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What Is The Best Art Museum in Amsterdam?

by Micaela Zaslabsky

I am an art lover. I have always been interested in painting and drawing and Art History was one of my favourite subjects throughout high school. When it comes to art, moving to Amsterdam was a dream come true because Amsterdam has some of the best art museums in the whole world, and through its streets and canals have lived and painted some of the best painters of all times.

The best art museum in Amsterdam for me, and for many others, is the Rijksmuseum. It is true that the capital of the Netherlands has amazing museums such as the Van Gogh Museum and the Hermitage, but the Rijksmuseum has one of the biggest and most complete collections of all kinds of art.

Photo by Christian Fregnan on Unsplash

The first time I visited Amsterdam, even before planning on moving here, I visited the Rijksmuseum. The experience was better than I could have expected: it is an amazing building with beautiful gardens, modern exhibitions, endless paintings and it gives any visitor a lot of hours of culture and beauty between its wall.

Why Is The Rijksmuseum The Best Art Museum in Amsterdam?

The Rijksmuseum, or State Museum, has an unparalleled collection of paintings and objects of material culture, prints and classic photography, both from the Netherlands and all the ex-colonies.

If there’s one museum to see in Amsterdam, this is it. From Vermeer and pieces of the Primitive Flemish to the Gallery of Honour with Jan Steen and Fran Hals pieces and Delft Blue pottery, the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam (Museumplein) is not just one of Amsterdam’s best museums, but one of the world’s. Organized by geographic territories (top floor counting with pieces form the colonies), any visitor could spend weeks exploring these halls and discovering the more than 8,000 masterpieces in this stunning building, which dates back to the 18th Century. Willem I, first of the Orange-Nassau dynasty decided to create in this building the first big art collection of the Kingdom. (read this article for more information about the Netherlands).

This is what I normally do at museums 🙂

First of all, I am just talking from my point of view, and everybody has their own opinion, but there are many reasons why I believe the Rijksmuseum is the BEST art museum in Amsterdam:

  • Spacious: I have been to several small museums in Amsterdam (from Rembrandt’s house to the Van Gogh Museum) and I end up having the need to leave after a very short period of time. The Rijksmuseum happens to be a very spacious building, and even though some rooms are more crowded than others (like the Golden Ages and Rembrandt’s Night Watch room), but in general you can spend several hours enjoying it.
  • Enter as many times as you want: some museums like the Van Gogh Museum, allow you to go in at a certain period of time, sometimes previously scheduled. In the case of the Rijksmuseum, visitors are allowed to go in and out of the museum as many times as they want. This means that if you are tired, want to make a lunch break, or there is a part that you haven’t finished visiting, you can enter again as many times as you want on the same day. Useful, right?
  • Unscheduled entrance: I will keep comparing the Rijksmuseum to the Van Gogh Museum because I know the later is an all-time favourite, but here another reason why I believe the Rijks has more advantages. Unlike the Van Gogh Museum where you have to schedule your visit and preferably pre-book your ticket online, you can do it online or not and just enter whenever you want, unscheduled.
  • There is a little bit of everything: of course, if you know you like portraits, you should visit the Hermitage’s special room of Dutch portrait makers, or if you like modern art, the Stedelijk is your place. But if you want to enjoy art in general, it’s an amazing museum to see sculpture, colonial art, Rembrandt’s most famous masterpieces, Medieval gems, Van Goghs and much more.

According to the Rijksmuseum’s visitor information, where you can check their entrance schedule, buy tickets or explore the new exhibitions and extra information about all the art pieces, the must-sees are:

  • Night Watch, Rembrandt van Rijn’s masterpiece that is currently being restored. In order to make the public enjoy this famous painting even when it is being worked on, the curators of the Rijksmuseum have come up with the brilliant idea of sharing it with the whole world. On Operation Nightwatch anyone can enjoy the progress of the restoration and visitors can also see the art through a glass protected camera created for the occasion.
  • Gallery of Honour with paintings of Frans Hals, Jan Steen, Vermeer and Rembrandt.
  • An amazing collection of Delft Blue pottery that goes form tea sets to vases.
  • Cuypers Library, the biggest and oldest art history library in the country.
  • Unique doll’s houses that provide a detailed approach to everyday life in the 17th in the Netherlands.
  • Complete collection of miniature silverwork, musical instruments, an impressive armoury, glass, porcelain and a big number of ship models on the top floor of the building.

Details: Open every day of the week from 9 to 5. Museumplein. Tickets can be bought here or in many other places, just keep reading the article.

Where Can I Get Tickets to Museums in Amsterdam?

There are several ways of getting your tickets to visit museums or any other attraction in Amsterdam: at the actual location, at hotel reception desks, at a Tours and Tickets office, at the Museum Shop or online.

