After years of being closed for renovation, the Rijksmuseum reopened its doors in April of this year.
Amsterdam couldn’t be more thrilled.
And since I live about 10 minutes away – neither could I!
It’s been six visits and many an afternoon of just gazing at the outside building – but now I am ready to write about it :)
First – the building itself is a work of art. Neo-gothic art. Exquisite in its detail. To think it’s only from 1885 is really misleading. (For more on the history of the building and the renovation, click HERE)
Interiors – vast.
And a good blend of old meets new without it feeling like a clash.
They attempted to re-create Pei’s solution for the Louvre in regards to people entrance with an entrée that is below ground and leaves the walls of the old building atriums exposed. Full of light, glass and brick, it’s a beautiful space.
Figuring out where to go to buy tickets is tough – and some days you will end up queuing outside just to get into the entrance space! Even if you have pre-paid tickets or
(Think Amsterdam – think RAIN – thinking queuing when you already have a ticket!!!)
I guess that’s what you get when you have the limitations of the old structure to guide you.
The collection has been divided chronologically – which makes sense. In the basement is also collections that need lots of time and view visitors blocking your view to be able to really appreciate it – miniature silver, jewelry, nautical instruments, religious art. (For more on their collection and to be able to search for specific items, click here)
As you travel upwards, you head to the more famous pieces – culminating in the Gallery of Honour that is crowned with Rembrandt’s Night Watch.
The Gallery of Honour and its entrance hall with lavish stained glass windows has been beautifully restored. Resist the temptation to rush down the Gallery for the over-viewed Night Watch, and make sure to take in all the incredible pieces displayed in the halls leading to it by the likes of Vermeer, Hals, and even Rembrandt himself.
I have the same beef with the Night Watch as I have with the Mona Lisa – people rush right by other amazing works for the one thing highlighted in the guide books! Ha! If you are not sure what to see in the Rijks – luckily the handy map of the museum has pictures to help give you a hint. The museum’s audio tour (cool and efficient on iPods) is also worth the time.
Not to miss: in the Art Nouveau collection, a Nazi-era chess board with the porcelain pieces in shapes like tanks and canons; The gorgeous art furniture by Dutch architect Berlage in the Art Nouveau section; South African President Paul Kruger’s formal top hat among the Jewelry in the downstairs level; the ship models throughout the museum; the Doll Houses collection. (Doll Houses? Yes! Go look and be prepared to be awed!)
This art history library and reading room would have motivated me to go back to school in Art History if I hadn’t already! Mysterious, filled with light from the stained-glass panels in the ceiling, with decorative bricks and scrollwork, twisting iron staircases, the smell of damp old paper,… this space is fabulous! Make sure to find it! (Easy access from the same level as the Night Watch.)
Sadly – one of my favorite things in large museums is often their cafés. When I was a student, lunch in a museum café was often affordable AND decent. But the Rijksmuseum café – while looking very cool from the entrance area – is overcrowded, mediocre, and with slow service. It’s one of the few places in Amsterdam you would have to stand in line just for a cup of coffee!
Overall, Rijksmuseum is a pleasure and a must. Especially if you can break it down into several short visits to avoid brain-freeze and overload J
And if biking, make sure to take a moment to ride THROUGH the museum and look for this great quote by Dutch writer Vondel, “Life is short, art is forever.”