Amsterdam has over 50 museums, covering everything from Van Gogh to prostitution, Rembrandt to beer, diamonds to Anne Frank, modern art to marijuana. You are not likely to want - or be able to - visit all or even most of them during your visit, but you are likely to find something of interest in the sheer variety of them all: below is a pick of the best we visited.
1) Van Gogh Museum houses a huge permanent collection of his work in chronological order, a small gallery of his contemporaries and changeable temporary exhibitions on a particular theme, location or period. It's beautifully laid out and with plenty of information that sheds light not only on Van Gogh's development as an artist, but his whole life and the art world of his time. It's busy (with frequent queues) and expensive (15 euro) but well worth visiting.
2) Rijksmuseum is at the time of writing undergoing an extensive refurbishment which is expected to last until at least 2012, but it still displays a selection of the most known, loved and interesting works in an exhibition entitled "The Masterpieces" and for this exhibition alone should be visited by anybody with the scantiest interest in art. Some truly remarkable work is displayed here, from the eponymous Night Watch and other (and arguably, better) Rembrandts to Franz Hals to wonderfully luminous Vermeers.
3) Stedelijk is the must-see museum for modern and contemporary art: due to re-open in renovated premises in 2010, the musuem still maintains presence at a selection of temporary venues around Amsterdam. The collection features cutting edge new artists as well as a works from Monet, Cezanne, and of course a great showing for Mondrian.
4) Dutch Resistance Museum has been chosen as the best historical museum of the Netherlands, and rightly so: it recounts the story not just of the resistance, but of the whole German occupation of the Netherlands in Word War 2. What was the national response? How was the resistance started? Who resisted and why? The displays are incredibly well presented, mixing historical fact, social background and personal stories of real people. A lot of the info is provided in English and the whole is compelling and very enlightening. Even if you are not particularly interested in the WW2 or history, it's still very worth visiting.
5) The Willet-Holthuysen Museum is a houses of the Amsterdam rich merchant and allows for a peek into the life of those who used to inhabit those magnificent canal houses in the 18th and 19th centuries. At the time of our visit an exhibition on fans was also held there!
6) Anne Frank's House combines the detailed presentation about the fate of the teenage diarist and her family with more general information about the Holocaust in the Netherlands, and although initial impression might be of a slightly undignified tourist trap, the actual result is dignified, moving and informative: the enormity of the Jews' extermination doesn't is shown through the focus on an individual case but rarely if even becomes sentimental or simplistic.
There are many more - from the world-class photography centre FOAM to the museum of Hash, Hemp and Marijuana to Historical Museum of Amsterdam to Prostitution Information Centre to one devoted to the local football club Ajax to Heineken Experience to Museum of the Tropic, plus numerous small and medium exhibitions and displays catering for a huge variety of interests and tastes, Amsterdam museums have a lot to offer and every visitor should find one - and probably more - that will capture his attention and imagination.
I certainly want to go back and see some more.