The Rijksmuseum highlights: 10 must-see paintings and artworks

The Dutch museum icon is of course the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam. This immensely large museum has been back in full splendor since 2013 after years of renovation. From the famous hall of fame to the Asian pavilion, from the old masters to modern art and from a beautiful historic building to the modern entrance hall. You can easily entertain the result for several days and we have also been here many times. We now have a number of favorite places in the Rijksmuseum that we really consider a must-visit during a visit.

Tip: If you are visiting more then two attractions, you might want to consider a discount card. The I Amsterdam City Card is a great option for Amsterdam.
Rijksmuseum Amsterdam | The Orange Backpack
Rijksmuseum Amsterdam | The Orange Backpack
Rijksmuseum Amsterdam | The Orange Backpack

The Rijksmuseum highlights

# 1 The Winter Landscape by Hendrick Avercamp

More information | Hendrick Avercamp is known for its winter landscapes with ice fun and this is one of the most beautiful and famous works. You see children playing, the rich citizens on sleds, a couple making love and skating people. The work of Avercamp can fascinate me endlessly. I even have a huge jigsaw puzzle of this painting, so that I could immerse myself in all the details. Hendrick Avercamp was deaf and dumb, but his loving mother taught him to read and write and apprenticed him to painters. Precisely because of his handicap he was a master of seeing and what he saw we can now admire in the Rijksmuseum. There is also a winter landscape of Avercamp opposite this masterpiece in room 2.16.

Reading tip: Thea Beckman wrote the special life story of the famous painter in the children’s book De Stomme van Kampen.

# 2 Petronella’s dollhouse

More information | The rich Petronella Oortman’s dollhouse is not the type of toy that children now play with. It is a huge house of more than 2.5 meters high that is decorated lifelike. Petronella’s dollhouse was made in the seventeenth century and that is the style of the interior. Cupboards with porcelain mini crockery, a drawing room with a mural or a cupboard inlaid with turtle: no costs were spared. All furniture is made by real craftsmen from the material that normal furniture was also made at the time.

Reading tip: Petronella’s dollhouse is now more than famous in the UK. British actress Jessie Burton wrote a book about Petronella and her dollhouse. Don’t expect a literary tour de force, but an insight into life in the seventeenth century.

# 3 The Great Hall

More information | The Front Hall is on the same floor as the dollhouse and the most famous paintings of the Rijksmuseum. During the massive renovation of the museum, the Voorhal was restored to its former glory, as architect Cuypers had designed it. That means an inlaid mosaic floor, a cathedral-vaulted ceiling, stained glass windows and huge murals in Biblical themes. An interesting detail are the emblems of King William III and Queen Emma on the walls. The two are mentioned prominently on the walls, but they did not like the Rijksmuseum van Cuypers at all. The Protestant monarchs thought it looked too much like a Catholic church and shone at the historic opening due to their absence.

# 4 The Gallery of Honour with the Night Watch

More information | The Gallery of Honour- an extension of the Great hal – is the heart of the Rijksmuseum. During the renovation, this hall was specially designed around all the famous canvases of the museum. Of course the world-famous Rembrandt’s Night Watch is the highlight of this and has a showpiece at the end of the room. Of course it is always busy there and you would rush through the hall for this celebrity. Don’t, because you will meet other celebrities along the way. Such as Rembrandt’s Jewish Bride, The Threatened Swan or the Letter Reading Woman and Vermeer’s Milkmaid. Don’t forget to check out the beautiful ceiling, because the room itself is so beautiful. It was not for nothing that it was the location for the farewell dinner of former Queen Beatrix.

# 5 The historical library

More information | The library is also a design by Cuypers from 1885 and has been open to visitors since it reopened in 2013. In the library you will find the most important and largest collection of art historical books in the Netherlands. Students or art historians are free to use it, but visitors can also take a look inside from the balcony. You can find the library near the dollhouse of Petronella. Not everyone is happy that the Cuypers library has been opened. It is a quiet space for study and work, so keep that in mind.

Reading tip: in the year of the opening of the Rijksmuseum, Tomas Ross wrote the new thriller De Nachtwaker with the museum as a backdrop. The Cuypers library plays a special role in this.

# 6 The Delft Blue room

More information | Room 2.22 is dedicated to a unique piece of Dutch art: Delft earthenware. Special is the age-old violin of Delft blue pottery. You cannot play on it; the violin is purely for decoration and one of the highlights of the collection. We are also a fan of the huge flower pyramids. This seventeenth-century equivalent of our vases: the expensive cut flowers and especially tulips could be placed on every corner.

# 7 The historic building by architect Cuypers

More information | It was once the most expensive building in the Netherlands and we are still reaping the benefits today. The building from 1885, which houses the national collection, is still a gem. The Catholic architect Cuypers is also known for the design of Amsterdam Central, but also designed churches in particular. You can see that in the design and it was not really popular in the mainly Protestant Netherlands. For a long time it was called the ‘Cuypers Cathedral’. A lot has been added and changed since 1885, as a result of which the design by Cuypers was somewhat lost. But during the renovation until 2013, Cuypers Cathedral has been completely restored.

# 8 Vincent van Gogh’s self-portrait

More information | It is no secret that we are lovers of modern art. We even dedicated a separate blog to our favorite museums of modern art in the Netherlands. The Rijksmuseum is also in that list, because did you know that you cannot only view old masters here? The Rijks has a fairly large collection of modern art. As far as we are concerned, Vincent van Gogh’s self-portrait in his so typical style is the highlight of this.

# 9 The Temple Guardians in the Asian Pavilion

More information | The Asian pavilion is a unique corner of the Rijksmuseum. No Dutch masters and not even modern art here, but space for Asian gems. The two literal highlights are the two Temple Guardians from Japan. These huge images are centuries old and look menacing and dramatic. They are still fairly new to the Rijksmuseum: they were bought in 2007 and can therefore only be seen since the reopening in 2013.

Viewing tip: the film about the reopening of the Rijksmuseum tells extensively about the special Japanese parts.

# 10 The Passage for cyclists

More information | The famous Passage under the Rijksmuseum is where you will also find the entrance since the renovation. The Rijksmuseum’s large entrance hall is separated by the Passage, which cyclists and pedestrians use. The Rijksmuseum is one of the few museums in the world that you can cycle right through. A unique feature that was heavily defended during the renovation, because it seemed that this would disappear.

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