Story and photos by Jennifer Ashton
It was closed for 10 years, but judging by the reaction of the crowds when I recently visited Amsterdam’s Rijksmuseum, it was well worth the wait.
The much-beloved facility, opened in 1885, was closed for renovations from 2003 to April 13th this year when it was re-opened by Queen Beatrix.
The Rijksmuseum (pronounced rikes-museum) is the country’s state museum and while it stewards one million articles of art and history, there are a “mere” 8,000 currently on display. These include many works by Dutch masters such as Rembrandt, Hals and Vermeer, though there are works which span, as the museum says, “from Middle Ages to Mondrian”.
The works are now arranged by floor to showcase timelines, with the one level featuring pieces from 1100 to 1600, another floor from 1700 to 1900 and so on. Therefore it’s easy to dedicate your time to the era which is of greatest interest you.
We chose to visit the second floor (1600-1700), now home to many iconic Dutch paintings including Rembrandt’s large-scale and impressive Night Watch – widely touted as the main draw of the entire facility. (Think the Louvre and the Mona Lisa.) Its position at the end of the massive Gallery of Honour allows you to examine it closely and appreciate it from afar, admittedly above the heads of the crowds!
Speaking of examining closely, we were struck that these treasures aren’t roped off in any way, so you are able to get up close and personal with some of the world’s greatest art.
Also on the second floor are works by Dutch masters including Vermeeer (The Little Street and enchanting Milkmaid) as well as Avercamp, an artist I wasn’t familiar with but whose paintings of busy winter scenes reminded me of Breughel’s work. There is also a lot (a lot) of blue and white Delftware if you’re into four foot high flower vases and ceramic violins.
As well as paintings, the Rijksmuseum features objects ranging from dollhouses to ship models, fashion to furniture. The lower ground level features a spacious, contemporary café, gift shop (with classy items) and bookstore.
We spent two hours in pleasurable touring but were happy to leave in order to avoid art-overload. Serious art buffs could easily spend more time but it might be best to stagger your visit over two or more days.
If that still isn’t enough art for you…across the vast Museum Square is the also recently-reopened Van Gogh Museum featuring unforgettable works by that tormented but talented artist.
IF YOU GO:
Entrance to the Rijksmuseum is €15 per person (about $20), or free for visitors under 18.
I recommend buying tickets online to avoid long ticket-purchase lineups – though you may still have to queue to get into the museum. Try to visit first thing in the morning on a weekday to avoid crowds. Opening hours are 9 to 5 every day of the year, and the museum is easily accessible by the city’s impressive network of trams…or by bicycle if you are touring Amsterdam the authentically Dutch way! www.rijksmuseum.nl