Back in April, a concert brought me back to Utrecht. So naturally, I prolonged that stay because train journeys between Dutch cities are easily doable. After a day in Leiden and discovering Rotterdam, it was time to spend a day in Dordrecht. If I’m honest, I was most excited about this small city and there was a specific reason behind that. House Van Gijn, also known as Huis Van Gijn, is an enchanting museum in Dordrecht.

dining room at house van gijn museum

It used to be the private home of Simon van Gijn and has been beautifully preserved in its original state. Simon van Gijn was a banker, lawyer, and foremost a collector, which is visible in his home. He spent the last 56 years of his life in this house and requested in his will that it be turned into a museum. It opened to the public back in 1925 and people have been visiting it ever since. The original house dates back to 1729 and van Gijn purchased it in 1864. He renovated small parts of it so the building has 18th and 19th-century features.

vintage bedroom at house van gijn museum

One of the main reasons why House Van Gijn stands out among similar museums is its top floors. Historically, the top floors were always reserved for the servants. It was where they had their humble quarters and would mostly just sleep since there were no fireplaces there. Once such townhouses become museums, the top floors become anything but the servants’ rooms. However, here you’ll find not just their bedrooms but also the storerooms for drying the laundry. There was also a separate room for the many prints van Gijn collected.

study room at house van gijn

But let’s start from the beginning, which most often is in the kitchen. It rained a bit on the day of my visit so the kitchen looked extremely cozy and dark. Wonderfully preserved and set up in a way that looks like time was frozen, it’s a lovely introduction. to the house What’s impressive is that it has barely changed since 1729. The tall window from floor to ceiling was one of my favorite aspects of the kitchen.

house van gijn cozy kitchen

From the kitchen, you enter a hallway filled with collector’s items. There are two symmetrical doors on both ends of the hallway and lots of exhibits hanging on the walls. From antique clocks and paintings to ceramics and old maps, there is so much to see. Similarly to the kitchen, the hallway looks the same as it did in the 18th century.

And now we get to the most fascinating rooms in the house. The dining room connects directly to the sun lounge and the chic drawing room. They’re a continuous flow of rooms where it’s hard to pick a favorite. The furniture in the dining room is impeccable and blends in perfectly with the wall paintings. Painted in 1887 and featuring landscapes and people, they make the room feel even cozier. There is also a conservatory, a 19th-century addition similar to a winter garden.

Opposite it is the sun lounge, which was basically the living room. This is where the owners read, played music, and received guests. It also has a conservatory which opened as a veranda during the summer. Amongst the beautiful furniture and a piano, the only original piece of furniture is a mahogany display cabinet from 1886. Nonetheless, the details in the room are magnificent and one could gaze at them for hours.

house van gijn museum dordrecht

Separated by sliding doors is the drawing room where van Gijn’s wife received her guests. It’s a unique room in a vibrant burgundy shade. The furnishings merge with the walls of the same color and make it feel like an intimate boudoir. There is also a mantelpiece in an unusual pink color. With so many shades of red and gold, it’s quite an intense room!

Finally, we have the great hall, unchanged since 1730. Covered in wall tapestries, many parties and various receptions took place in this stunning room. From here the visit continues upstairs. Starting with a staircase decorated with coats of arms and weapons that leads to the private quarters. Once again, the hallway serves to exhibit more of van Gijn’s collection memorabilia.

reception room at house van gijn museum

From there, you enter the master bedroom. The canopy bed draped in gorgeous silk instantly makes the room feel luxurious. Right next to is another bedroom, which used to be a dressing room. Later on, after the death of his wife, van Gijn moved to the smaller bedroom. Personally, I adored the shades and patterns in these two bedrooms. They somehow look equally opulent and unassuming. Basically, a tasteful and humble way of presenting wealth.

Furthermore, you’ll notice an ensuite bathroom. The van Gijn family was one of the first ones in the city to adapt their bathrooms with gas water heaters and modern toilets. Which was even more impressive considering we’re talking about the year 1882!

Usually, libraries are my favorite parts of old houses and castles. House Van Gijn was no exception when it comes to that. Alongside a beautiful library is an adjacent study where van Gijn spent most of his time. Both rooms have wooden interiors and unique tiled fireplaces. The study has original stained glass windows with decorative panes. Needless to say, my favorite was the library with its cozy shades of brown and green. Its small size only contributes to that cozy and inviting feeling.

Across from them is the most unique room not only in House Van Gijn’s but in all of Holland. It’s the only preserved example of a gilt leather room from the 17th century. In short, this is a lengthy process that includes covering the leather in silver foil, embossing it, and painting the reliefs. Originally, the gilt leather interior was part of another house in Dordrecht. Throughout history, it went through a few sales and auctions. When it resurfaced in a random villa in 1992, it was moved to House Van Gijn. Impressively enough, all the original parts were still there!

As I mentioned before, House Van Gijn still has a whole floor dedicated to the servants’ area and the storeroom. Back then, it used to be an open space with only the small bedrooms partitioned-off. Today, you’ll find parts of it reserved for ironing clothes, pressing and sorting his many prints. You might notice a big gilded mirror alongside a rack of clothes. This is a little impromptu dressing room where you can try on some of the costumes and take a selfie. Don’t hesitate to have some fun there!

Finally, we come to the hidden gem of this museum, the toy attic. On the very top floor, you’ll find lots of dollhouses, wooden toys, dolls, and merry-go-rounds. What’s more, this is one of the oldest toy collections in all of the Netherlands! It’s a big dark space with lots of different items and I found it rather cute. You really have to stop and look at the details while in the attic.

miniature house at house van gijn museum in dordecht

Inviting and elegant, House Van Gijn is one of the most enchanting museums I’ve visited. It feels as if time has stood still at House Van Gijn all these years. I recommend you purchase the tickets online before your visit. It’s more convenient and the price is 1€ less than buying it in person. And then dive into history by reliving what the 19th century in Dordrecht used to look like!

master bedroom at house van gijn museum
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