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The Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam – A Photo Tour

By alison - August 26, 2014 (Updated: November 30, 2015)

The Rijksmuseum, A Photo Tour

Back in the spring, we made a special visit to Keukenhof tulip gardens in the Netherlands. During our stay in Holland, we finally took the time to visit another Dutch landmark that was on my bucket list for years – The Rijksmuseum.

Like Paris’ Louvre, the Rijksmuseum is a veritable palace dedicated to visual art, ranging in date from 1100-2000. The collection includes some of the world’s best-known works: Vermeer’s Milkmaid, Van Gogh’s self-portrait and, the crowning glory of the museum, Rembrandt’s Night Watch.

Beyond its important collection, the Rijksmuseum itself is a masterpiece. Designed by Pierre Cuypers, the museum first opened its doors in 1885. Currently there are over 8000 pieces on display, although the collection numbers close to 1 million objects in total.

I walked by the Rijksmuseum many times without being able to explore its interior

I walked by the Rijksmuseum many times without being able to explore its interior

Despite walking by this iconic building weekly, while living in Amsterdam, I had never been able to explore more than a fraction of the Rijksmuseum’s collection, and little of its architecture. In 2003, the first year we visited Amsterdam, the Rijksmuseum began its 10-year, €375 million renovation. For the duration, only a tiny portion of the museum and its masterpieces were on display. I had had a taste of the Rijksmuseum, but not the main course.

The Rijksmuseum reopened on April 13, 2013 and finally, almost a year later, Andrew and I were able to admire the stunning transformation. Here’s a taste of what we saw:

The new main entrance hall of the Rijksmuseum

The new main entrance hall of the Rijksmuseum

The newly renovated entryway and ticket hall allows access to the museum, shop, café, and auditorium. The high, glass ceiling makes the space light and gives a feeling of openness.

One clever aspect of the Rijksmuseum’s design is the Gallery of Honour. This hall, on the second floor, is a ‘one-stop-shop,’ for the highlights of the Rijksmuseum’s collection. For those visitors pressed for time (bus tour anyone?), the Gallery of Honour offers a good overview of Dutch art.

The beautiful Gallery of Honour

The beautiful Gallery of Honour

The architecture of the hall is stunning, with its beautiful arched ceiling and frescos.

At the end of the hall is Amsterdam’s most famous work of art – The Night Watch. The crowds surrounding it almost rival the hordes that flock to see the Mona Lisa.

Crowds gather around the Night Watch

Crowds gather around the Night Watch

The Night Watch however, doesn’t disappoint in size. The painting is massive and the detail, particularly in the light and shadow, is well worth braving the crowd to experience in person.

Up close and personal with the Night Watch

Up close and personal with the Night Watch

At the opposite end of the Gallery of Honour is the Voorhal, or Great Hall, and it is one of the most impressive aspects of the Rijksmuseum’s architecture. We stood in awe under the huge vaulted ceilings. I could have admired the stained glass windows and frescoes all day.

The Rijksmuseum's Great Hall

The Rijksmuseum’s Great Hall

More than just pretty pictures, the frescos represent human virtues: patriotism, faith, self-sacrifice, prudence, justice and temperance.

Just look at those murals

Just look at those murals

The stained glass alludes to the building’s purpose as a gallery, with windows representing the arts of painting, architecture, and sculpture.

Another favourite discovery for me was one I didn’t even know existed, the Rijksmuseum’s library.

Breathe in the glorious smell of books

Breathe in the glorious smell of books

Like the stunning library at Trinity College in Dublin, this gorgeous room has that old book smell, intoxicating to bibliophiles like me.

We took our time wandering through the works of art and found some favourites.

Floral Still Life, Hans Bollongier, 1639

Floral Still Life, Hans Bollongier, 1639
Four-poster bed, c. 1715 - c. 1720

Four-poster bed, c. 1715 – c. 1720
Jacobus van Looy (1855-1930) Zomerweelde

Jacobus van Looy (1855-1930) Zomerweelde

Of course, the Dutch art of Delft pottery and tile making was well represented.

A collection of Delftware

A collection of Delftware
Flower pyramid, attributed to De Metaale Pot, c. 1692 - c. 1700

Flower pyramid, attributed to De Metaale Pot, c. 1692 – c. 1700

There was even a nod to the Netherlands’ long seafaring history in the form of an intricately detailed model ship.

Model of the William Rex, Cornelis Moesman, Adriaen de Vriend, 1698

Model of the William Rex, Cornelis Moesman, Adriaen de Vriend, 1698

Of course, we couldn’t resist a bit of ‘cheesy’ art.

Still Life with Cheese, Floris Claesz. van Dijck, c. 1615

Still Life with Cheese, Floris Claesz. van Dijck, c. 1615

Even though my art preferences tend toward more modern works, I thoroughly enjoyed visiting the Rijksmuseum, both for its collection and its stunning architecture. It was well worth the ten-year wait.

The Rijksmuseum
Museumstraat 1
Amsterdam

Admission for adults is € 15 at the time of publication but will increase to € 17.50 on November 1st, 2014 with the opening of the new Philips Wing. You can save some hassle by booking your tickets online.

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Alison

Alison

Big Cheese at CheeseWeb
Alison Cornford-Matheson is a Canadian freelance writer and travel photographer and the founder of Cheeseweb.eu. She is the author of The Foodie Guide to Brussels: Local Tips for Restaurants, Shops, Hotels, and Activities. Alison landed in Belgium in 2005 and, over the years, has become passionate about slow and sustainable travel, in Europe and beyond. She loves to discover hidden gems - be they museums, shops, restaurants, castles, gardens or landscapes, and share them through her words and photos. She is currently slow travelling through Europe in an RV, with her husband, Andrew, and two well-travelled cats. You can also follow her work on Google+
Alison
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3 comments

  1. Comment by Adriana

    Adriana August 26, 2014 at 16:05

    Love it!!

  2. Comment by Michelle - Very Hungry Explorer

    Michelle - Very Hungry Explorer August 26, 2014 at 20:57

    Gorgeous pictures… I’ve been saying that I’ll go since it opened again and of course haven’t made it yet!

    • Comment by Alison

      Alison

      Alison August 27, 2014 at 12:28

      I was the same way! Swore I’d go as soon as it opened and it ended up taking me a year… We should organise an Amsterdam weekend and I can share my former stopping grounds!

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