Rijksmuseum: Amsterdam’s Museum of the Netherlands

The Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam’s museum of the Netherlands, is one of the most popular museums in the city. I should know, I went on a weekend in the summertime, a peak period for tourists. Thankfully, we went early enough that we didn’t have to stand in the two-hour long line that had queued up outside by the time we left. My recommendation – get there before 11am, the earlier the better!

Rijksmuseum: Amsterdam's Museum Of The Netherlands

The Rijksmuseum

Until earlier this year, the Rijksmuseum had been closed for renovations for a decade, so its reopening in April is likely one explanation for the massive crowds clamoring to get in. The other reason is due to what you’ll find inside. Enormous collections of some of the most well-known pieces of Dutch art are housed within the walls of the Rijksmuseum. But a large and diverse collection of Dutch art isn’t the only thing you’ll find inside the Rijksmuseum, as we would find out on the day we visited!

Upon entering the museum, visitors are required to check backpacks and oversized bags in the lobby. Cameras are allowed, however. (I’m always disappointed when they aren’t!) When we asked the ticket handler how much time it would take to see everything inside the museum, she told us it would take seven days. I was a little incredulous until we started looking through the free pamphlet the museum hands out to visitors. The museum is made up of four floors containing art from the 1100’s to present. That is a LOT of art.

Before we set off into the Rijksmuseum, we did what I recommend everyone do, and we sat in the lobby for about ten minutes looking through the pamphlet, deciding what in the museum was most important for us to see. With only two hours to spend inside, it was extremely helpful for us to make a game plan ahead of time, so that when we left the museum, we didn’t leave feeling like we’d missed out on something!

Rijksmuseum: Amsterdam's Museum Of The Netherlands

Rijksmuseum: Amsterdam's Museum Of The Netherlands

Great Hall + Famous Paintings

We started in the most famous section of the museum, home to works by Rembrandt, Vermeer, and countless other recognizable names. These paintings are located on the second floor, accessed by stairs leading to the Great Hall (voorhal). This was, by far, the busiest area of the museum. The main attraction here is one of Rembrandt’s most famous works, the Night Watch, and you’ll find it showcased inside a beautiful, grandiose room. If you can work your way inside, that is.

I have never been one to stand in front of the same painting for half an hour or more, but in this part of the museum you’ll find a lot of people who do. This makes for quite a backlog of people waiting patiently, and sometimes impatiently, to get a decent look at the most famous pieces. (Just another reason to arrive early!) We waited our turn to see the Night Watch and Vermeer’s Milkmaid and then made quick work of the rest of the art galleries on this floor. With unlimited time, it would have been nice to give each piece its due, but after awhile it all starts running together anyway. (If there is a god of art, s/he’s likely cursing me for saying that!)

Rijksmuseum: Amsterdam's Museum Of The Netherlands

The Library

Also located on the second floor is the library (bibliotheek), recently renovated into a 19th century style reading room and lined floor to ceiling with books and research materials. The reading room is multiple stories high with a winding staircase that is to die for. It’s a bookworm’s dream room for sure!

Rijksmuseum: Amsterdam's Museum Of The Netherlands

Sculpture Gallery

One of my favorite parts of the museum, again on the second floor, was the sculpture gallery, or in Dutch – the beeldengalery. The sculpture pictured here is titled Frenzy by Artus Quellinus. This statue of a woman pulling out her hair in a fit of madness stood in the garden of Dolhuys, an institution for the mentally ill. (Probably not the most sensitive sculpture they could have displayed there. Yikes!)

Rijksmuseum: Amsterdam's Museum Of The Netherlands

Modern Art

After completing our round of the second floor, we went up to the top level, the third floor. (In Europe, floor levels start at 0, or ground floor, instead of 1. I still can’t get used to that.) All of the art on the third floor is from the early 1900’s to present. There is much to see here from paintings to large scale replicas of airplanes, but the piece I enjoyed the most was this collection of facial masks of Nias islanders. They were taken in the early part of the 20th century by anthropologists studying physical features of human races, and they came to embody the ethnic diversity among groups of people. While I might not be able to grasp a full appreciation for all pieces of art, there are others, like this one, that just floor me.

Rijksmuseum: Amsterdam's Museum Of The Netherlands

Rijksmuseum: Amsterdam's Museum Of The Netherlands

Special Collections

Heading back down to the lower floors, we found ourselves in the special collections gallery on the ground floor. You’ll find anything and everything in these galleries, from ship models to jewelry and clothing to all sorts of Dutch art. I could easily have spent more time in this area than we had to spend. It was so fascinating to see the many different types of things that were on display. That was one thing I loved about the Rijksmuseum. Even if you don’t care for paintings, there is something here that will interest you.

Rijksmuseum: Amsterdam's Museum Of The Netherlands Rijksmuseum: Amsterdam's Museum Of The Netherlands

Asian Pavilion

Also on the ground floor is the newly added Asian pavilion where I got a little taste of my past looking over their collection of sculptures and cultural elements from China, India, Japan, and various other Asian countries. One of my favorites was the bronze sculpture above of Shiva in his manifestation as Nataraja, the King of Dancers.

Rijksmuseum: Amsterdam's Museum Of The Netherlands

I have a hard time imagining spending seven days touring this place, but I can certainly see why many people recommend you allot an entire day to exploring the Rijksmuseum. With over 8,000 items on display and a newly renovated interior, if I were to recommend just one museum to visit in Amsterdam, this one would be it. (If you’ve got time for two, the Van Gogh Museum is also great!) Admission for adults is a bit pricey at €15, but children under 19 are allowed in for free.

