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Rijksmuseum Travel Guide: What to Know When Visiting

Looking to visit Amsterdam? Make sure to include a stop at the Rijksmuseum, one of the top art museums in all of Europe, located at Museum Square in Amsterdam’s city center.

The Rijksmuseum is the Dutch national museum, housing an extensive collection of art and artifacts from the Middle Ages through the present day, focusing on masterpieces from Dutch history, such as The Night Watch by Rembrandt van Rijn, as well as various works by Vincent van Gogh and Johannes Vermeer, and other artists from the Dutch Golden Age.

Opened over 160 years ago, the Rijksmuseum has become one of Europe’s leading cultural institutions and one of the most visited Amsterdam museums. The museum features a vast collection of art by the world’s greatest painters, as well as other important cultural works that need to be witnessed in-person if presented the opportunity.

The Rijksmuseum truly is a national treasure and should be on everyone’s list when visiting the Dutch capital. To help you get started on your planning, we’ve compiled a list of everything you need to know before visiting the museum. Keep reading to find out our top tips in this Rijksmuseum travel guide.

What to Know When Visiting the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam

Why you should visit the Rijksmuseum

First and foremost, the Rijksmuseum is home to some of the most iconic Dutch and European art. You’ll find masterpieces like Rembrandt’s “Night Watch,” which is the museum’s most famous painting. You can also wander around collections of items from Dutch history, and take in world-famous sculptures. The museum also offers a range of activities and events to engage the public. You can attend lectures, workshops, special exhibitions, guided tours, and more. The Rijksmuseum has something for everyone with its diverse offerings.

The history of the museum

Rijksmuseum Canal Scenery

Construction of the museum began in 1876 and was completed in 1885. It was designed by the Dutch architect Pierre Cuypers to house a large collection of artifacts that were formerly kept in the National Art Gallery. Since then, it has become an icon of Amsterdam and a major tourist attraction, drawing more than 2 million tourists each year.

Navigating the inner works of the Rijksmuseum

Paintings in Rijksmuseum
Kyle Kroeger / ViaTravelers

The institution is home to an impressive array of art and artifacts, ranging from paintings by Dutch masters to Asian porcelain and decorative arts. There are hundreds of sculptures located throughout the museum, including works by renowned sculptors such as Auguste Rodin and Antoine-Louis Barye.

Cuypers Library Interior
Kyle Kroeger / ViaTravelers

Additionally, the museum contains an extensive library and various archives, making it an important center for research. The famous Cuypers Library is not just aesthetically pleasing, but also home to the largest collection of art history resources in the world. Visitors can admire the optical illusions of the large library, or even hit the books and study.

Gilded Armor Exhibit in  Rijksmuseum
Kyle Kroeger / ViaTravelers

The Philips Wing is another space dedicated to hosting temporary exhibitions. Many of the pieces here come from both the museum’s own collection, as well as on loan from high-profile artists worldwide.

There is also the Asian Pavilion, which houses a variety of pieces from China, Japan, Vietnam, and more across the continent. Pieces here range from 2,000 B.C. to 2,000 A.D.! The space is surrounded by water, making it a serene place to sit and admire art.

Gallery of Honour Interior
dbrnjhrj – stock.adobe.com

The Gallery of Honour, though, is perhaps the museum’s focal point. Visitors can walk through this hall of 17th century masterpieces, passing alcoves full of classic Dutch art. At the end of the hall, you’ll gravitate to the Night Watch Gallery, featuring the infamous painting of the same name.

Night Watch Painting by Rembrandt in Rijksmuseum
Kyle Kroeger / ViaTravelers

Rijksmuseum features countless legendary works, including The Night Watch and other masterpieces of the Golden Age. If you want to dodge the crowds while seeing and learning about the museum’s best pieces, you must know how to navigate the museum.

Keep in mind that the Rijksmuseum is still using one-way markers in tight hallways to direct traffic flow. You can get stuck in one corner of the Rijksmuseum and work your way back toward the entrance to see another exhibit.

The Night Watch Painting by Rembrandt
GiorgioMorara – stock.adobe.com

Always visit the Gallery of Honour first to prevent that from happening. The Night Watch is at the end of this gallery, and the area includes other popular attractions as well. The rest of the museum is usually much more relaxed, but some people only visit the Rijksmuseum to see The Night Watch! Visiting this piece first means that you see the busiest exhibit spaces and then have plenty of time to linger amongst the other artworks on display.

