The oldest museum in the Netherlands

The oldest museum in the Netherlands

The Netherlands is full of museums and galleries to cater to all kinds of tastes in art, history, science and beyond. From the Rijksmuseum to the Van Gogh Museum and from the Maritime Museum to the Dutch Photography Museum, the country is full of outstanding ones. There are also many smaller, offbeat, unusual establishments in the Netherlands, like the Torture Museum in Amsterdam and the Pinball Machine Museum in Rotterdam

You may not have heard of Teylers Museum in Haarlem, but it ought to be considered for your cultural to-do list! This museum is a monument in itself, where time stands still and memorable moments are honoured and held in the highest esteem.

The oldest museum in the Netherlands

The Netherlands is renowned for well-preserved cultural buildings. Teylers Museum is the oldest museum in the Netherlands and not only that, but it is the best-preserved public arts and science building in the whole world. The museum was established in 1778 and has been open to the public since 1784.

Teylers Museum is an art, natural history and science museum. It has a permanent collection, including fossils dating back millions of years. One mind-blowing example is the fossilised remains of the first ever discovery of the Archaeopteryx, a bird-like dinosaur, which has been on display there for centuries.

Historical books and coins are many, as well as historic instruments for generating electricity, which were, at one time, cutting-edge technology. There is also a permanent collection of fine art masterpieces by artists like Rembrandt, Michelangelo, Raphael and Goltzius.


A place to spark curiosity, knowledge and learning

Teylers Museum is the only museum in the world that possesses an authentic 18th-century interior. The building is a work of beauty and was specifically designed for research and study, for public demonstrations and for scientific experiments. The neoclassical Oval Room is striking in its aesthetics, with wooden panels, cornicing, decorative columns and a gallery fitted with bookshelves brimming with old encyclopaedias.

Lighting is very important in any museum, gallery or exhibitions space. The old-fashioned way to light a museum back in the 1770s was, of course, by using daylight. Teylers Museum Oval Room was designed with ceiling windows to allow the maximum amount of light in.

Natural light shines in all day, illuminating the fossils and other exhibits. During the winter, the museum can become quite dark and eerie. This is a charming side of the museum and it brings home what such a building was like in days gone by.   


The museum has undergone expansion over the years, but the integrity of the original museum has always been respected. A large portion of the museum consists of 19th-century rooms, which are also remarkably well-preserved and have stood the test of time. 

The concept of the museum was inspired by the classical Greek meaning of a museum, a “temple for the muses of the arts and sciences” that was intended as a meeting place for scholars and not just for viewing artefacts.


Who is Teylers Museum named after?

The museum’s namesake was Pieter Teyler van der Hulst (1701-1778), a wealthy banker and cloth merchant of Dutch and Scottish descent. In his will, he left a huge windfall of money for the formation of a society for the advancement of art, science and religion. Teylers Stichting or Teylers Society was set up in Haarlem not long after his death. 

Holland’s oldest museum

Time seems to have stood still at Teylers Museum. For those who love all things historic, this museum is an oasis of historical beauty, authenticity and unspoiled décor. Plan your trip to Teylers Museum and, perhaps, combine it with a visit to other museums in Haarlem. teylers-museum-oval-room.jpg

Photo credit: Teylers Museum

Rachel Deloughry


Rachel Deloughry

Rachel is a writer, editor and digital content creator, passionate about the arts, culture and lifestyle.

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