Each year in November, museums around Amsterdam stay open until 2am, hosting special events and allowing visitors to peruse their collections. Other venues, such as the zoo and botanical gardens, also take part in the event, giving visitors a chance to see these tourist hotspots in a whole new light. The event is called Museumnacht (Museum Night), and its N8 logo can be visible on posters around the city in the weeks leading up to the event. Why is the logo an N8 you ask? In Dutch “8” is “acht” and “night” is “nacht” – clever.
This year’s Museumnacht will take place on Saturday November 6th, with museums opening their doors at 7pm. Tickets cost 17.50 Euros and are available from the various pre-sale points listed on the event website. Because the event frequently sells out and tickets are not available at the museums themselves, it’s wise to buy tickets ahead of time.
As a bonus, your ticket can be used on public transit from 6pm on museum night to 6am the next day; however, it’s wise to explore on foot since public transit can be overcrowded and even slower than usual. Amsterdam has a small, densely packed city center, so its best to select an neighborhood of interest and explore it thoroughly. Not only are the major museums open, you will also find lots to do at local galleries, even street performances.
Since you will be spending a fair amount of time outside (be it waiting in line or exploring some of the street life), you should consider wearing layers and something waterproof; Amsterdam is notorious for spontaneous bouts of rain.
Finally, if there is a specific museum you are dying to see, you’re probably better off visiting it on a regular day when it will be less crowded. Museum night is a sort of cultural party – so if you are a huge Van Gogh fan, you may get more out of a visit to the Van Gogh Museum on your own time. Hold on to your Museumnacht ticket stub, because its valid for free admission to any participating museum until December 31, 2010.
It’s difficult to plan on museum night, as the crowds and activity often lead to some spontaneous wandering and decision making. That being said, over the years the following have been my personal favorites and are well wroth the visit if you get the chance:
Museumnacht is your only chance to visit Amsterdam’s zoo by night. It’s a popular spot so arrive early to minimize your waiting time, and be prepared to wait in line for an hour. The wait is well worth it, since you get a night tour of the zoo by an informed guide, and you get to see some of the nocturnal animals. When you arrive at the zoo make sure you sign up for the English tour.
NEMO Science Center
Normally a science center for children, on Museumnacht the NEMO is taken over by drunk adults trying out some of the sillier exhibitions. Crowd favorites are the “stand in a giant bubble” and “make-out using giant arm length tongues” exhibits.
In past years, NEMO also converted a large open space into a dance hall, complete with a bar and DJ.
One of the quieter places to visit on Museumnacht, the Oude Kerk (Amsterdam’s oldest church), is a great place to stop by and relax from the hustle and bustle outside. The church is not open this late on normal days, and it’s a very eerie venue to check out at night.