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World's most fun museum happens to be Dutch

Museum Speelklok


A kaleidoscope of music boxes and clocks, self-playing instruments, street organs, gigantic jukeboxes and calliopes puts a smile on everyone’s face at Museum Speelklok (or Musical Clock Museum). Hidden in the ancient university town of Utrecht, it’s just a half-hour away from Amsterdam by train and a 10-minute walk from the station. Guided tours are offered every hour and are the only way to see it.

Museum guides add to the entertainment with their singing along with the antique instruments
Photo by Thomas A. Wohlmut
An ornate street organ
Courtesy of Museum Speelklok

Not your mother’s player piano

And what a delightful tour it is of the largest such collection in the world. Docents selectively choose among the contraptions, wind them up and let them rip. Guides even sing along to the zany accompaniment. It’s a wild musical trip down through the centuries. The first instrument might be the simplest baroque automatic violin. The next a fanciful Black Forest cuckoo clock. Another a bejeweled calliope playing a contrivance of a Viennese waltz.

These machines with their punch-card programs are the precursors of today’s computers. The chattering clocks, musical ditties and familiar melodies emanating from these creaky, yet working antiques create an amusing and laugh-out-loud cacophony. Rick Steves calls it a "clicking, clanking, tooting glory," and it follows visitors as they wander the halls.

But when you get to the early 20th-century dance hall, watch out! A colossal street organ from Coney Island pulses alive, belting out Michael Jackson’s “Thriller.”

The most G-rated fun you can have in the Netherlands, bar none.

Museum Speelklok:
Steenweg 6
NL - 3511 JP Utrecht
The Netherlands
Phone: +31 (0)30 231 27 89
Open Tuesday-Sunday, 10 a.m.-5 p.m.
€11 adults, €6 children 4-12 years, €30 family ticket (2 adults & 2 children)
Want to learn more about Utrecht? Check out Ben Ross’ Blog.

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