Buying your tickets online has a lot of advantages: for instances, some of the most popular attractions such as Anne Frank’s House and the Van Gogh Museum have a limited number of tickets and if they are not sold out when you go buy them, there are high chances that you won’t be able to go at the time that you want to go because they have scheduled entrance tickets: you can only enter at a designated time.

At the location: museums like the Stedelijk and the Rijksmuseum allow visitors to purchase the tickets on the spot before going in, without scheduled entrance nor restrictions. The bigger the museum is, the higher the chances of getting tickets on the spot. The problem with small museums such as Anne Frank’s house is the space: only reduced groups of people can go in at the same time, therefore, only a very limited number of people can go in every day.

A quick sketch at the Stedelijk, not that good but fun 😉

At hotels: most hotels in Amsterdam sell tickets to the most popular museums in the city, you can always ask at the reception desk. If they don’t offer this service, all of them count with discount vouchers and information about the museums, prices, opening hours and much more. It is also good to ask at the reception desk once you arrive, in case there is some extra information about a particular museum or some sort of activity that you don’t want to miss out. Locals know better!

Tours and Tickets Office: there are over 15 Tours and Tickets stores in Amsterdam. They specialise in any sort of entrance and tour you can want to do in Amsterdam: you can get tickets for all the museums in the city and plan any other activity you may want to do. You can find offices in Museumplein, Dan Square, Amsterdam CS and many more locations.

Museum Shop: if you happen to be around Museumplein and you want to avoid queuing, one of the best options is going to the museum shop of the Van Gogh Museum and the Rijksmuseum that there is in the middle of the square they sell tickets for the biggest museums as well as other useful tickets like transport card and discount museum cards (for more information, keep reading!).

Museum card

Last summer I got the much recommended – by yours truly – museumkaart, a card that allows you to enter the over 400 museums in the Netherlands as many times as you want, over 100 of them just in Amsterdam. This is a purchase more oriented for art lovers who happen to live in the Netherlands or those who have an address here in order to register this card on that address (and to get a good deal).

This card is personal and untransferable and it lasts for a whole year, valid in the whole country. And besides having a good deal to enter museums, you can also have easier access to the museums. Normally you just queue up as usual and show your card at the ticket desk in order to get a ticket (a free one). The Van Gogh Museum has a fast-lane entry for Museumkaart holders though pre-booking is mandatory (or you will also have to queue to get your ticket); the Maritime Museum has a special desk for Museum cards and pre-booked tickets; at the Rijksmuseum and Stedelijk you just get your museum card scanned at the main gallery entrance.

The museums you can visit in Amsterdam with this card are:

I can genuinely say that it has been one of the best investments I have ever made: each museum ticket in this city goes from 10 to 30 euros. Purchasing a museum card is only over 60 euros and you can enter all of them as many times as you want. This means that after the 4th visit to a museum, all the rest are free. Moreover, the card is great for the option that gives you to just pop into a museum for 30 minutes and visit a new exhibition – and you won’t feel the pressure to see everything. I have genuinely enjoyed that!

I’ve got this postcard at Van Gogh Museum

The easiest way of getting one is online (here) but you can also go to the Museum shop named above or to any big museum and ask for it: before having your museum card, before it arrives on the post to your address, you can enter up to 5 museums showing the proof of purchase. It is also possible to get your museumkaart even if you are just visiting the Netherlands, but the discount you get out of doing that is not really much. There are better deals:

For tourists, who are also museum lovers, there are other 2 great options: I amsterdam card and Amsterdam Holland Pass. Each of them has different advantages: free access to famous Amsterdam Museums, public transportation, day trips and discount for attractions -among them, Artis, which I strongly recommend.

Prices for the type of I Amsterdam Card or Amsterdam Holland Pass are compared here:

I Amsterdam CardAmsterdam Holland Pass
Day 1: 45 eurosSmall: 45 euros
Day 2: 84 eurosMedium: 60 euros
Day 3: 104 eurosLarge: 75 euros

If you want to know more because you can’t make up your mind about which one of these would be more convenient for you to purchase, the Amsterdam Tourist Information website offers information about: Amsterdam Public Transport Discount, Amsterdam Museums Discount, Amsterdam Attractions Discount, Amsterdam Activities & Excursions Discount, Amsterdam Performances & Concerts Discount and Amsterdam Restaurants & Shops Discounts.

Where to Find Street Art in Amsterdam?

Anyone who has been in Amsterdam would have noticed that it is not like the rest of European cities: besides having a lot of canals and falling-looking buildings, there is no street art in the streets of downtown Amsterdam.

