Added in May 2021: I just found out that this museum closed in April 2020, at the beginning of the pandemic. I’ll leave the review here as it is, in case anyone is interested in what it was like.
For the sake of full transparency and before I describe my impressions of Tassenmuseum Hendrikje, the Museum of Bags and Purses, Amsterdam, I need to explain my relationship to handbags.
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I know some people are really into handbags. They have huge collections of them, preferably designer, and they coordinate their bag with whatever they’re wearing each day.
I don’t. I carry one bag. Occasionally I change handbags when the one I have wears out (This takes years.) or I find one that suits my needs better.
I bought my current handbag for two reasons. Like my old one, it looks like a respectable handbag when I need it to, but converts very easily to a backpack, which is useful going to or from work on my bike. I had another one that did that too, but was not big enough to hold my tablet. So I bought this one. I paid something like 160 euros (it was a half-price sale) which was more than I’d ever spent for a bag. I’ll probably use it till it breaks and, given the high quality materials, that’ll take a long time.
Visiting the Museum of Bags and Purses
Nevertheless, despite my general indifference to handbags, I thought the Museum of Bags and Purses in Amsterdam might be worth a look, if only for the absurdity of a whole museum devoted to purses.
It was indeed absurd, in my view. But that wasn’t enough to save me from the boredom of the exhibits.
I have to say they were very well-presented: dramatically lit, not too crowded, with signs in both Dutch and English explaining the materials, purposes and so on of the bags on display.
I freely admit that many of the bags were very pretty, and some of the historical information was quite interesting, about how bags changed as fashions forced them to change: hip bags, for example, that women wore under very full skirts.
You might also enjoy these articles from my small museums in Amsterdam series:
- Is the Erotic Museum in Amsterdam erotic? A review
- The Cat Cabinet (everything cats!)
- Electric Ladyland (a hippie museum about flourescence)
The museum’s collection
Exhibits displayed all sorts of different kinds of bags: leather, beaded, metal, leather, tortoiseshell, ivory and so on. A few display cases contained men’s bags. Some showed accessories of various sorts, as well as wallets and purses, doctor’s bags, school bags and picnic bags, reticules and stocking purses.
When I visited, one section held a special temporary exhibit called “Black and White: the dresscode of a lifetime.” I suspect that the museum staff just plucked whatever bags they had that were black or white or both and moved them to their temporary exhibit rooms.
What I thought of the museum
I didn’t stay long.
I just got bored, and regretted the €12.50 (now €13.00) I’d spent on admission. At the same time, I know that some of my friends would absolutely adore this museum.
To me, the best part of the Museum of Bags and Purses was the two period rooms downstairs. The museum’s home is a lovely 17th century canal house on the Herengracht, in the UNESCO-listed canal rings of Amsterdam. The period rooms are part of the museum café, so you can stop and have a snack and enjoy the opulent surroundings. It would be a great spot to enjoy a high tea.
I didn’t spend any time in the shop on the ground floor after looking at just a few bags: €500 each? Really? Do people pay that kind of money for a handbag? Why?
Are you into handbags? If so, please explain why!
Information for visiting the Museum of Bags and Purses in Amsterdam
The museum has closed permanently.
The Museum of Bags and Purses: Herengracht 573 (between Utrechtsestraat and Thorbeckeplein). From the central train station, take tram 4 or 9 to Rembrandtplein and walk from there. The nearest metro stop is Waterlooplein. Open 10:00-17:00 daily. Admission: €13/$14.
If you are going to visit several museums and attractions on your trip to Amsterdam, it might be worth your while to buy the I AMsterdam City Card. It includes admission to a whole list of museums, sights and entertainment in and outside of Amsterdam, plus a canal boat trip and unlimited public transportation.