Tropenmuseum: a whole pocket-sized world

Three natives from Moena or Muna island (Indonesia)

Is there an explorer inside of you? In that case, one of the museums you need to know is Amsterdam’s Tropenmuseum.

Most Europeans have, at some point, visited the Northern City of the Channels



Some typical Amsterdam scenes

but the Tropen it’s a seemingly humble and little known museum that during a first visit often goes unnoticed. Tomás, not only an inveterate traveller but a professional one, was the one who made me discover it. And it was just like rummaging in the attic and finding an unexpected, small jewel.

Tropenmuseum (Museum of the Tropics) is one of the greatest ethnographic museums in the world. It was founded in 1864 to pay tribute to the different cultures that were discovered ‘thanks’ to the The Netherlands’ colonies in the tropics: what was by then known as the Dutch East Indies (and today as Indonesia), Surinam and Antilles. Names, that even to this day, sound exotic and filled with mystery.

Surinam landscape

Padang (Indonesia) couple

Batak warriors (Phillipines)

But the museum didn’t got stuck there; the collection kept expanding through space and time until it covered very different ethnic groups up to this day. This is why strolling through its huge halls you will find all kinds of surprises: bizarrely shaped coffins that can be found today in Ghana,

This coffin probably belonged to a fisherman. Either that, or the owner was very into sushi

a yurt (a roomy leather tent from Central Asia), ritual masks from Central America, Yemeni buildings, diverse objects of pre-Columbian cultures, Islamic art, a set design resembling the Mali savannah, Mexican altars,


Mexico’s Day of the Dead celebrations are actually one of the merriest and most positive outlooks on life and death

Java jewelry, information about Berber culture, Indian decorations, plenty of material from New Guinea…

Yep, I’m the bird of Papua Paradise!

I often feel this kind of amazement

This African sculpture is happy to see you



Ritual masks and costumes

Love how the naturalists layed out a new world by charting all the until then unknown species with their drawings

Asia loves dragons. Dragonfruit loves them too.

A vintage Mexican newsstand ready to fight your boredom in any possible way.

Marrakech door

Shiva Nataraja

Nias (Indonesia) dancer

The music lovers can also enjoy a great world music archive, and, I sadly missed it but they say they have snacks and drinks from all over the world at the cafeteria (and that reminds me I have to come back!).

Tip: Go to visit the museum with time enough. It closes down at 5 p.m. and there is pleeenty to see.

Extra Tip: Don’t forget to visit Albert Cuypmarkt open air market. Just like History’s first explorers, you’ll find all kinds of spices and fabrics that will lead you to discover the most remote places in the world and that will spark your creativity too.



PS. Some of the images belong to Tropenmuseum collection in Wikimedia Commons

2 Responses to “Tropenmuseum: a whole pocket-sized world”

  1. Tomás says:

    Eh, me alegro que disfrutases del consejo. Para mi es un museo amable, de gente que ha viajado y vivido en los trópicos y te enseña los objetos que se trajeron a sus húmedas casas de Amsterdam. Bueno, también explotaron esos lugares y a sus habitantes, a menudo salvajemente…
    Una vuelta por el Tropenmuseum es una vuelta al mundo (pasando por los trópicos) en unos pocos minutos que se convierten en horas. Lo mejor: allí te resuenan muchas sensaciones y nostalgias viajeras.

  2. admin says:

    Hermosa reflexión.

    Tomás, lo del origen colonial del museo produce sentimientos mezclados por lo que tú comentas, pero al menos supieron apreciar tanto la cultura de aquellos lugares para estudiarla, preservarla y darla a conocer en este museo para que muchos más pudiesen conocerla y disfrutarla.

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