Six of the best: Unusual Dutch museums, The Netherlands

Micropia – Amsterdam

Lens maker Antonio van Leeuwenhoek of the Dutch town of Delft was the first man on the planet to see a microbe. So it's appropriate that Holland should be home to the world's first museum dedicated to life too small to be seen with the naked eye. In fact it's as much a zoo than a museum, since many of the exhibits are crawling around doing their thing. Pictured is Queen Maxima of The Netherlands (right) leaving a hand print on a petri dish at the Museum's opening. See

Museum Speelklok – Utrecht

Everything from delicate music boxes to mighty street organs is on display in this entertaining museum of mechanical music. The music box with a lettuce-munching rabbit is a favourite with children, while everybody loves the spectacular, very loud, dance hall organs. A tour with a guide (yes, of course they all speak English) is well worth an hour of anybody's time in the attractive university town of Utrecht. See

Planetarium – Franeker, Friesland

In 1774, some feared that a conjunction of the planets would cause collisions and a collapse of the Earth into the sun. Eise Eisinga set out to show people that it wouldn't happen. His living room is now a UNESCO World Heritage site. Mr Eisinga worked for seven years to build a handmade "orrery" or planetarium in the ceiling. His working model of the planets, moving in real time, is driven by a simple pendulum clock, yet it needs only minor adjustment every leap year. It also happens to be an extraordinarily beautiful thing. See

Teylers Museum – Haarlem

The oldest museum in the Netherlands began life in 1778 as a personal collection in a grand private home. The appeal is that this feels like a real old-style museum, all glowing wooden cases, creaky floors and hand-written labels. There's a wonderfully eclectic collection of fossils, minerals and old scientific instruments, along with a respectable art collection and temporary exhibitions in a modern wing. It's worth visiting for the original building alone. A glorious dome naturally lights the spiral staircase and the library with its wooden mezzanine reeks of history. See

Museum of Bags and Purses – Amsterdam

The world's largest collection of fashion accessories began when Mrs Hendrikje Ivo found an antique German handbag, made from a tortoise shell. She bought it and carried on collecting. Things have got out of hand now. Her collection has swelled to over 4000 bags, variously historic, unusual, beautiful, celebrity-designed and celebrity-owned. Having outgrown its original home, it's been relocated to one of Amsterdam's beautiful old canal houses, with a lovely garden and cafe. There are also rotating temporary exhibitions. See

De Zaanse Schans – Zaandam

Tourist buses pull up at this village just outside Amsterdam, where charming old houses from around the country have been relocated, to be lived in and maintained by Dutch enthusiasts. The hordes are attracted by the opportunity to take selfies in front of windmills, as well as inside them. There are also interesting museums of cheese, clogs and (a personal favourite) clocks. It's only 17 minutes by train from Amsterdam Central station to Koog Zaandijk, from where it's a pleasant short walk across the River Zaan to the Zaanse Schans.


Richard Tulloch travelled at his own expense. Note too that many smaller Dutch museums are closed on Mondays.