Every summer my short stint as an Amsterdam tour guide begins with great intentions. We start at the Dam Square, stroll for an hour and soak in the atmosphere and good vibes from enjoying our afternoon wander. We check out the secret garden Begijnhof, dip into the art hall from the Amsterdam Museum, wander to the Flower Market and through the Canal Ring’s 9 Streets. Maybe we talk about weed and the Red Light District, and I always ramble off a to-do list for nightlife.
As we edge closer to the Anne Frank House, a cloud rolls over our heads. I beg the museum gods to show mercy on my tour group, but starting in May, we’re usually met with an entry line that rivals the Louvre and Uffizi. Once July rolls around, my groups of first timers to Amsterdam don’t even try to get in.
An article in the The New York Times reported that attendance at Europe’s top museums have caused enough congestion that directors are running out of ideas. I’ve yet to hear of anyone being trampled by eager Anne Frank fans, but the two-hour line in July and August speaks for itself. But that doesn’t mean you have to give up. In fact, a new ticketing system launched in 2016 has changed visitors’ strategy, and we are here to let you in on a few insider tips and answer questions like: How can you skip the line? When is the best time to go? Can I get tickets in advance? Here are your best options.
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1. Reserve online and pick your time slot
I can’t encourage people enough to reserve time slots online and in advance. As soon as you have your Amsterdam dates inked in the calendar, go to the Anne Frank House website and use your credit card to buy those tickets. Commit to a time slot and stick with it. Online tickets can be purchased up to two months in advance for entry to the museum between 9 am and 3:30 pm. After 3:30 pm, the museum opens up to visitors without advance tickets.
Tip: Do NOT arrive in Amsterdam and try to reserve a ticket for the following day. Chances are they will be sold out, as there is only a selected amount available online.
2. Know the museum hours & rules for waiting in line
Museums across the continent are experimenting with longer hours in the summer to help ease the wait. From April to October the Anne Frank House is now open daily from 9 am to 10 pm, and November to March 9 am to 7 pm (and Saturdays til 9 pm). However, note that only visitors with online tickets are allowed in from 9 am to 3:30 pm. The museum is open every day of the year except Yom Kippur.
Last entry to the museum is 30 minutes before closing time, and they begin turning people away from the line if it’s really busy (up to two hours before closing time), so just because you’re in line doesn’t guarantee entry.
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3. Early (afternoon) bird really does catch the worm
Since the museum opens to anyone without a pre-purchased ticket at 3:30 pm, get there as early as you can before the line starts to fill up. If you arrive in Amsterdam and you don’t have an online ticket, getting in line for an afternoon visit is your only option. Spend your morning seeing other attractions and do a walk by after lunch (or maybe before lunch in the summertime) to see if a line has started to form. Be ready to jump in depending on how long it is!
Some people say that the line dwindles to a two-hour wait or less after 6 pm in the summertime. I wouldn’t put my money on easy access in the evening, but a sliver of hope could exist for late comers.
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4. Estimating the wait
How can you gauge your time? If the line is an L shape, ending just along the Westerkerk, that’s about an hour. If the line is an L shape but ends past the Westerkerk and at the Keizersgracht canal, that’s two hours. If the line is a Z and has now turned at the Keizersgracht canal and is running behind the Westerkerk, that’s three hours. Any longer, well, you do the math.
Tip: Don’t count on rain to wash away the line. During one of the city’s most rainy day, complete with lightning and thunderstorms, hundreds of visitors waited with umbrellas and ponchos.
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5. Waiting in line? Make the most of your time
What do people do when they wait in line for two hours to get into Anne Frank? I encourage a lot of them to picnic it out and hope for sun and breeze. Across the street from the Westerkerk is an Albert Hein grocery store, even a bakery or two. Grab a cup of coffee, a sandwich, snack, or whatever looks good. Or maybe bring a book, plan out your itinerary for the rest of your trip, or start that book proposal outline you’ve been meaning to do. You get the idea. Other tour companies use this as a legitimate tourist trap, selling boat tours and packages. Street musicians come to play music and get some coins tossed in their hats. I personally have always wanted to see a flash mob start.
Or maybe bring a book, plan out your itinerary for the rest of your trip, or start that book proposal outline you’ve been meaning to do. They even have Wi-Fi you can connect to while you wait. You get the idea. Other tour companies use the line as a legitimate tourist trap, selling boat tours and packages. Street musicians come to play music and get some coins tossed in their hats. I personally have always wanted to see a flash mob start.
6. Off-season relief
By late September these rules soften, and the Anne Frank House becomes a steady institution with an average flow of visitors. Patron traffic stays calm and cool until tulip season emerges early April and bus coaches come rolling in again. At €9 a ticket, the Anne Frank House is a good deal of history at a lower price than most museums in Amsterdam. But if you’re only in Amsterdam for a few days, you might not want to commit an entire afternoon to waiting in line. Want a few less busy alternatives? Check out 20 free things to do in Amsterdam and smart alternatives for big attractions.
Do you have any tips for visiting the Anne Frank House? Let us know!
Note: This post was updated with new information and links on November 30, 2016.