The Museum of Bags and Purses Amsterdam

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.

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. That means I’ll receive a small commission on anything you buy through clicking the links. This will not affect your price.

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.

The front of the museum is quite grand-looking: red brick with tall windows (smaller on the ground floor). Red banners extend from the facade advertising the museum. Two signs say "Tassenmuseum Hendrikje" and "Museum of Bags and Purses"
The Museum of Bags and Purses is housed in a lovely 17th century patrician’s house.

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.

The bag is white leather, with a metal frame at the top. It has decorative bits of leather sewn on that combine to make it look like it has a face, with two button eyes, a bumpy protruding nose and bumpy cheeks, but no mouth. It's just ugly.
This seriously ugly bag, made from goat’s leather, was worn on the belt and had 18 pockets. It dates to 16th century France.

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:

A small handbag with a portrait built into it

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.

A smooth brown leather bag with a metal rim on the top and sides. The metal has art nouveau-style swirls in the top corners.
A lot of the bags were very pretty, like this art nouveau clutch.

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.

The room has a high ceiling, and the bit that is visible has a gilded inset frame with a baroque painting in it. The mantelpiece is also gilt-edged, and the gold extends around an oval mirror and a baroque painting above the mirror, with a gilt-framed crest of some sort above that. The walls are comparatively simple, with a blue-flowered wallpaper and a wainscoting below that. the floor is parquet and a few tables with tablecloths are scattered around. Three women sit at a table on the left.
Inside the rather grand cafe at the Museum of Bags and Purses

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.

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Text: Amsterdam's Museum of Bags & Purses: A review / Rachel's Ruminations logo / Do you like handbags? If you do, you'll like this museum too!
Image: The front of the museum, with a red banner reading "Tassenmuseum Hendrikje"

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about Rachel

Hi, I’m Rachel!

Rachel’s Ruminations is a travel blog focused on independent travel with an emphasis on cultural and historical sites/sights. I also occasionally write about life as an expatriate. I hope you enjoy what I post here; feel free to leave comments! Read more...

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Wow 160 euro at half price that is amazing, but as you say you will use it forever. I can’t say the Museum impressed me either, but I am not a Museum person although I do love handbags. πŸ™‚

We love museums of all kinds but I think my male counterpart might balk at being dragged into the Tassenmuseum Hendrikje bag and purse museum. I however think I’d really enjoy the historical displays and I have to agree that finding the perfect utilitarian handbag/backpack is worth the price, especially when traveling!

It sounds like the period rooms were slightly more interesting than the handbags in the Tassenmuseum Hendrikje. I do enjoy how fashion and necessity influence personal items, so this sounds like fun to me. How many centuries of bags were included?

Very cool! There is a handbag museum in Little Rock that we visited one time. Not quite as opulent as this, but worth a look.

I also carry just one handbag and rarely change it out. Mine is a cross-body model. I paid more for it than I have ever paid before–because it is a designer bag–but I do love it and it looks like it will last a long, long time. I will heed your advice and save my admission money to this museum and instead go for tea! Love the look of that tea room.

‘Love the post! I’m more a shoe person but I can understand why you paid so much for your handbag. The little red handbag that I carry around is probably that price. It’s leather and from a little designer. My husband bought it for me so I’m quite alright with it LOL!

I’m very much into museums especially quirky ones or museums that have a little more insight into the way people used to live. I happened to be in Amsterdam at the beginning of the year and I had planned to visit the Museum of Bags and Purses as I had the Amsterdam City Card , but I ran out of time! I did however, managed to visit the Cheese Inn Museum, The House of Bols Cocktails & Genever Experience, The Van Gogh Museum and Micropia (a museum about miocrobes and germs and the 1st of it’s kind in the world). Disturbing, but absolutely fantastic!

‘Sounds like a plan!

As you know, I can’t wait to get to this museum this spring! But I’m in it for the art, craftsmanship, and history. I imagine in being like the Bata shoe museums, but perhaps I will be disappointed. Personally, I have no clue why people would spend a fortune for an expensive designer bag when there are so many options. I have dozens of clutches, purses, and bags from Thailand, Italy, Turkey, Peru, Fiji, and other exotic spots we’ve visited; handmade bags made by artists in the USA; antique and vintage pieces; and a bunch of cheap ones from the discount department store sale rack. Even my Italian bags (mostly bought on sale at small shops in front of the workshop where they were made) weren’t over a $100. My most expensive bag cost about what your’s did (but full price, not on sale) and is a totally boring backpack bag made out of modern fabric by a workshop in New York state. Like your bag, I bought it purely for it’s functionality because a smaller one by them was a favorite, but too small for camera gear. It does what it needs to, but I don’t love it the way I did the smaller (cheaper) one. (They didn’t up-size the design properly.) It sort of serves as a reminder not to spend a so much on a bag because I never know if I’ll love it until I actually start using it! But then again, my second most expensive bag is a rather geometric purse built out of handwoven fabric from Thailand and, while it’s a bit fragile for daily use, is a stunner and I love using it!

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