Visiting the blockbuster Vermeer exhibition in the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam is one of the top cultural attractions in Europe in 2023.
Visiting the largest Vermeer exhibition ever became a major draw to art lovers worldwide as soon as the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam announced plans to stage the event during the first half of 2023. Tickets to the Vermeer exhibition sold out within two weeks but regular Rijksmuseum tickets are still easily available online but do not give access to the Vermeers.
Visiting the Vermeer Exhibition in the Rijksmuseum Amsterdam
The Vermeer exhibition is staged inside the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam from 10 February to 4 June 2023. The entrance to the Vermeer galleries is on the left (when approaching from Museum Square / Van Gogh Museum) while the regular Rijksmuseum entrance is on the right of the road passing underneath the museum.
Arrive on time, ticket in hand — tickets are generally quickly checked outside the museum to ensure visitors are in the correct line at the correct time — around 10 minutes early is acceptable. The ticket is scanned once inside the museum and a paper wristband is issued. Follow the blue line on the floor to the Vermeer exhibition area — as the line goes through the regular museum area towards the small Asian section, keep the wristband visible until at the exhibition entrance to prevent being stopped and asked for it.
Special free lockers are available for Vermeer exhibition visitors — the regular Rijksmuseum lockers and cloakroom may also be used but note that the closing times here are similar to the main museum.
Go up the stairs (or use the elevator) to the special exhibition rooms. It is possible to download all the texts of the exhibition in advance, which may then be read in advance or on a mobile device.
The bookshop at the end has many Vermeer items but good quality books are heavy and probably better bought online for home delivery, e.g. at Amazon, or often great deals at second-hand book tables. A small coffee corner is available after the exhibition — it is much easier to get a seat here than in the normal Rijksmuseum cafe that always has queues.
Afterward, it is allowed the visit the Rijksmuseum until closing time (17:00) — unfortunately, next day (or earlier in the day) tickets are not issued for Vermeer evening time slots.
Tips on Visiting the Vermeer Exhibition
All tickets for the Vermeer exhibition sold out within days meaning all visitors already have tickets and timeslots. (The Friends of the Rijksmuseum loophole has also been closed.) The regular museum visitors’ standard of visiting either at opening time or late in the day is thus irrelevant. However, a few simple tips on how to make a visit more pleasurable include:
Accept that the galleries are going to be busy — at times very busy — and visitors see more back-of-heads and telephone screens than Vermeers. However, most people move on reasonably quickly, so a bit of patience will be rewarded. Eavedrop on others — some visitors have considerable knowledge and interesting observations. Above all, don’t allow the thoughtlessness or rudeness of others to spoil the experience. It is not necessary to see the paintings in a specific order, so jump ahead and move back if crowds are smaller at some paintings.
Once inside the exhibition, visitors may stay until closing time. Backtracking, or going for a further round, is possible. Even after leaving the Vermeer exhibition, it is possible to return from the rest of the Rijksmuseum for another look later on the same day — just don’t exit the museum itself or remove the Vermeer armband.
Go prepared. The Rijksmuseum website has a wealth of information on Vermeer with the special Vermeer podcast narrated by Stephen Fry giving an excellent overview of Vermeer’s entire oeuvre, including the few paintings not in the exhibition. The best photo books are heavy and thus best bought online or before visiting.
See also: Rijksmuseum – Largest Vermeer Exhibition Ever in Amsterdam in 2023 for a full list of the painting on display.
See Two Vermeers NOT in Amsterdam
Two famous Vermeer paintings are not (or no longer) in Amsterdam and may easily be seen in their regular venues:
Probably the most famous Vermeer painting — Girl with a Pearl Earring — was only in the Rijksmuseum exhibition until late March and is again on display in the Mauritshuis in Den Haag from 1 April 2023. Although always popular, the Mauritshuis is generally far less crowded than the Vermeer exhibition. (From mid-June, all three Mauritshuis Vermeers should again be in The Hague.)
Arguably the best Vermeer painting — The Art of Painting — was not on display in Amsterdam as it was deemed too fragile to travel. Vermeer never sold this painting and his widow hid it away from creditors, as it probably is a self-portrait albeit from behind. On a regularly busy day in mid-February 2023 (after Vermeer-mania has already launched in Amsterdam), on a visit to Kunsthistorisches Museum Wien (KHM) in Vienna, in a fifteen-minute period, I saw only two other visitors actually stop to look at this wonderful painting.
From the second half of 2023, see the Vermeers in their regular galleries — this will of course involve more traveling but several museums have more than one on regular display, e.g. National Gallery in London, Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, Mauritshuis in The Hague, Gemäldegalerie in Berlin, Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister, Dresden , National Gallery of Art in Washington, and the Frick Collection in New York.