Amsterdam Top20

the best of the week February 08 to February 21

Canal House Museum (Priopass) - Museum in a Mansion

Canal House Museum (Priopass) - Museum in a Mansion 6

Het Grachtenhuis Museum of the Canals is a wonderful, modern, well-designed, multi-media experience that explains the creation of the Amsterdam Canal District, one of the most magnificent urban projects of all time. You each get a headset so you hear the audio (only!) in your language. As you would expect in Amsterdam today, the English is excellent. 

The first room tells the story of mass immigration to Amsterdam using unique mapping images over a white model of the city. No it’s not a Geert Wilders populist nightmare from today’s headlines, but the story of the mass immigration in the 17th century which dictated the need for more houses and the canals.

The best story is in room two where a wooden conference table is used as a screen where different maps and plans are laid out. The ideas are discussed by city elders including a city planner, the mayor, the defense minister, and (naturally) the finance minister worried about the costs.

Then there is a room covered in the sand on which what Amsterdam is built. Here you see how all buildings are built on a bed of poles. Again to Geert Wilders, not inexpensive laborers from Poland, but actual wooden (today concrete) poles.

The final room is images of life on the canals over the years. In case you were wondering, the speedboats racing through are from a horror film about a monster in the canals from the 1980s called Amsterdammed. They left out the parts filmed in Utrecht.

At the end, go downstairs to see the restored rooms with original floors and rustic wall paintings. It turns out that when you were rich and lived in stinky urban Amsterdam in the 1600s, the wall fashion was idealized imagery of open spaces and the country. That was the 17th century version of keepin’ it real. Don’t be fooled by the tulips that I got; I’m still, I’m still Jenny from the farm.

The two animated movies are worth clicking on here as well including the financing of America by Grachtenhuis private resident Jan Willink. When U.S. President John Adams was looking for money, naturally he went to the center of the financial world, Amsterdam. Willink ended up loaning America the equivalent of 22 billion of today’s dollars.

Due to it being a private, unsubsidized museum, the price is a few euros more than if it were public, but Het Grachtenhuis Museum of the Canals is absolutely worth it. And no crowds! Even the gift shop is classy with very little crap.

€12 for adults. Children (6-18) pay just €6.

Open 10am to 5pm from Tuesday to Sunday.

Skip the line with your Priopass.

With Priopass (Priority Pass), you can visit every Amsterdam attraction without a ticket. Skip the queue for museums and attractions with your free Priopass. Activate it with your credit card and pay for what you visit afterwards. Never buy another ticket! Scan, beep, and you're in!

Your hotel representative can activate your Priopass for you, or you could do it yourself online at

Herengracht 386. Tram 1, 2, or 5 to Konings-plein.