Rijksmuseum: Website
Address: Museumstraat 1, 1071 XX Amsterdam

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Rijksmuseum: Amsterdam's Museum Of The Netherlands

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  • Martin Marinaro
    September 27, 2017 at 3:34 PM

    Anyone know the name of the bronze statue of a woman outside the entrance to the Riiktsmuseum, and who did this sculpture work.


    • Sarah Shumate
      September 28, 2017 at 3:51 AM

      Is it the Reclining Woman by Henry Moore? Google it and see if that is the correct one. I think there are a couple bronze statues of women outside the Rijksmuseum.

  • Diana Bockus
    September 14, 2013 at 7:12 AM

    All of the history is absolutely amazing. The hair pulling sculpture did make me laugh a little. The face masks however, creep me out, haha! Amazing place!

  • Corina Nika
    September 13, 2013 at 8:55 PM

    Oh i LOVE going to museums!! And look at that library! Something i would die to have in my house! hah

    thank you so much for sharing this lovely post, opens a bright new world. Such a lovely blog as well

  • Sara Louise
    September 13, 2013 at 7:06 PM

    I think I would have spent all of my time in the tea room and library! It all looks so amazing :)

  • rorybore
    September 13, 2013 at 3:56 PM

    Ohhh….I wanna get in that library. that is amazing!!
    I’ve just realized I am not making use of my local culture. I really gotta get out more.

  • Sarah
    September 13, 2013 at 12:56 PM

    That library looks so inviting! I’m loving all your adventures! When you come back to the states at some point, you’ll have to make your way up to the PNW. It can be quite similar to London weather (mostly in terms of the rain). I lived in England for 6 months in college and LOVED it. Can’t wait to go back!

  • Janette Johanson
    September 13, 2013 at 6:52 AM

    Some of those images remind me of Italy. Do you have that on your list of things to do and places to see? Those books— so overwhelming but so amazing to see that much history stacked up like that– in such an artful way!! Beautiful!

  • Katrin
    September 12, 2013 at 10:32 PM

    Thanks so much for sharing this! I would love to see the museum! It was closed the last time I was in Amsterdam! I went to the van Gogh museum instead which was also fantastic. But next time I will travel to Amsterdam I will definitely go to the Rijksmuseum!

  • Jo
    September 12, 2013 at 8:56 PM

    We loved the Rijksmuseum!

  • Jamie Sefcik
    September 12, 2013 at 4:15 PM

    This looks like so much fun! There is so much charm there, it’s amazing! I’m so glad you guys are taking advantage of living out there and seeing so much, I’m super jealous!!

  • Nicole
    September 12, 2013 at 9:22 AM

    That last picture is gorgeous! And I am drooling over that library…how amazing would it be to have that in your own home? It kind of reminds me of Beauty and the Beast with the big cartoon library in the movie :)

  • emi
    September 12, 2013 at 7:36 AM

    love these pictures! i remember visiting this place and adoring it. the van gogh museum is amazing as well! xo

  • Daisy
    September 12, 2013 at 7:27 AM

    Seven days!! Oh my gosh I knew this place was big, just not that big! The art inside is just amazing, definitely a place I would love to visit. The poor woman pulling out her hair reminded me of myself this morning when the kids were taking their time getting ready for school when we were already running late!

  • Emmymom
    September 12, 2013 at 7:24 AM

    Seven days! Yea that is insane! The museum is beautiful, always so fun to see the real paintings that you always heard about growing up.

    The crazy lady statue, well everyone would know what the building was that way ;)

  • Lauren Elliott
    September 12, 2013 at 7:22 AM

    LOVE that I found your blog! Thanks for commenting on mine. Can’t wait to read up on all your travels :) Great pictures- that library! Gorgeous.

  • Keith Wynn
    September 12, 2013 at 5:20 AM

    P.S. I’m now following!

  • Keith Wynn
    September 12, 2013 at 5:18 AM

    Oh my goodness this looks like an amazing experience. I love the exterior. I am adding this to my bucket list :)

  • Julie Stimpson
    September 12, 2013 at 3:04 AM

    Hi Sarah! Thanks so much for stopping by my humble blog :) Your blog is fabulous! WOW I think it is my new favourite morning read! That library is breathtaking! I’m a bookworm through and through so this is now on my bucket list! Thanks for writing such a beautiful post!

  • Erin P
    September 12, 2013 at 1:27 AM

    Such cool experiences you’ve been having! I’ll admit, a museum would usually be last on my list of places to visit (while on vacation), but that would be a neat place to go!

  • Kerry
    September 12, 2013 at 1:03 AM

    Wow the exterior is beautiful! What a fascinating place, gosh you are going to be so very cultured and experienced and worldly by the time you leave London!! Hahaha I smiled at your sentence of how everything starts to all run together anyway, ahh very true lol It takes a very keen observing eye to really appreciate some art…I can’t help but wonder whether the sculpture titled ‘Frenzy’ was in fact of a woman with three kids, two dogs, two guinea pigs, one fish and a husband whose job takes him on more business trips than she cares for?

  • stephanie
    September 12, 2013 at 12:30 AM

    That library! That is the kind of place where my heart starts to beat fast. If I ever make my way that way that would definitely be a stop on my list!

  • Jen Mc
    September 11, 2013 at 11:49 PM

    Wow! Just….wow!
    I could just stand in the library for hours.
    I’m happy you got to visit.