The Rijksmuseum is top of the list for Culture Vultures visiting Amsterdam. It is stuffed to the gunnels with Dutch Golden Age paintings and much, much more. Visiting the Rijksmuseum with teens can be overwhelming as the museum is vast and the queues can be long. My top tips for a stress free visit are to pre-book your tickets, thus avoiding the queues and download the audioguide onto everybody’s phone before you arrive.
ARRIVING AT THE RIJKSMUSEUM
From the outside the Rijksmuseum looks like a railway station. Maybe that shouldn’t be surprising as the architect, Pierre Cuypers, was also responsible for Amsterdam Centraal Station. When I first visited in the 80’s you queued in a dark undercroft, in fact the whole place is dark in my memory. Now light floods into the building following the construction of a light and airy central atrium. This is where you buy your tickets, leave your coats in the coat check, go to the loo, browse the shop and eat in the cafe. We had pre-booked our tickets online and so just breezed past the queues and straight into the galleries. Before you dive into the collections make sure you have collected a map, that fancy new atrium adds light but makes navigating the building a little confusing.
We find that museum audioguides make for more harmonious visits to museums and art galleries with teens and the Rijksmuseum is no exception to this rule. We downloaded the audioguide app for free before we arrived, but you can hire them for €5 as well. If you download the app make sure you bring your own headphones to listen to the commentary. You can follow one of seven pre-set routes or choose to wander at will, keying in the numbers of the objects that interest you. Before we went into the galleries we looked at the map and worked out a rough route of our own.
HIGHLIGHTS OF THE RIJKSMUSEUM
Our exploration started in the basement, our first choice model ships or medieval artefacts. Artefacts win every time in the CW household. Down in the basement it feels a bit like a church, the perfect atmosphere to show off the mainly religious relics. My favourites from this here? The Ten Weepers. These wooden figures are all that remain of twenty four figures made for the tomb of Isabella of Bourbon, wife of Charles the Bold, Duke of Burgundy. Somehow they seemed still and beautiful to me.
This carving of the Repentance of St Peter caught my eye to begin with because I thought that it must be a modern reaction to the objects in the gallery. Its sharp angles looking very modern. In fact it dates from 1425, those angles are rocks focusing our attention on St Peter’s wretched face shortly after he had denied knowing Jesus.
Napoleon and his exploits fascinates the teens. We have paid homage to his nemesis the Duke of Wellington in London and visited his apartments in the Louvre, so it only seemed fair that we should visit the Rijksmuseum Gallery devoted to Waterloo. Just a little bit further around we found a tiny self portrait by Vincent Van Gogh surrounded by adoring crowds.
Most famous of all the many paintings in the Rijksmuseum is The Nightwatch by Rembrandt. Even if you didn’t know this before you arrived you could guess it by the crowds gathered in front of it. Much selfie taking was took place in front of The Nightwatch but it is well worth taking time to look at the all faces in the paintings.
The Nightwatchman is housed in the Rijksmusesum’s main suite of galleries. The alcoves leading to it are devoted to the ‘Gallery of Honour’ or in other words the masters of the Netherlands’ Golden Age; Rembrandt, Vermeer, Steen, de Hooch and Frans Hals. Once this fest of minutely observed interiors, grave churches and gracious canals was completed the teens declared that for them the Rijksmuseum was finished. It was a good place to run out of steam as we were in the Great Hall which has been left clear of paintings but has cosy nooks in which to sit and think. I left the boys and Mr CW to contemplate their phones and headed off to find the Dolls Houses which inspired Jessie Burton to write The Miniaturist.
Whilst let loose on my own I also took time to peek in at the Library. Books line the walls (well it is a library) of what is one of the world’s finest art libraries. It would be nice to sit at one of the desks and work on a blog post!
The clean lines and bright colours of the de Stijl movement are among my favourites, so I took a little more time and headed up to the very top of the Rijksmuseum for a glimpse of the famous Gerrit Reitveld chair. I was in for a shock, all the pictures that I have ever seen depict the chair in black, red and yellow. The version in the Rijksmuseum is snowy white.
EATING AND DRINKING AT THE RIJKSMUSEUM
We ate lunch in the cafe in the atrium, it gets quite busy at lunchtimes so if you want to avoid a long wait you can book online, we didn’t and only had a short wait. If you after a fancy lunch or dinner then head to RIKJS in the Phillips wing. For us a snack in the cafe was perfect.
TOP TIPS FOR VISITING THE RIJKSMUSEUM WITH TEENS
- Book your tickets in advance
- Do not join the queue if you have booked in advance just head straight for the gallery entrance
- Download the audioguide before you arrive
- Make sure that you have headphones to listen to the audioguide
- Pick up a free Gallery Guide when you arrive
- Don’t worry if you don’t download the audioguide you can hire one for €5
- When your teens have had enough let them sit down whilst you wander off
RIJKSMUSEUM NEED TO KNOW
- Open daily 9am – 5pm
- Admission €17.50 adults, under 18 free
- Museumstraat 1, Amsterdam
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