6 Reasons to Visit Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam

A bookworm as I am, I wanted to see the Cuypers Library before leaving Amsterdam for Ireland. A visit to the Rijksmuseum wasn’t on my itinerary. Yet since the library is located inside the famous art museum, I had no other choice but to get a ticket to the Rijksmuseum.

Last updated: May 8, 2024

Visit Rijksmuseum - Roads and Destinations
6 reasons to visit the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam

6 Reasons Why You Should 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 grandiose structure 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 while exploring Amsterdam. For those who are in doubt, there are six reasons why you should visit the Rijksmuseum. 

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The grandiose structure of the Rijksmuseum | Why you should visit the Rijksmuseum
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Exhibits inside the museum | Visit the Rijksmuseum


1. The Largest Museum in the Netherlands

The Rijksmuseum is the largest and the most popular art museum in the Netherlands. It features 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. More than two million people visit the Rijksmuseum every year to immerse themselves in the impeccable art history of the Netherlands. 

Interestingly, 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 only in 1885. 

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Valuable collections of the Rijksmuseum
Museums in Amsterdam - Roads and Destinations
The Rijksmuseum has more than one million artifacts

2. Exclusive Art Collections of the Rijksmuseum

You need more than a day to visit all 80 galleries of the Rijksmuseum. Spread on four floors, the museum’s rooms are devoted to 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 17th-century art. Finally, level 3 introduces you to contemporary art. 

Many art and history enthusiasts visit the Rijksmuseum to feast their eyes on the famous Rembrandt’s Night Watch (Nachtwacht). 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. Behind them, the Delft Blue collection represents the Dutch take on porcelain art. And if you visit the Rijksmuseum with children, head straight to dolls’ houses, elaborate furniture pieces from the 17th century. 

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Porcelain art | Reasons to visit the Rijksmuseum
Visit Rijksmuseum - Roads and Destinations
The “Painting” Window | Reasons to visit the Rijksmuseum

3. Exquisite Exterior and Interior Design

The 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 and vision. 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 of 2013. 

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The Rijksmuseum reopened in April 2013

4. Cuypers Library

I must confess, if I knew about the existence of the Cuypers Library, I would have stepped inside the Rijksmuseum on the first day of my 4-day trip to Amsterdam. Books are my weakness. Beautiful libraries are my happy place. Surely, my excitement didn’t know the limits when I stumbled upon the Cuypers Library within the first hour of my late afternoon visit to the Rijksmuseum.

The Cuypers Library is the largest and oldest art historical library in the country. Its first book collection dated 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 the public in early 2013.

Cuypers Library inside the Rijksmuseum - Roads and Destinations
The famous Cuypers Library is one of the main reasons to visit the Rijksmuseum

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).

Yet 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. Various programs and courses aim at different age groups. And any workshops inspire you to visit, learn from, and admire the expansive collections of the Rijksmuseum.

6. Visit Ice Rink near the 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 different sides of Amsterdam in one place. The prettiest ice rink in the city surrounded by traditional refreshment stalls adorns the Museum Square in late fall and winter. 

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  1. Cecil Davis
    December 6, 2020 / 3:06 pm

    I have always wanted to visit the Rijksmuseum because I love the Dutch school of art. Finally, at age 75, I was privileged to visit the museum. The architecture is as stunning as the artifacts it holds! I was sad that restoration was being done on the Night Watch so that I couldn’t get very close to it.

    Thank you for such a beautiful experience!

    • Zhanna
      December 10, 2020 / 11:43 am

      Cecil, I am glad that you finally visited the Rijksmuseum. The place is absolutely gorgeous and unique (where else in the world can you see a road running through the museum?). I am overjoyed that I helped you relive this experience, even if only virtually.

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