Amsterdam’s Must-See: Anne Frank House

I could talk endlessly about the things I enjoyed during my time in Europe, ranging from museums, afternoon tea times, to parks and monuments. However, there is one such experience that always makes the top of my list: my visit to Amsterdam.

Amsterdam, Netherlands, backpacksandblackboards.com
Amsterdam, Netherlands, backpacksandblackboards.com

Now Amsterdam is known for a variety of reasons, which makes it a popular destination for tourists heading to Europe. While each attraction is unique and interesting in its own way, there is none that changes a person more than a trip to the Anne Frank Huis (Anne Frank House).

Anne Frank is arguably one of the most well-known figures in World History. Her house has been turned into a museum as well as an educational platform.

Anne Frank House, Amsterdam, Netherlands, backpacksandblackboards.com
Anne Frank House, Amsterdam, Netherlands, backpacksandblackboards.com

As a bit of background, Anne Frank lived in the house above her family’s shop. When the Netherlands first encountered German soldiers, the family did little except to stay away from making large public appearances. As time and situation progressed, Anne Frank and her family were forced to hide their existence. Their living quarters were divided into compartments that they shared with another couple and also a young boy. The shop continued to remain open, which meant that everyone living upstairs had to be mindful of their daily actions. Water could only be turned on during selective times of the day for fear of being heard, that included bathroom and washing time. Walking across certain rooms was risky as the boards would creak in the store below.

Amsterdam, Netherlands, backpacksandblackboards.com
Amsterdam, Netherlands, backpacksandblackboards.com

Life was boxed in and a young Anne Frank took to writing in her diary. After being exposed and sent to concentration camps, the Nazis cleared the house of all its furnishings.

Skipping to the end of the war, Frank Otto, her father, returned to a bare home. He had no idea where his family had been or their condition. Over time, he learned that all his family had died in the concentration camps, Anne passing away from illness a very short time before the camps were liberated. Frank knew his daughter had kept a journal but did not read it out of courtesy to her privacy until he had learned that she would not be returning. The museum houses a video about his reactions to reading his daughter’s journal for the first time.

It is through his daughter’s diary that he became determined to make it his purpose to spread her words to all in the hopes that history would not repeat itself. The house and shop were turned into a museum, but were left unfurnished at Frank’s urging. He wanted the house to accurately depict historical consequence.

Beginning the tour in the shop, you will find there is still a lot of light flooding through the windows and relics, newspaper clippings, and photographs of life in Amsterdam and family memoirs are scattered around. Eventually, you move up through the bookcase hiding the entrance to the secret part of the house. This is where the air gets staler, despite the movement of visitors, and the windows begin to be covered. The rooms are darker and the onset of Holocaust images, stories, and antiques begin to really appear. You can feel the energy of all the visitors drop and silence intermixes with bouts of discussion or expression.

Front of Anne Frank's House and her Family's Shop, backpacksandblackboards.com
Front of Anne Frank’s House and her Family’s Shop,
backpacksandblackboards.com

Then comes two rooms that will forever change you: the kitchen and Anne Frank’s room. The kitchen is incredibly dark and still. Knowing that this was a room that was a shared space by all the residents and feeling how incredibly solemn it was, visitors immediately feel alone. Noise seemingly stops altogether and despite the crowd of people floating through, a visitor is alone with her thoughts. Anne Frank’s room for me was the tipping point. I tend to be very composed and find it easy to keep my emotions to myself, but the small box of a room was still overwhelming. The museum kept her room and photographs hung on the wall in their natural state. Walking into the room was like walking into the mind of a young Anne Frank.

For anyone planning a trip to Amsterdam, definitely carve out some time to go see the museum. My advice would be to go a little before it opens, get in line, and possibly enjoy a coffee while you wait. I waited around 45 minutes but the lines were longer when I left. Once inside, the museum provides some great reading material and the bookstore offers some great souvenirs. If you are traveling with kids, the museum has some great areas for them as well and it is easy to bypass some of the harsher images or material.

Line when I was leaving, backpacksandblackboards.com
Line when I was leaving, backpacksandblackboards.com

After the museum, you might need some time to breathe and recover from the experience.  Most visitors enter in normal chatter and leave slightly quieter. I would place a beautiful café for lunch after this experience. For more information, you can click here (http://www.annefrank.org/en/Museum/).

Primo Levi, as quoted in "Anne's words still strengthen spirits" by Joyce Apsel in The St. Petersburg Times (26 January 2000)
Primo Levi, as quoted in “Anne’s words still strengthen spirits” by Joyce Apsel in The St. Petersburg Times (26 January 2000)

Has anyone else been? What was your experience? 

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10 thoughts on “Amsterdam’s Must-See: Anne Frank House”

    1. Jessica, I think you will find this experience meaningful on multiple levels! Just make sure to grab a coffee or something to ease the wait in line.

  1. I was fourteen when we visited, and on the areas where their heights were marked, I was about as tall as she was. We also visited at night. The Anne Frank House, as well as the Dutch resistance museum, were very meaningful parts of that trip.

    1. Wow, that’s powerful. The photos on the wall hit home for me because I have always cut out photos as a way to store memories or dreams.

  2. I just visited Amsterdam and the Anne Frank House about 3 weekends ago, and your description was so spot on! Reading your blog about it and your emotions through the experience reminded me of everything I felt during my experience. Crazy to think how one place can stir up the same emotions and responses in people from across the world!

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