One of the city's most intriguing museums belongs to the Royal Institute for the Tropics, a foundation devoted to studying the cultures of tropical areas around the world. Its focus reflects Holland's centuries as a landlord in areas such as Indonesia, Surinam (on South America's northern coast), and the Caribbean islands of St. Maarten, Saba, St. Eustatius, Aruba, Bonaire, and Curaçao. The Tropical Institute building complex alone is worth the tram ride to Amsterdam East; its heavily ornamented 19th-century facade is an amalgam of Dutch architectural styles: Turrets, stepped gables, arched windows, delicate spires, and a monumental galleried interior court.

The museum's approach to its subject has matured considerably from its original 19th-century colonial pride and condescension—indeed, it's become an antidote to those kinds of views. Its representation of contemporary issues such as the causes of poverty in the developing world and the depletion of the world's tropical rainforests is both considered and balanced. The new ground-floor “Things That Matter” exhibition, on view through 2023, highlights cultural identity throughout the world through religious artifacts, music, fashion, and more. The top floor houses a series of rotating exhibits, which have included shows on iconic Japanese culture, from ancient samurai to Hello Kitty to kawaii street fashion. The first and second floors are devoted to the permanent collection and will be undergoing renovations in the near future; check the website for the latest updates.