Looking for the best museums for children and book lovers in the Netherlands?
If you are a book worm like me you will be happy to hear about these two museums, both of them very child-friendly and perfect for rainy days. So, what are they and what makes them so special?
You have already perhaps heard of the first one: the children literature museum or kinderboekenmuseum.
It is in a very convenient location (Prins Willem-Alexanderhof 5), close to the central train station, so even if you do not live in The Hague it is totally worth a visit. It is such an amazing place.
The section of the museum called ‘ABC met de dieren mee‘ (ABC, come with the animals) is particularly great for toddlers and children up to 6 years old. Babies and small children follow the letters of the alphabet, through tunnels, holes and hidden paths that take them to rooms dedicated to characters of their favorite children classics, many of them Dutch (Nijntje, Pim en Pom, Kleine Ezel, Vos en Haas, Dikkie Dik, Kikker) but some others known internationally (The hungry Caterpillar, Elmer).
Babies can literally follow the path of the hungry caterpillar as he eats his way to become a butterfly. Elmer is a very big puzzle made of colorful wooden tiles. There is a frozen sea where icebergs represent letters and sentences and stories can be built.The Nijntje room has a table where you can draw her with the aid of stencils engraved on the wood itself, a slide takes you inside her corner; there is a bookshelf and puppets at the cave of Vos en Haas.
If you continue your visit downstairs, you will find a whole section adapted to older children, up to teenage-hood. There are areas devoted to “scary” books, big stairs where you can comfortably sit and read, and a beautiful exhibition of original illustrations of children books. They normally host temporary exhibits and workshops for kids on different subjects related to children literature. There is even the possibility to celebrate birthdays. It is one of those places that we will continue to visit because it is just so much fun, and as children grow, there is still so much to discover.
2. Museum Meermanno (Prinsessegracht 30, The Hague), also very close to central station.
Its Dutch slogan -huis van het boek- (the house of the book) says it all. This is the oldest book museum in the world. Its main focus is the written and printed book, in the present and the past, since its origin, dating to forms prior to Guttenberg’s mechanical printing machine. The form, design and development of the book are central to the museum’s exhibits. The museum hosts a beautiful collection of books from all periods from western book history. The museum is located at the former home of Baron Van Westreenen van Tiellandt (1783-1848), it is one of those beautiful places where you want to enjoy tea while looking at the garden (and you can do just that, as their café is located just in front of the terrace).
The Meermanno-Westreenianum name is a reminder of two people who were at the cradle of this museum. The most important is Baron WHJ van Westreenen van Tiellandt (1783-1848) who brought together an extensive book collection in this house. His second cousin and important inspiration, Johan Meerman (1751-1815), also owned a book collection, part of which is included in the collection.
There is a floor dedicated to the printing process, with an example of how books were written, bound and illustrated in cloysters. Side by side to it is a modern printing workshop where you can touch, feel and experiment. Another part of the museums explains how the relationships between authors, publishers and bookshops have evolved. It was very interesting to learn how this has changed through time, for instance, it used to be that publishers “loaned” books to booksellers and the latter would only have to pay them if the books indeed got sold. A good model for authors to test the waters.
There is also a miniature library, resembling those beautiful and detailed doll houses that used to be worth more than an Amsterdam canal house, and a collection of tiny books that you can look at with the aid of a magnifying glass.
They always have temporary exhibits, for instance, one on Quentin Blake’s illustrations was really worth a visit, with some not-so-well-known originals. In almost every floor there was a section where you could touch and experiment with materials, draw, play, write. If you do visit I can only recommend going for a pancake at the Malieveld, which is right in front of the museum.
Have you ever been? Let us know in the comments!