In the Netherlands there are several Museum Nights during the year. They are being held in a few of the big cities, such as Amsterdam, Rotterdam, The Hague, Utrecht, Leiden and Delft. During a Museum Night visitors in possession of a ticket can get a wrist band which allows them to visit dozens of musea between 7 or 8 o’clock in the evening and 2 o’clock at night in a specific city.

Among the cooperating musea are usually most of the big and well-known musea of that city, but there are also a lot of small and more unkown ones. The concept of the Museum Night is that you can get an impression of multiple musea in one evening. Of course you can also spend the entire evening in one or two musea, but in my opinion that is not the intention. My experience is that the Museum Nights are ideal to visit some of the smaller musea which you never even heard of. These can be surprisingly interesting, but often don’t seem to be interesting enough in the first place to go visit them on a regular day and pay an entrance fee for. By especially visiting these lesser known and/or smaller musea you can visit more of them in one night. Naturally the bigger and well-known musea are interesting as well, the art is to find a good combination.

In the meantime I have visited the Museum Nights in The Hague and Amsterdam twice. During the second visits I have tried to visit as many different musea as I could compared to the first visits, which I mostly managed to do. From my experiences I’ve drawn up some do’s and don’t that I would like to share.

Naturally it depends on what kind of musea you like to make a decision on where to go. Personally I don’t really enjoy modern art, but love the old Dutch masters and historic sites.

The Hague:
Recommendations for the The Hague Museum Night are for starters the Royal Theatre (Koninklijke Schouwburg), for the opening as well as for a tour, just make sure that you get there in time, because entry for the opening and tours are limited. The Prison Gate (Gevangen Poort), is really a must-see during the Museum Night, but be prepared to wait for at least 30 minutes, because it’s not every day that you get to visit a medieval prison in the dark. Museum Bredius, beautiful art collection from the Golden Age in a 18th-century mansion on the Lange Vijverberg. I certainly recommend it, because it’s a nice museum, it’s small and on a central location, so it doesn’t take up too much time. Panorama Mesdag, one of the largest panorama paintings in the world, for those who haven’t been there it is definitely a must-see, but even if you have been there before, it is pretty to see it when the incoming light is different.

In The Hague I have visited more musea, but I wouldn’t necessarily recommend those to visit during a Museum Night, like the Escher museum, which is a beautiful museum located in a royal palace. The downside it that it’s very crowded during the Museum Night and I’d rather visit it on a quieter day. The Hague Historic Museum (Haags Historisch Museum), is very interesting, but also very busy. Muzee, is interesting if you are from Scheveningen, otherwise I would skip it because it is situated in Scheveningen instead of the city centre. The Second Chamber (de Tweede Kamer), which is the Dutch House of Representatives, is obviously not a museum, maar is open to the public during Museum Night for those with an interest for politics. Communication museum, didn’t think it was very interesting (neither did the other people I was with), could be fun for kids.

Of course you can also visit the Municipal Museum (Gemeentemuseum), which temporarily holds the collection from the Mauritshuis as well. I haven’t visited it on the Museum Nights, because it is also located in Scheveningen and it’s a big museum, so it would take up too much of that precious time. A big advantage of the Museum Night in The Hague that there are special buses during the night, full of music and light decorations, which take you from museum to museum.

Rembrandt van Rijn - de Nachtwacht Rijksmuseum Vermeer - Het melkmeisje Anne Frank Huis - Museumnacht 2012

Also after my two visits to the Amsterdam Museum Night I have gathered some do’s en don’ts. It might be the best known museum in the world, the Anne Frank House (Anne Frank Huis), which I have visited both times and both times there was as good as no line to get in, while during a normal day there is a line of about 30 minutes. That alone is already a reason to go, but beside that it is also a very impressive museum that will change you forever. This is further enhanced by the fact that you get to visit it while it’s dark outside. Museum van Loon and Museum Willet-Holthuysen, are gorgeous canal houses, entirely in old style with beautiful art. Both are small musea, situated within walking distance from eachother and the Anne Frank House, so they are definitelly worth a visit. The Rembrandt House (Rembrandthuis), the old home of the famous painter Rembrandt van Rijn. It is a little off route, but I thought this was a nice and interesting museum. It is also not that big, so despite of the distance it combines well during a Museum Night.

Besides the musea I already mentioned I have also visited some that also weren’t that big, but also not that interesting, like the Waag Society, the City Archives (Stadsarchief) and the Canal House (Het Grachtenhuis). In this last one you can go for boat tours through the canals, but these are already full early in the evening and there wasn’t that much else to see inside during the Museum Night. It was also very crowded because of some sort of special Museum Night party which was held on the main floor of the museum.

Furthermore I will mention the Rijksmuseum, which is finally open again after 10 years of rebuilding and is very impressive. It is really busy though, which makes it hard to get close enough to the paintings at the Honor Gallery to get a really good look. The museum is also huge, so it could swallow your entire evening. I recommend to only go there during Museum Night if you want one of the guided tours, but otherwise go there on a normal day. For example you could use the free return ticket that the Amsterdam Museum Night provides. Finally the Van Gogh museum, which is lovely, but because it is situated at Museum square also very crowded. Also they were playing really loud music, which in my opinion took away the attention from the art and was kind of disturbing that way.

These are in short my experiences of the Museum Nights. Have you ever visited a Museum Night (perhaps in a different city)? I would love to hear more experiences and/or tips.