Amsterdam is home to world class museums, but also some highly odd collections
A shrine to a deceased cat, a collection of bags and purses and a display on funerals among the oddest
Several of the Dutch city's smaller museums are housed in elegant canal-side houses
Like any major city, Amsterdam has world-class museums crammed with classic art works that visitors will drop major money to see.
Being a city that has traditionally championed liberal attitudes, it’s no surprise it also hosts exhibitions dedicated to sex and drugs.
Where Amsterdam excels, though, is in its extensive collections of curiosities – museums that celebrate the engagingly odd obsessions of their curators.
Here are seven of the best when you travel here:
1. Cheese Museum
In an ideal world there would have been a fifth Indiana Jones sequel in which our hero goes in search of vintage dairy produce buried deep below some ancient ruined temple.
Grabbing his treasure from its booby-trapped resting place, Indy would growl: “This cheese belongs in a museum,” before dashing for safety as a giant ball of Gouda comes crashing toward him.
The museum in question would have to be Amsterdam’s Cheese Museum, a tiny two-floor celebration of Dutch cow creations just over the canal from the Anne Frank House.
Exhibits are thin on the ground but there are enough free Gouda samples to induce a bad case of the cheese sweats before you’re back on the street.
Eccentric exhibit: The world’s most expensive cheese slicer – a diamond-encrusted tool said to be worth $34,000
Cheese Museum, 112 Prinsengracht; +31 20 331 6605
2. The Cat Cabinet
It’s no secret that people who love cats sometimes love them slightly too much – but they’ve got nothing on Dutchman Bob Meijer.
When the former banker’s much-cherished mog, who went by the name of J.P. Morgan, shuffled off to the cattery in the sky, he decided to transform his home into a shrine to his departed pet.
The result is De Kattenkabinet – several rooms of a well preserved 1880s canal house crammed with cat collectibles and feline-themed paintings and sketches from artists including Rembrandt and Picasso.
Meijer continues to occupy the building’s upper stories, as do four other felines, including Lily, a 19-year-old tortoiseshell cat who enjoys the attention of visitors.
Eccentric exhibit: A massive oil painting that appears to show a wizard casting spells over a giant ghostly cat.
The Cat Cabinet, 497 Herengracht; +31 20 626 9040
3. Dutch Funeral Museum
It lies some distance out of the city center, but the Dutch Funeral Museum is worth the trip just to marvel at Amsterdam’s absurdly well planned suburbs.
The museum is housed in what’s left of the former home of a cemetery director, close to the entrance of the graveyard he used to supervise.
Despite its gloomy subject matter, the Funeral Museum is surprisingly un-macabre, with informative and matter-of-fact displays on different Dutch burial rituals and the paraphernalia of death.
Just as well, really, otherwise no one would want to visit the rather pleasant and airy cafe at its entrance.
Eccentric exhibit: Black, square noses, designed as the grieving equivalent to a clown’s red nose.
Dutch Funeral Museum, 124 Kruislaan; +31 20 694 0482
4. Museum of Bags and Purses
Another collection crammed into a grand canal house that justifies the entrance fee almost as much as the items on display.
This serious display of historic handbags and larger luggage starts off sedately with a selection of dainty, metallic numbers favored by royalty.
It explodes into life with more contemporary baggage, some shaped like hats or stags.
There are an eyebrow-raising “Guardian Angel” knife and gun bags designed by Vlieger & Vandam Bags.
Eccentric exhibit: A pre-mobile telephone bag that features a handset, dialer and long cord to plug into the wall.
Museum of Bags and Purses, 573 Herengracht; +31 20 52464 52