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  • Writer's pictureBen West

A Brief History of Museumplein in Amsterdam

What is Museumplein?

Museumplein is a public square at the centre of Amsterdam’s museum district that’s a focal point for both locals and visitors.


Museumplein History

This public square is one of the liveliest areas of the city. It’s not just a cultural centre with major world-class museums, but also a popular recreation space with locals and visitors alike as they flock here to picnic and play, attend markets and concerts, and to ice skate in winter.

This central square, the city’s largest, was originally the site of the 1883 International Exhibition, a World’s Fair held to showcase the development of Amsterdam. The area received its name a couple of years later when the Rijksmuseum opened on the north side. Dedicated to the arts and history, it remains the city’s grandest museum, displaying around 8,000 exhibits at any one time, dating from the Middle Ages to the 20th century, but especially paintings from the Dutch Golden Age, including works by Vermeer, Rembrandt and Frans Hals.

The Museumplein is also home to one of the greatest concert halls in the world, the Neo-Renaissance Concertgebouw on the south side, which has held performances by artists as diverse as Richard Strauss, Gustav Mahler, Yehudi Menuhin, Louis Armstrong and Sting.

There’s a pond, terraces and grassy areas, which help to give the open space a park-like feel. Games with balls and frisbees are played here by picnickers and sunbathers. It’s a great spot for buskers, too. There’s a basketball court, skateboard ramps, playground – and in winter there’s a Christmas market and the pond is transformed into an ice-skating rink. Craft and food stalls appear each third Sunday of the month, and a supermarket and parking garage have been built beneath the square.

In such a vibrant pocket of the city, with 10 million visitors annually, it’s difficult to imagine that in the 19th-century Museumplein was once farmland, or that in the Second World War it was strewn with bunkers and barbed wire.

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