Did you know there are 2,500 houseboats in Amsterdam but only one is a museum where you can get a peek of life onboard?
The initiator of the museum, Vincent van Loon, has been living on another houseboat for many years. He noticed that passers-by were curious about the interior and he was asked all sorts of questions. This public fascination inspired him to open up a houseboat to the public. The Houseboat Museum opened in 1997 and allows visitors to see for themselves what it is like to live on a houseboat in Amsterdam.
From a sign of poverty to a status symbol
Back in the days when the canals of Amsterdam were used for the transport of merchandise, it was a sign of poverty to live on a houseboat. When the canals lost their transport function old warehouses were converted into residential appartments. The barges that supplied these warehouses were redundant. Many of them have been converted into houseboats. When there was a shortage of housing after World War II, houseboats became an inherent part of Amsterdam’s cityscape. Today houseboats offer the same comfort as appartments but often with a more beautiful view, making houseboats very popular. Since the municipality has limited the number of moorings, it has become very expensive to live on a houseboat.
80m² of living space in the cargo hold
The Houseboat Museum is located on one of those barges, the Hendrika Maria. This boat was manufactured in 1914 for transporting timber, gravel and sand. The skipper and his family used to live in the stern. They were sleeping in tiny cupboard beds.
When the boat was no longer needed for transportation, the cargo hold was converted into a living space. The dimensions are 23 x 4.5m. The living space of 80m² is equal to an average appartment in Amsterdam. It served as a houseboat from 1967 to 1997, when it was transformed into the first and only houseboat museum in Amsterdam.
Small but quirky museum
The small museum provides a good impression of this particular boat and houseboats in general. The quaint interior dates back to the 1950s and shows life aboard in the olden days. A self-guided tour takes you through the boat, with descriptions about each room available in many languages. It doesn’t take very long to stroll through the rooms. A visit takes no more than 20 to 30 minutes, unless you order a coffee or tea in the living room or relax on the deck and watch canal boats go by. Tip You receive €1 off the admission fee when you present the ‘internet offer’ on their website, either on your phone or a printout. Check their website for up-to-date information on opening hours and admission fees. Location Prinsengracht 296K 1016 HW Amsterdam www.houseboatmuseum.nl The boat is moored just a few blocks from the Anne Frank House and Leidseplein.
Location of the Houseboat Museum in Amsterdam
Houseboat or…. house-ark?
Not all floating homes in Amsterdam’s canals are houseboats. Houseboats may be confused with house-arks, which are like floating bungalows built on hollow concrete pontoons. Both locals and the municipality of Amsterdam would like to see the relatively new house-arks move out of the capital’s city center to canals with lesser historical importance.
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