A Glimpse of Life in a Canal House

Museum Willet-Holthuysen in Amsterdam allows you a glimpse into the lives of wealthy merchants who lived in luxury along the canal ring. Experience how upper-class Amsterdam lived and what their canal house looked like, see their drawing-room, their four-poster bed and also the kitchen with a water pump.

The entrance to the museum is through the basement door under the stone steps that lead up to the first floor. This used to be the servants’ entrance. This part of the house was also the servants’ quarter. The first floor was where the family lived and where they entertained their guests.

The Family

Museum Willet-Holthuysen is named after Louisa Holthuysen (1824-1895) and her husband Abraham Willet. (1825-1888) The couple lived in this canal house which is now a museum. Louisa was the daughter of a wealthy merchant. Her husband was an art collector. He expanded his collections thanks to his wife’s fortune. After her death, Louisa bequeathed the house and her husband’s art collection of paintings, glass and silverware and ceramics to the city of Amsterdam.

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The Blue Room

The Blue Room was the domain of the master of the house. The walls are hung with heavy blue damask and the room is furnished in a flashy ornate style copied from the French. Dutch merchants considered this the epitome of good taste. The front room is in neo-Louis XVI style; gilded chandeliers, graceful drapes and velouté wallpaper in yellow and purple, the taste of the time. The blue room was also the reception room, the place to play cards, smoke a pipe and drink a glass of wine. The chinaware in the glass cabinet is part of Abraham Willet’s personal collection of Chinese porcelain.


Ball Room and Dining Room

The Ball Room was the place for entertainment; musical gatherings, literary evenings, art viewing and costumed balls. The table in the Dining Room is laid for six persons, with a damask tablecloth and napkins and Meissen porcelain dinner set. The complete set is 275-piece and sufficient to entertain 24 guests. The Garden Room is octagonal in shape, was used for taking tea. A sweeping staircase with elaborate gilded balustrade leads up to the second floor and the bedrooms.

The Kitchen of Museum Willet-Holthuysen

The kitchen in Museum Willet-Holthuysen is furnished with 18th-century furniture and kitchenware from variousdwellings in Amsterdam. The kitchen of the Willet family is in the basement as in all canal houses. This was the coolest place of the house and there were no fridges yet. The servants’ rooms, the wine cellar, the scullery and the storeroom were also in the basement.

It was also the place where the servants spent their time when they were not working upstairs. Cooking was done on brick stoves or an open fire. When the cooking was done, the fire was kept burning and a large kettle hanging over it provided constant hot water. Water used in cooking was rain water or came from the River Vecht. River water was delivered daily by canal barges.

The Bedroom of Museum Willet-Holthuysen

The bedroom contains oak furniture: two bedside tables, a washbasin, a dressing table and a fourposter bed. The mattress and pillows filled with goose feathers would keep the servant busy as they had to be fluffed up every day.

The dressing table has an adjustable mirror and candle holders with candles. The lady of the house would put her toiletries on the dressing table. After use she locked them in the drawer of only she had the key.


Museum Willet-Holthuysen
Herengracht 605

Opening Hours: Monday to Friday 10.00-17.00 Saturday and Sunday 11.00-17.00


Museum Willet-Holthuysen

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