The Tropical TropenMuseum

The Tropenmuseum, or the Trooopeeenmuuuseeeem as the logo suggests, is one of Amsterdam’s largest museums. Something you can tell just by looking at it. The palace-like building is absolutely gigantic! Despite the sheet size of the museum, the Tropenmuseum is one that I stumbled upon mostly by accident.

The exterior of the Tropenmuseum
Amsterdam’s Tropenmuseum

It is by Osterpark in Amsterdam, a place where I liked to sit and relax after a day of adventuring. There’s also a duck pond, and who doesn’t like ducks? On one of my last days in Amsterdam, I looked up from the ducks and saw the massive museum. Tropenmuseum translates to Tropical Museum, and a touch of tropical warmth was certainly welcome on a bright but cold April afternoon.

It was fairly late in the day by the time I made it across the threshold of this vast place. The sun was beginning to sink low in the sky.

“You have about an hour left,” the man at the front desk informed me, “So what I think is best, is if you start at the top and work your way down.”

It’s always great when someone who knows a museum well can give you advice on how to get the most out of it in the time you have!

As the doors of the lift opened, I had two thoughts 1) whoa, this museum is big and 2) wow those are some incredible museum mannequins.

the interior of the Tropenmuseum
Inside the Tropenmuseum – it’s huge!


The Tropenmuseum is one of those museums known as an ethnographic museum. That means it really shines a light on just how odd people are.

A human skull on top of a small statue
A human skull on top of a small statue – why would we make this? Ancestor worship?

It put me in mind of the Pitt Rivers Museum in Oxford, and also the Horniman Museum in London but for different reasons. Like Pitt Rivers, it has the kind of collection that explores the odder side of human nature, but there was something, a certain je ne sais quoi, that made it feel like a spiritual cousin to the Horniman.

Maybe it was the friendly staff, maybe it was the overall bonkersness of the place, or it could have just been the fact that both museums are on the edges of charming parks.

a brightly coloured bird and another taxidermy animal
a brightly coloured bird and another taxidermy animal

Also, the odd bit of taxidermy helped to underline that connect with the home of everyone’s favourite walrus.

If I ever find myself back in Amsterdam, this is would be one of the first museums I would track down. About an hour was just not enough time to get to grips with this place, I feel like I barely scratched the surface of the TropenMuseum.


2 Comments Add yours

  1. Anna says:

    Your experience of the Tropenmuseum sounds much like mine back in the year 2000, when we stumbled across it by accident on a grey day, I remember being impressed by the mannequins too! Glad to read it still has the same vibe. I wonder if they still have the mocked-up shopfronts full of amazing smelling spices? I thought that was such a great touch, first time I’d been in a museum that tried to stimulate all the senses, not just the eyes. And I remember the cafe was full of food and drinks from around the world, which I thought was another neat touch.

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