Frans Hals Museum
Stroll down a narrow cobblestoned street lined with historic houses to visit the Dutch Master artists from Holland’s Golden Age at the Frans Hals Museum. This gallery has history and character. It’s housed inside a building from the early 1600s, which played a role as an almshouse, a retirement home for poor old men and an orphanage. Look for the painting of Haarlem orphans in their red and blue uniforms.
Watch the multimedia production for an introduction to Frans Hals, the masterful painter of the 17th century after whom this gallery is named. Pick up an audio guide, available in several languages and free with your entrance fee. The audio guide gives you insight into the context of the original artwork. It also reveals the meticulous work of art restorers who have brought several Frans Hals pieces back to their original beauty. Look for the unbelievably detailed 17th-century doll house, complete with chandeliers and a full set of crockery.
As you proceed through the gallery, listen to stories about the building from its time as an orphanage, about the religious history of the Netherlands and about the town and surrounding beaches. These subjects feature heavily in the artwork of the Haarlem painters. Social commentary on events such as tulip mania and the tulip stock crash are provided by the art of the time.
In the heart of the museum, see the enormous pieces by Frans Hals hanging around a central banqueting table that mirrors the lively dinners of the Civil Guard in Hals’ paintings. Hals had the incredible talent of painting from life without first sketching onto the canvas; his portraits are uniquely vivid and lively as a result.
The almshouse was built around a central courtyard to let in light. Have a coffee in the museum café and relax on a bench in the courtyard’s beautiful garden of topiaries and manicured hedgerows. Visits to Frans Hals Museum can take between 1 and 3 hours, depending on use of your audio guide. Amsterdam Cards and Netherlands Museum Cards provide a substantial discount to the price of entry.