{Netherlands} My Highlights from the Rijksmuseum

April 15, 2014


This past weekend, the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam celebrated it’s one year anniversary of reopening after a major, several year long refurbishment. What better excuse to share my visit to the Rijksmuseum last Autumn with you. It was not only my first visit there, but also my first trip every to Amsterdam, so you can imagine who excited I was!

This is the southwest side of the Rijksmuseum, as seen from ‘Museumplein’ (museum square) around which the Van Gogh Museum and the Stedelijk Museum are also located.

i am amsterdam

Can you see the archways in the museum building above? You can actually cycle right through the Rijksmuseum – how cool is that?!

rijksmuseum bicycles

I arrived early in the morning to beat the crowds at the entrance, and soon found myself inside the light filled main hall of the museum:

rijksmuseum entrance hall

One thing I immediately noticed as I acquired my ticket and picked up some info leaflets, is how damn happy the staff at the Rijksmuseum were that day. I actually burst out saying it to one of them, and she laughed and responded “That’s why they hire us!”. I don’t know if they’re like that all of the time, but it certainly put a smile on my face for the rest of my visit.

Of course, you can’t visit the Rijksmuseum without going to see Rembrandt’s Nightwatch – which, to my surprise, I learned is not actually set at night time! – so following some advice from a friend I headed straight for the ‘Gallery of Honour’ on the second floor where some of the museum’s most famous paintings are displayed. I passed through the gallery again later in the day, and the crowds were so thick by that time I wouldn’t have got anywhere near it, so it was definitely a good decision to head there first.

rijksmuseum rembrandt nightwatch

I know the Rijksmuseum is most famous for its artworks, but while I knew it also had other artefacts in its collections, I didn’t realise the extent of these until my visit. There’s a vast array of exhibits to discover and explore, from the famous Delft pottery and Meissen porcelain, to doll houses and ship models, weaponry and fashion. And many of them are far less crowded than the second floor. The 20th century galleries on the third floor were almost deserted, and I pretty much had the special collections on Level 0 all to myself. Here are a few of my favourite things I saw along the way:

rijksmuseum delft pottery

You’ll see a lot of the famous blue and white Delft pottery at the Rijksmuseum – and around the rest of Amsterdam – but I also loved the Meissen displays, especially the exotic birds and cheeky monkeys. The Meissen collection also includes some fairly ornate mantle clocks, which, even though they’re not the kind of thing I’d put up in my house,  looked simply amazing!

rijksmuseum cheeky monkey

rijksmuseum ornate clocks

One of things I really loved at the Rijksmuseum, was how artworks and other artefacts have been juxtaposed to tell a story. Below you can see a painting of a whale-oil refinery in Spitsbergen, Norway, where Dutch whalers had built a settlement. Displayed next to that is an array of woollen caps worn by Dutch whalers who had died at Spitsbergen. Their skeletons were still wearing their caps when they were found. I think it tells a much more rounded story, than if the painting and the caps had been displayed separately.

rijksmuseum whaling display

rijksmuseum costumes

As I said, I really enjoyed hanging out on the almost deserted Level 0, which included more Dutch porcelain and Delft pottery, as well as fashion (see above), weaponry, and ship models. As a seafaring nation, you never have to go very far in a Dutch museum to find some ships :)

rijksmuseum ship models

There were also some more ships elsewhere in the museum!

rijksmuseum sailing ship

rijksmuseum library

Another quiet little corner of the museum, was the library. The Rijksmuseum has the most extensive art history library in the Netherlands. How I wish I could spend a couple of hours in there. True, a lot of it would be in Dutch, but just being in that room looks like it would be wonderful!

rijksmuseum library quiet please

One of my favourite pieces that I saw, is this collector’s cabinet from the mid 18th century. Just look at all those little bottles, nooks and drawers. Isn’t is just amazing!

rijksmuseum collectors cabinet

You may have seen pictures of the Mondrian inspired cake making the rounds on the internet, but how about a Mondrian dress? This one was designed by Yves Saint Laurent in 1965, and you’ll find it on Level 3 in the late 20th century gallery.

rijksmuseum mondrian dress

rijksmuseum cupid statue

I hope you’ve enjoyed sharing some of my favourite moments from my visit to the Rijksmuseum. I’ll leave you with this 18th century marble cupid – lots of museum love to you all!



One Response to “{Netherlands} My Highlights from the Rijksmuseum”

  1. MariaBettina Says:

    Nice post! I went to the renovated Rijksmuseum a year ago and saw lots of interesting things, still most of the things you show in your post are completely new to me; the Museum is so big… What do you do to get oriented in gigantic museums like that? Do you plan in advance which rooms you are going to visit?


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