The Rijksmuseum holds the world's greatest collection of paintings from the Dutch Golden Age. The museum features more than 2,000 works from the likes of Rembrandt, Johannes Vermeer, and Frans Hals. The gem of the collection is Rembrandt's The Night Watch (1642), the Rijksmuseum's most famous painting.
The modern world thinks of art as very important: something close to the meaning of life. - Alain de Botton
With a collection of 1 million objects dedicated to Dutch art and history from the year 1200 onwards, the Rijksmuseum has grown into the largest museum in the Netherlands.
Around 800 objects are on display at the Rijksmuseum across more than 100 rooms and galleries, so it's easy to feel overwhelmed once you're inside. To tackle this cultural behemoth, start with a few highlights and go from there:
The star of the Rijksmuseum collection, The Night Watch is a large-scale scene depicting a group of military getting into formation. The full title of the painting, Militia Company of District II under the Command of Captain Frans BanninckCocq, gives us more detail but this is far from a static portrait. The Night Watch is known for its incredible use of dark and light and interesting symbolism. One of the almost life-size figures in the painting is said to be modeled on Rembrandt's late wife.
This is Vermeer's only painting of a domestic servant and depicts the woman in a kitchen, possibly making bread pudding. Vermeer's use of color is enchanting in this work with heavily saturated blue and yellow dominating the canvas.
The smiling, relaxed couple in this stunning portrait is thought to be Isaac Massa and Beatrix van der Laen. In an era when wedding portraiture was typically very formal, this painting was seen as scandalous.
Van Gogh painted a number of self-portraits during his troubled life. Each depiction is different and reveals something of the painter's mental state at the time of painting. Influenced by Gaugin and Monet, this portrait uses deep, heavy brushstrokes.
The Threatened Swan depicts a life-like swan rising up to protect its nest against a dog. At one time the painting was understood as a political allegory. The swan was said to represent Johan de Witt, grand pensionary of Holland, defending the country against outsiders. However, Asselijn painted The Threatened Swan long before de Witt came to power.
One of Vermeer's most recognizable paintings, Woman Reading a Letter depicts a young woman standing in front of a window. The window is not shown, but Vermeer's outstanding rendering of the effect of light on surfaces makes it appear visible. The lapis lazuli blue used for the woman's clothes and grey coloring of her skin was revolutionary at the time of painting.
Between 1893 and 1896, Breitner painted the same girl, sixteen-year-old Geesje Kwak, thirteen times. Each time, Kwak wore a different colored kimono and posed in a different position. This is arguably the most enchanting painting of the series and features Geesje in a white embroidered kimono.
One of the most interesting modern works in the Rijksmuseum, Square Man was completed six years after the end of the Second World War. The man depicted has a head almost as large as his body, made up of large blocks and lines of color. The man has his arms spread and his genitals exposed like an animal splayed out for dissection.
Another masterpiece of the Dutch Golden Age, van Honthorst'sThe Merry Fiddler is a joyous work. A close portrait of a man wearing rich, Italian clothes, The Merry Fiddler is startlingly lifelike. The happy fiddler appears from behind a portrait and leans towards the viewer, invited them to chink his glass.
Girl in a Large Hat is understood as a painting with erotic undertones. A girl in a large sun hat holds a bowl of fruit up near her left shoulder and looks down. Van Everdingen probably intended for this painting to hang high up on a wall to allow his subject to gaze down on those looking up at her.
The Rijksmuseum's collection began as a cache of 200 paintings in the Netherland's Royal Collection. These paintings were first displayed to the public in 1800 in The Hague. Expansion necessitated a larger building and in 1885, the neo-Gothic Rijksmuseum opened in Amsterdam.
The Rijksmuseum isn't a typical art museum, like Britain's National Gallery in London. The Rijksmuseum's collection combines painting with other arts and crafts, such as furnishings and ceramic. Showing masterpieces alongside the interiors and objects that informed their creation offers valuable context.
The Rijksmuseum is the most visited gallery and museum in the Netherlands. In the last few years, visitor figures have reached between 2,200,00 and 2,400,000 people.
The Gallery of Honor is the most popular gallery in the Rijksmuseum. An extended corridor leading to the Rijksmuseum's most famous work, The Night Watch, this gallery is always busy.
If you visit the Rijksmuseum before June 2019, you can also see their Alle Rembrandts (All Rembrandts) exhibition. This exhibition is the first time the museum has shown their entire collection of Rembrandt paintings, drawings, and prints in one place.
Tickets to the Rijksmuseum for anyone under 18 are free!
If you intend to visit only the permanent collection, you do not need to book a time slot. If you wish to see whatever temporary exhibition is on show, you must book a time slot. The Rijksmuseum is renowned for its temporary exhibitions and there is usually no additional charge to see them
Ticket prices are as follows:
Adding a guided tour to your visit costs $5,00 and is only available on Saturday and Sunday.
