Philips van Wassenaer, something that is quite unusual.

Huis Doorn

After Germany’s defeat in the First World War, Kaiser Wilhelm II was exiled to the Netherlands, a country that had remained neutral in the conflict. There he took up residence at Huis Doorn, a largely 18th-century house that he furnished with objects from his German palaces. He remained here till his death in 1941, with the house still containing many of his possessions – Wilhelm himself is buried on the premises. Displays explore the Kaiser and the Dutch perspective on the war. The house is surrounded by attractive English landscape-style grounds.

Kasteel de Haar

This is largest and perhaps most impressive castle in the Netherlands, one that cultivates a strong fairy tale aesthetic. De Haar Castle in its current form was built in 1892, the work of Dutch architect P.J.H. Cuypers, who designed it in a striking Neo-Gothic style. The castle had several predecessors, however, the oldest of which was a structure dating back to the 13th century. Outside the castle itself are a series of gardens and an area of parkland. The castle remains in the hands of the Van Zuylen family although is open to visitors.

Mill Network at Kinderdijk-Elshout

A UNESCO World Heritage site since 1997, this impressive network of 19 windmills is truly a sight to behold. Constructed around 1740, the windmills were used to pump water from the surrounding area into the nearby river system, thus maintaining this part of the Alblasserwaard polder as ‘dry’ and arable land. A quintessentially Dutch heritage site, the Mill Network at Kinderdijk-Elshout is a testament to humanity’s struggle to control the natural environment. Visitors can take tour boats around the waterways as well as exploring the mills themselves.

Muiderslot - Muiden Castle

Known in Dutch as Muiderslot, Muiden Castle has a history stretching back to the 13th century, although was largely rebuilt in the 14th. In the 17th century, the castle was a comfortable elite residence, with gardens set out in the latest fashions. It was at this point that the poet and writer P.C. Hooft lived here. In the 19th century, King William I ordered the renovation of the castle, preserving it from total collapse, with the architect Pierre Cuypers giving it its distinctive Neo-Gothic appearance. In 1878 it opened its doors to visitors.

Pyramid of Austerlitz

This 36-meter high pyramid, looking more like something from Mesoamerica than the Low Countries, was the creation of General Marmont, who ordered the project to keep Napoleon’s troops occupied when not busy fighting. Upon its completion in 1804, the general rather vainly christened his masterpiece ‘Mont Marmont’. Two years later, Bonaparte’s brother and then king of Holland, Louis Bonaparte, renamed it the ‘Pyramid of Austerlitz’ to commemorate Napoleon’s victory over Austrian and Russian armies at Austerlitz (in what is now the Czech Republic).

Radboud Castle

Radboud Castle, which is also known as Kasteel Medemblik, started life in the 1280s. Its construction had been ordered by Floris V, Count of Holland, who intended it as one of a series of castles built to help quell rebellion among the West Frisians. Over the course of the Middle Ages, the castle would be attacked or besieged on several occasions but remained standing. In the 16th century the castle fell into ruin, and parts of it were later demolished, but a 19th-century restoration project saw it saved for future generations.

Renswoude Castle

Renswoude Castle marked the location of a fortified house during the Late Middle Ages, but this was demolished in 1654. In its place, Johan van Reede ordered the construction of a new luxury home, built in the Dutch Classical Style. The house was damaged during the Second World War but underwent renovation in the 1960s and 1970s; further restorations followed a devastating 1985 fire. Visits to the house are only available as part of pre-arranged tours, usually held once a month. The landscaped parkland surrounding the house is free to visit.

Museums & Art Galleries in Western Netherlands

Allard Pierson Museum

Focusing on the great civilisations of the ancient world, the Allard Pierson is the archaeological museum of the University of Amsterdam. Among its collections is much material from ancient Egypt, the Near East, and the Mediterranean, including a noted selection of classical Greek pottery and Roman sarcophagi. Also at the museum are a selection of rare books, cartographic material, and one of Europe’s largest Jewish collections.
The museum takes its name from a 19th-century clergyman who served as the university’s first professor of classical archaeology.

