Do you want to learn more about the life and work of Vincent Van Gogh in the Netherlands?
If so, you’re in the right place. I genuinely loved Van Gogh’s work ever since I was a kid. I was born and raised in the Netherlands, and I’ve been introduced to his work since childhood, mainly through school. I fell in love with the colors and, later, his story.
I’ve visited the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam numerous times throughout my life. But in the past month, I have immersed myself in Vincent van Gogh’s life.
Many locations around the country are linked to the Dutch painter Vincent van Gogh and his fantastic art. It gave me an understanding like never before. It was a great experience, like a practical art history lesson. It almost felt like a pilgrimage.
Many know Vincent was born in the Netherlands, but we quickly link him to France because most of his iconic, colorful work was created there. But that was only five years of his life. Before that, he primarily lived, studied, and worked in the Netherlands.
These were his formative years. This is also where he found peace and inspiration in the Dutch countryside during a period of significant changes and insecurity.
You’ll learn about essential Van Gogh locations in the Netherlands that are worth visiting. Those that were important for his life and career and where you can see artworks by van Gogh today.
So, let’s dive in. I will be your tour guide today. Let us step into the footsteps of Van Gogh together.
Table of Contents
Tracing Van Gogh’s Steps in Brabant
The Dutch province of Brabant has by far the most places of interest when it comes to Vincent van Gogh.
Zundert, where he spent his childhood; Tilburg, where he took drawing classes; Etten, where it was officially decided he would become an artist for a living. And Nuenen, where so much reminds us still today about the start of his painting career.
The local Brabant government takes pride in their Vincent van Gogh heritage by keeping the story alive.
I will take you through the most important places in Brabant and filter the things worth visiting and those that are not.
Zundert: This is where it all began
Zundert is not my first choice in visiting Van Gogh locations in the Netherlands (that would be Nuenen actually). But of course, we have to talk about Zundert because it is where Vincent was born and spent most of his life.
Zundert has a few places that are worth visiting today when you have the time (and one not so much that might surprise you).
The house where Vincent was born is now called The Van Gogh House in Zundert and is a museum today. The original structure no longer exists. Making it less authentic. But the current museum is built in the same spot, and the garden is still original.
When I was there I went inside and visited the museum, but I would not do that again. The story of Vincent van Gogh’s life that is told inside is very thin. It contains no new information you won’t learn at the Vincent Van Gogh Village Museum in Nuenen. The museum dedicated most of its space to modern art by artists inspired by Vincent.
If that is of interest to you, a ticket is worth it. But if you, like me, expected to see the house he lived in, see where he slept, learn more about his childhood et cetera, a visit would be disappointing. I was disappointed after my visit.
Instead, I would take a photo in front of the Van Gogh house next to the plague that says, “Vincent van Gogh was born here.”
If you like to go in, you can buy your “Vincent van Gogh House Zundert” ticket here.
I found the Dutch Reformed Church next door and the adjoining graveyard really interesting.
The church is often closed, but the outside gives you enough to look at. The church itself is photogenetic and Vincent’s stillborn brother, who was also named Vincent van Gogh, is laid to rest in this graveyard.
The grave is still here today.
Vincent described in a letter to his brother about standing in front of the grave and what he felt.
If you’re curious about the passage. You can listen to it from the information kiosk in front of the graveyard. It’s hard not to feel a deep connection to his past. The audio is available in Dutch and English.
In the square in front of the church is a modern statue of Vincent and Theo Van Gogh, by Zadkine. The sculpture is a tender representation of the strong bond between the two brothers that was so important in Vincent’s life and art.
Tilburg: Early Artistic Expressions
I mention this location to be complete because, in Tilburg at the age of only 13 years old, Vincent van Gogh took drawing lessons. You could say this is where it began.
His classroom can still be visited today, providing a glimpse into his early artistic explorations. But it’s not easy to visit. It’s inside a current working university, you need to make advance reservations to take a look.
