Head to the Van Gogh Museum and let the colourful paintings and unique sketches inspire you. Work aside, Vincent Van Gogh has a fascinating and moving life story which you can discover during your time exploring his dedicated museum.
In this guide, we’ll take you through some of the best bits you can expect to see when you visit the Van Gogh Museum, as well as some history of the artist and a few logistics to help with planning your trip. But first, let’s find out how to get to the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam by train.
Getting to the Van Gogh Museum by train
The Van Gogh Museum is located in Amsterdam’s Museum Quarter. At the centre of this area, you’ll find Museumplein, or Museum Square, which is a 19th-century public space and garden, home to three of the city’s most prestigious establishments.
As well as the Rijksmuseum and the Stedelijk Museum of Modern Art, the Van Gogh Museum is one of the best museums in Amsterdam located in this beautiful area. Thanks to its significance and reasonably central location, getting to the Museum Quarter couldn’t be simpler.
Amsterdam is served by an excellent public transport network, which includes buses, trams, trains, and metro services and stations and stops throughout the city.
Which station is nearest to the Van Gogh Museum?
The easiest way to get to the Museum Quarter and the Van Gogh Museum is by tram. There are several tram stops in this small area, including Van Baerlestraat, Museumplein, and Rijksmuseum. Alight at any of these stops, and stroll to the Van Gogh Museum in moments.
If you’re staying in Amsterdam for a few days, you might like to pick up a multi-day travel pass to make getting around easier. The I Amsterdam Card and the OV-chipkaart are two good options for travellers. Simply choose the period you’d like to travel for, whether it’s 24, 48, or 72 hours, and swipe on and off any public transport without worrying about the fee.
What to see at the Van Gogh Museum
The Van Gogh Museum is packed full of masterpieces from the Dutch artist’s lifetime. There are also lots of sketches to see, as well as an exciting rotation of temporary exhibitions from artists inspired by Van Gogh.
With so much to enjoy at this world-class museum, we recommend setting aside a full morning or afternoon for your experience. There’s no rush! You should enjoy strolling around at leisure, spending extra time over pieces which inspire you.
Let’s take a look at some of the collections you can expect to see when you visit the Van Gogh Museum, as well as a few masterpieces to look out for.
Sketches and letters
We’ll get onto the masterpieces in a moment, but first, Van Gogh’s sketches and letters. These are the exhibitions which set the museum apart from the rest. Although he was a talented and successful artist, Van Gogh suffered from poor mental health throughout his lifetime. His sketches and letters help us know the man behind the work. Visitors can access a new understanding of the famous artist through these parts of the museum.
Highlights from the collection
Some of the most famous paintings at the Van Gogh Museum include:
- The Potato Eaters (1885)
- Sunflowers (1889)
- Almond Blossom (1890)
- Self-Portrait with Grey Felt Hat (1887)
- Self-Portrait as a Painter (1887-1888)
- Garden with Courting Couples: Square Saint-Pierre (1888)
- The Yellow House (The Street) (1888)
- The Bedroom (1888)
- The Sower (1888)
- Wheatfield with Crows (1890)
- Wheatfield Under Thunderclouds (1890)
- Tree Roots (1890)
Let’s take a look at some of these in a little more detail, so you can prepare for what you’ll see when you visit.
The Potato Eaters (1885)
Van Gogh chose the unusual composition for The Potato Eaters on purpose to show his talent as an emerging artist. He gave the peasants in the picture stern, gaunt faces, and made the entire piece dark and brooding, to show the harsh realities of country life.
The message of the painting was more important to Van Gogh than its technical accuracy, and he was delighted with the finished piece. When it was first shown, The Potato Eaters was widely criticised for its technical flaws and the darkness of the figures. Nevertheless, it is one of Van Gogh’s most celebrated pieces today.
You can visit several related artworks at the Van Gogh Museum. These include studies of the inside of a rural cottage and some sketches of peasants sitting around a table. You might also like to read a letter from Vincent to his brother Theo. He writes that he’s ‘working on those peasants around a dish of potatoes again’.
Among Van Gogh’s most famous works are those of sunflowers. There are several sunflower pieces in the collection, but perhaps the most famous is the yellow-backgrounded painting from January 1889.
Sunflowers is painted in three shades of yellow. Van Gogh shows us that it’s possible to create a striking image with variations of a single colour without the need for anything more. These paintings were significant to the artist, who used them to represent gratitude. He hung some in the room of French painter Paul Gauguin, who came to stay with Van Gogh for a while.
Here are three facts about Van Gogh’s Sunflowers. Use them to impress your friends!
- Vincent wanted to be recognised as the painter of sunflowers. When he died, friends brought the flowers to his funeral, and sunflowers became associated with Van Gogh forever.
- There are five variations of Sunflowers, which can be found on display in museums around the world. One other version is privately owned.
- The paintings were intended as colour experiments. Van Gogh’s changing attitudes to colour can be seen in his body of still life flower work.
Van Gogh Museum History and Facts
The life of Vincent Van Gogh is fascinating and sad. The troubled artist started his creative journey at the age of 27 and unfortunately died without ever knowing the extent of his success. Here are some highlights from Van Gogh’s history.
