Housed in a mammoth, Venetian-style 17th-century arsenal, Amsterdam’s Maritime Museum is a gem of a museum whose displays showcase the importance of Amsterdam’s maritime history. There are many paintings and models of ships, seascapes, navigational instruments, cannons, and other weaponry scattered through the displays, which have all been spruced up with the clever use of interactive light, sound, multimedia, and audio-visual aids.

The best exhibits detail the growth of the Dutch East India Company and sensitively address the slave trade and today’s whaling issues. Special exhibits aimed at kids tell the story of lots of naval derring-do but the main point of a trip to this museum is for youngsters to get on board the gaily painted, full-size replica of the merchant ship Amsterdam, moored on the quay outside. Everything on board is as it was in 1749 when the original boat foundered on its maiden voyage to the East Indies (present-day Indonesia). Actors playing the part of sailors fire cannons, sing sea shanties, mop the deck, hoist cargo on board, and attend a solemn burial at sea. Kids can join sail makers and rope makers at work and see the cook prepare a shipboard meal in the galley.