If Amsterdam's 17th-century canal houses could talk, they might reveal secrets of wealthy merchants who raised families in the tall, narrow properties during Holland's Golden Age. Today, the historic residences have been transformed into hotels, museums and offices, many with splendid rear gardens.
Among the best preserved is Museum van Loon, a private residence built in 1672, where painter Ferdinand Bol (a pupil of Rembrandt) once lived. In 1884, wealthy merchant Hendrik Van Loon purchased it as a wedding gift for his son Willem, a founding member of the Dutch East India Company, whose grandson became mayor of Amsterdam.
With its ornate architectural detailing, historic paintings, exquisite furnishings, and precious silver and porcelain dating from the 16th century, Museum van Loon evokes the splendor of Holland's Golden Age. In the rear, a garden laid out in formal style borders a coach house where the Van Loon's collection of historic carriages and harnesses is displayed.
As only museum in the Netherlands that preserves the original flow of canal residence, garden and coach house, Museum van Loon is worth a visit for anyone interested in the stories behind the impressive facades of the 17th century mansions that line Amsterdam's canals. During Open Tulip Days in May and Open Garden Days in June, many open their doors to the public, allowing a peek into the grandeur of an earlier era.