KattenKabinet, 497 Herengracht, AmsterdamThe KattenKabinet (Cat Cabinet) is an unusual art museum dedicated to a past pet. In fact, Bob Meijer founded the KattenKabinet in 1990 in honor of his late cat, John Pierpont Morgan. It turns out J.P. Morgan received birthday gifts each year from Meijer’s friends, including cat paintings and a bronze cat statue. The cat even received a recreated American dollar bill with the cat’s face instead of Washington and the slogan, “We Trust No Dog.”
As Meijer had all these fascinating pieces in hand, he decided to turn the bottom floors of his 1667 townhouse into a museum. While the Meijer family still lives on the upper floors, the museum floors have wall-to-wall cats of all species and colors. They can be seen in paintings, books, posters and sculptures.Rather than looking kitsch, the cat artworks are displayed in what looks like a classical museum. Moreover, the museum has partnered with other art museums, like Museum Van Gogh, to present works of serious feline art. Meanwhile, the KattenKabinet even has a catalogue, named the “Cat-a-Logue.” Even better, at least five real, live cats saunter through the museum floors ready to greet visitors.
In’t Aepjen, Zeedijk 1Back in 1452, Amsterdam was destroyed by fire, leading to the city being rebuilt using brick. However, among the old wooden buildings in the city, only two survived. One was an inn, located on the corner of the Zeedijk (sea dike), close to the red light district. Named In’t Aepjen, the inn has served ales, jenevers (gins), food and lodgings since 1519. Meanwhile, it also reflects a time in the golden age of the Dutch Empire.
The name of the inn literally translates to “In the Monkeys” and is named for a time when sailors returning from distant colonies would find themselves short of cash. Instead of money, the sailors would offer newly acquired pet monkeys as payment for their drinks.However, eventually, the inn was so overrun by monkeys, customers were complaining about the fleas. One of the tavern’s regular customers, Gerard Westerman took in the monkeys, keeping them in his garden in the city. As more animals were added, it eventually became Amsterdam’s Artis Zoo, which is one of Europe’s oldest.
These days, you won’t see live monkeys, but, rather like the KattenKabinet, they are represented in vintage posters, carved statues and oil paintings in the bar. Naturally, these days customers pay in cash.
Café Papeneiland, Prinsengracht 2, AmsterdamOne of Amsterdam’s famed “brown cafés,” Café Papeneiland is renowned for its delicious pies. However, there is more to the café than initially meets the eye. Among its warm atmosphere with beautiful Delft plates and tiles, lurks a hidden part of religious resistance.
During the Dutch Protestant Reformation of the 16th and 17th centuries, Catholicism was outlawed. This meant that Catholics had to worship in secret, so the café has a hidden tunnel that was used by Catholics to secretly go to church. During that time there were many hidden churches and some still remain today. Meanwhile, the café’s name is also a nod to past history as Papeneiland translates to “papists’ island” in English, as Roman Catholics were known at that time.Naturally, these days, customers can relax in the café’s wonderful atmosphere enjoying their pie. While you cannot enter the tunnel, ask your server to show you where the entrance is hidden behind a gate.
Enjoy these and other unique attractions in Amsterdam this year.