Since Tilburg is not exactly on the way, I would skip this one from any of the mentioned locations. But if you’re a hardcore fan, then now you know it’s possible to pay a visit.
Address: Stadhuisplein 128, Tilburg
Etten: This is where it was made official
Etten is a pivotal location for Vincent. After he returned home from unsuccessful work attempts, it was during a family meeting with his father and brother Theo that Vincent should pursue an artist career.
He had talent after all that his brother (an art dealer) recognized, and since he had trouble with authority, working more independently could also be a good fit.
And not unimportantly, there was a high demand for illustrations. Nobody thought – yet – he would become a painter later on.
The Van Gogh Church in Etten is a must-see. This is where his father preached then, and Vincent lived at the accompanying house (which is not there anymore, but the church still is).
The Church is not used as a church anymore but is now fully dedicated to telling the story of Vincent during this time of his life. It’s not free to enter but I felt my ticket was worth the money.
It came with an interesting special edition of the National Geographic magazine, and the volunteer inside took all the time to tell me the entire story. I learned a lot. And I’m sure you will, too.
Etten also has the tiny “Art of Living” Museum, once known as Heemkundekring Jan Uten Houte. It is still mentioned by many blogs by the wrong name since they are not updated.
Although the connection to Vincent van Gogh here might seem weak, the exhibit is a fascinating window into the life and development of the village.
The part I enjoyed most was the interactive presentation of a typical Brabant peasant family home. Revealing the difficult realities for the working-class farmers that fascinated Vincent so much.
It was not hardship alone. There also was love, pride, and creativity to make the most of it. The exhibit is really well done, with moving characters and an interesting story to listen to. The “show” can be set to Dutch or English.
I would definitely go in if you have the time. It will take about 30 minutes. And don’t forget to make sure to take some photos of the beautiful courtyard when you come in.
Also, if you’re considering staying the night in Brabant, I recommend Bistro and Hotel Vincent’s in Etten-Leur. The building is impossible to miss, painted in the bright sunflower color yellow.
If you stay here, ask for a room with a view of the Van Gogh Church. It’s such a beautiful sight.
Nuenen: The place where it truly began
It’s in Nuenen where Vincent van Gogh found himself as a painter. Nobody knew yet his life would only last for ten more years. But those ten years brought the world much joy with the immense collection of paintings he created during that short time. And Nuenen is where that all began.
Now, why do I say that? Vincent already drew drawings and created some paintings before, after all.
True, but it was here he felt he became a true painter after he finished the Potato Eaters.
If his parents would only have known that when Vincent van Gogh moved back home (back to hotel “Mama.”), An event they’re less than thrilled about.
What makes Nuenen so special today is that there is the Excellent Van Gogh Village Museum (formerly called Vincentre), a name you still find on outdated websites.
Since it was re-opened by Queen Maxima earlier in 2023, it offers a fantastic glimpse into his life and his time in Nuenen. Opposite to my disappointing visit to the Vincent van Gogh House in Zundert, I loved this museum.
But there is more in Nuenen to see. In fact, it has the most sights related to Vincent and his works, making it a unique place to see things in real life and in his works, like the Reformed Church. And there are many more places just like that.
If I had to choose one place to visit in Brabant related to his life, it would be Nuenen. Hands down.
I created a separate post about my Vincent van Gogh experience in Nuenen because there is much more to tell.
From Nuenen, Vincent moved to France and left the Netherlands for good. After a short stint in Belgium, he went to Paris, where his brother already lived and worked.
It’s here where he would create the work that turned him into a globally known artist.
France would also become the place where he would die. He would never return to the Netherlands. However, his formative period in the Netherlands influenced his work almost to the end, as reflected in his letters to his brother and in hints you can see in his final paintings before van Gogh’s death.
Van Gogh’s Journey through Drenthe
Vincent van Gogh’s life is strongly associated with the southern province of North Brabant in the Netherlands, not the least place because that is where he spent most of his time and because the local people in Brabant consider this heritage as a unique part of their local culture.
