To understand how the tiny country of the Netherlands became a world superpower through both art and trade, visit the Rijksmuseum. Browse through over a million works of art and historical objects in more than 200 rooms. You’ll see famous paintings by Rembrandt and Vermeer, among hundreds of other artists, and admire the ornate building itself.
The Rijksmuseum was established in 1800 and moved to its present location in 1885. The celebrated Dutch architect Pierre Cuypers designed the ornamental building with Gothic and Renaissance influences. It houses the country’s finest art collection and underwent years of restorations with the main hall reopened to the public in April 2013. Be sure to take in the tiled depictions on the outside façade, and the palace-like interior with vaulted ceilings, mosaic floors and stained glass.
The vast collection of Dutch Golden Age art is awe-inspiring, easily taking a morning or afternoon to explore. The museum’s most prized collection is a group of paintings by Rembrandt van Rijn, including his colossal masterpiece Night Watch, which depicts a group of military guards that appear to be poised to jump off the canvas. A far more peaceful scene is the Milk Maid by Johannes Vermeer.
This museum includes far more than Dutch paintings. The collection of Asian art has 8,000 objects, ranging from paintings, prints and sculptures, to lacquer boxes, jewelry and tea bowls. Other collections include nearly 1,000 Western sculptures, a history of Dutch interior design, and some 10,000 fashion items, from tunics to pocket watches.
Set aside at least half a day to see the major works at the Rijksmuseum. Buy your admission tickets from the official website to avoid waiting in line.
Rijksmuseum is located between Stadhouderskade and Museumplein and is open daily, except on New Year’s Day. There are many public transport options. The hop-on, hop-off canal boat tours stop directly in front of the museum. There are parking lots in the city center, but spaces are limited.