Rijksmuseum is one of the most famous museums in the world. And the one you definitely shouldn’t miss while in Amsterdam. Covering more than 800 years of Dutch art and history, it’s home to around one million objects. That’s why it could be a bit hard to plan your visit to it and decide on what to see at the Rijksmuseum. To make your choice easier and help you plan a great visit to the Rijksmuseum, here are some of the Rijksmuseum highlights you shouldn’t miss.
What to see at the Rijksmuseum
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I used to work as a private museum guide at the Rijksmuseum for three years. So, I learned my way around it quite well. And some of the tips and tricks to make a visit to it much more enjoyable. However, let me tell you what to see at the Rijksmuseum first.
⤷ Read more: 10 Things you didn’t know about the Rijksmuseum
Watch my video about the Rijksmuseum here:
With so many galleries and objects on display, it would take a few days, if not even weeks, to see the whole museum. However, here are some of the Rijksmuseum highlights that will help you choose what to see at the Rijksmuseum.
I would always suggest you to start with the Gallery of Honour and explore some of the exhibits on the second floor first. You can have a short break at the Rijksmuseum cafe then. And explore some of its special collections after that.
⤷ Read more: Rijksmuseum with kids
What to see on the second floor of the Rijksmuseum
1 – The Great Hall
This is probably one of the most beautiful galleries and something you shouldn’t miss in the Rijksmuseum. Its walls are decorated with large wall paintings celebrating Dutch history and art. One of them is covered with large stained glass windows with depictions of famous, mostly Dutch artists.
From there you can enter the Gallery of Honour where a collection of the most famous Dutch Golden Age paintings are, including the work of Rembrandt and Vermeer.
2 – Still Lifes
Dutch 17th-century still lifes are great paintings to learn more about everyday life in Amsterdam during the Golden Ages. You’ll see some very typical Dutch food on them, like cheese or a pie. But, you’ll also notice some very luxurious food like oysters. With many hidden symbols and details, they are some of the most interesting paintings at the Rijksmuseum.
⤷ Read more: Still Lifes at the Rijksmuseum
Watch my 3 minutes Art History video about one of the still lifes from the Rijksmuseum:
3 – Vermeer’s paintings
Johannes Vermeer is one of the most famous Dutch painters, and you can see some of his most famous paintings displayed at the Rijksmuseum. ‘The Milkmaid‘ is a beautiful example of the way he showed the light on his paintings. But the ‘Woman in Blue Reading a Letter‘ will show you how even more than with a light, he was interested in painting a shadow.
⤷ Read more: Johannes Vermeer’s paintings at the Rijksmuseum
4 – Jan Steen’s paintings
Dutch painter with probably the best sense of humour is, without a doubt, Jan Steen. ‘The Merry Family‘ is where you can see some misbehaved children smoking and drinking. But, ‘The Feast of Saint Nicholas‘ will show you a long tradition of celebrating that, still the most popular holiday in the Netherlands. My favourite detail on it is definitely a Dutch stroopwafel from the 17th century.
5 – The Threatened Swan
A famous painting created by Jan Asselijn is one of the most captivating paintings in the Rijksmuseum. A large painting of swan threatened by a dog is filled with hidden political symbolism.
⤷ Read more: Dutch Golden Age heritage sites in the Netherlands
6 – Rembrandt’s paintings
Rijksmuseum is also home to some very famous paintings created by Rembrandt van Rijn. Large wedding portraits of Maerten Soolmans and Oopjen Coppit, ‘The Syndics‘ and ‘The Jewish Bride‘ are just some you shouldn’t miss.
⤷ Read more: Art History Lesson – Rembrandt van Rijn
7 – The Night Watch
The most famous painting at the Rijksmuseum is definitely Rembrandt’s ‘Night Watch’. His masterpiece on which a famous painter worked for three years is filled with portraits of famous Amsterdammers, symbolism, and previously unseen way of using the light.
⤷ TIP: When in front of the ‘Night Watch’ look at the floor below the painting. You may be surprised to see a little door in it. It’s the only painting in the world with a private emergency fire exit.
8 – Rijksmuseum Library
‘Night Watch’ is the last painting you’ll see at the Gallery of Honour. After it, turn to the right and continue walking to the end of the long gallery. You’ll find there another exciting place – the largest art history library in the Netherlands. Its beautiful interior looks like it was taken from some of the Tolkien’s novels. It’s open to the public, and often people are reading in it, so be quiet while in there.
⤷ Read more: Literary Guide to Amsterdam
9 – The Dolls’ Houses
Once out of the Library, continue walking through the galleries filled with paintings and furniture from the Dutch Golden Ages. Until you’ll come to the room dedicated to some of the most interesting furniture pieces from the 17th century – the dolls’ houses.
