The NEMO Science Museum in Amsterdam is one of the best places to visit in Amsterdam. While it’s particularly great if you’re visiting Amsterdam with kids, there’s lots here for teens and adults too.
With five floors of hands-on exhibits, demonstrations and experiments bringing science and technology to life, NEMO is one of my favourite museums in Amsterdam and well worth a visit.
NEMO is Amsterdam’s main science museum and has been open since 1997. Its history goes back over 100 years – not that you’d ever guess.
The museum you can visit today is absolutely state of the art and really engaging; almost everything is fully interactive and there’s lots to entertain visitors of all ages.
What can you see at NEMO?
There are five floors of exhibitions at NEMO, and to see it all properly you’ll want to allow at least 2-3 hours.
Each floor is dedicated to a particular theme that affects how we live today, with exhibitions which are suitable for all ages (although there are themes which are more appropriate to teens and grown ups on the Humania floor).
The five floors at NEMO are:
Fenomena on the first floor, which explains how phenomenons like light, sound and static electricity work. There’s also a recreation of the old-style science museum that came before NEMO.
Technium on the second floor explains the technology that powers our world. The interactive exhibits on this floor include a fun way of explaining how ecommerce orders are picked in a warehouse and how flood barriers work (very relevant in the Netherlands!).
Elementa, on NEMO’s third floor was my favourite. This zone talks about the building blocks of the universe, space exploration and what might make life on other planets possible. The third floor is also the location for the NEMO Laboratory, where you can put on a white coat and work on some experiments of your own, using baking powder, vinegar and other items from around the home.
Humania is on the fourth floor. This area deals with human evolution, reproduction, ageing and death. Areas that may not be suitable for younger children are clearly marked.
Energetica is outside, on the 5th floor roof terrace, and lets visitors experiment with renewable energy. Create a rainbow, generate energy with your body, watch sculptures move in the wind or relax in a chair fitted with solar panels.
The risk with interactive museums is always that exhibits get worn out and broken over time, but NEMO is brilliantly maintained; I didn’t see a single out of order sign which is an astonishing testament to the staff!
Demonstrations and experiments
As well as the many interactive exhibits in the museum, there are lots of demonstrations, experiments and workshops. There’s something happening every day, with school holidays seeing a particularly packed programme.
When I visited in December 2023 I was able to catch the large scale, action-packed Chain Reaction demonstration on potential and kinetic energy. This demonstration, which takes place in a space in the centre of the museum includes falling dominoes, popping balloons, an office chair rolling down a track and much more.
The show I saw was in Dutch but it’s lots of fun and includes tons of audience participation. All the other exhibits are in both Dutch and English, and the Laboratory experience is available in several other languages.
You can get an idea for what’ll be on when you visit NEMO by visiting the Activities page on the NEMO website.
Is NEMO just for kids?
Families with children do make up the largest number of visitors to NEMO, but there’s plenty for teens and adults too – although you may want to bring earplugs if you visit during the busiest times!
Very young children may find visiting NEMO more of a sensory experience, but there are plenty of interesting things for them to look at and touch. Children need to be at least 6 to take part in the experiments in the Laboratory.
The NEMO building and roof terrace
NEMO’s stunning building is an attraction in itself. With its sloping shape and green copper walls, it looks like a ship sailing out into the waters of Amsterdam’s eastern docklands. In fact, architect Renzo Piano designed its shape to be a mirror image of the IJ road tunnel that descends underneath it.
There’s a roof terrace on the top floor that’s totally free to visit. It has awesome views across the water and towards the city, so it’s well worth making the trip to NEMO even if you don’t plan to visit the museum. I do really recommend visiting the museum though!
If it’s been particularly wet or icy then the roof terrace may be closed but they do make every effort to open; it had been very cold during my trip to Amsterdam in December but they did manage to open the terrace, albeit with a few signs warning that it might be a bit slippy.
To get directly to the roof terrace, you can take the outside staircase up the side of the building. You can access the terrace and NEMO’s top floor café without a ticket but there’s a gate where you need to show your museum ticket to get into the exhibitions.
Facilities at NEMO
There are lockers on NEMO’s ground floor for bags and coats, with tall ones for pushchairs or strollers. You’ll need a €0.50 coin for each locker. I didn’t see any lockers that would be big enough for suitcases.
There’s a gift shop on the ground floor with lots of science-themed gifts, plus Lego and other toys.
