The Rijksmuseum is the national history museum of The Netherlands. The museum at Amsterdam’s Museum Square holds a large collection of Dutch masterpieces from the 17th Century. Be amazed by the paintings of Dutch masters Rembrandt van Rijn, Johannes Vermeer and Frans Hals. Here are five good reasons why you should see the Rijksmuseum when you are in Holland.
1. The building of the Amsterdam Rijksmuseum
The Amsterdam Rijksmuseum was built as a museum by the city of Amsterdam. It was built in 1885. The architect was Pierre Cuypers. He was a Catholic man who created many churches all over The Netherlands. Cuypers also created the Amsterdam Central Station, you might find they look very similar.
The Rijksmuseum building, outside and inside, is decorated with tile pictures, stained-glass windows, sculptures, mosaic floors and wall paintings. Many of the images depict scenes of important events from Dutch history.
When Rijksmuseum was opened, many people were not happy with the result. The protestant elite complained that looked like a Catholic church. King of Holland, William III, famously said: ‘I will not set foot in that monastery!’. He refused to lay the first brick and to perform the opening.
2. Dutch Masterpieces in the Gallery of Honour
The Gallery of Honour is one of the highlights of the Amsterdam Rijksmuseum. The gallery is a long corridor. Left and right are alcoves with the Dutch masterpieces of the Golden Age (the 17th century).
3. The Night Watch by Rembrandt
The Gallery of Honour leads to the most important painting of The Netherlands: the Night Watch by Rembrandt. The painting portrays a captain (Frans Bannink, dressed in black with a red sash) and lieutenant (Willem van Ruytenburch, dressed in yellow with white sash) and their 16-men strong militia. This type of militia was composed of civil men. It was an honour to be part of this ‘police’. They protected the village or city in case of fire, crime or uproar.
The painting on the Night Watch is famous for its size, the dramatic use of light and shadow and the perception of motion in what would have traditionally been a static military group portrait.
TIP: The Rijksmuseum is very popular. Avoid standing in line and buy a ticket online.
If you want to visit Amsterdam City passes give you entrance to one or more museums in Amsterdam, a canal trip and a transport pass. These passes can make your trip easier while you and save a few euros. We compared all of the Amsterdam city passes for you and listed a few combination deals.
4. Cuypers’ Library
There is also a library at the Rijksmuseum. It’s an impressive design with the neo-gothic and neo-renaissance style. This is the style that the architect, Pierre Cuypers, the architect, loved so much.
Visitors, students and art historians may use the library to delve deeper into the Rijksmuseum collection. iPads are available for general use and there is free WiFi access both in the library and throughout the museum.
5. The Asian Pavilion
At the Asian Pavilion, you will learn more about the 800-year long history of Amsterdam and Holland. On display are all kinds of objects from the maritime days: sculptures, archaeological finds, costumes, weapons, Delftware and treasures. Many were brought back by sailors and traders from Asian lands.
Sailors from the Dutch VOC, the Dutch East India Company brought many objects back from far Eastern lands: China, Japan, Formosa and the Indonesian islands.
The goal of the Dutch VOC was to create a monopoly on the spice trade in the entire area east of India. And so it did. By waging wars, negotiating treaties, striking their own coins and establishing entire colonies and governing them, the VOC company was the most powerful trading entity for the next 200 years.
The exotic goods the sailors found in countries such as were shipped back home to Amsterdam: Chinese porcelain, precious Japanese lacquer and silk, strange spices, exotic animals, furniture made with black ebony and clothes of Indian cotton. From the example of Chinese porcelain, the Dutch created the famous blue-white porcelain we now know by the name ‘Delftware’, which is also in the great collection of the Amsterdam Rijksmuseum.
How to avoid lines at Amsterdam Rijksmuseum
The Rijksmuseum is one of Amsterdam’s busiest museums. Even if you have skip-the-line tickets, it can be annoying when there are many people looking at the same painting. April, May and August are the busiest months. Friday, Saturday and Sunday are the most popular days for the Amsterdam Rijksmuseum. Waiting times are at least 30 minutes. If you want to visit the museum in the calmest moment, arrive at the museum before the Rijksmuseum opens (before 9.00) and be the first to get in. Or visit the Rijksmuseum at the end of the afternoon (from 15.00 hours – 3 pm).
The Rijksmuseum also has temporary exhibitions. Check out what’s on this year in the Amsterdam exhibitions calendar.