There is no that much street art in downtown Amsterdam, but Amsterdam has been one of the biggest cities to allow freedom of expressions and a way for artists to express their anger and arguments against society: as always, Dutch have been pioneers on controversial topics. The best way of enjoying the real world of street art in this city are tours. Some good options are: SAMA (Street Art Museum of Amsterdam) or one of the Alternative Tours options (Street art and graffiti bike tour, street art murals walking tour, street art and alternative Amsterdam tour and even graffiti workshops)

The range of prices for any of these activities are between 15 and 35 euros per person, and they tend to last between 1 1/2 and 3 hours.

SAMA is the official Street Art Museum were street artist create their masterpieces and where tours for groups and individuals are given for those who enjoy graffiti.

SAMA is the Street Art Museum Amsterdam, a contemporary eco-museum, focused on the identity of the immediate environment in connection with local artists who try to improve the development and quality of their neighbors by creating art. This space is meant for an artist to create a social dialogue through their creation.

If you are interested in the idea of seeing some Dutch street art, you can book a tour online: the prices go from 25 euros per person for a group tour and 35 euros per person for individual tours. These tours last up to 4 hours.

Amsterdam street art most famous museum is located in the West part of Amsterdam, and it is not the typical museum included in any of the available cards one can get.

Another option for those who are into street art is both the Stedelijk Museum and MOCO Museum. On the one hand, the Stedelijk is included in the Museum Card and besides being one of my favorite museums and having a lot of all-time masterpieces, every now and then has exhibitions more related to street art, street performance and a lot of modern content. On the other hand, MOCO museum is known worldwide by the popular feature of street art from artists such as Banksy. MOCO is not included in the Museum card but it is in any of the other tourist-oriented cards.

Extra Museum Tips (from a museum lover)

Visit the Stedelijk Museum: my second favourite museum in Amsterdam happens to be the Stedelijk Museum of Modern Art. I have never been a modern art lover, but this museum has captivated me. First of all, the architecture is brilliant, is open, clean, spacious and most of all, relaxing. There are so many other crowded and narrowed museums in the city, that every time I visit the Stedelijk I feel truly inspired and chilled. Moreover, they tend to change their exhibitions quite often, which makes you want to visit them regularly. It is an interactive museum and the audioguides are free, so even for those whose knowledge of modern art is narrowed, it is a great option. Even for kids!

Photo courtesy of Hpschaefer || commons.wikimedia.org

Friday at Museumplein: talking about the Stedelijk, both this and the Van Gogh Museum open their door until late at night on Fridays. For the Stedelijk from 10 am until 10 pm and for the Van Gogh Museum from 9 am until 9 pm (also on Saturdays!).

Eye Filmmuseum: it is not your typical museum, but I would definitely recommend planning a visit. The Eye Filmmuseum is an amazing building where you can visit their small exhibition about cinema, as well as planning on going to watch one of the movies they project: documentaries, European and Indie films as well as musical experiences. (Extra tip: going for a drink with that view is worth it).

Photo courtesy of Jvhertum || commons.wikimedia.org

NEMO: if you are planning on visiting Amsterdam with a kid, this is a great place to consider. NEMO is a Science museum, not the art type but the more interactive and fun type where children learn about the world and its components through games and experiments. NEMO’s rooftop square is open to the public free of charge every day from 10 am to 5:30 pm, including all Mondays when the museum is closed: there you will have some amazing views.

Photo Courtesy of Gamekeeper || commons.wikimedia.org

Anne Frank’s House: I used to work at a hotel and one of the hardest places to get in and buy tickets to visit was definitely Anne Frank’s House. My tip is to book your visit in advance, as soon as you book your flight to come to Amsterdam. Another useful tip is that when there are no more tickets left, they always save some spare ones that will go out on sale for the next day at 9 pm. If you haven’t had the chance to purchase them, go to their website at 9 pm and you may be able to get some tickets for the next day.

Escape Game: the Rijksmuseum has been offering for a while the possibility to experience an Escape Game inside the museum. It is for a group of 2-5 people and you will have to pay less than 30 euros for all. It is only available for the summer holidays (but they do seasonal editions).

Museumnacht: if you are living in Amsterdam or are planning on going on the 2nd of November when museumnacht is going on, I would strongly encourage you to give it a try. Tickets sell out very fast, but it is an incredible experience: one is allowed in all the museums and galleries of the city with a ticket. Besides the regular art pieces and exhibitions, there are a lot of cool activities organised all over the city. Until 2 am you can enjoy from activities, talks, exhibitions, music, performances, weirdness and all themed in the context of each museum. The best part: visit as many as you want throughout the whole night! More information here.

Download art: Rijksstudio from the Rijksmuseum is an online platform where you will be able to download all your favourite art from the museum on high-quality pictures, and the best of all, for free! So if you are planning on customising your phone case or looking for a new screensaver, or even making your own poster, you can get them here.

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