It wouldn’t be a trip to Amsterdam without visiting the Dutch national museum. The Rijksmuseum is a firm favourite among tourists and Amsterdammers alike, and it’s easy to see why. Masterpieces from the Dutch Golden Age are spread throughout a unique Gothic and Renaissance building, making this an attraction like no other.
The Rijksmuseum is conveniently located in Museumplein, or Museum Square, which means it’s easy to get there from the city centre. Whether you pass through during a sightseeing day or dedicate an entire afternoon to the museum, there’s plenty to see - no matter where your interests lie.
In this guide, we’ll look at how you can get to the Rijksmuseum from wherever you are in Amsterdam. Then, we’ll take you through some of the masterful works on display, the history of the museum, and the unmissable restaurants, bars, and shops inside.
Getting to the Rijksmuseum by train
First thing’s first – how do you get to the Rijksmuseum? Thanks to its convenient setting in Museumplein, getting there is straightforward no matter where you’re coming from. If you’re based nearby or spending time in the centre, we recommend walking to the Rijksmuseum.
If you’re staying a little further out or you want to save your energy for exploring the museum, you can get there using public transport. There are lots of stations and stops near the Rijksmuseum.
Which station is nearest to the Rijksmuseum?
Taking the bus or tram to the Rijksmuseum? You’re in luck! The museum has its own dedicated stops for train and tram arrival. Appropriately named Amsterdam, Rijksmuseum, these stops are right next to the attraction. Alight here and make your way straight inside.
If you’re visiting for a few days or longer, we recommend you pick up a multi-day travel pass to get around Amsterdam. Try the I Amsterdam Card or OV-chipkaart to swipe on and off buses, trams, and metros for the duration of your stay. You can buy one of these online or from a local shop.
Tip: an I Amsterdam City Card will get you into the Rijksmuseum and other attractions for free!
What to see at the Rijksmuseum?
There’s always lots to see at the Rijksmuseum. The permanent collection includes works of art and historical objects from the year 1200 to the present. Temporary exhibitions and special collections always impress, so be sure to check out what’s on when you visit and make the most of your trip.
The permanent collection
The permanent collection at the Rijksmuseum is home to around 8,000 pieces of art and historical objects that tell the story of Dutch history. The main rooms to explore are the Gallery of Honour and the famous Night Watch Gallery. Not to mention the museum’s extensive 17th-century collection. Let’s dive in.
Gallery of Honour
You can’t miss the Gallery of Honour when you visit the Rijksmuseum. This long corridor is one of the most memorable areas, stretching out gloriously towards the Night Watch Gallery.
As you wander along, you’ll be surrounded by artworks from the masters of the 17th century. Not to mention the impressive design of the gallery itself. Cast-iron beams are inscribed with the names of famous painters and portions of the walls display coats of arms from the 11 provinces of the Netherlands.
Some highlights of the Gallery of Honour include:
- Still Life with Cheese, Floris van Dijck (1615)
- Girl Dressed in Blue, Johannes Verspronck (1641)
- Merry Family, Jan Steen (1668)
- Woman Reading a Letter, Johannes Vermeer (1663)
Night Watch Gallery
The Night Watch Gallery is like no other. It was specifically designed to display Rembrandt’s famous Night Watch civic guard portrait, which sits among the greats and marks a turning point in the Dutch artist’s career.
The entire gallery has been designed to celebrate this gigantic painting, from the dark blue walls and carpet to the lighting, which is perfectly positioned to highlight the work.
What makes Night Watch so unique?
The Militia Company of District II Under the Command of Captain Frans Banninck Cocq, otherwise known as the Night Watch, is Rembrandt’s largest and most famous canvas. The shortened name Night Watch came around later since the painting is thought to represent a nighttime scene. We have to say, we find the shorter name much more straightforward to remember!
Night Watch was initially painted in 1642 for the Arquebusiers guildhall, one of several civic guard halls in Amsterdam. Rembrandt was the first to paint figures in a group portrait in motion. We can see the Captain is telling his lieutenant to start the company marching. At the same time, guardsmen get into formation in the background.
More to see in the Night Watch Gallery
You can enjoy two similar but lesser-known military paintings in the Night Watch Gallery. These are Militia Company of District VIII under the Command of Captain Roelof Bicker by Bartholomeus van der Helst and Militia Company of District XI under the Command of Captain Reynier Reael, or The Meagre Company, by Frans Hals and Pieter Codde. Try saying that five times fast!
There are more than 30 galleries dedicated to the Dutch Golden Age. This refers to a period in the 17th century when the new republic became a world leader in trade, science, war, and fine arts
The 17th-century galleries surround the Gallery of Honour and the Night Watch room, making this level of the museum ideal for a quick whirl around if you’re pressed for time. Discover tapestries, prints, sculpture, paintings, historical objects, and even a room dedicated to historic dolls houses.
The spacious, light-filled galleries of the Rijksmuseum are a delight to explore. You’ll find plenty of soft benches scattered around, so you can rest your legs and enjoy a more extended observation of your favourite pieces. There are lots of things to see among the 17th-century collections. We recommend taking your time here to make the most of your visit.