Children under 18 are entitled to free entry to the Rijksmuseum but they must have a printed e-ticket with barcode to enter.
Free entry to the Rijksmuseum is possible with one of the following Amsterdam cards or benefits:
The Rijksmuseum is open 365 days a year. The museum is open during all public holidays including Christmas Day and New Year's Day.
Opening hours are 9.00am to 5.00pm every day.
Visitors without a ticket can also visit the Rijksmuseum Gardens, Shop and Cafe from 9.00am to 6.00pm every day.
The Rijksmuseum's address is as follows:
1071 XX Amsterdam
Telephone: +31 (0) 20 6747 000
There are many ways to get to the Rijksmuseum using public transport within Amsterdam.
Amsterdam runs on rails and most people get around the city using trams. The Rijksmuseum is accessible from two tram stops, "Rijksmuseum" and "Spiegelgracht"
Amsterdam has a decent bus network.
For the Rijksmuseum bus stop
Driving in Amsterdam is not usually recommended because the city is set up for cyclists and public transport users.
However, if you do drive there are a few parking spaces close to the Rijksmuseum. There is also a car park beneath Museumplein known as Q-Park.
The Rijksmuseum is made up of two large squares, each with its own atrium. The two buildings are connected by a central tunnel which is where you will find the museum entrances, one on the ground floor and one on the first.
The main building was at least partially closed for almost ten years between 1993 and 2013 when it underwent a huge $375 million renovation. As with any large museum, it's a good idea to download and familiarize yourself with the Rijksmuseum floor plan before your trip. Download the Rijksmuseum floor plan here.
The Rijksmuseum has four floors:
Always buy your ticket to the Rijksmuseum in advance.
Buy either a single ticket from the museum website or consider one of the many combination ticket/museums passes and city passes available. Print your ticket in case your phone battery dies or you cannot connect to data in Amsterdam.
All tickets to temporary exhibitions are timed-entry. Arrive at least fifteen minutes in advance of your slot to avoid missing it. The Rijksmuseum only allows a certain number of people into the museum at a time. Even with a time-slot ticket it is possible you will have to wait for others to leave before you can enter.
Tours cost $5 and can be added to your ticket when purchasing online and in person. The tour gives your priority access to the building and a knowledgeable guide who knows exactly how and when to get you in front of the masterpieces you want to see.
You can purchase Rijksmuseum tickets from travel agents, tour agencies or even your hotel concierge. These tickets are usually the same price as tickets purchased directly from the Rijksmuseum. If your purchase your tickets directly from the museum you have full control over the time you visit and can add any extras you're interested in, like a guided tour or multimedia guide.
The best way to save money on your visit to the Rijksmuseum is with a combination ticket or city card. Amsterdam attraction tickets come in all shapes and sizes. Decide what you want to see in Amsterdam first and see which ticket will save you the most money. The same approach applies to Amsterdam day trips. Match what you want to do with the appropriate day ticket, not the other way around.
There are four different tourist cards you can use in Amsterdam. The I Amsterdam Cardis particularly good if you intend to visit a number of museums and attractions. The card can be used for 24, 48, 72 or 96 hours and includes free public transport.
Finally, if you can't save money on your Rijksmuseum ticket, save money elsewhere! There are many free things to do in Amsterdam, you only have to look for them!
As the most visited art museum in the Netherlands, the Rijksmuseum is always busy.
Avoid visiting during school holidays, public holidays and weekends, if you can. As the museum is open 365 days per year, days when children are off school and adults are off work experience very high visitor numbers.
Do visit outside of peak periods. Visit Amsterdam during the winter months when there are fewer tourists overall. Do not go to the museum during peak midday hours between 11am and 3pm.
Either arrive as close to the 9am opening time as you can, or visit later in the day around 3pm. The last admission to the gallery is 4.30pm
If you buy your ticket online, you do not have to line up at the Rijksmuseum ticket office. You do however have to line up at the entrance. There are four entrances so if one is particularly busy, walk around the building to find a different way in. All entrances are from the Passage (an arcade running under the building) and take you to the Atrium. Two entrances have lifts and two have stairs.
You don't want to go the Rijksmuseum and miss out on seeing its major works. As soon as you arrive at the museum head to the first floor (floor 2) to view The Night Watch. Next visit the Gallery of Honor, usually the busiest gallery in the museum. Here you'll find the four famous Vermeer paintings and other Golden Age masterpieces. Once you've seen these, you can relax and take the rest of the museum at your own pace.
Compared to many other large national art museums, the Rijksmuseum's floor plan isn't too tricky to navigate. From the first floor Gallery of Honor you can access all floors and corners of the building. Galleries are numerical and laid out in order so you just need to follow the sequence of room numbers to find them.
The Rijksmuseum's guided tour is a convenient way to see the museum without needing to plan. It's also good value for money. English-speaking tours take place three times per day at a cost of $5 per person.
