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GoWithGuideFind your perfect tour guide at GoWithGuide. Relax and cherish unforgettable tours with loved ones. Create personalized tours for a truly memorable trip!

Your In-Depth Guide to the Rijksmuseum

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by GoWithGuide travel specialist:Ray M.

Last updated : May 13, 20247 min read

Travel Tips

The Rijksmuseum is a fascinating journey through 800 years of Dutch art history and showcases the country’s most iconic works from the likes of Rembrandt, Vermeer, and Van Gogh. The Rijksmuseum’s Gothic interiors house 8,000 artworks including many of the most iconic examples of the Dutch Golden Age. 

 

The variety is mind-boggling, which also comprises classical sculptures and the famed blue-and-white ceramics of Delft. There is much to learn and see exploring the many galleries. You’ll have the most rewarding, immersive experience with a customised private tour accompanied by an expert guide. Read on for our top recommendations and in-depth tips to make your Rijksmuseum experience an unforgettable one.

History

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The Rijksmuseum’s early origins date back over 220 years, far from its current Amsterdam location. It actually started life as the National Art Gallery in The Hague in 1800, exhibiting over 200 paintings and artefacts. The Gallery’s first ever purchase, The Swan by Jan Asselijn cost 100 guilders (around $10,000 USD adjusted for inflation) and still remains one of the Rijksmuseum’s top artworks.

 

Just a few years later the art collection relocated to the new capital of Amsterdam thanks to Louis Napoleon Bonaparte. This is when the art collection started taking shape, firstly at the Royal Palace on Dam Square, and then at Trippenhuis, a 17th century palace.

 

By the late Victorian era, grand national galleries showcasing a country’s art treasures were all the rage across Europe. The Netherlands too decided it needed a building worthy of displaying its growing collection, and so the Rijksmuseum was born in 1885.

 

The grand Gothic and renaissance building has been renovated and restored multiple times since the early 20th century, including a major renovation in 2003 which took almost a decade to fully complete.

Important info before you visit

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The Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam is deservedly the Netherlands’ top art museum and very popular with visitors. Around 8,000 art treasures are on display at any given time in a vast collection totalling nearly one million items. The Rijksmuseum is always popular year-round, and at its busiest around two hours either side of lunchtime. Admission costs €20 and is free for visitors 18 years and under. The Rijksmuseum is open daily from 9:00 am through 5:00 pm and its currently mandatory to book a start time slot (this may change again in future). Although you must commit to a specific time slot, once inside, you can stay as long as you wish. We suggest spending 2-3 hours for the full Rijksmuseum experience.

 

A valuable tip for those arriving early is to head straight to the second floor to see the Night Watch Gallery. It houses the museum’s main attraction - the ‘Night Watch’ by Rembrandt. The adjacent Gallery of Honour displays works by the great artists of the Dutch Golden Age, including four Vermeer masterpieces. This section is by far the most popular, so save time and increase the viewing enjoyment by getting there early before the crowds arrive.

 

The Rijksmuseum is a tech-savvy venue with a powerful mobile app allowing you to virtually tour the museum ahead of your visit. You can search and select artworks you’d like to view on your visit and the app will automatically map out the best route for you to take. There is also a range of fixed route multimedia tours available via the app. Better still, book one of our private guides for a fully personalised tour experience.

Must-see attractions

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The Night Watch

This is Rembrandt’s largest and most famous painting, and the undisputed main attraction at the Rijksmuseum. In fact the Night Watch Gallery was specially designed to showcase the famous painting which depicts the civic guard led by Captain Frans Banninck Cocq. The painting is notable for its sheer size, measuring 12 by 14 feet (3.6 by 4.2 meters). It has also gone down in history for the dramatic way light and shadow is portrayed. It marked a turning point in Rembrandt’s career and was completed at the height of the Dutch Golden Age. The masterpiece recently underwent a unique restoration project using artificial intelligence to restore it to its full size for the first time in 300 years.

Asian Pavilion

While the grand paintings of the Dutch Masters receive most of the acclaim, the very extensive Asian collections showcase much more diversity and 4,000 years of art history. Housed in a modern stand-alone pavilion, a rich collection of Asian art comprises treasures from China, Japan, Indonesia, India, Vietnam, and Thailand. There are ancient temple guardian sculptures, a 9th century silver statuette of Shiva, lacquer art, elegant ceramics and elaborate Japanese and Chinese textiles. Many pieces are steeped in centuries-old myth and legend.

 

As it is set away from the main museum building, the Asian Pavilion tends to attract less people and thus offering a more relaxed viewing experience.

Sculpture gardens

After shuffling through the Rijksmuseum’s busy indoor spaces, take advantage of the sunshine to explore the surrounding ornamental gardens. This is a veritable outdoor gallery with classical sculptures dotted among the colorful flowerbeds and ponds. Look out for surprises as there are Romanesque statues hidden among the hedgerows, as well as remnants of old buildings and historic archways.

 

This being the Netherlands, the flower gardens are themselves works of art, with around 7,000 plants and flowers. Every summer the gardens host sculpture exhibitions which have included iconic artists such as Joan Miro and Henry Moore. The gardens are free to enter and can be accessed even without entering the Rijksmuseum.

Conclusion

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The Rijksmuseum should be on every art lover’s bucketlist. It offers a fascinating look at centuries of evolving art styles, architecture, politics, and Dutch culture. For an informed and absorbing introduction to the Dutch people and their creative heritage, there's no better place in Amsterdam to start.

 

There is a wealth of captivating stories to hear while viewing the artworks that really bring each exhibit to life. This is why we recommend visiting alongside a knowledgeable local guide to provide an immersive time-saving private tour.

Rotterdam Tour Guide - Alex R.

Alex R.

5.00 / 5
(1 reviews)
Netherlands

As the tour guide I work already 25 years. Within last 15 years I am specialized for the groups and /or individual visits and guides within states of Benelux (The Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg ) . My clients are mostly for interested for daily city tours in bigger cities like Amsterdam, Brussels, Luxembourg (city) but not only - "smaller cities" such as Rotterdam, Delft, Volendam, Zaanse Schaans, Den Hague, Waterloo, Ghent, Bruges, Antwerp, natural tourist attractions, architectural attractions, historical places and religious heritage anywhere else within the area could be organized and guided depending on your wishes.                                                                                                                                 

Amsterdam Tour Guide - Andrea K.

Andrea K.

5.00 / 5
(1 reviews)
Netherlands

Get ready for a wild ride through the streets of Amsterdam with our amazing team! We all felt in love with Amsterdam, its charm, beautiful architecture and history. We are happy to show you the city in not typical, more alternative, fun, politically incorrect way. You can expect lots of colorful language, humor that may push the envelope, and, yes, a healthy dose of history thrown in for good measure. So, if you're ready to break away from the norm and experience Amsterdam like never before, then this is the tour for you! No holds barred, no snowflakes allowed!                                                                                                                                 

Flevoland Tour Guide - Lampros  S.

Lampros S.

Netherlands

Hello to everyone!! My name is Lampros I will be very glad to meet you and show you around the most beautiful city in the world!! With my rickshaw(pedicab), i can show the city of Amsterdam with a unique way!! Βy choosing a pedicab, you ensure a comfortable, safe, fun and fast way to see the city of Amsterdam. I have more than 10 years of experience in the field of pedicab city tour, I I cooperate with many luxury hotels, which trust me to guide their very selective customers. So sit on the comfortable couch of my pedicab and enjoy your ride in the magical city of Amsterdam!!                                                                                                                                 

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