One of Europe’s finest museums, the Rijksmuseum, can be found right in the heart of Amsterdam. Here’s how to plan your trip there, including information on opening hours, transport, tickets and tours to ensure your trip’s a great one.
Without the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam would still be a city known for its cultural and architectural heritage. The canals, flowers and stepped gables mean that every angle of the city centre has a postcard worthy view. Then there are the important museums dedicated to Anne Frank and Vincent Van Gogh, or Rembrandt’s old home, lovingly kept as it may have been when he lived. But still, the Rijksmuseum – aka the Dutch national museum – is the city’s finest sight. It’s a real must for anybody visiting Amsterdam with even a passing interest in art and culture.
The Rijksmuseum is located in a beautiful 19th-century building designed by Pierre Cuypers. The mix of Gothic features with its unmistakable French Renaissance style roof makes it look more like a palace than a museum, even though it was specially constructed for its current purpose. And yet this huge space is only able to showcase a fraction of the museum’s vast collection, which now numbers around one million artefacts.
Some of the finest pieces are curated into galleries exhibiting the best of Dutch creativity and craftsmanship across various categories, including painting, history and fine art from the last eight centuries. None is quite as important to world art as the Rijksmuseum’s collection of Golden Age paintings. Spanning roughly from the mid-16th to late-17th century, the period produced great luminaries such as Rembrandt, Vermeer, Jan Steen and de Hooch. You’ll also find paintings by more recent Dutch artists like Vincent Van Gogh along with works by international artists including Peter Paul Rubens, Goya and El Greco.
However, the Rijksmuseum isn’t dedicated entirely to paintings; there are excellent permanent collections of doll’s houses, furniture and model ships, some of which are big enough to almost set sail in, while others exhibit remarkable detail and artistry. The Cuypers Library is a wonderful multi-storey treasure trove of art history books with a spiral metal staircase and that unbeatable atmosphere of reverence that being in the presence of so much knowledge always seems to create.
Top paintings to see: Once inside the museum, look out for the marquee paintings that everybody must try to see when visiting the Rijksmuseum, which include Rembrandt’s The Night Watch, Vermeer’s The Milkmaid, and the Jan Asselijn painting The Threatened Swan.
Hours & Directions
At the time of writing, COVID is wreaking havoc on the normal day to day operation of the museum (as with everything else), but the Rijksmuseum is generally open daily from 9am–5pm, although last entry is at 3.45pm. It’s advisable to arrive even earlier than that if you wish to get the most from your visit. Many visitors tend to allow at least two or three hours to explore the various galleries.
Beautiful gardens and parklands surround the Rijksmuseum (Museumstraat 1, 1071 XX), so if the weather allows, a great way to cap off or begin a visit is with a picnic outside. There are various other museums located nearby, as well as the larger Vondelpark with its lakes and good cycling paths.
Public transport: Rijksmuseum has its own bus and tram stops of the same name. Trams 2, 5 and 12, and six different night and day buses connect the museum to elsewhere in the city. Crossing the canal on the north side of the museum, you’ll find another tram stop called Spiegelgracht, served by tram numbers 1, 7 and 19. The museum is about 30 minute’s-walk from the main Centraal train station, through Amsterdam’s historic core.
Tickets & Tours
Tickets: Entry prices are divided simply into two categories for adults and under-18s, the latter gaining access to the museum for free, while adults must pay around €21 each. Buying a ticket in advance is highly advisable, especially if you are planning to visit during the peak tourism seasons of April and during the summer or Christmas holidays. In the time of COVID, advanced booking is imperative to ensure that social distancing measures can be maintained.
On booking, you must select your preferred entry slot, although once inside you are free to remain until closing time if you so wish. If you wish to see the most popular artworks unimpeded by large tour groups, you’ll have more luck by taking the earliest entry slot at 9am. You can book your Rijksmuseum entry tickets directly with the museum’s website or through Getyourguide.com, here.
For visitors to Amsterdam looking to see multiple major sights in the city, it might be worth looking into The I Amsterdam City Card, which costs between €65 and €130 per person for a 24- to 120-hour card (prices accurate at the time of writing). This card allows you free admission to the city’s public transport system (trams, buses and metro), and to around 60 different museums, including the Rijksmuseum, a canal cruise, the Van Gogh and Rembrandt House museums, and the Hermitage Amsterdam. You may still need to reserve a time slot in advance with each individual museum, especially while COVID measures are in place. This is excellent value, particularly if you plan to see plenty of sights on your trip. You can buy your City Card at Getyourguide.com.
Tours: There are so many great tours of Amsterdam that either focus on the Rijksmuseum or incorporate it into their itinerary. One of the most popular options is the Rijksmuseum and Canal Cruise Combo Tour – €42 per person – which naturally combines two of the most popular Amsterdam experiences. You can take a one-hour canal cruise along the historic waterways of the city before or after skipping the line to gain entry to the Rijksmuseum. Both experiences must be undertaken on the same day for this tour. Book at Getyourguide.com.
The Rembrandt’s Art Private Walking Tour – €159 per person – is well worth consideration for lovers of Golden Age art. This customizable tour includes a city walk through the parts of the city that Rembrandt lived with his first wife, so that you can see some of the vistas and feel part of the atmosphere that may have worked on him. Then head into the Rijksmuseum to gain that extra layer of perspective, both from the walk you have taken, and from your guide, to really appreciate the genius of his work through his finest masterpieces. Please note that if your group numbers more than two people, the price per-person starts to drop significantly, making this tour even better value for money. Book at Getyourguide.com.