The Rijksmuseum's ground floor atrium is a public space. The atrium is home to the museum's ticket desks, a cloakroom (free but no lockers), a gift shop, toilets, a cafe and the museum's information desk. If you're travelling with children, make sure they know how to get here in case you lose them.
The Rijksmuseum has its own very impressive app. You can download this app for Android and IOS and we advise you do so before your visit.
There are a few ways of using the app.
You can explore the museum bit by bit by choosing a particular gallery of collection. For example, you can choose Gallery of Honor, 1100-1600 or 1700-1800. You will hear audio clips describing the work in the gallery and see animations and short clips from art experts.
Alternatively you can take a themed tour. Choose from the following 90 minute tours:
The tours are available in the following languages: Dutch, English, French, German, Spanish, Italian, Japanese, Russian and Mandarin Chinese.
You can borrow a museum headset from the Multimedia desk in the atrium but it's better to bring your own headphones.
Turn on Bluetooth and location settings to help the app work more efficiently.
Multimedia tours in International and Dutch sign language are currently being developed.
Here are a few final things you may not know about the Rijksmuseum
The Rijksmuseum shop is one of the most popular places in Amsterdam to buy gifts and souvenirs. Where else can you buy Playmobil figures from Rembrandt's Night Watch and a tote bag printed with Asselijn's The Threatened Swan?
Inside the Rijksmuseum shop you'll find accessories for your home, books, jewelry, prints and toys. The shop also stocks classic and contemporary Dutch design pieces you’ll struggle to find anywhere else. You don't need a ticket for the Rijksmuseum to access its shop and you can browse all shop stock and purchase online.
The Rijksmuseum is located in at Museumplein, or Museum Square, in Amsterdam's south. This is the heart of Amsterdam's cultural district and there are many other attractions nearby.
Amsterdam is a very connected city and it's easy to get from place to place using public transport. You can download an Amsterdam tourist map , hit the streets and find your way from there. However, navigating a foreign city can be challenging and you don't want to spend all your time standing on street corners trying to figure out Dutch street signs.
To take the stress out of your trip we recommend using one of Amsterdam's Hop on Hop Off bus services. That way you can stop off at as many or as few attractions as you like!
Amsterdam is famous for its canals and it's also well worth exploring the city from the water. The best Amsterdam boat tours are the hop on, hop off ones that usually include a tour guide.
Micropia is Amsterdam's museum of microbes. A totally unique concept, Micropia presents the science of the invisible world in a fun and interactive setting. Part of ARTIS, Micropia is located alongside Amsterdam's famous ARTIS zoo.
Van Gogh Museum
Many people combine their trip to the Rijksmuseum with a trip to the Van Gogh Museum. One of the most famous Dutch artists in history, van Gogh was a prolific painter whose signature style is instantly recognizable. The Van Gogh Museum has one of the most extensive collections of works by van Gogh and his contemporaries.
The third museum in Amsterdam's Museum Square trinity of art institutions is the Stedelijk Museum. Amsterdam's premier design and modern and contemporary art gallery, the Stedelijk features work by the likes of Andy Warhol, Marguerite Dumas and Gilbert & George.
Concertgebouw literally means "concert building"ť and is Amsterdam's most prestigious music venue. The Royal Concertgebouw is home to a world-renowned symphony orchestra.
For a reprieve from cultural activities, visit the Heineken Experience! Visitors can tour the old brewery where the famous lager was made until 1988 when it moved to a larger factory. Visits also include a tasting session!
The best shopping street in Amsterdam for those who like designer clothes, PC Hoofstraat is considered Amsterdam's Rodeo Drive. Located halfway between Museum Square and Vondelpark, PC Hoofstraat is home to HermĂ¨s, Chanel and Dolce & Gabbana.
Amsterdam comes alive after dark and there are many things to do in Amsterdam at night. Like most major European cities, businesses don't close as soon as the sun goes down. Shops stay open late and you can find places to eat, even in the early hours. Many museums and art galleries open after hours and transform into performance spaces. Live music dominates Amsterdam's night life and you don't have to go far to find a concert or gig worth your euro. There is also no shortage of bars and clubs in Amsterdam, especially around its famous red light district.
The Rijksmuseum houses some of the world's most significant artistic treasures. If you have all day, spend a few hours here but if you're on a tight schedule swing by the highlights. The Rijksmuseum has fully embraced modern technology and its interactive multimedia guide makes a visit to the Rijksmuseum fun for all ages.
Amsterdam is one of the world's greatest cultural cities so you will almost certainly visit multiple attractions. The best way to save money on your Rijksmuseum ticket is by purchasing a combination ticket or city card that comes with a big saving.
Buy your tickets ahead of time, download the floor plan and enjoy your visit!
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Duration: Approximately 3 hours (including 75 minute canal cruise)