Many museums offer engaging activities to help youngsters get the most out of their visit, but the Museum Speelklok in Utrecht has to be one of the only ones where the children’s activities become a piece of sheet music to be played in a mechanical organ.
The Museum Speelklok is home to a world of incredible musical machines. From self playing musical instruments, music boxes and traditional Dutch street organs, this museum is packed with an array of mechanical wonders all designed to delight and intrigue their audiences.
Housed in the medieval Buurkerk – a former grand church building on Steenweg near central Utrecht, you can explore and enjoy the sights and sounds of some of most wonderful music boxes big and small many of which are in fully working order.
To get a real insight into the origins of these musical delights its best to book onto one of the tours offered on the half hour by the Museum. This may involve a little hanging around before the tour begins, but it’s well worth it, especially as you will get the chance to see many of the machines in action. The tours are offered in a number of languages, just be sure to let your guide know at the start.
From the oldest machines dating back to the 16th century, through to delightful novelty automatons the guide takes you on a historic journey of these music players and you can just imagine the ways in which people young and old would have been transfixed by these seemingly magical machines. There are musical clocks, toys and boxes all which spring to life
The real star attraction on the journey around the museum are the large Dutch street organs which toured from town to town bringing the latest dances and music to the people of the country.
We loved the infamous ‘Arabier’ which blasted out its tunes and there’s also a whole Restoration room filled with numerous organs which are a sight to behold. We loved taking a seat here and just taking in all the music which filled the room.
The second part of the museum is a more traditional exploration of automaton and the workings of the musical machines where children are guided by an organ monkey called Toon who takes little ones on a journey to find their favourite tunes. You can learn how the machines springs and pulleys and mechanical parts all work together to create their music.
Then children can also create their own piece of sheet music which can be played on a small mechanical organ on the second floor of Museum Speelklok which has to be one of the best children’s trails ever.
One part of this wonderful musical extravaganza which you must not miss is the museum’s cafe. Not only is the food here absolutely delicious, you are also surrounded by more reconditioned street organs which, one by one, entertain guests as they enjoy their meal. We absolutely loved seeing the different characters appearing on the organs as the tunes played. We could easily have missed this spot if we hadn’t been ready for lunch, but for us it was a good as the rest of the museum.
It was brilliantly entertaining and a meal like no other and the food was delicious with hearty soups and sandwiches especially the large selection of delicious cakes.
The Museum Speelklok is a true one off, a fascinating insight into engineering ingenuity to create wonderful tunes time and time again. It’s an absolute must see if you are visiting Utrecht.
You can find out more about Museum Speelklok at their website.
Read more of our recommendations in our section on all things Netherlands here.
We were guests of Museum Speelklok for the purposes of this review but our views are our own.