See Related: Travel Tips for Amsterdam (+ Top Do’s & Dont’s)

Can’t miss pieces and artists of the Rijksmuseum

Dutch Ship in Rijksmuseum
Kyle Kroeger / ViaTravelers

The Rijksmuseum is home to some of the world’s most famous works of art and artifacts. The museum houses a vast collection of masterpiece paintings from the Dutch Golden Age, including Rembrandt van Rijn’s most celebrated piece, The Night Watch. This infamous painting, along with many other masterpieces from the Golden Age of painting, can be found in the Gallery of Honour on the second floor.

Milkmaid Painting by Johann in Rijksmuseum
Kyle Kroeger / ViaTravelers

Other notable works in the Rijksmuseum collection include The Milkmaid by Johannes Vermeer, The Threatened Swan by Jan Asselijn, and Oopjen Coppit by Rembrandt. The Rijksmuseum contains countless other masterpieces by these artists and more, far too many to list.

Young Rembrandt Self-Portrait in Rijksmuseum
Kyle Kroeger / ViaTravelers

The most famous artist in the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam, is undoubtedly Rembrandt van Rijn, whose iconic painting The Night Watch is on permanent display. Other notable Dutch masters who are represented include Jan Steen, Frans Hals, Jan van Goyen, and Aelbert Cuyp.

Old Rembrandt Self-Portrait in Rijksmuseum
Kyle Kroeger / ViaTravelers

The institution also has a variety of modern works by artists such as Karel Appel, Piet Mondrian, and Willem de Kooning.

Other amenities of the museum

Not only is the museum home to some world-class art, but the institution offers some other amenities that will make a truly all-around great experience.

One of the best parts about visiting the Rijksmuseum is being able to take part of this historic museum home with you. Their gift shop features countless curiosities, art pieces, and wonders perfect for guests of all ages. You’ll be able to find decor, books, and toys for the kids that all fit into the theme of this museum. If you aren’t in the mood to shop after exploring, you can always order your gifts online after you get home. The shop offers free shipping for any order above 100 euros.

All of this art got you hungry? There are two dining options inside! The Cafe is the perfect place to stop in and grab a quick bite to eat. It’s located in the Atrium just above the museum’s gift shop.

In addition to coffee and pastries, the menu features several options for lunch, as well as a variety of light snacks like bread and cheese pairings, fruit, and soup. There’s also a kids’ menu with the Burger for the Little Visitor and pancakes.

For a more fine-dining experience, RIJKS is tucked away in the museum’s Philips Wing. This restaurant received a Michelin Star in 2016 and frequently ranks as one of the best dining spots in both the Netherlands and around the world.

Executive Chef Joris Bijdendijk has been with RIJKS since the fine-dining restaurant opened in 2014. His cooking style embraces Dutch ingredients while finding inspiration in global cuisines and food cultures.

In keeping with the spirit of a world-leading art museum, the restaurant routinely loans out its culinary talent and invites innovative chefs worldwide to show their skills in its kitchen. Make sure to book your table quickly, as RIJKS books up far in advance.

Park Near Rijksmuseum

Don’t let the historic nature of the Rijksmuseum fool you; this is the perfect place to bring the kids! The Rijksmuseum knows how tough it can be to take the whole family on a trip, so they made some changes to make things easier for everyone.

There is a free cloakroom and lockers onsite, so you can stash the non-essentials rather than haul them around a museum all day. There is also a breastfeeding room where parents can go to care for their children discreetly. All you need to do is reach out to a member of the Rijksmuseum staff, and they will escort you to a private family room.

See Related: Best Restaurants in Amsterdam, Netherlands

A virtual visit of the museum

Rijksmuseum Virtual Tour from Home

The Rijksmuseum has a virtual tour available on its website to explore the museum’s masterpieces. The digital collection on the official website is home to over 130,000 pieces of art. The Rijksmuseum actively encourages people to download images and play around with the artwork on the website.

The website also has a new feature that allows you to curate your own Rijksstudio using items from their digital gallery! The online collection at the Rijksmuseum features an impressive search feature that lets you sort and browse through their entire catalog—even pieces that are not on display! This search function is excellent for quickly finding everything you want to see at this museum before you head out!

Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam App

Before you visit the Rijksmuseum, you need to download the Rijksmuseum app! The Rijksmuseum app is available for both Android and iOS devices. The app lets you buy tickets and check museum info, but it also does much more!