Not so much in Drenthe. The locals, known for their pragmatic nature, were not that aware or cared that much. But they’re beginning to acknowledge and celebrate the significance of their “Drenthe” in Vincent’s life and work.
And for good reason because Vincent was lyrical about the place.
He might only have spent three months in Drenthe, but they’re important. He was overwhelmed by the beauty of the province. He shared that with his brother, “Everything is beautiful here.“
His letters by the way, apart from his paintings are the reason why we know so much about him. Theo saved each and every one of them.
The Inn where he stayed in “Nieuw Amsterdam” can still be visited today. The exact room Vincent slept in, and painted from.
A drawing of the bridge he could see from this room is now in the collection of the Groningen Museum (when it’s not on loan) And you can see it as a bigger-than-life mural next to the railway station in Nieuw-Amsterdam.
Other important Vincent van Gogh places in Drenthe are Hoogeveen and the artistic village of Zweeloo.
“Walking feels almost like meditating. Step by step. Breath in, breath out.” – Vincent
While Drenthe might not be the first place that comes to mind regarding Van Gogh, it could be interesting to visit the region (only after you make time for Brabant) if you have the time.
You’ll get the most out of your visit if you travel by car, then you can visit all towns and villages in a few hours including the cute town and church in Zweeloo.
Read more about these places in my dedicated post, Vincent van Gogh in Drenthe.
Van Gogh Museums in the Netherlands
Many dream of seeing Vincent van Gogh’s artwork in a museum.
As with all masters, his works are scattered worldwide in museum and private collections. But what makes the Netherlands unique is that a handful of museums in this tiny country are home to the largest Van Gogh collection in the world.
These are the museums with the largest collections:
The Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam is home to the world’s largest collection of Van Gogh’s paintings. It’s the Van Gogh family heritage passed on by his nephew and namesake, Vincent Willem van Gogh, in the form of the Vincent van Gogh Foundation. The museum opened in 1973 when his nephew was still alive.
It should be an essential stop for any Van Gogh fan; there is just so much to see. The collection is not just work created by Van Gogh himself but also works created by his friends and contemporaries, like Paul Gauguin. However, the majority is work by Van Gogh, as it should be.
Like I said, I’ve been here so many times in my life, and it still captivates me every single time.
I love for example the self-portraits room. When you see so many together, you see different things. Like his eyes are never the same color. That seems odd. But not after you learn it was never meant to be a true self-portrait, but instead, he was using himself as a cheap (read-free) model to test things out.
In this museum, you’ll see works from the earliest attempts to Van Gogh’s ultimate masterpieces, such as Sunflowers, Almond Blossom, the Yellow House, and so many more that are all part of the permanent collection.
Besides paintings, you will find many personal letters between himself and his brother.
If you can visit only one Van Gogh location, it should be this museum in Amsterdam. Make sure to buy your Van Gogh Museum tickets online in advance. The museum sells out weeks in advance year-round.
I’ve written two dedicated articles about the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam:
- Van Gogh Museum Tips with helpful practical tips to get the most out of your visit
- Van Gogh Museum Exhibitions, where the museum hosts award-winning exhibitions multiple times a year
PS: Did you know the famous Dutch architect Gerrit Rietveld designed the building?
PS II: Did you know the immersive “Meet Vincent Van Gogh” that can be seen worldwide was created by the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam?
This museum is located inside a National Park called “de Hoge Veluwe,” which is unique and it is home to the second-largest Van Gogh collection in the world.
The world’s second-largest van Gogh collection includes over 90 paintings by Vincent van Gogh and drawings.
The museum is left to us by the private art collector Helene Kröller-Müller, who lived here.
She was one of the first to see the value of Van Gogh’s work after his passing, when Johanna van Gogh-Bonger, the wife of Theo van Gogh, made it her mission to make Vincent famous.
And because of that, Helene Kröller-Müller bought an extensive collection of his works, which we can still see today.
Now, this museum is a little harder to get to. Check out my article on “How to get to the Kröller-Müller Museum” to learn how to do it (it’s actually quite easy to do, once you know how), but it will take a full-day trip.
