Amsterdam has a number of excellent, world-class museums, on par with those of London, Paris and New York, and I recommend a visit to at least one of these museums on any visit to Amsterdam! I went to two – the Rijksmuseum and the Van Gogh museum. Both were great ways to spend a few hours! Most of Amsterdam’s museums are located in the Museum District, about a 30 minute walk from Dam Square. The Museum District includes the Museumplein, Rijksmuseum, Van Gogh Museum, Stedelijk Museum (modern art), Concertgebouw (concert hall), House of Bols (cocktail and genever experience), Diamond Museum and a convenient Albert Heijn under the Stedelijk museum – a good place to find a snack or bottle of wine for the park.
Your first stop will likely be the Museumplein – a large, public park ringged by Amsterdam’s greatest museums. Museumplein is home to the famous IAMSTERDAM sign, a huge fountain and lots of open space to take it all in! On nice days, the park is filled with people enjoying life. The Museumplein is free, as is the IAMSTERDAM sign, and houses lots of small kiosks selling over-priced snacks, beverages and souveniers. Plan to spend at least 30 minutes here, longer if you have children. The large Mickey Mouse looking statutes are part of a temporary exhibit by New Jersey street artist KAWS (and I think it ended in September 2015).
First up, and anchoring the Museumplein, is the Rijksmuseum. The Rijksmuseum is the Netherlands’ national museum. Housed in a building designed by Pierre Cuypers (he also designed Amsterdam’s train station and they look very similar!), it recently re-opened after an expensive and time-consuming, 10 year renovation.
The museum is spread over four levels (referred to as levels 0-3). Most people will want to concentrate their time in and around the Night Watch Gallery, where the majority of the Rembrandt’s and other famous Dutch works are housed, including the famous (and huge!) Night’s Watch. If visiting again, I would go early in the morning, grab an updated map and make a beeline for the Night’s Watch Gallery to check out the Night’s Watch before it floods with tourists. After, you can work your way back through the museum before the other exhibits get crowded!
In addition to great Dutch paintings, the Rijksmuseum has tons of other cool exhibits, including:
A permanent dollhouse exhibit:
A Napoleon gallery with a stuffed horse and the wall-spanning Battle of Waterloo painting:
And this Breitner painting (one of my favorites!):
Next up, the Van Gogh Museum. The Van Gogh Museum is a tribute to one of Holland’s favorite sons, Vincent van Gogh. The museum is quite modern and takes visitors on a tour of Van Gogh’s life, starting with his first paintings and moving through his life until his tragic death. While the museum is set up in chronological order, I recommend purchasing one of the audio guides for this museum (and I usually think these are a waste). It sheds some additional light on both Van Gogh’s life and the paintings you are viewing. The entire tour with audio guide takes about 1.5 hours. Some highlights from the tour:
Dan on the tour:
In sum, Amsterdam’s Museum District is a must-see for visitors to Amsterdam, and also a great place to stay! We stayed in a fabulous apartment just around the corner! To maximize your time, see the tips below on buying tickets online ahead of time!
STEAL OUR TRIP
The Rijksmuseum – Museumstraat 1, Amsterdam. Generally open 9 – 5. Cost is €17,50. You can and should buy e-tickets online from the Rijksmuseum website to avoid lines. E-tickets are not timed or date-specific, so you can buy them whenever, even the day-of. The tickets are good for several weeks, any time and any day. If you miss the Van Gogh museum, there are some Van Gogh’s at the Rijksmuseum, as well.
The Van Gogh Museum – Museumplein 6, Amsterdam. Generally open 9 – 5, and until 10 p.m. on Fridays. Cost is €17. Like the Rijksmuseum, you can and should buy e-tickets online to avoid the crowds! Unlike the Rijksmuseum, you have to buy your tickets at least 1 day in advance and they are only good for a certain time period on a certain day, and they do sell out! I would recommend buying a week in advance, if possible! The audio guides can be purchased online, too! On Fridays, when the museum is open late, they set up a cocktail party on the ground level, offering live music and Van Gogh themed cocktails, complete with Van Gogh vodka!
Albert Heijn – Van Baerlestraat 33A, 1071 AP Amsterdam, Netherlands. Hours: 8:00 am – 10:00 pm. The grocery store at the far end of the Museumplein, under the Stedelijk Museum. This is a good place to purchase snacks, water and wine for the Museumplein! When I was there, they only took cash or Netherlands-issued credit cards/debit card.
On A Budget
Most of the museums offer student and/or senior discounts with proper ID. Also check out the Albert Heijn for a meal and/or drinks in the park!