The best feature of the Rijksmuseum app has to be the customized tours. Are you looking to see every seaside piece of art, or maybe you want a tour that shows you all the depictions of cats in the museum? With the Rijksmuseum app, you can create a custom tour showing you everything.

The Rijksmuseum app also features tours made by other museum-goers. The app will ask you a few quick questions and then generate a tour to follow based on your interests and others made by like-minded guests. The app works best with Wi-Fi enabled, so it’s a good thing that there’s free Wi-Fi throughout the building!

In addition, they kept kids in mind when they designed their app. You can find child-friendly tours around themes like Animals, Crazy Things, and the World! The Rijksmuseum is a treasure chest full of wonder for the whole family!

See Related: Best Travel Apps for Europe

Tour the museum with a helpful guide!

Rijksmuseum Small-Group Guided Tour
image by Viator

The Rijksmuseum offers private tours if you’re looking for a more intimate experience. These tours are led by qualified guides specializing in Dutch and international art. They will take you through the museum’s most famous works of art and give you an up-close look at some of the gallery’s hidden treasures.

Don’t want to wait in line? You can cut through the hassle and go on this skip-the-line tour at the Rijksmuseum that does more than let you bypass the long lines and even longer wait times.

This ticket comes with a semi-private tour that takes you through the museum’s most iconic works of art. This tour gives you behind-the-scenes information on the museum’s most precious works of art like The Night Watch.

The Rijksmuseum is always open to group visits and tours. From big family trips to business outings, your group can get a unique experience. You can even register as a tour guide at the gallery! This gives you access to special informational sessions, early announcements for upcoming exhibits, and other Rijksmuseum news.

For larger groups, such as school or other outings, you must register your trip in advance so the museum can accommodate your entire party.

See Related: Spots for the Best Views of Amsterdam

Travel and transportation to the museum

Rijksmuseum View from Amsterdam Canal
Kyle Kroeger / ViaTravelers

The Rijksmuseum is located in Amsterdam’s historic Museum Quarter, close to the Van Gogh Museum. The exact address is Museumstraat 1, 1071 XX Amsterdam, Netherlands. This neighborhood is located in the heart of the city and is easily accessible by car and public transportation. If you’re driving, you can find plenty of nearby parking, including the Q-Park Museumplein parking garage at Van Baerlestraat 33b.

Public transit offers the best way to get to the Rijksmuseum. You can take a bus or taxi, hop off a bus tour, or take either the Line 52 subway or Line 2 tram. The subway and tram each have a stop that’s a 10-minute walk from the Rijksmuseum.

But if you’re feeling adventurous, why not try to visit the Rijksmuseum by renting a bicycle? Amsterdam is known worldwide for being one of the most bicycle-friendly cities!

I amsterdam Sign in Rijksmuseum

The Rijksmuseum is open year-round, but the best time to visit depends on your personal interests. The museum is busiest during the summer months and national holidays, so if you’re looking for a more relaxed experience, it’s best to visit during the off-season.

Every museum has various times of day when they tend to be a bit busier, as well as slower hours that are more ideal for families and people looking to take it easy. The Rijksmuseum is at its most active between 11 am and 3 pm. Those looking to dodge the crowds can slip in before or after these times.

A Windmill on a Polder Waterway by Paul Joseph Constantin Gabriel in Rijksmuseum
Kyle Kroeger / ViaTravelers

Remember that the museum admits its final entries of the day at 4:30 pm. Please don’t be late, or they might not let you in! Early birds can enjoy the quietest time at the museum by arriving just before the doors open at 9 am to beat the crowds!

You could also purposely visit the museum between 11 am and 3 pm to experience the Rijksmuseum during its peak hours. This is an excellent way to people-watch and mingle with art fans!

See Related: Best Cities in the Netherlands to Visit

The best way to buy your ticket

Entrance Ticket Access in Rijksmuseum
image by GetYourGuide

To get into the museum, you’ll need a Rijksmuseum ticket. Though they can be purchased onsite, we recommend buying them in advance and booking online, as they can quickly sell out.

Tickets have timed entry only. This means you need to order online in advance and pick the day and time you want to visit. If you’re going to really beat the crowds, you need to get tickets for a skip-the-line tour.

For even more savings, museums worldwide offer memberships that provide access to discounted tickets and invites to members-only events. You can become a Friend of the Rijksmuseum to open up new ways to explore this museum. Friends of the Rijksmuseum also get access to secret events. Friends-only events are scheduled throughout the year, giving you behind-the-scenes access to all the secrets this Dutch national museum has to offer!jasper

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