They were decorating living rooms in many canal houses you’ll see along the Amsterdam canals. Beautifully made, they are a lovely way to see a typical layout of some of those canal houses, too.
10 – Delft Blue
In the next gallery, some of the most famous Dutch products from the 17th century could be seen – the Delft Blue. Inspired by China, Dutch soon started their own production of creating porcelain. Coloured in white and blue, you’ll see all the different kind of objects there. However, the most interesting are probably flower pyramids.
⤷ TIP: If you’re wondering how they looked like with flowers in them, pay a visit to the Rijksmuseum cafe at the ground floor where one of those large flower pyramids is decorating the main table.
Other collections at the Rijksmuseum
If you still have some energy left after seeing those ten Rijksmuseum highlights at the second floor, you can explore some of its other collections.
Special collections on the ground floor
You’ll definitely find many interesting exhibits in some of the Rijksmuseum special collections on the ground floor. From the wooden ship models, musical instruments, jewellery, Delft blue or glass, you could spend hours in that part of the museum.
Dutch 19th-century art on the first floor
Another part of the Rijksmuseum that shouldn’t be missed is a collection of the 19th-century art. Work of Dutch Impressionists, the Hague School and a small selection of Van Gogh’s paintings are located there.
⤷ Read more: Art History Lesson – Vincent van Gogh
Rijksmuseum is often organising some fantastic temporary exhibitions. From one of the most significant shows about Rembrandt ever held to some exciting collaborations with some of the best museums from around the world, you’ll always find something interesting going on. Check out the museum website for the updated info about the temporary exhibitions.
⤷ Read more: The best museums in Amsterdam
Tips for visiting the Rijksmuseum
When to visit the Rijksmuseum?
Rijksmuseum is getting more than a million visitors each year. So you can imagine it could be quite busy at it. Especially during April, when tulips are in full bloom and attracting many visitors to Amsterdam. But, it’s also busier than usual during the summer months (June – September) and during the Christmas holidays in Amsterdam.
If you’re going to visit during those busy months, come to the museum at 9 AM when it’s opening. Visit first some of its most popular areas, like the Gallery of Honour. It’s rather quiet in a museum during that first hour, so it’s perfect for enjoying in some of the Rembrandt’s or Vermeer’s paintings during that time.
How to get to the Rijksmuseum?
Rijksmuseum is easily reachable by public transport from anywhere in Amsterdam. The closest tram station is Rijksmuseum where trams number 2, 5 and 12 are stopping. Many city busses are staying at that tram station as well.
Just behind the museum another tram stop, Spiegelgracht is located. This is where you’ll find trams number 1, 7 and 19 operating.
If you’re coming from Amsterdam Central Station, you can take a tram number 2 or 12. Or take a metro line number 52 in the direction of South (Zuid in Dutch). You’ll only need to ride for two stops, and exit at a metro stop Vijzelgracht. From there it will take you a short 5 – 10 minutes walk to the Rijksmuseum.
⤷ TIP: A great free app you should use for public transport in Amsterdam in 9292. You can just enter your location and where you’d like to go, and you’ll get the best public transport options for getting there.
⤷ Read more: Museum Quarter in Amsterdam
How to buy the entrance ticket to the Rijksmuseum?
To avoid waiting in a queue at a museum, I strongly advise you to buy your Rijksmuseum ticket online (you can do that on this link here). The ticket will be valid for the whole day. So, you can get to the museum in the morning, leave it for lunch and come back in the afternoon to continue your visit.
Taking a tour at the Rijksmuseum
As a former tour guide at the Rijksmuseum, I always advise my friends to take a tour at the Rijksmuseum. It just makes such a huge difference when you have someone explaining you all the details and hidden symbolism on those fantastic paintings at the Rijksmuseum. Here is the link to a small group (up to eight people) tour around the Rijksmuseum I recommend.
Where to leave your backpack and a coat when in the Rijksmuseum?
There is a garderobe on the ground floor of the Rijksmuseum. Although you can leave your coat there, I wouldn’t advise you to do that. The reason is simple – you could spend quite some time waiting in a queue to do that. Instead, get to the lockers and leave it there. You’ll need a 50 cents coin to use the locker. But, a great thing is you can come and go as you please. And won’t need to stand in line and wait for your items.
⤷ TIP: You are not allowed to enter the Rijksmuseum galleries with a backpack. So, try to plan not to have it with you when visiting the museum. If you’d still like to have it with you, then leaving it in a locker could definitely be a solution.
Rijksmuseum is one of the best museums in the world and the one that shouldn’t be missed when visiting Amsterdam. With this list of Rijksmuseum highlights, I hope your decision on what to see at the Rijksmuseum is definitely going to be easier.
This post contains some affiliate links.