6 Things to See in the Rijksmuseum

When Tahvi and I visited the Rijksmuseum this trip, we had less than two hours to explore. I knew it was a large museum, but I thought I could work my way through most of the major exhibits. I was very much incorrect and barely got through a fraction of all that was on display there. From my few hours there and my research into all they offer, here are six things you should prioritize if you have limited time at the Rijks.

(If you’re planning a trip to Amsterdam, be sure to check out my 6 Ways to Save in Amsterdam & Belgium post!)

1.  Guided Viewing Paintings

Guides to better understanding the paintings in the Rijks.

Throughout the Rijks, you’ll find handy guides available for some of the bigger paintigs on display. These guides highlight certain parts of the painting to pay attention to, and give context to the artistry behind the paintings. I felt like this really helped to make sense of the art in the museum and would recommend reading their guides and taking your time with these paintings (available in English and Dutch).

2. The Famous Painters – Van Gogh

A Van Gogh self portrait.

There is a separate Van Gogh museum nearby that hosts much more of his work, but the Rijksmuseum does have three Van Gogh pieces (including a notable self-portrait from his early time in France). If you are pressed for time or money and can’t make it to the Van Gogh museum AND the Rijks, make sure to visit the first floor and you can still spend a few minutes enjoying his work.

3.  The Famous Painters – Rembrandt

A Rembrandt self portrait.

We visited the Rijksmuseum in June of 2017. At that time, Rembrandt’s masterpiece, “Nights Watch” was on exhibit in a special viewing room. Rembrandt is so famous that he is one of the only artists to be best known by his first name. (His full name is Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn). You can’t miss a chance to see this native Dutch artist for yourself! Make sure you find his work on the second floor. Luckily, many of his other pieces are held in the Rijks in a more permanent display If the Night’s Watch has left the rotation when you visit.

4. Special Collections Dutch Porcelain, Ships, & Jewelery

Porcelain Dutch tiles from the special collections at the Rijks.
A tile triptic.

Look around the souvenirs shops that line Amsterdam’s city. You’ll notice lots of trinkets in white and blue with beautiful designs – replicas of the iconic Dutch porcelain. In the Rijks Special Collection exhibit on the ground level, they have an impressive collection of original Dutch porcelain that’s absolutely breathtaking. If 2D art isn’t really your favorite, skip the rest of the museum and head here first – the Special Collections exhibit is a MUST. It’s home to an enormous variety of relics from porcelain, to intricate gold jewelry, to models of Dutch ships that use to sail the waterways. To be sure, there is so much variety in this exhibit I’m convinced there is something for everyone.

5. Rijks Gardens

Just outside the museum is a beautiful garden where you can soak up the sun and enjoy the beautiful landscaping. If you need a nice place to rest your feet after walking around the Rijks, grab a coffee from their café or a waffle off the street and head outside. Tahvi and I didn’t get much of a chance to enjoy the gardens, but it’s at the top of my list if I ever get to go back.

6. Musical Artists outside the Rijks

A musician playing Vivaldi’s four seasons outside the Rijks museum.

To enter the Rijskmuseum, you walk underneath a giant archway where there are always street musicians performing. We walked through this archway many times getting around Amsterdam and got to see accordion players, string quartets, acoustic singers, and solo violinists playing a variety of styles. Every single one we heard was incredibly talented. In my opinion, if you’re going to the Rijksmuseum, it is well worth pausing for a few songs to appreciate the live art happening in front of this great art museum.








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