NEMO is quite simply one of the world’s most amazing museums for kids.
It’s a Science Museum with a “touch everything” philosophy and is suitable from young toddlers right up to inquisitive teens (more of that later).
Housed in an iconic green boat-shaped structure designed by Renzo Piano, designer of the Pompidou Centre, it also has the biggest roof-terrace in Amsterdam which is absolutely free and does not require entrance to the museum. With a stunning interactive water feature (bring shorts or swimming costumes for the littles so they can paddle and splash), many people simply spend the day up here in Summer enjoying free entertainment (live jazz on Thursday evenings), a deckchair in the sun and some pretty stunning views.
Inside the museum though there are eye-popping displays, live shows, buttons to push, projects to assemble, bubbles to step inside and colourful science that dazzles with its creativity. Pretty much every exhibit follows through with the theme of “discover the world for yourself.” No glass display cases to stand and stare at here.
Permanent interactive exhibits include the ever popular “Machine”, a giant button-pressing engineering feat, shooting balls around wire chutes as a way of teaching logistics, and “Water World” where children can pull rain from a cloud, fill taps and empty buckets to water the earth. For teens there’s a dedicated space offering a very Dutch (fairly explicit) approach to puberty and sex. This is Amsterdam after all.
My favourite is the hands-on lab where kids don lab coats and safety goggles and are given an age-appropriate experiment to complete and record their observations. Watching how rockets take off or understanding about cells has never been so fun. Descriptions are available in both Dutch and English.
Nemo is noisy, busy and thrilling and everything a modern museum should be. It can get hectic in school holidays so eager beavers should get there early. In general, allow lots of time to enjoy both its headline attractions and hidden corners. This is punk science delivered in a way all museums should aspire to.