Anne Frank House

Most visitors to Amsterdam have a visit to the Anne Frank House at the top of their must-do list so it’s not surprising that many end up disappointed when they discover how tricky it can be to book a ticket.  That being the case, let’s start with how to secure a booking before moving on to more useful information about this unique place.

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Booking in advance

It has become exceptionally difficult to get tickets for the Anne Frank House due to its enduring fascination and a need to keep visitor numbers strictly limited in order to protect the dignity of the experience.  Following recent renovations:

anyone visiting including children 0-9 years old and those with discount cards must have a pre-booked online ticket, for a specific date and time.

Ignore what you’ve heard about turning up and queuing at dawn or late in the day, this system is new, unequivocal and designed to stop the unmanageable queues that grew out of control.

What you need to know

  • 80% of the tickets for any date go on sale on the Anne Frank House website exactly 2 months in advance.  And are sold rapidly
  • It’s hard to predict exactly what time on that day the advance tickets are released.  I logged on from 8.00 CET and my date didn’t show as bookable until a first wave of slots were released at about 9.45 (at that point slots from 9am – 10am were released, swiftly followed by a tranche running up to 12.30 and within an hour the full day’s slots were available).
  • If you are logging on at peak time you will be placed in an online queue –  expect a 20 minute online wait or more for the page to refresh until you’re at the front of the queue.  You will be logging on with hundreds of other people who are also trying to get tickets in advance or those hoping to secure some for the same day (see below).
  • If you forget to book precisely 2 months out and realise a day or two later – sometimes up to a week later – you should be fine to get tickets if you are flexible with your time slot.

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Booking closer to, or on the date of your visit

Assuming you haven’t logged on 2 months ahead of your desired date, your only other option is to log on, just before, or on the day of your intended visit when the remaining 20% of tickets are made available.

  • In the past, I’ve advised people to try logging on daily from about a week before you want to visit. It’s worth a try but in peak season there’s absolutely no guarantee tickets will become available.
  • Another way in which you can occasionally find availability a week or two before your visit is to look at booking an “introductory programme” ticket. This gives you a half hour talk before you tour the house and for some reason seems to offer better availability than the regular ticket bookings.
  • Please be aware that neither the tourist information offices across the city, nor the concierges (including those at the very best hotels) will be able to pull off a miracle.  Purchased tickets are strictly non-transferable and non-refundable so if you’re desperate to go, your only option is to persevere and try online.
  • According to the Anne Frank House there is no set time on the day when tickets are released.  They told me: “We release tickets during the day but not at a set time.  It depends how busy it is in the museum.  We start offering them from 9.30am CET and the last set of tickets is released between 16.30 and 17.30. “
  • So if you are trying online be really flexible, check throughout the day and be ready to drop everything if you secure some tickets.

Anyone promising you tickets through any other route will be scamming you.  That includes online resellers and scalpers hovering outside. 

Don’t chance it.

 

The website for ticket booking is here

 

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At the house

Once you arrive with a ticket at the house you will be grateful for the limitations that have been put on visitors.  The experience is incredibly well organised.

Visitors are given a 15 minute slot for arrival.  If you arrive early you will be kept to the side until the time marked on your ticket at which point you will join a short queue outside.  Visitors are let into the museum is small groups in order to ensure there is adequate space and perhaps most importantly quiet and decorum inside.

On entry you will be asked to leave bags at check in (no cameras are allowed and visitors should not take pictures on phones).  You are then invited to collect an audio unit that will guide you around the experience.

The first part of the tour takes you through spacious rooms with information about how the family ended up heading into hiding and details about the other residents who joined them.  The audio tour is excellent and at this point is certainly suitable for older children.  It is available in numerous languages and brings passages of the diary to life.  Due to the limitation on visitor numbers there is ample space to move around without feeling crowded with other visitors.

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Eventually you head up an extremely steep flight of stairs and behind the bookcase into the tiny space that made up the annexe, set across two floors.

