On my last day in Amsterdam last year, I was not sure if I wanted to visit the Rijksmuseum. But when I saw the Cuypers Library, hidden within museum’s walls, I knew that a visit to the Rijksmuseum was the right decision.
Why You Need to Visit Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam
Located at the Museum Square in the borough Amsterdam South, the Rijksmuseum is one of the most important museums in the Netherlands. The grandeur place with elaborate interior and exterior details that effortlessly match fairytale-like architecture of the city instills love for Dutch culture and art in locals and visitors alike. History buffs regard a visit to the Rijksmuseum as a mandatory tool to dive deeper into the intriguing past of the Netherlands. Different motives guide people’s decisions to visit or skip the Rijksmuseum when exploring Amsterdam. For those who are in doubt, there are six reasons why you should visit the Rijksmuseum.
The 6 Whys to Visit Rijksmuseum
1. The Largest Museum in the Netherlands
The Rijksmuseum is the largest and the most popular art museum in the Netherlands. It boasts over a million artifacts, 8,000 of which are on display. Covering more than 800 years of Dutch art and history, the museum houses collections of such eminent Dutch artists as Rembrandt, Frans Has, Van Gogh, and Vermeer. Over two million people visit the Rijksmuseum yearly and immerse in the impeccable art history of the Netherlands.
Interesting enough, the famous national museum was founded in the Hague in 1798. It was moved to Amsterdam a decade later. The Royal Palace became Rijksmuseum’s first shelter. The current building designed by Pierre Cuypers opened its doors for the valuable collections of the museum and its visitors only in 1885.
2. Exclusive Art Collections of Rijksmuseum
To visit all 80 galleries of the Rijksmuseum, you need more than a day. Spread on four floors, the rooms quarter various collections. The ground floor or level 0 displays special collections and artworks from 1100-1600. The 18th and 19th-century masterpieces find their home on level 1. Visit level 2 of the Rijksmuseum to feast your eyes on the 17th-century art. Finally, level 3 introduces you to contemporary art.
Many art and history enthusiasts visit the Rijksmuseum to meet the famous Rembrandt’s Night Watch (Nachtwacht) in person. The controversial painting depicting the civic guard adorns the wall of the Gallery of Honor (Eregalerij) on level 2.
The Great Hall, arguably the most beautiful gallery in the museum, features large wall paintings. The highlight of this room, however, is a wall with massive stained glass windows. The Delft Blue collection represents Dutch take on creating porcelain. And if you visit the Rijksmuseum with children, hold their attention with dolls’ houses, elaborate furniture pieces from the 17th century.
3. Exterior and Interior Design
Structure that houses the glorious collections of the Rijksmuseum is one of the undeniable reasons to visit the museum in the first place. Set close to the Van Gogh Museum and the Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam, the main building of the Rijksmuseum has undergone a remarkable transformation.
For ten years the museum kept its doors closed, giving space and freedom for Spanish architects Antonio Cruz and Antonio Ortiz to deploy their artistic skills. The architects based their ideas on the original design by Pierre Cuypers. Focusing on the motto Cuypers for the 21st century, they reintroduced the concept of light and space. One of the greatest examples of their work is the Atrium, a spacious glass-covered entrance hall that previously served as inner courtyards.
Jean-Michel Wilmotte, a French architect known for his work in the Louvre, was in charge of renovating the Rijksmuseum galleries. Under his guidance, stylish display cases, plinths, and furniture have embellished the rooms, inspiring more people to visit the Rijksmuseum after its reopening in April 2013.
4. Cuypers Library
I must confess, if I knew about the existence of the Cuypers Library, I would have prioritized my visit to the Rijksmuseum during my 4-day trip to Amsterdam. Books are my weakness. Library is my happy place. Surely, my excitement didn’t know limits when I stumbled upon the Cuypers Library within the first hour of my visit to the Rijksmuseum.
The Cuypers Library is the largest and older art history library in the country. Its first book collection goes back to 1885. Today, the library houses nearly 400,000 volumes, including books, periodicals, catalogues of auctions and exhibitions. Similar to the main building of the museum, the 19th-century Cuypers Library went through a major renovation. Following the extensive restoration, the museum opened the library’s reading room for all visitors to immerse in its exclusive collection.
5. Drawing School
Did you know that you can visit the Rijksmuseum and learn to appreciate the art by deploying your creativity? “Learning by doing” is a driving force of the Teekenschool (Drawing School). However, don’t let this name deceive you. Accessible from a separate entrance, the school organizes a wide range of workshops that focus on art, design, and photography. Moreover, various programs and courses aim at different age groups. On top of that, any workshops include a visit to the Rijksmuseum.
6. Visit Ice Rink near Rijksmuseum
You are not required to visit the Rijksmuseum to skate on the ice rink in front of it. But it is certainly one of the best ways to experience two diverge sides of Amsterdam in one place. The prettiest ice rink in the city surrounded by traditional refreshment stalls dresses up the Museum Square in late fall and winter.