An Amsterdam Attraction reminiscent of Pandora’s Box
Up there among some of the best Amsterdam things to do, is Ripley’s Believe it or not! We’re not 100% sure on how to describe Ripley’s. It’s like a museum, but it isn’t a museum. It’s like a curiosity shop, but it isn’t a curiosity shop. It’s like a playhouse, but it’s not a playhouse… It’s a sort of a mix of all of the above. Do you know what that makes it? Super good fun for all you Amsterdam regulars.
Before we dig in and find out what wonders are in there, let’s talk about Lilly Likes. We have a main site and an Amsterdam focused site, both of which are aimed at making things more fun for you. You’ll find deals, pass-times, gifts, and more, all nestled safely within our pages. If all you can afford is the reading time, then check out our past articles. You can find out all about the Coffeeshops of Amsterdam, visit any of the museums, and get the scoop on what’s hot in Amsterdam this season.
So, make the most of this pandemic by browsing our pages and maybe even book a trip so you have something to look forward to. Until then, let’s go through the doors of Ripley’s Believe it or Not! And see what we find there. Are you up for some weird? Good.
What is Ripley’s?
Ripley’s is the modern version of the old-fashioned curiosity shops. It is a building where everything contained within is considered weird and wonderful. It is a house of curios, of items that you just won’t see anywhere else… it is the Amsterdam base for all things weird.
You must be a little bit careful in Ripley’s. You have been out in the streets of Amsterdam exploring, stopped at a few cafes and smoked a spliff or two before you get here. It can all be too much for the inexperienced stoner. If you’re worried about freaking out in response to the THC in your bloodstream then schedule your visit to Ripley’s in the AM.
Ripley’s Believe it or Not! Is akin to a museum in that it houses a collection. The only difference is that the collections it houses aren’t scientific, they don’t further human understanding and they certainly aren’t considered fine art. However, they do entertain, amuse, confound and stun. They are weird, wonderful, and jaw-dropping. They are the kinds of things that – somehow – fit into the Amsterdam scene perfectly.
How did Ripley’s Believe it or Not! Begin?
Ripley’s collection has been growing for over 100 years now. Originally founded by Robert Ripley, it has grown to encompass some 25,000 pieces of natural oddity. Robert was a man intrigued by genetic mutation, particularly in animals. What started as procurement of a two headed calve and albino animals, developed into an eclectic collection spanning decade of the odd.
Robert Ripley was also an artist, exceedingly rich, and an avid collector of all things strange. He was fascinated by excesses of human growth. He was an international explorer, world traveller and buyer of anything out of the ordinary. If there was anyone man in history that was most likely to be batman, it was probably him. We like to think that we might spend our fortune in a similar way, if we were rich.
You can learn the official Ripley story by visiting their website. We like to imagine him as an eccentric old man with a monocle who probably laughed too much. He probably kept a pocket full of Werther’s Original, just for the craik… but there’s more to it than an Amsterdam collection. Robert Ripley was an American with a passion for collections. His actual empire spans to include 20,000 photographs, 30,000 artefacts, 100,000 cartoon panels, and over 80 different sites. Annually, it is guessed that the global company sees over 12 million guests. That’s a hell of an achievement for an old man with a monocle.
Through the Doors: What’s Inside Ripley’s Believe it or Not!?
Ripley’s sports 19 galleries filled with artefacts, weird art, and stories that are hard to believe. The one commonality between it all? All the crazy facts, odd faces and strange things you see at Ripley’s are completely and utterly real and true. They might be crazy stories, but they aren’t made up… Which just makes them all the stranger.
Ripley’s has attractions that are suitable for both the adults in the family, and the kids. Those of you who have been fans of Lilly Likes Amsterdam for any length of time may remember that we included Ripley’s a year or so ago in one of our best things to do in Amsterdam with Kids articles. We love them so much, though, that we had to come back and give them an article all on their own.
So, what’s inside Ripley’s Believe it or Not! In Amsterdam? Weird exhibits and all of them true.
Example Exhibit Number 1: The world’s longest fingernails
Ripley’s have an exhibit featuring Shridhar Chillal of Pune, in India. This man had the longest fingernails ever recorded in the world. Where other museums might have pictures of the man, records of his achievement and times and dates – Ripley’s have his actual fingernails.
We did tell you it was weird.
Example Exhibit Number 2: The Padaung Tribe
Ripley’s Believe it or Not! Has a fascinating exhibit in their “Jungle Room”. This is one of their thirteen exhibits and encompasses the long-necked women of the Padaung Tribe. These women put rings on their necks to elongate them. The more rings, the longer the neck. The longer the neck, the more attractive the lady.
The Jungle room also has a shrunken head collection that we are pretty sure isn’t real, but that we were too afraid to ask about. Maybe have your kids skip that part, just in case. They’ve got to be fake, haven’t they? Haven’t they? Hm.
Example Exhibit Number 3: Cyclops
Although he didn’t go so far as to keep the skeleton, Robert Ripley did manage to keep plenty of photographic evidence of him and his companion, Cyclops. Cyclops was a one-eyed dog who Robert went out of his way to procure, as he did with all the oddities in his collection. We have to say though, one eye or not, he was fricking adorable. Think an Old English Sheepdog that has no depth perception… Beautiful.
As well as the exhibits, Ripley’s have their own warehouse. It contains a mini cinema where you can watch suitably strange videos. It has a scream room capable of setting even the coolest kid to screeching, and it has a photo-op illusion booth, where you can have your photo taken and manipulated.
Games, Optical Illusions, and Brain Teasers!
Ripley’s Believe it or Not! Has a whole bunch of interactive exhibits that are designed to make the young mind work. Optical illusions are constant, some jumping out to scare you and others making you feel like you are floating in space, among the stars. There are giant games to play, like puzzles on the wall, private cinema screens, shooting galleries and microphones that change your voice.
Perhaps the best part of what’s inside Ripley’s is that it’s all for both adults and kids. You will have fun here no matter if you are five or fifty-five. Some of it requires a strong stomach and some of it is just plain bizarre, but if you can ignore the parts that make you uncomfortable (we can’t stop thinking about the fingernails) then you are bound to have a good time.
It’s the kind of place you can visit a hundred times and always find something different that blows your mind. If you liked Horrible Histories, Body World’s or Micropia, then you will love Ripley’s. If you have kids with you, they will like it even more than you do. Ripley’s is a win-win for all the family and Amsterdam, it seems, is the international home of the weird.
Where to find Ripley’s in Amsterdam?
Ripley’s Believe it or Not! Is situated on Dam Square within ten minutes of Central Station. If getting the tram, get off at Dam Raadhuisstraat or Bijenkorf/Dam. They are normally open every weekday but keep an eye on the website and phone ahead. Covid restrictions may be in place and otherwise they might need you to book ahead.
The Lilly Likes Verdict on Ripley’s Believe it or Not! Amsterdam
So, given the weirdness of it all, what does Lilly think? She gives a cautious thumbs up and hopes that we don’t go back there for a while. It’s a little weird, a little gross, and sometimes just plain out there. On the other hand, that sums up the whole of Amsterdam in a single sentence… and we do so adore Amsterdam.
Go along, see for yourself, and don’t forget to follow us on Instagram. Until next time, keep those fingernails trimmed and don’t let anyone shrink your head. By the way, we just found out they were real. Maybe go before you eat your lunch.