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Golden Age to Space Age at Museum Our Lord in the Attic

Inside Ons' Lieve Heer op Solder, Oudezijds Voorburgwal, Amsterdam
Each October, Amsterdam hosts one of the most extensive electronic music festivals in the world. Amsterdam Dance Event is spectacular, exciting… and exhausting. Recovery involves sleep, coconut water, and something gentle for the soul. The latter part is where secret 17th Century churches come in. Call us literal…
Dayroom at Museum Ons' Lieve Heer op Solder / Museum Our Lord in the Attic, Amsterdam

With 85% energy reserves and a sunny Monday to spare, we hopped on our bikes and rattled through the Red Light District to one of Amsterdam’s oldest museums, Ons’ Lieve Heer Op Solder.

Significantly less-secret than it once was, the church, residences, linen shop, and museum are carefully-restored monuments to the 17th Century era of Catholic prohibition. Protestant rule forced Catholics into clandestine places of worship, and Our Lord in the Attic is one of the most important examples of its kind.

Overlooking the canal called Oudezijds Voorburgwal in the northern section of Amsterdam’s Red Light District, the church occupies the top three floors of two canal houses. Both houses are a part of the museum, and each remains visually faithful to its original 17th Century purpose. Catholic church aside, the houses also contained three residences (one for the priest), a storehouse and a linen merchant’s shop.

The Priest's kitchen at Our Lord in the Attic / Ons' Lieve Heer op Solder.
Priest’s kitchen from Ons’ Lieve Heer op Solder. Photo: Arjen Bronkhorst.

Established as a museum in 1888, Our Lord in the Attic is the second oldest in Amsterdam (the Rijksmuseum taking top spot), but it’s also one of the freshest to visit. The buildings underwent a six-year restoration between 2009 and 2015, with the museum space doubling in size thanks to the construction of a new building next door. This adjoining contemporary space houses all the non-historical areas of the museum including the cafe, exhibition space, shop, and the ‘prologue’ and ‘epilogue’ rooms.

Outside Museum Ons' Lieve Heer op Solder, Oudezijds Voorburgwal, Amsterdam

These latter rooms act like compression and decompression chambers, maximizing the museum’s space, but also creating a sense of time travel as you navigate your way from space-age minimalism to Golden Age authenticity and back again.

The attic church – which is still actively used as a place of worship on Sundays – is a 300-year-old feat of interior engineering. To create it, Jan Hartman (the original owner of the house), converted the space by slicing through the two upper floors, creating galleries for worshippers to view the service below.

The church alone would be worth the €11 entry price but the bedrooms, kitchens, drawing room, confessional and numerous other rooms open to snoop around give real value for money. Navigating the houses via the numerous charming and typically-Dutch staircases (an experience in itself) is delightful. Make sure to use the free audioguide to get the best from the experience.

It’s worth stating that the house and church are not accessible for wheelchair users or those with difficulty climbing stairs. However, the contemporary parts of the museum are fully wheelchair-friendly.

Main attractionThe 17th Century clandestine church in the attic 
Price€11 (discounted or free for seniors, children, students, Museumkaart holders etc) 
Opening hoursMonday through Saturday from 10 am until 6pm.
Sunday from 1pm until 6 pm
Length of visit1.5 hours will do it justice, but it’s worth grabbing a drink in the cafe afterward 


Photo: Arjan Bronkhorst

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British born and Amsterdam based copywriter, 40, with a penchant for the occasional personal writing project.

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