Van Loon Museum: a restored Golden Age house

After the Ons’ Lieve Heer op Solder museum and The Museum of the Canals, our last stop was the van Loon Museum, a restored Golden Age canal house.

An elegant drawing room with dark carpet and a scattering of chairs at the Museum van Loon.
I suppose this would be called a drawing room.

This is what I’d been expecting when we visited the Museum of the Canals: rooms that give an impression of how wealthy residents of Amsterdam’s Golden Age lived and, to a much lesser extent, how their servants lived.

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History of the van Loon house

This museum is named after Willem van Loon, a founder of the Dutch East-India Company (VOC). The fact is that a large proportion of the profits from the VOC was based on slavery or on other forms of oppression of native peoples. Nevertheless, houses like this are an enduring and beautiful legacy.

An elegant bedroom in the van Loon Museum
I couldn’t resist making this photo sepia. Doesn’t it look Victorian?

Built in 1672, its first resident was Ferdinand Bol, whose paintings can be viewed in the Rijksmuseum. The van Loon family didn’t move in until the late 1800’s. When they did, they filled it with their family’s history, particularly in evidence in the paintings.

The house is intact, inside and out, and has been filled with a collection of articles from several different centuries, which is, I suppose, what would have happened with a patrician family like the van Loons. They would have replaced some pieces and kept some old ones, as any family would.

The dressing table holds glass bottles and brushes at the van Loon Museum in Amsterdam
the dressing table in the bedroom

Exploring the van Loon Museum

There is no set route through the van Loon house, and you are free to wander around at will. There’s a lot to examine, if you’re so inclined: period furniture, paintings, porcelain, decorative moldings, chandeliers, and so on. There are a few signs explaining pieces, and notes on all of the furniture reminding visitors not to sit down, but they’ve done a good job at keeping modern intrusions to a minimum. It was quite a restful contrast to the multimedia activity of the Museum of the Canals.

I was particularly drawn to the details: the items laid out on the dressing table in the bedroom, the shiny copper pots on the enormous cast-iron stove down in the kitchen. Perhaps it was because the afternoon light through a cloudy sky was so much like a Vermeer painting.

The cast iron stove with several shiny copper pots on it.
the cast iron stove in the kitchen downstairs

If you’re curious about other small museums to visit in Amsterdam, check out these articles:

Outside the van Loon house

The small garden is laid out in formal style and from the back of the garden you can look back at the house to see its elegant symmetry, somewhat marred by the asymmetry of the houses on either side.

A coach house, closed when we visited, backs the garden. It is usually used to exhibit the van Loon family’s collection of carriages, coaches, and other accoutrements that belong in a coach house.

A view of the house from the back garden
A view of the van Loon Museum from the back garden

It all seemed very much an Amsterdam-based Downton Abbey to me, with its air of old money and women swishing around in long skirts or drinking tea from very delicate china. If that’s what you’d like to see, this small museum is definitely worth a short visit next time you’re in Amsterdam.

The van Loon Museum: Keizersgracht 672 between Vijzelstraat and Reguliersgracht. Take Tram 24 to the Muntplein stop. Open daily 10:00-17:00. Admission €10/$11 for adults.

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.

Series Navigation<< Museum of the Canals Amsterdam: a reviewMuseum Het Rembrandthuis and Rembrandt’s life >>


  • Doreen Pendgracs

    February 1, 2015 at 10:41 pm

    Interesting post, Rachel! I always am amazed just how much history there is in Europe compared to what we have in Canada. Here … something is old (historic) when it’s 100 years old. There … historic can mean that something is several hundred years old, as in the case of the 1672 establishment you’ve mentioned!

    • rachel75

      February 2, 2015 at 7:31 am

      Yes, that’s true! I’ve gotten very blasé about it. We bought a house last year and I found myself saying things like ‘It’s not so old. It’s only from 1880.’

  • Annie Martin

    February 2, 2015 at 5:41 pm

    This looks so cool. I love seeing history preserved. I especially like how they keep modern distractions to a minimum. It really bothers me when you go into an old house like this and they have televisions set up to tell you about the house. It seems so unauthentic.

    • rachel75

      February 2, 2015 at 7:30 pm

      I agree! They had a little sign on a stand in each room, but that was it. Easy to ignore, but nice to have if you’re particularly curious about something. Thanks for commenting!

    • rachel75

      February 3, 2015 at 11:52 pm

      Funny, we get all nostalgic for this kind of life, drinking tea in the drawing room, but of course we always picture ourselves as the upper class, not as the servant class!

  • Natalie Deduck

    February 8, 2015 at 6:14 am

    I love the idea of walk around the house and travel to the past. So much history in just one place!
    We are travelling to Amsterdam on April with some brazilian friends, your posts about the museum and the city arrived in the right time!


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