As a child
Vincent was born in the Dutch village of Zundert in 1835. His brother, also named Vincent, had been still-born on the same day exactly one year earlier. The successful birth of the second Vincent was followed by that of three sisters and two brothers. The young family took regular walks around the local countryside, helping to develop Vincent’s love of nature. As we know, this would serve him well as an artist later in life.
Young Vincent quit high school for unknown reasons and never went back. He took a job as a trainee art dealer, and was soon transferred to The Hague and then London.
Becoming an artist
After several years of travel with no direction and no qualifications, Vincent was at a loss. While living and working all over Europe, the soon-to-be-artist had stayed in contact with his younger brother, Theo. Van Gogh often included sketches with his letters, and his brother recommended he focused more on his drawing.
He moved to Brussels in 1880 and started to work on his drawing technique. He had no job and no money, so his brother sent him some from time to time.
Back in the Netherlands, Vincent continued to work on his skills as an artist, moving into watercolour and oil painting. He moved back in with his parents in 1883 and painted and sketched local farm workers and peasants. This was when Van Gogh started working on The Potato Eaters, one of his most famous pieces today.
Discovering his signature style
Vincent moved to Paris, and his brother Theo introduced him to the brighter, more modernist styles of artists like Claude Monet. This, as well as meeting a new generation of artists, gave Van Gogh the confidence to experiment with his own work.
He soon moved away from the dark tones of The Potato Eaters in favour of bright colours and more modern compositions. His rural themes gave way to bright Parisian boulevards and cafés, as well as portraits of himself since models were expensive.
The South of France
Getting tired of Paris, Van Gogh moved to the South of France, where he wanted to set up a house for artists to live and work together. Paul Gaugin moved into this Yellow House, and the two worked closely together, producing some significant paintings during the period.
Cutting off his ear
Sadly one of the most famous things that Van Gogh ever did. After a heated argument with Gaugin in the Yellow House, Vincent threatened the artist with a razor and later that night cut off his own ear. He was admitted to the hospital in Arles and was released after a few weeks. His mental health remained damaged, however, and he later re-admitted himself to a psychiatric hospital in Saint-Rémy where he remained for over a year.
Did you know? Vincent produced around 150 paintings during his time in the psychiatric hospital, including Almond Blossom, one of his most famous, which he painted for his brother Theo’s baby son.
Ending his life
In 1890, Vincent moved to Auvers-Sur-Oise, an artists village near Paris. He made new friends and focused entirely on his paintings, producing around one work per day during his final months.
Financial worries and fear of a mental health relapse took over Vincent’s life, and he couldn’t shake away his concerns about the future. On the 27th of July, he walked into a wheat field and shot himself in the chest, then walked back to his guesthouse room in Auvers. His brother rushed from Paris and was present for Vincent’s death on the 19th of July.
The Van Gogh Museum
The Van Gogh collection passed from Theo to his wife Jo, and eventually to their son, Vincent Willem Van Gogh. As Vincent’s fame grew, his nephew agreed to transfer all the artist’s works to the Vincent Van Gogh Foundation.
The state decided to build the Van Gogh Museum to house and display the collection, making the work available to everyone forever. Queen Juliana opened the museum in 1973, and it’s been drawing in visitors from around the world ever since.
Restaurants, Bars, and Shops at the Van Gogh Museum
All that art and history is sure to work up an appetite. Thankfully, there’s an excellent café nestled inside the Van Gogh Museum, so you can refuel without leaving the collections. The Museum Café Le Tambourin is a cosy, light-filled spot to enjoy a hot or cold drink and a fresh bite to eat. There’s also a well-considered alcoholic selection including some crisp world wines and local beers. Cheers to that!
The Van Gogh Museum shop
The museum shop stocks lots of beautiful gifts, souvenirs, and jewellery inspired by the work of Vincent Van Gogh. Not to mention a selection of prints and books, so you can take your favourite pieces from the collection home. Perhaps you’d like Sunflowers hanging in your lounge or Almond Blossom in the bedroom? You’ll find what you’re looking for right here.
Van Gogh Museum Opening Times and Ticket Prices
The Van Gogh Museum is open daily from 09:00 to 17:00 or 18:00, depending on the time of year you visit. Feel like an after-dinner visit? Head there on a Friday, when the museum stays open until the later time of 21:00.
How much does it cost to visit the Van Gogh Museum?
These are the most recent ticket prices for a visit to the Van Gogh Museum. Do check online to be sure the rates haven’t changed.
Children (under 18)
Taking the train to Amsterdam?
Taking the train to Amsterdam is one of the easiest and quickest ways to travel from many major destinations across Europe. Modern high-speed trains are ready to whisk you from one city to another, and some of the most popular train journeys include Paris to Amsterdam (3h 12m), Brussels to Amsterdam (1h 45m) and London to Amsterdam (4h 2m).
On your way home you'll also enjoy quick journey times, including Amsterdam to Paris (3h 13m), Amsterdam to Brussels (1h 46m) and Amsterdam to London (5h 11m - although a new quicker direct route is launching later this year).
Feeling inspired to take the train? Why not find out more about travelling around the Netherlands by train in our trains in the Netherlands guide.