Archaeological Museum Haarlem

The Archaeological Museum Haarlem occupies the cellar of the Vleeshal, a 17th-century building on the Grote Markt where the city’s residents once bought their fresh meat. The museum explores the archaeology of Haarlem and of the Kennemerland region more broadly, covering the area’s prehistoric inhabitants through to the urban developments of the Middle Ages. Temporary exhibits supplement the main display collection. The Frans Hals Museum is located in the same building and hosts an exhibit of modern and contemporary art.


For those who prefer a more hands-on approach to experiencing history, look no further than Archeon. An open air-museum devoted to the rich heritage of the Netherlands, its displays span a period from the Mesolithic (Middle Stone Age) right through to the Late Middle Ages. Visitors can walk through reconstructed settlements from various eras and interact with re-enactors in period costume. From gladiatorial contests in the Roman amphitheatre to medieval jousting, there is plenty to see – especially for visitors with children to keep entertained.

Het Scheepvaartmuseum - National Maritime Museum

From the late 16th century on, the Netherlands established itself as one of the world’s major maritime powers, a period sometimes referred to as the Dutch Golden Age. Visitors can learn more about this period, and the Dutch relationship with the sea more broadly, at the National Maritime Museum in Amsterdam. Occupying a structure built in 1656, the museum underwent a major refurbishment completed in 2011. As well as its internal displays, the museum hosts a replica of the Amsterdam, a Dutch East India Company vessel that sank in 1749.

Kaap Sil Museum

The Netherlands has a long heritage as a maritime nation, and during the Dutch Golden Age of the 16th and 17th centuries the coastal settlement at Texel was an important hub for shipping. This heritage is now showcased at the Kaap Sil Museum, which preserves historic structures such as fishermen’s cottages, a grain mill, a smithy and a bakery. Although originally an open-air museum, these structures are now protected from the elements by an overarching roof. The indoor museum displays feature many artefacts recovered from shipwrecks off the Dutch coast.

Kunstmuseum den Haag

Originally established in 1866, the Kunstmuseum den Haag (or Art Museum of the Hague) now occupies a purpose-built art deco structure designed by the architect H.P. Berlage during the 1930s, one with sumptuous high-quality interiors. The museum is now home to over 160,000 works of art, ranging from collections of Delftware and Persian ceramics through to paintings by ‘modern masters’ like Monet, Picasso, and Kandinsky. The museum also boasts one of the world’s largest collections of works by the abstract painter Piet Mondrian.

Maritime Museum

With an array of interactive exhibits, the Maritime Museum at Rotterdam is not your typical museum. Visitors can learn hands on about the history of seafaring and go aboard some of the real working ships docked in the adjacent harbour. The museum also houses an array of impressive artefacts, such as the oldest model ship in Europe, dating back to the 15th century, and one of only three surviving original world maps drawn by the famed cartographer Gerard Mercator. The museum also hosts a library for those undertaking research into maritime history.

Mauritshuis Museum

Located in the centre of the Hague, the Mauritshuis is an art gallery occupying a 17th-century building originally designed as the home of John Maurice of Nassau. Maurice was a powerful man, serving as governor of Dutch Brazil, and the red-brick house reflected his social status, as well as the Dutch architectural fashions of the day. Today, the Mauritshuis has a substantial collection of 17th-century Dutch and Flemish paintings, including world-famous works like Vermeer’s “Girl with a Pearl Earring” and Rembrandt’s “The Anatomy Lesson of Dr Nicolaes Tulp.”

National Museum of Ethnology

Had your fill of wooden shoes and windmills? Learn about other cultures around the globe at the National Museum of Ethnology in Leiden. Founded in 1837, when it was originally dedicated only to Japanese material, it is one of the oldest ethnographic museums in the world. Over the centuries its collection has grown to encompass material from across Asia, Africa, Oceania, and the Americas. In alliance with several other museums in the Netherlands, it now forms part of the Nationaal Museum van Wereldculturen (National Museum of World Cultures).


No trip to the Netherlands would be complete without paying a visit to this world-renowned museum. Dedicated to the history of Dutch art from 1200 to 2000, the Rijksmuseum is a must-see stop for visitors to Amsterdam. Established at the dawn of the 19th century, it was moved to its present location in 1885, occupying a purpose built structure. From Rembrandt’s ‘Nightwatch’ to the stern of the HMS Royal Charles, captured during the second Anglo-Dutch War, this museum houses some of the nation’s most treasured antiquities.