Discovering the Rich History of the Netherlands: Top Museums and Historical Sites

Previously home to the Celts, the Romans, and Germanic tribes, the Netherlands has a rich history of human occupation dating back to prehistoric times. With the establishment of the Dutch Republic in the 16th century, it flourished as a major seafaring power and came to the fore of the artistic world during the Dutch Golden Age. Today, the Netherlands’ fascinating past is brought to life at countless historical sites and museums, which are worth adding to your vacation itinerary.

Read on to learn about eight of the best places to get your Dutch history fix, whether you’re interested in the country’s maritime heritage, its Roman settlements, or its political past.

If you are planning to explore these historical wonders, you can find comfortable accommodations to enhance your stay, bringing together holiday apartments and house rentals from across the Netherlands. It makes it easy to find Amsterdam apartments near all of the capital’s top museums, as well as country estates on the doorstep of Kinderdijk.

Verzetsmuseum Amsterdam

Also known as the Dutch Resistance Museum, this outstanding museum occupies a 19th-century building that once served as a Jewish cultural centre and synagogue. It takes visitors back to the 1940s when the Netherlands was occupied by Nazi Germany, with vintage posters and black-and-white films helping to vividly recreate the scene. While the museum effectively illustrates daily life during the period, it also details the historical context of the Nazi occupation and the brave steps locals took in resistance.


Venture below Dom Square to discover 2,000 years of Dutch history at this immersive attraction in Utrecht. It offers a fascinating insight into the ruins of Trajectum, which was built by the Romans around 45 AD. Armed with a torch, you’ll come face-to-face with centuries-old findings and animated films, all while discovering how Utretch came to be the centre of the Netherlands during the Middle Ages.

Netherlands Open Air Museum

Take a step back in time at the Netherlands Open Air Museum, which lies on the northern outskirts of Arnhem and has been a recipient of the European Museum of the Year Award. It recreates the lives of everyday people throughout the centuries and offers demonstrations in everything from traditional paper production to brewing. Set across 44 hectares, it features around 40 historic buildings relocated from across the Netherlands, as well as a heritage tramway with electric vehicles from Rotterdam and The Hague.


Discovering the Rich History of the Netherlands: Top Museums and Historical Sites

Comprising 19 windmills that date back to the 18th century, Kinderdijk has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site due to its links to the history of Dutch water management. The windmills form part of a larger system of dikes, reservoirs, and pumping stations designed to prevent flooding in South Holland and have become one of the most photographed sites in the country. In addition to walking or cycling the trails that crisscross the countryside, you can explore the museums that are housed within several of the windmills.

Museum of the Canals

Amsterdam is famed for its canals and this waterside museum allows you to better understand their role in the city’s development. It occupies a grand waterside mansion on the Herengracht (the second of Amsterdam’s four canals) and features five exhibition rooms with interactive and audio-visual displays. Hear how the canals were developed within a recreated city planning meeting room, then learn about some of the most notable moments that have occurred on Amsterdam’s waterways.


For a dose of Dutch politics, you can’t miss a visit to the Binnenhof, a collection of government buildings in the centre of The Hague. Built largely in the 13th century, it is one of the oldest parliament complexes in the world that is still in use today. On a guided walk, you can learn about the architectural heritage of the buildings and the Dutch political system, as well as some of the most important decisions that have been made here.


One of the Netherlands’ most picturesque castles, this medieval fortification overlooks the mouth of the Vecht River to the east of Amsterdam. It has been beautifully restored and now houses a fascinating museum that explores life here in the 17th century when it was home to the Dutch poet Pieter Corneliszoon Hooft. Imagine what it was like to wear armor during the Middle Ages and climb the Westertoren to enjoy views across the former Zuiderzee. Alongside the castle are 17th-century formal gardens and a beautiful plum orchard.

National Maritime Museum

Discovering the Rich History of the Netherlands: Top Museums and Historical Sites

Occupying a former naval storehouse on Amsterdam’s waterfront, this imposing museum houses a fascinating collection of artefacts related to the Netherlands’ shipping and sailing history. In addition to model ships, antique weapons, and maritime paintings, it exhibits several 17th-century maps by the renowned cartographers, Willem and Joan Blaeu.

Through the museum’s interactive exhibits, discover how the sea has shaped the Dutch economy and culture over the last 500 years. A visit to the National Maritime Museum can easily be combined with a stop at the nearby Rembrandt House Museum.