The Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam is the grand daddy of the city’s impressive museum scene. Actually, Rijksmuseum just means State Museum, and there are eleven of them throughout the Netherlands. But for all intents and purposes, when you hear anyone refer to a Rijksmuseum, they are speaking of the gigantic Amsterdam one.
Opened in 1885 and built specifically for the purpose of displaying the countries greatest art and treasures, the Rijksmuseum is probably the best stop for any visitor with the time or patience to visit only one major museum while in town. It’s much larger than the nearby Van Gogh Museum and houses far, far more as well, even though they cost the same for admission. This is basically the Netherlands version of the Louvre.
Under renovation until 2010
The impressive building is at the northern edge of Museum Square, which is the direction most visitors will arrive from. There is a large renovation project going on until 2010, but most of the best-known works will still be on display, although temporarily in a new wing. During construction they’ve assembled a special collection called the Masterpieces, and all the most important works from the 17th Century masters are part of this collection.
The most famous painting in the Rijksmuseum is Rembrandt’s The Night Watch. It’s one of the famous Dutch Master paintings – like on the cigar boxes, but there are plenty more. Vermeer’s The Milkmaid is also part of the permanent collection. Even if you don’t recognize these names, you’ll recognize the paintings. And even if you don’t recognize the paintings you’ll tell people that you did because that’s what people do in museums.
Tips for visitors
The lines can be long, especially during summer. Coming when the museum opens at 9 a.m. is a good way to avoid the longer lines, as is turning up near the end of the day. The museum closes at 6 p.m., except on Fridays when it stays open until 10 p.m. Allow at least two hours to do justice to the collection, but just between you and me you can see plenty in an hour or so.
Price information and buying tickets online
Admission is €10 and while there are no student discounts, people 18 and under get in free. To avoid the long lines to purchase tickets you can buy tickets online from the Rijksmuseum website. Guided tours are available, as well as special children’s programs. Audio tours are available for €4 in many languages, and are an excellent way to discover the subtle nuances of the masterpieces at your own pace. If you are not a hardcore art buff but are interested in digging deeper these headset rental tours are well worth the money.