Holland’s Dark Side: 7 Unusual and Interesting Things to Visit in Holland

All cities in the world hide a secret dark side. We all love mystery. We are naturally drawn to places that are shrouded in obscurity and the unexplained. People around the world would travel in a heartbeat to see the pyramids of Cairo, the Taj Mahal in Agra, the secret apartment beneath London’s Big Ben and the underground tunnels of New York. The Netherlands has its own secret spots for you to discover. Here are seven unusual and interesting things to visit in Holland.

1. The Torture Museum in Amsterdam

There was a point in time when sticks and spikes meted out justice. No one today would wish to be alive during such a dark time in history. Amsterdam’s Torture Museum is small and dark to convey how people might have felt being led to torture chambers. The museum’s corridors are darkly lit, with prints displaying tortures throughout the past.

Inside are several old torture instruments, including a mask and a heretic fork used to punish gossipers and those accused of spreading heretic ideas. There is also a hanging cage and an inquisition chair for a more interactive torment.

The Torture Museum. Photo from homecrux.com

The Torture Museum. Photo from homecrux.com

2. The House with The Blood Stains

More of the macabre, the former home of a mad diplomat overlooking the Amstel River in Amsterdam bears bloody marks and arcane scrawls. The house is a tall and stark building with a plain gray façade that has strange reddish-brown symbols that are said to be the bloody handiwork of one Coenraad van Beuningen. Legends say Van Beuningen suffered from bipolar disorder, and at the height of his illness, began painting arcane Kabbalistic signs on the facade of his building using his own blood.

The “house with the blood stains” is private property, but tourists regularly pass by to look at these historic markings. The house is a UNESCO World Heritage site and also known as Gijsbert Dumber Huis, after the man who originally built it in the early 1670s.

The House with The Blood Stains. Photo by adika.photography

The House with The Blood Stains. Photo by adika.photography

3. Museum Tot Zover

This museum inside a large cemetery in Amsterdam explores how people deal with death. The museum focuses on funeral practices in the country and funeral traditions of various religions. Inside, you will see early-20th-century hearses, Victorian hair keepsakes and handmade urns for pets, amongst others. You can reach Tot Zover by metro from the city centre to Amstelstation.

Museum Tot Zover. Photo from totzover.nl

Museum Tot Zover. Photo from totzover.nl

4. Beth Haim Cemetery

Still, in Amstel and still on the subject of death, Beth Haim is a Portuguese Jewish cemetery filled with stunning grave monuments that date back to 1614.  There are about 28,000 graves here, many of which belong to the Sephardi Jews. The cemetery almost reached full capacity in 1923. Many famous Jewish rabbis, diplomats and scientists are buried here. The tombstones have inscriptions in Dutch, Portuguese, and Hebrew, and are carved with elaborate scenes containing many beautiful mystic symbols. 

Most of the tombstones are hidden behind tall grass and wild bushes. They reveal detailed scenes from the past that tell the stories of the people who are buried here. The cemetery is even more interesting because of the stunning St. Urbanus church located across the street.

5. Nieuwe Spiegelstraat

This is an entire street in Amsterdam that hosts arcane antique shops that are dedicated to a different obscure collection. For example you will see Thom & Lenny Nelis Antiques and its collection of medical instruments, dissection kits, dental tools, apothecary jars and “a dinosaur-sized plaster tooth that once hung over a dental office.”

Also, walk inside Stadthuys Antiquairs to find globes, sextants, telescopes, planetariums, telluriums, and other nautical and scientific instruments of all kinds.

Nieuwe Spiegelstraat. Photo by @dutchie

Nieuwe Spiegelstraat. Photo by @dutchie

6. Corpus Museum

The Corpus Museum in Oegstgeest in the outskirts of Leiden is hard to miss. You can see a 115-foot-tall orange man sitting on a two-story platform beside an eleven-story glass building. This orange giant welcomes you to the Corpus Museum, the world’s first museum to take visitors through the entire anatomy of the human body.

As you enter this truly unique museum, you will go up an escalator that is the leg to the knee of the giant. As you approach his genital area, you will put on 3D glasses to witness a sperm cell fertilizing an egg. You will go farther up to the intestines, where you can witness the digestion of a cheese sandwich before your eyes. Continue your tour through the ventricles of the human heart, the pulsing neurons in the brain, and on top of a giant tongue as a burping sound erupts from a speaker system.

Corpus Museum. Photo from corpusexperience.com

Corpus Museum. Photo from corpusexperience.com

7. Yde Girl

When in Assen, check out Drents Museum to see the Yde Girl, a remarkably preserved body discovered in a peat bog near the village of Yde. Those who discovered this well-preserved body with fire red hair were horrified and ran away. They thought they had seen the devil himself.

The Yde Girl wore a woolen cape and a noose around her neck, with a stab wound near her collarbone. Historians believe she had been sacrificed or executed. Carbon-14 dating suggests she may have died in the first century AD.

These seven unusual and interesting things to visit in Holland are evidence that the Netherlands is much more than just the usual canals, cheeses, wooden shoes, windmills, and tulips that most tourists come to see. There is a dark side to this artsy and cultural country. Come and unearth many more Dutch secrets on your own.

About the author

Ask The Dutch Guy is your go-to guide when it comes to The Netherlands. The goal of Ask The Dutch Guy is to showcase the beauty of The Netherlands and to inspire others to explore the country. Read more about Ask The Dutch Guy. Follow him on Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest.

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