Tips for Amsterdam’s Rijksmuseum: Royalty, Rembrandt and Restoration
As I’m not completely culturally-ignorant I had heard a little of the Rijksmuseum before I accidentally found myself cycling through the passage that separates the joint atrium entrance during another classic episode of Katie-getting-lost-on-her-bike-in-Amsterdam.
There I was, trying to cycle home from work, when I saw the passage ahead of me and, letting curiosity get the better of me, peddled away in to the most regal underpass I’ve ever seen in my life. They sure don’t build them like this in England.
From the entrance (or exit depending on which way you’re cycling!) of the passage it looked like a dark opening to a forbidden part of Amsterdam that I immediately wanted to explore. As it turned out, once you enter the passage a long strip of lighting is there to illuminate the lost wanderer in their route towards the blinding lights at the end.
And boy was I shocked when I passed through the exit. Because I finally found one of the iAmsterdam signs!! Even if I did approach it from behind…
Yes I know it only took me a month to find it but I finally did! Of course there were crowds of visitors in front of the iconic sign so I made a mental note to return early the next day in order to get a photo of it tourist-free and also visit the museum, as it was after six pm and had closed for the day.
The next day I jumped up from bed at 7am, fresh and excited to explore the sign and the museum.
Who am I kidding? I pressed snooze and slept in until 8am, making it to the sign at 9am looking anything but fresh and as expected, couldn’t have got near the sign unless I could have spoken Spanish and mingled in with the school groups there. I’m short enough, but unfortunately my Spanish is limited to “Yo la conoci en un taxi“.
It still looked pretty though…
After drinking a coffee by the side of the lake, I slowly walked back to the passage to enter the museum. When I’d cycled past just before 9am the queues had been huge, but at little before 10am I got straight through with no queue at the ticket line inside either, which was a pleasant surprise!
It goes without saying that it is difficult to not appreciate the incredible interior of the entrance atrium, including the meticulously planned out chronological order of the 80 galleries within the 130 year old national gallery, home to around 8,000 items of art and culture.
After ten years and a rumoured €375 million were spent restoring the building originally designed by Pierre Cuypers, who is also the Dutch architect responsible for the design of the Amsterdam Centraal train station, the Rijksmuseum was opened by Queen Beatrix in April 2013.
And it seems the renovation was popular as the museum received 2.2 million visitors in 2013, despite being closed for the first four months of the year, making it the most visited museum in the Netherlands that year!
Ps to find out more about Pierre Cuypers it is possible to visit his house in Roermond, which is now the Cuypershuis museum.
The restoration was a huge step to bringing the museum up to date for the 21st century, yet the motto for the interior was to keep the decoration as close to Cuypers’ original as possible. The best example of this preservation in design is found in the grand hall (see photo above).
I’ve always been smitten with grand halls, imagining what it must have been like to waltz within one in a flowing gown before the days of bumping and grinding in clubs. Whilst this isn’t the grandest I’ve ever seen, the restoration has returned the colour to a royal shade of copper and gold that shimmers in the rays that sparkle through the stained-glass windows.
The library has also remained true to Cuypers’ original dream. Again, I’ve seen grander libraries, and some I believe have more inherent artistic character, but who can deny the old-school grace in the one below?
My favourite painting | The Singel Bridge by George Hendrik Breitner
There is no doubt that the artwork of honour (funnily enough situated in the Gallery of Honour) is Rembrandt’s The Night Watch which is featured in the image at the top of this article and is the only item in the museum that was returned to it’s original position after the restoration.
The realism present in the oil-painting production of the woman in fur approaching the viewer of this scene on The Singel Bridge gives the overwhelming impression that you need to get the hell out of her way. It was by far the most startling piece of art I saw during my visit.
But if you’re not a fan, that’s not to say there won’t be one item in this 8,000 piece collection to astound you.
Rembrandt looks pretty menacing I think… A photo posted by The Hostel Girl (@the_hostelgirl) on
Tips For Visiting the Rijksmuseum
- An adult ticket costs €17.50 (if you’re visiting the Late Rembrandt exhibition you will need to pay a €7.50 surcharge making the complete cost €25)
- Under-18s can visit for free
- If you’ve purchased and printed an e-ticket, you don’t have to queue again inside – just go straight to the ticket-checks in the Atrium
- The museum is open from 09:00 – 17:00 every day of the year (even Christmas day!)
- If you have limited mobility, the museum has wheelchairs available and lifts for each floor
- Visit the café either before or after your time in the museum, as the ticket only allows for one entry to the collection
- You may have to deposit large bags in the cloakroom. Despite carrying a small backpack, I got through fine without having to check it, but I have heard from others that this is rare
- As with most famous museums and sights, the weekend is peak time for long queues so if you can make sure to visit early in the morning and, even better, on a weekday
- I highly suggest you download the free museum guide app, as the multimedia tour costs €5 at entry. It is available in Dutch, English, French, Italian, Spanish, German, Japanese, Russian and Mandarin
The displays of art and cultural artefacts in this museum are beautiful in themselves, and overall a morning drinking coffee at Museumplein before strolling the halls of the Rijksmuseum is definitely a morning well spent.
Lots of love,