Artful Amsterdam: The Rijksmuseum

The Rijksmuseum is the largest art museum in Amsterdam, with a collection of one million pieces. Established in 1800, it is on most everyone’s “must see” list of things to do when visiting Amsterdam.

The current Rijksmuseum (which means “State Museum”) was designed by the Dutch architect, Petrus J. H. Cuypers, who also designed the Concertegebouw and the Centraal Station, and opened in 1885.  The building is Dutch neo-Renaissance style, using neo-Gothic elements in its decoration. It is located in Museumplein, or Museum Square, where you also find the Van Gogh Museum, the modern art Stedelijk Museum, and the Moco Museum (also modern art). The Rijksmuseum’s imposing façade dominates the square.  Although its design is from the 19th century, the Netherlands is very environmentally conscious, so improvements have been made, including solar panels on the roof!

We visited on a drizzly day, Jan. 29, 2018, having flown into Amsterdam overnight and taken time for a nap before we ventured out sightseeing.


Dale in Museumplein; behind him is the Rijksmuseum.

1-29 Rijksmuseum front facade

There was an ice skating rink and large letters spelling out “I amsterdam” – which attracted many people for a photo opp or selfie.


Outside the museum, it is worthwhile to pause to admire the gardens and the façade itself.



At the entrance, we stopped to admire two statues, of Laocoön (being attacked, along with his two sons, by serpents) and Diana (goddess of hunting, who had the power to talk to animals) two figures of Greek & Roman mythology:

With our “I Amsterdam” passes (which we ordered online and picked up at the airport when we arrived) we were able to get into the museum free. I strongly recommend ordering this pass for anyone visiting Amsterdam, because it is good not only to get into museums free, but also free passage on the trams and buses. You order by the day, so that you pay only for the number of days you will be there.

Inside the museum, you enter the atrium, renovated in 2013. From here you can see, half a story below, the gift shop, and directly above it, the restaurant/cafeteria.

There is no way you can see this entire museum in one day, which is why we decided to concentrate on the 17th century, the century during which many of the most famous Dutch masters lived and worked. Each floor is dedicated to the art of a particular century. We went to the 2nd floor where the works of Rembrandt and his contemporaries are displayed.

On the stairway to the second floor:

At the top of the stairs, we entered the Great Hall, with stained glass windows depicting painters, philosophers and others. The floor tiles contain beautiful designs, and the walls are covered with artwork.


1-29 Rijksmuseum




The 2nd floor contains the Gallery of Honour, through glass doors from the Great Hall, with small rooms lining each side, each dedicated to a particular artist.  At the entrance to each, there are laminated cards in various languages that explain what to look for in that display.

Temporarily on display was a triptych, The Last Judgement, by 16th century Dutch artist Lucas van Leyden.

On the back of each side of the triptych are other paintings.

At the far end of the Gallery of Honour is Rembrandt’s famous painting, Night Watch.

There were other Rembrandts to see, of course, my favorite being The Jewish Bride.

We wandered through the rooms which formed a continuous rectangle entered through doors on either side of the Great Hall.

I took several photos with my cellphone camera, but unfortunately, these were all lost with my phone on the last day of our trip, at the airport in Tanzania! 😦

I include here a few taken by Dale, who is not in the habit generally of also taking a photo of the plaque alongside that identifies the name of the painting, the artist, etc.



We both liked this sculpture, called Topers (Drinkers) by Jan Pieter van Baurscheit (1669-1728), Antwerp, c. 1700, symbolizing gluttony. The sculpture impresses upon its viewers a moral lesson, that excessive drinking undermines the work ethic and leads to laziness. The sculptor may have been inspired for this piece by popular theatre, in which characters such as these are often portrayed.

When we were just about finished viewing all the rooms on the 2nd floor, there was an announcement that the museum was going to close in half an hour! I was amazed – we’d been there for two and a half hours. Fortunately, the announcer also informed us that the gift shop and the restaurant would stay open an additional hour, until 6:00 p.m.  Dale gave me some time to do a bit of shopping in the gift shop and then we went to the restaurant to have a snack – Dale had coffee and a brownie, and I ordered hot chocolate and a muffin.  It was a relief – we were quite exhausted!
1-29 enjoying a snack at Rijksmuseum




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