NEMO has three cafes. The main restaurant is on the top floor where you can use one of the roof terrace picnic tables on warm days. There’s another cafe on the second floor, near the Technium area and the Laboratory, plus a coffee bar on the ground floor near the shop, lockers and ticket desks.
NEMO is generally very accessible, but if you or one of your party has particular needs, you may want to check out their accessibility information.
Tickets for NEMO
It’s best to book tickets in advance for NEMO, and it’s essential to have booked a date and time slot if you’re visiting during busy times, such as school holidays.
Tickets for NEMO cost €17.50 for everyone, apart from children under 3, who get in free.
How to get to NEMO
The NEMO science museum is at Oosterdok, to the east of Amsterdam Centraal station. The easiest way to get there if you’re near the station is to walk; it’s a 15 minute, level walk along Oosterdokskade then across the Mr. J.J. van der Veldebrug bridge. NEMO is so big and eye-catching that it’s not really possible to get lost – it looks like nothing else in the area!
If you’re coming from a different direction, then it may be easiest to travel by bus. There are bus stops at the bottom of the Oosterdok peninsula, less than 5 minutes’ walk from the museum.
More things to do near NEMO
Visit the Maritime Museum
NEMO is just across the water from Amsterdam’s magnificent Maritime Museum (Het Scheepvaartmuseum). Housed in the beautiful old Admiralty Sea Warehouse from 1655, it includes displays on the Netherlands’ maritime heritage, while outside there’s a sailing ship to explore.
Entry to the Maritime Museum costs €17.50 for adults and €8.50 for children aged 4 to 17. Children under 4 can get in free. The Maritime Museum is another Amsterdam museum included in the I amsterdam City Card.
Explore the Marineterrein
The Marineterrein, 10 minutes’ walk from NEMO, is an intriguing part of Amsterdam. In the 17th and 18th century, this area was Amsterdam’s centre for shipbuilding; a hive of industry in the busiest port in the world.
The Marineterrein was a secretive area until 2015, when the Dutch Navy reduced its operations in the area and it was finally opened to the public. Today, it’s full of interesting and innovative businesses and exhibition spaces.
It’s also full of interesting stories; on my trip to Amsterdam in December 2023 we had a guided walking tour of the area by Berber from Tours That Matter, and she was able to point out all the interesting features of the area, including the old shooting range (now an art exhibition space) and the window of Vincent Van Gogh’s room when he was a naval student here.
The Marineterrein has a lovely little park just beyond the entrance at Marineterreinparkje, and the whole area is very popular on sunny days.
Science and technology museums in and around Amsterdam
If you’re looking for more museums about science and technology, there are a few other options in and around Amsterdam.
Micropia is the world’s only museum completely dedicated to the invisible world of microbes, from viruses to bacteria.
High-tech exhibits spanning several floors visually magnify these lifeforms 10 million times and investigate their roles in areas like food production, medical advancements, and even space travel.
Artis Groote Museum, Amsterdam
Next door to Micropia, Artis Groote Museum describes itself as the “museum of big ideas”.
The museum is divided into 14 zones, each one using a human body part as an opportunity to explore how we connect to the wider world.
Fashion For Good, Amsterdam
A fashion museum might seem an unusual choice for a list of science museums, and I would have agreed before I visited, but Fashion For Good focuses as much on innovation as ethics and style.
Their displays on sustainable new materials like leather made from flowers and dyes made from waste products were really fascinating – you’re just as likely to learn about science and technology here as in a traditional science museum.
Railway Museum, Utrecht
If you’re willing to travel a little way outside Amsterdam to Utrecht, you can visit the amazing Dutch national Railway Museum (Het Spoorwegmuseum).
This wonderful museum is set in an old railway station and contains a wonderful collection of historic trains alongside immersive exhibitions on the history and future of the Netherlands’ railways.
The journey from Amsterdam to the museum in Utrecht takes less than an hour.
Final thoughts: is visiting NEMO worth it?
Visiting NEMO is absolutely worth it. Amsterdam’s science museum is innovative, inventive and an engaging experience for all ages. The building itself is stunning, and the views from the rooftop terrace were a highlight of my trip to Amsterdam (even thought it was a bit chilly!) and I loved how varied and exciting the museum exhibits are. It’s particularly good for families, but there’s lots to enjoy at NEMO for everyone.
Would you visit the NEMO science museum in Amsterdam?
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