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Otto Frank decided after the war not to recreate the furniture, so the claustrophobic rooms are bare and dark with just Anne’s beloved postcards of film stars and a few maps stuck to the wall.  Here is the room Anne’s parents shared with her sister Margot, and the room Anne shared, originally with her sister and subsequently Mr Pfeffer.

In each room there is an image of what the room would have looked like with furniture, and a diagram to show you where in the annexe you are.

 

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Up another perilous staircase is the main living room and kitchen that also served as the van Pels bedroom with Peter’s tiny space next door.

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In the annexe the audio tour stops and visitors move silently in single file around the rooms, with short descriptions and mementos in each to bring it to life.

After the main house the audio tour resumes with several large rooms in the newly built extension giving information about the capture and deportation of the residents along with details of the transport and various camps to which they were sent.  There are videos of the trains and some footage of the camps as well as films with Otto and others recalling what happened.

The final room is one in which you can see pages from the diaries themselves.

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Finally, the experience ends with two scale models that Otto had created of the house, a small photography exhibition with pictures of the Franks, and a film with notable people talking about Anne and the diary.

There is also a bookshop and cafe.

 

The experience is obviously hugely moving and in general conversation is conducted at a whisper.

 

 

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Is it ok to take kids to the Anne Frank House and what age is it suitable from?

This is a question I get asked often.  My boys are 8 and 9 and we have just taken them for the first time.  It was important for us to wait until we felt they had reached an age when we could read the diary or stories about it with them and help them understand the implications of what happened.  We didn’t want them to treat it like ‘just another museum’.

That said, I appreciate that we go to Amsterdam often so we had the luxury of waiting for the right occasion, you might be visiting Amsterdam and have a single opportunity to share it with yours.

The Anne Frank Trust suggest it is suitable from the age of 10. If you do decide to take younger children I would strongly recommend you only do so when they are at an age where they can be quiet for up to an hour and won’t want to run around.  The atmosphere was incredibly respectful when we were there and I can’t imagine trying to take it all in with restless or worse loud toddlers in the space.

Do also bear in mind that some of the films have distressing imagery although we found this limited.

From a practical point of view, the house is so small that it is not accessible for prams which can be left (completely empty with no bags or luggage) by the information desk in the central hall.  There are baby changing facilitates in the ladies and disabled toilets if needed.

 

Preparing children for a visit to the house

If you want to prepare children beforehand by talking about Anne and what happened to her, the Anne Frank Trust offer some really good online resources as a place to start:

The Anne Frank Guide

The Secret Annex Online 

The Anne Frank YouTube Channel

 

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We started out reading the abridged version of the diary to our boys, however they were very keen to find out “what happened” so we quickly moved on to a couple of wonderful age-appropriate books, the very best of which was this one from the exceptional New York Times bestselling series:

Who Was Anne Frank?

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The book gives concise but thorough and well-judged background information about the war; Amsterdam in the 1930’s; the rise of Nazism and anti semitism and some excellent insight into the Franks and their story.  It does so in way that is hugely engaging and very well balanced.  I can’t recommend it highly enough.

Alternatively, for younger children (5-6) consider Anne Frank – Famous People, Famous Lives or Anne Frank, Little People Big Dreams.

 

 

Usborne’s Anne Frank Famous Lives book is also fairly good for adding context for 7-8 year olds and there is a very good Graphic Adaptation that has just been released in English by the museum and is aimed at teenagers who “might not otherwise pick up the diary”.

 

Whether you visit the house or not, I would recommend exploring more about Jewish Amsterdam to understand the context of the story.  You can find lots of information on my Jewish Amsterdam blog post here.

 

 

 

 

 

Finally a plea from me.  The Anne Frank House is not just another museum.  Maybe because I’m Jewish I find it incredibly distasteful when I see tourists taking grinning selfies outside or being loud inside.  I’m delighted that it still drives so much interest but please, reread the diary before you go.  Think about the environment Jews were forced to live in, both in the Netherlands and right across Europe.  Be interested but be more than just another tourist ticking a landmark off their list.  This house represents a dark, dark period in European history and I urge you to think deeply about it on your visit.

 

We must never forget.

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