Girls making selfie in front of Nachtwacht Rijksmuseum
© Dirk van Egmond

Arts and Culture in the Netherlands

Rembrandt, Vermeer, Van Gogh, Mondrian – the Netherlands has produced some of art history’s most influential painters. From the Old Masters of the Dutch Era to cutting-edge contemporary design, the country is world-famous for its contributions to art and design. Its museums and galleries are unmissable destinations, and there is also a thriving performing arts scene with famous concert halls, gig venues, theatres and opera houses.

Museums, galleries and exhibitions

Small but mighty. Despite its size, there is no denying the significant and diverse arts and culture scene in the Netherlands. You only have to look at the sheer number of museums here – over 600 – to gain an impression of how culture thrives in this country. Whether it is art, design, history or science, the rich culture of the Netherlands is world famous, and a reason for the real culture lovers to pay a visit. The most renowned locations include Amsterdam’s Rijksmuseum, Van Gogh Museum and Stedelijk Museum, the Mauritshuis and the Kunstmuseum in the Hague, and the Kunsthal and the Booijmans van Beunigen in Rotterdam. And you can trace the Netherlands’ artistic and cultural influence through time at many other museums around the country.

A land of painters

Van Gogh Village Museum lady looks at details

In the 17th century, Dutch artists began to work their way into the history books. Dutch Masters such as Rembrandt, Vermeer, Frans Hals and Jan Steen have come to define the Dutch Era (ca. 1620-1680). And the Netherlands’ influence on the world of art has continued into modern times. Vincent van Gogh revolutionized painting in the 19th century and remains one of the world’s most influential artists.

In the 20th century, artists such as Mondrian and art and architecture movements such as CoBrA and De Stijl, the colorful, optimistic and, above all, modern art and architecture movement that swept Europe in the first half of the 20th century, left a lasting mark. This trail of artistic exploration can be seen until today. The Netherlands continues to produce art and artists whose work ripples through the industry internationally.

Dutch Design Week 2022 Strijp Housewest

Modern art and expression

Fabrique des Lumières Amsterdam

A passion for the arts has seeped through centuries in the Netherlands. This means that contemporary art and artists are valued alongside traditional works. In fact, sometimes old meets new at digital art shows such as those at Fabrique des Lumières in Amsterdam.

Yet not all modern works are contained in museums. They can be found, quite literally, out and about: cities such as Tilburg, Arnhem, Amsterdam and Rotterdam, have a thriving street art scene with murals and graffiti in various locations.

Category: Read

Museums in the Netherlands

Discover the wide range of museums and galleries to visit on your trip to the Netherlands

Category: Story

Vincent van Gogh: shaped by the Dutch countryside

Explore the beautiful Dutch landscape that led Vincent van Gogh to become one of the greatest painters of all time. Follow in his footsteps and experience the natural beauty of Brabant and Drenthe.

Dutch design and architecture

Known as a nation of problem solvers and ‘out-of-the-box’ thinkers, the Netherlands has forged an esteemed reputation for design. Take the work of Gerrit Rietveld. Created in the early to mid-1900s, Rietveld’s futuristic designs became recognizable internationally.

600 museums in the Netherlands

The Schröder House in Utrecht, for example, was identified as a UNESCO World Heritage Site as “an icon of the Modern Movement in architecture.” And the influence of the Amsterdam School of architecture, too, would reach far beyond the borders of its eponymous hometown. But design reaches beyond furniture and architecture. Dutch design is fashion, science, engineering and more. Fields where creativity meets the latest innovations. Each year, this is celebrated at Dutch Design Week in Eindhoven, where the next generation of designers take to the stage.

Katharine Weber, The Music Lesson
There is a love for the real, an affection for the true, in all of Dutch art.
Katharine Weber, The Music Lesson

Music and theatre

In the Netherlands, concert halls such as Amsterdam’s Royal Concertgebouw and Het Muziekgebouw put on world-class performances on a weekly basis, and at the National Opera and Ballet, there is lots to sing and dance about. Local artists and indie bands performers shine at venues across the country, such as Paradiso, Melkweg, Paard Paard, Patronaat and Rotown, but the Netherlands also attracts many international performers. Sites such as the Ziggo Dome in Amsterdam and the Ahoy Arena in Rotterdam can host over 16,000 guests.

The Dutch are also known for their love of music festivals. North Sea Jazz Festival, for example, has been running since 1976 and attracts stellar acts from near and far. Other events such as Lowlands Festival, Mysteryland and Down The Rabbit Hole have become a staple on the international summer music festival circuit.

North Sea Jazz Festival Rotterdam, 7 July 2023. Concert of Stormzy

4 Dutch arts and culture tips:

  1. During National Museum Week, experience special programs and cultural events hosted in towns and cities across the whole country. In recent years, over 400 museums participated to support and celebrate the Netherlands’ arts and culture sector.

  2. From cultural landmarks to historic buildings, museums and more, experience them all on Open Monument Day. This annual event attracts over 1 million visitors. Thousands of notable locations open their doors to the public, offering a range of fun and educational activities.

  3. From local art collections to world-famous galleries and the latest exhibitions, access them all with the Museum Card. This pass enables you to visit over 450 museums and cultural locations in the Netherlands. And don’t miss the museum nights taking place annually in several towns and cities!

  4. Get outside to see the sights. Dutch arts and culture can be experienced from the streets. Simply take a look around you to take in iconic architectural styles such as the Amsterdam School. Or spot historic monuments and sculptures situated in public places such as parks and market squares.