CONTRIBUTED BY SARAH FORTE
Europe is an art lovers dream! In the churches, architecture, galleries and museums, there are so many beautiful and famous works of art! So much history, different names, and various styles! Ask anyone who has been to the Louvre; it can be a little overwhelming!
We were recently able to visit the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam and found it to be wonderfully accessible. We weren’t crushed with the urge to run around collecting views of the works of art like a mad scavenger hunt. The paintings, sculptures and other pieces were laid out in a way that actually relaxed us. We took our time and could enjoy each piece that caught our eye. It wasn’t stuffy and we could appreciate the art each in our own way.
Those who want to visit the Rijksmuseum are pretty lucky to be in Europe after 2013. Why? The museum reopened in April of 2013 after being closed for 10 years for renovation. 10 YEARS! Those who wanted to see all these works of art in one place were out of luck for a whole decade!
In a word, the theme of this museum is “Dutch.” Dutch history, Dutch masters, Dutch subject mater, and Dutch artifacts. You’ll see works by Rembrandt, Vermeer and Van Gogh. You’ll find items related to the time when the Netherlands was a wealthy shipping country (Dutch East Indies ring a bell?). Of course there are windmills, tulips and cheese (look only – don’t taste)! Everything that makes the Netherlands Dutch, you can find it here.
We really appreciated how the art work was shown and felt like it really helped us to appreciate it.
The museum displays 8,000 pieces of art at any given time. That sounds like a lot but this is curated down from over 1 million pieces in its collection. In comparison, the Louvre has almost 35,000 works on display. Each piece had its own space and I liked looking at them individually. You could breathe and concentrate instead of being distracted by the next piece and the next.
The pieces are grouped so that objects from similar times or with a similar subject matter are together in one room. For example in one room with a decidedly naval theme you will find a model ship, paintings of a real sea battle with a coat of arms that was cut from a British ship in that same battle. Around the corner there are more boats – fishing boats this time, along with hats from the fishermen.
There were also tools for appreciating the art. The big and famous works had a shelf of placemat-sized cards in multiple languages, including English. These cards really help you notice the details and explain the references that might otherwise be lost. Don’t know which person in the cast of characters that make the Night Watch is really a self-portrait of Rembrandt? Check the card!
While we were there, a special addition to the museum called “Art is Therapy.” As we made our way through the museum, there were oversized yellow post-it notes adhered to the walls. Each featured a thought or two in Dutch and English. They were thoughts about the works of art from a modern perspective. For us it brought attention to things we may have breezed by before. This exhibit will be over in September 2014, but I think it shows how the museum is trying reach out and not be a stuffy art museum of old pictures, because what’s less pretentious that a post-it!?!
Other ways the museum makes itself more accessible: There’s a free app (click here for the Apple version or here for the android version) for your handheld devices which offer museum tours (if you didn’t bring your own device you can use the museum’s for €5.00) and there are high resolution, copy-right free digital images 125,000 of the museums works available on the Rijksmuseum website. But what you won’t find are flshy screens in the museum. Instead the walls are a deep blue-grey and peaceful.
The centerpiece of the museum is called “Night Watch” and was painted by Rembrandt van Rijn in 1642. It holds a special place in the museum in the Nachtwachtzaal (Room of the Night Watch), decorated with Rembrandt’s name in a room featuring only his art. First of all, this painting is HUGE! But at one time the painting was even bigger. It was cut down in height and width to fit into its second location in 1715. “Night Watch” has always been the centerpiece of the Rijksmuseum since it opened in 1885.
“Night Watch” is the only painting that is hung in the same position after the remodel. But the most famous of the Dutch masters are in the Hall of Honor. Flowing out from the Nachtwachtzaal is the Eregalerij (Hall of Fame or Honor). Here you will find “The Milkmaid” and “Still Life with Cheese” or View of Houses in Delft, Known as “The Little Street.” So if you only have time for part of this museum, this is the place to be! We spent around three hours in the museum and didn’t see all of it, but enough to be satisfied and pleased.
Getting tickets online is a swift and easy process. You buy online and can print them up at home. They are good for any day and time you choose, up to a year from the date you purchase. With the on-line ticket you do not need to go to the ticket counter, but can go straight to the gallery entrance. When we arrived, the guard suggested that we separate the tickets (we had them stapled together) and that each adult carry their own. He said it would make it easier for entering the galleries and be helpful if we were separated.
I would highly recommend this museum to anyone visiting Amsterdam. I’m sure you’ll be stopping in front of the building anyways for your I amsterdam picture, so take some time to visit inside as well!
Tips For Your Trip:
Adults (until 31 October 2014): €15.00
A new wing of the museum opens on 1 November 2014 and at that time the admission ticket will go up to €17.50
Children 18 and under are free
Open 365 days a year
Ticket desk closes at 1630
The museum gardens, museum shop and café are open without a ticket 0900-1800
1071 XX Amsterdam
+31 (0) 20 6747 000
Using public transportation to arrive:
- From Central Station: trams 2 and 5 (Rijksmuseum tram stop)
- From Zuid Station: tram 5 (Rijksmuseum tram stop)
- From Sloterdijk Station: tram 12 (Museumplein tram stop)
- From Amstel Station: tram 12 (Museumplein tram stop), or metro to Weesperplein, then tram 7 or 10 (Spiegelgracht tram stop)
- From the Marnixstraat regional bus station: tram 7 and 10 (Spiegelgracht tram stop), or bus 145, 170, 172, 174 and 197 (Rijksmuseum bus stop)
- From Schiphol Amsterdam Airport: bus 197 (Rijksmuseum bus stop)
There are a small number of paid parking spaces in the immediate vicinity.
There is a supervised car park beneath Museumplein (Q-Park, Van Baerlestraat 33b, entrance near the Concertgebouw)
We parked at the Heineken museum which is an easy walk away.
What else can we do while in Amsterdam and the area:
- Amsterdam in a Nutshell
- ClaraMaria – Traditional Dutch cheese and wooden shoe craftsmen farm
- Keukenhof – Enormous tulip garden
- Amsterdam on your European Bucket List
- Eat Mode Pan-Asian Restaurant