Rijksmuseum History and Facts
The Rijksmuseum first opened its doors in 1800, then called the Nationale Kunstgalerij. This was a very different establishment to the one we know today. The original museum was located in The Hague, a city on the western coast of the Netherlands.
The collections were moved to Amsterdam, the new capital of the Netherlands, in 1808, where they were housed in the Royal Palace on Dam Square. The current building became home of the Rijksmuseum in 1885. Let’s walk through the history of the museum, so you can visit with a little more context.
Establishing the Nationale Kunstgalerij
The Dutch government decided to set up a national museum in 1798. The Nationale Kunstgalerij opened its doors in 1800 with more than 200 paintings and historical objects on display. In the years that followed, the museum acquired lots more pieces, including The Swan by Jan Asselijn, which remains one of the Rijksmuseum’s best-loved works.
Moving the Museum to Amsterdam
In 1808, King Louis Napoleon ordered the Nationale Kunstgalerij collections to be moved to Amsterdam, which was about to become the capital of Holland.
The art and objects were taken to the Royal Palace, which you can visit today on Dam Square, where they were displayed alongside some of the city’s other famous paintings. Night Watch was among these. In 1809, the new Koninklijk Museum opened on the top floor of the palace.
The new building
By 1876, many people thought it was time to build a national museum dedicated to Dutch history and art. Work on the new building commenced, following the designs of architect Pierre Cuypers. The building combined Gothic and Renaissance styles and was not very well received at first. Lots of people thought it was too medieval and not Dutch enough to house the national museum. Nevertheless, the opening took place in 1885.
Over the years, the Rijksmuseum collections continued to grow. This means expansion, with rooms added and courtyards converted to house even more paintings. The museum has now been thoroughly modernised, while lots of original features have been lovingly maintained and restored.
Restaurants, Bars, and Shops near the Rijksmuseum
The Rijksmuseum Café
The Rijksmuseum Café is open every day from 09:00 to 18:00, which means you can swing by for refreshments no matter when you’re visiting the galleries. You can reserve a spot online or simply walk up and enjoy a drink and a snack in this unique setting.
The food at the café is made from simple, locally-sourced Dutch ingredients. Breakfast? Try croissants with plum jam or homemade apple cake. If you’re visiting for lunch, order a traditional Beemster cheese sandwich or roasted tomato soup with garden herbs. There’s a considerate selection of hot and cold drinks to perk you up after a lengthy visit. Or choose international wines, local beers (Heineken, of course), or Dutch spirits to make the most of your experience.
If you feel like celebrating after you visit the Rijksmuseum, head to RIJKS® Restaurant for a memorable Dutch experience. Think white tablecloths and fine dinnerware. This swishy yet welcoming restaurant makes the most of Dutch produce and cooking styles. The chef and team take inspiration from modest local ingredients, combining international flavours to create perfect and satisfying plates.
RIJKS® has a beautiful indoor dining room, a private space for 40 guests, and a bright terrace which can seat up to 100. Treat yourself at lunch or dinner time. It’s open week-round, and you can visit without a museum ticket, so there’s no need to cram everything into one day.
Take a little piece of the Rijksmuseum home when you visit the museum shop on your way out. You can explore exclusive souvenirs and gifts to treat yourself or somebody special. From books, jewellery, and toys to home décor and prints you’ll treasure forever, you’re sure to leave with something exciting in hand.
Travelling with a luggage restriction? No problem! You can order from the Rijksmuseum Shop and have your items delivered to your home.
Opening Times and Ticket Prices
The Rijksmuseum is open every day from 09:00 to 17:00, so you should have no trouble fitting in a visit. You can book your tickets and reserve a timeslot online before you arrive. The starting times help stop the museum from getting too busy, which means a more pleasant experience for you. Not to mention, there’ll be much less waiting in line outside!
How much does it cost to visit the Rijksmuseum?
These are the most recent ticket prices for visiting the Rijksmuseum. Be sure to check online before your visit to be certain of the cost.
Children (under 18)
Friends of the Rijksmuseum
Remember: you can get into the Rijksmuseum for free if you have an I Amsterdam City Card, which you can also use for local transport!
Everyone is welcome at the museum. There’s easy access for wheelchairs and prams, and convenient facilities for visitors with disabilities.
Whatever time you visit the Rijksmuseum, and whoever makes up your party, we’re sure you’ll enjoy an experience to remember. Make the most of your trip to Amsterdam when you read more of our city guides.
Travelling to Amsterdam by train
It's easy to take the train to Amsterdam from many major destinations across Europe. Travel direct from London to Amsterdam in just 4h 2m on a high-speed Eurostar service, or why not jump on an equally high-speed Thalys train, and whizz from Paris to Amsterdam in just 3h 12m. Brussels to Amsterdam is also another well-connected route, taking just 1h 45m.
You can find out more about travelling around the Netherlands by train in our trains in the Netherlands guide.