Wake Me Up Before You Van Gogh Go!

Amsterdam has more than 50 museums. That’s a whole lot of art and culture in one relatively small city. As a visitor it can be hard to narrow down your choices. Top on the list for most include the big three all located on the Museumplein: the impressive and world renowned Rijksmuseum showcasing the Dutch masters (Rembrandt, Hals and Vermeer), the Van Gogh, just a short stroll down the greenspace, boasting the largest collection of Vincent’s masterpieces as well as some by his contemporaries, and the Stedelijk, which strives to be one of the most innovative museums of modern art and design in the world situated at the end of the plein housed in what looks like a giant bathtub. These three are definitely worth the time and warrant the purchase of a Museumkart allowing entrance to 400 museums in the Netherlands, no waiting in lines, these three included.

One would undoubtedly also want to see the Anne Frank House, (hint: purchase a ticket online so you will not have to wait in a line reaching around the next corner – think 2 hours long), take a boat ride through the UNESCO protected canal ring, shop along the Negen Straatjes (nine streets) and stroll or bike through the Vondelpark where, apparently, you may sight green parrots.

Recently when my cousin came to stay for a weeklong visit, after the usual must-sees, I suggested we board the 16 tram to a relatively new museum located in a 17th century canal house in a quieter area of the city on the Herengracht, the Museum of Bags and Purses. With over 5,000 handbags to view, this sweet little fashion find is included on the Museumkart and also has a high tea in their museum cafe. Being enormous fans of purses, I thought this visit would prove fun. It did not disappoint.

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All of the bags are encased in glass like Mona in the Louvre and some even show the shoes and hats designed to go with them. In the upscale contemporary section, you will see bags from iconic designers like Prada, Chanel, Hermes, Louis Vuitton, Lagerfeld, Alexander McQueen, Yves Saint Laurent, and Judith Leiber as well as a section for up and coming designers given the chance to show off their skills and bags. Purses owned by celebrities are also part of the collection including those of Elizabeth Taylor Lady Gaga, Julia Roberts, Madonna and Angelina Jolie.

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In addition to the permanent collection with some bags dating back 500 years, we were also lucky enough to see the Exhibition Royal Bags including those carried by Princess Grace Kelly of Monaco and one of her infamous Kelly-bags by Hermes, Queen Elizabeth and the Dutch Royal family. Suffice it to say they were/are all fans of Miss Coco Chanel. Also quite interesting were the traveling cases (think Louis Vuitton boxlike suitcases) of the Royals on display highlighting intimate personal objects such as hairbrushes, combs and laundering essentials.

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The largest of its kind in the world, and the only one in Europe, The Museum of Bags and Purses was a delight and took us only 45 minutes to ooohhh and aaahhh our way through all three floors. If you too are a fan of this fine accessory, put it on your list of things to see and do while in Amsterdam. Hint, wake and get out early. If you go when it opens, you will most likely have the place to yourself, and possibly the cleaning lady we bumped into as she was vacuuming behind us.

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