For more information about the Kröller-Müller Museum itself, I also created an article just about it.
PS if you’re looking for tickets:
- This is where you can buy your Kröller-Müller Museum entrance ticket.
- This is where you can buy your ticket for the National Park (required to get to the museum)
The Noordbrabant Museum in Den Bosch (‘s Hertogenbosch) has a room dedicated to Van Gogh. The original works they own are from van Gogh’s early years when he was still learning.
You can clearly see his journey towards creating his first iconic painting, “The Potato Eaters.”
(The original The Potato Eaters painting is housed in the Van Gogh Museum, and a second version can be seen at Kröller-Müller)
I also enjoyed seeing these original works by Vincent even though they’re not as grand as other works. The more you see, the more clearly you see his progress.
You can buy tickets for the Noordbrabant Museum here.
If you’re looking for more inspiration on what to do in Den Bosch, I have a separate article about just that.
PS: Do not skip eating an original “Bossche Bol.” Read the article to learn more about what they are exactly, I promise you it’s not a waste of your time. They are so good!
In late 2023, the Drentsmuseum Assen has a special exhibition focusing on Vincent’s stay in Drenthe. They have most of his works on display that he created during this time. These paintings come from all over the world thus, it’s a unique opportunity.
You can easily get to Assen by train.
PS: your ticket also gives access to an excellent museum next door called the “Doll House.”
Should you have the chance to go, I really enjoyed seeing this exhibition during its opening week. It was even more recognizable, especially after I had just taken the drive across Vincent van Gogh locations in Drenthe.
The Groninger Museum owns a recently recovered Van Gogh painting, which was stolen. Called the “Spring Garden” or “Parish Garden in Nuenen.”
This stolen work worth millions was returned damaged in an unremarkable IKEA bag just very recently in 2023. Currently, it is in Amsterdam at the Van Gogh Museum, undergoing careful restoration, but once done, it will return to Groningen to be displayed once more.
This museum also owns the “Nieuw Amsterdam” bridge drawing. Besides those two Vincent van Gogh works, Groningen as a city is a great place to visit, and the Groninger Museum is one of the leading modern art museums in the country. It’s definitely worth a day trip from Amsterdam.
For those of you in the know, this mention might seem strange. The Rijksmuseum only has one Van Gogh painting on display. A self-portrait. Of which you can see many at the Van Gogh Museum, so why come here?
But hear me out.
The Rijksmuseum is significant because Van Gogh, himself has visited the museum. Just like you can do today, and see the same works as he did.
The Rijksmuseum is the most important and largest museum in the Netherlands.
Van Gogh admired Rembrandt, another master who lived during the Golden Age. Vincent loved the Jewish Bride by Rembrandt in particular, which he wrote about to his brother:
“I would gladly give ten years of my life to sit in front of this painting for two weeks, eating only stale bread.“
He was that impressed by it. And you can see the same painting as he did in the same gallery of honor.
You can buy your Rijksmuseum tickets here.
From my experience, I believe that the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam and the Kröller-Müller Museum are the two museums to see if you want to see the most Van Gogh art in the Netherlands. If you can only choose one, choose Amsterdam.
To explore important locations related to his life, I would first and foremost go to Nuenen, where it is just so easy to recognize the sketches and drawings made by Van Gogh.
If time allows go to Zundert and Etten next. Two other important places in his life. Traveling to Drenthe on the other side of the country is also worthwhile if you have the time since this is where he felt most at peace.
The area has changed significantly over the years of course, but you can still experience the land as he saw it in nature reserves like National Parks Dwingelderveld, Fochteloërveen, and Drentsche Aa.
Each Van Gogh location is unique in its own way. They all provide a different piece of the Van Gogh story. By visiting them you’re not only sightseeing, you’re also experiencing history.
If you hope you’ll be able to see and experience the locations that shaped Vincent’s life firsthand.
If you do, please tell me all about your experience in the comments below this article.
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