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Did you know that one of the best secret places in Amsterdam is the Amsterdam City Archive in the De Bazel building?
It’s a hidden gem library that has millions of documents relating to the history and culture of the city.
You can visit their Treasure Room which felt like it had plucked straight from the Wizarding World of Harry Potter.
The best part is that it’s FREE to visit and makes the perfect day trip no matter what the weather.
Here is a complete guide to the magical Amsterdam City Archive and how to visit it!
What’s Amsterdam City Archive?
The Amsterdam City Archive is a treasure trove of the city’s most precious documents and artefacts.
The De Bazel building is used to guard them and it’s currently the largest municipal archive in the world.
It has over 50 kilometres of shelves which contain old books, maps, drawings, items, and photographs.
It holds millions of documents which tell the story of the culture and history of Amsterdam as well as digitally scanned items.
History of the Amsterdam City Archive
Years ago, the city’s most precious documents were kept in an Iron Chapel of the Oude Kerk.
Then, in the nineteenth century, the archives moved to the Waag building on Nieuwmarkt. Later, in 1914, they were again moved to Nieuwer-Amstel.
It’s only been in recent years that the archives have moved to the fabulous de Bazel building. The De Bazel building was built in 1926 and was named after Karel de Bazel who designed it.
It started as the offices of the Nederlandsche Handel Maatschappij (Dutch Trading Company).
It was built in an Art Nouveau style and was provided with the most up-to-date features such as heating and ventilation. There was also an air-tube circulation system for mail and a central lock system.
In 2007, it became the Amsterdam City Archive and you can see a selection of their most precious items in their FREE exhibition of the Treasure Room.
This used to be the location of the old boiler room in the Dutch Trading Company and you access it through their huge vaulted doors.
Visit a magical Harry Potter-esque Library!
As soon as you enter The Treasure Room through the huge vault doors, the architecture will take your breath away.
The colourful tiles and murals all merge together perfectly and the entire place looks like it has been plucked from Harry Potter and the Wizarding World.
It reminded me of the Paris Ministry of Magic from Fantastic Beasts with their archive vault. It was spectacular.
Or, for those Wes Anderson fans out there, this could easily be a scene from one of his artistic movies. Don’t you think?
This incredible room makes a fabulous photo opportunity, but take a good look around as it has lots to offer you!
The Treasure Room
Beyond the architecture, the Treasure Room is truly a highlight of the Amsterdam City Archive for information.
You can explore the many different cabinet displays and learn about the history and culture of Amsterdam over the years.
They have a wonderful selection of old maps, photographs, drawings and documents that give you a unique insight.
The history lover in me particularly loved their selection of medieval charters and Rembrandt displays.
Years ago, Amsterdam was a tiny city compared to others like Haarlem & Utrecht. It’s only in recent years that it’s grown to be the powerhouse of culture we can experience in the Netherlands today.
You could honestly spend hours in the Treasure Room enjoying all the different artefacts and it doesn’t cost a single penny to visit!
Top tip: Don’t forget to pop inside their movie theatre where they play some historical films about Amsterdam in the next room.
Other exhibitions & attractions
The Treasure Room is the only free exhibit you can explore at the Amsterdam City Archive.
However, they often have paid attractions that change with the season and you can visit throughout the year.
On our visit, they had ‘To Dance is to Be Free’ which looked at the Club Culture of the Netherlands.
Tickets usually start from €10 for adults but you can use your I Amsterdam City Card to enter these for free.
Don’t forget to have lunch at Cafe Restaurant De Bazel
After you’ve finished exploring this magical archive you’ve probably built up an appetite.
So, I would make sure to grab a coffee or lunch at Café Restaurant De Bazel which is onsite.
They serve up a great range of sandwiches, soups and main meals using only seasonal and fresh ingredients.
The atmosphere here is casual and it’s a great place to relax for a while or take cover from the rain!
How to visit the Amsterdam City Archive
The Amsterdam City Archive can be found in Stadsarchief Amsterdam which is in the De Bazel Conference Centre.
This is near the Foam Photography Museum, Willet-Holthuysen Museum and the KattenKabinet in the centre of the city.
Amsterdam was made for walking and you can easily access this building by strolling along the central canals.
Or, you could take the underground from Amsterdam Centraal station to Rokin station and walk the rest of the way.
Amsterdam City Archive address is Stadsarchief Amsterdam, Vijzelstraat 32. Click here for a Google Pin!
Opening times and prices
The great thing about visiting the Amsterdam City Archive is that it’s completely FREE to visit the spectacular Treasure Room.
Opening times are Tuesday – Friday from 10 am – 5 pm and 12-5 pm on weekends. The archive is completely closed on Mondays.
You can check out their website for more information.
Why not purchase the I Amsterdam City Card?
Did you know that you can get into the paid exhibitions at the Amsterdam City Archive for free using the I Amsterdam City Card?
It’s a great way to explore Amsterdam as it gets you free access to over 70 museums, a canal cruise, and bike rental.
It also allows you to travel the city car-free as it includes city-wide public transport including buses, trains, trams, metro and ferries.
You can buy 24, 48, 72, 96, and 120-hour cards depending on your holiday time and preferences. Then, you’re free to explore the city as you wish.
Every time you visit a new city these days, there is always a city card or pass advertised and it can be hard to know whether buying one is worth the price tag.
So, I’ve written an honest review below where you can see if purchasing one is worth it.
Read my review – Is the I Amsterdam City Card Worth it?
Where to stay in Amsterdam?
If you’re looking for a cosy, centrally located hotel in Amsterdam then definitely check out The Manor Hotel which is part of the Eden Hotel Group.
It used to be a historic hospital and district office but it has recently been transformed into a boutique hotel with a range of deluxe rooms and suites.
My room was really spacious and had one of the highest ceilings I think I’ve ever had in a hotel room.
It had all the comforts you would expect like a comfy mattress and pillows, an espresso machine and a super clean bathroom.
They are situated on the east side of the city and it’s easy to access them via trams and buses.
Definitely check out their modern bar and pop-up restaurant A Beautiful Mess which serves up a range of tasty Middle Eastern and African dishes.
They have a wonderful catering concept developed by a Refugee Company. All of the dishes have been inspired by the chef’s homeland and so each dish has its own unique story to tell.
Read more of my Netherlands guides
Save the Amsterdam City Archive for later!
With thanks to Amsterdam&Partners for gifting me my iAmsterdam City Card in exchange for this honest review. Although I was a guest all opinions are my own.