Amsterdam Museums and Galleries
Van Gogh Museum
Museumplein 6, Museumplein
Although the breadth of the Rijksmuseum is impressive, there's something pretty incredible about being able to see the work of a single artist curated in great depth in one place. You'll see many of Vincent Van Gogh's most famous paintings (Sunflowers, Irises, The Potato Eaters) in the museum's permanent collection, as well as fascinating, lesser-known works in the evolving exhibition wing. There are also pieces by Van Gogh's contemporaries (e.g., Émile Bernard, Paul Gaugin, Maurice Denis) on display, which adds an interesting layer of context. All together, the museum tells a thorough story of Van Gogh's life and legacy, both of which are often shrouded in myth. Buy tickets online if you can. Also, depending on what time of year you're in Amsterdam, the museum may have extended hours, and the evenings tend to be less crowded times to visit.
Museumstraat 1, Museumplein
The Rijksmuseum is the Louvre of the Netherlands—meaning you won't see it all in one go, and it's worth returning to again and again. The Rijks first opened in 1800 under a different name but it's been in its current building since 1855. It underwent a ten-year long rebuilding and renovation process, which was completed in 2013. The heart of the museum is Dutch art from the Middle Ages all the way through the 20th-century. Not surprisingly, it's best to buy a ticket online so you don't have to wait in line at the ticket office. And like other Amsterdam museums, the Rijks is generally more quiet before 10am and after 3pm.
Anne Frank House
Prinsengracht 263-267, Grachtengordel-West
Walking through the house where Anne Frank hid for more than two years—along with her family, the Van Pels family, and Fritz Pfeffer—is incredibly affecting. Although areas of the house have of course been refurbished, many original objects remain, as well as photographs, important historical documents, and handwritten notes and letters, including the diaries Anne wrote from 1942 to 1944. With great humanity, the museum's changing exhibitions portray different pieces of the Holocaust, Anne's life, the lives of the people who hid with her, and the people who helped keep the secret annex safe for two incredibly dangerous years. On a practical note: The wait to get into Anne Frank House can be long, but it's really a must-go (and captivating for school-age kids, too), so plan ahead if you can. The museum is trying a new entry system with the aim of making it easier for more people to visit. As of May 1, 2016, from 9am to 3:30pm, the museum will only be open to visitors who purchase an online ticket for a designated time slot. After 3:30pm, you'll be able to buy a ticket at the…
Rembrandt House Museum
Jodenbreestraat 4, Centrum
The Rembrandt House Museum is a nice departure from Amsterdam's more conventional museums and the long lines you'll face at nearly every one. The museum building, which was the home and studio of artist Rembrandt van Rijn from 1606 to 1669, underwent extremely sophisticated restoration work in the 1990s so that would it could continue to look and feel like a house from the 17th-century. Here, you'll see many of Rembrandt's etchings, graphical pieces, and paintings. There are also demonstrations daily that are fun for the kids—either the etching printing process or a behind-the-scenes look at how paint was made in Rembrandt's day.
Keizersgracht 609, Grachtengordel
Housed in a beautiful old canal-side home, Foam is the place to go in Amsterdam to see interesting photography of every medium—from both established photographers and up-and-comers. (The museum has a designated exhibition space for new talent, which is a great place to discover rising artists.) In addition to their gallery space, Foam also organizes contemporary photography events and lectures, and publishes an international photography magazine three times a year.