Due north of colorful tulip fields and windmills lies the cultural heart of the Netherlands—Amsterdam. Threaded with dreamy canals, lined with quaint houses and containing more culture per capita than anywhere else in the world, Amsterdam is a fairytale actualized.
But beyond the wealth of art, the provocative glow of the Red Lights District and the abundance of priceless art lies a treasure trove of less-noticed wonder. For a truly unique trip through Amsterdam, check out a few of the curiosities below.
Aptly named after the Hendrix album and located in the basement of the Electric Lady art gallery, Electric Ladyland is world’s first and world’s only museum dedicated to the ethereal wonder of fluorescent light.
Comprised of a large room filled with sculptures and bathed in shades of fluorescent paint, the museum is largely “participatory art”—meaning your exploration of the room’s many nooks and crannies is actively encouraged. If you leave Electric Ladyland and you’re still craving neon landscapes, you’ll want to play a few games of mini-golf at GlowGolf Amsterdam.
Housed at the end of Amsterdam’s Artis Amsterdam Royal Zoo, Micropia is a massive collection of the tiniest creatures you probably don’t consider near enough. Dedicated entirely to the microscopic world, this interactive museum/zoo sheds light on how microbes affect everything from digesting food to spreading plagues, and showcases billions of the tiny denizens in airtight cases under microscopes. Seeing what microbes live on your eye-lashes is certainly an eye-opening experience.
Formally an animal refuge, the Catboat has quickly become something of a cult tourist destination. It’s not every day you board a houseboat filled with cats. While admittance to the Catboat is free, a donation is polite: whatever you can spare goes a long way towards helping these lovable felines find a new home. If leaving the Catboat you’re still craving cats, a stroll through the KattenKabinet (Cat Cabinet) is certain to satiate. Besides housing feline-focused art from the likes of Picasso and Rembrandt, it also houses five exquisite cats.
While a handful of outdoor parks and gardens exist scattered throughout the city, for a stroll through the extraordinary side of fauna, a visit to the Hortus Botanicus Amsterdam is a must. Originally established in 1638 to grow the herbs needed to combat the Black Plague, this botanic garden has continued to collect a host of curious inhabitants. Among them: a 2,000-year-old agave cactus dating to the Roman era, the Victoria amazonica water lily (only 150 years young) and a cycad collection housing offsets from the legendary Wood’s Cycad—the only palm-like plant that survived the dinosaurs and five subsequent ice ages.
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