How to buy tickets, join guided tours, and avoid queues to see The Night Watch and Dutch Golden Age paintings and artworks without the crowds.
The Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam is the top art museum in The Netherlands and deservedly very popular with visitors. Online tickets are available but to avoid the crowds, it is best to arrive early morning or late afternoon. Rembrandt’s The Night Watch is the most famous painting and together with other Golden Age masterpieces – including four by Vermeer – the most popular artworks to see in the Rijksmuseum. Other galleries are much quieter so plan any visit around the period that the Eregalerij (Gallery of Honour) could be unpleasantly busy. Booking a guided tour ensures speedy admission during busy periods.
The Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, North Holland
The Rijksmuseum (literally Imperial Museum) in Amsterdam is the greatest museum in the world to see Dutch art. Its most famous painting – Rembrandt van Rijn’s The Night Watch (De Nachtwacht) – is also its top attraction. En route to this masterpiece, visitors can enjoy other Golden Age paintings including works by Vermeer, Steen and Hals.
Although Dutch art from he seventeenth century is undoubtedly the main attraction at the Rijksmuseum – this period fills the complete second floor – the works on display range from around 1100 to the present.
Some of these galleries with art works of exceptional quality may be virtually empty even when the Golden Age rooms are unpleasantly crowded.
Tips on Enjoying Art in the Rijksmuseum
The Rijksmuseum is always popular – year round visitors can expect large numbers but weekends and school vacations are of course even more crowded.
The number of visitors allowed into the museum is limited – if on arrival, queues are waiting in four directions from the entrances all the way out of the covered arcades into the open, it may well be a better strategy to go for coffee, lunch, shopping, or other sites and return later.
If visiting during a peak period, consider booking a guided tour that allows priority access. This will allow visitors to skip the queues outside the entrance but of course the museum will be just as crowded inside.
Tips on Avoiding Crowds at the Rijksmuseum
The Rijksmuseum is usually most crowded between 11 am and 3 pm. The best strategy to enjoy the museum is thus to avoid the middle of the day by arriving early (the Rijksmuseum opens at 9 am) or late afternoon (after around 3 pm – last admission at 4:30 pm).
When arriving early, go straight up to the second floor and go directly to see The Night Watch. Then retreat to the four Vermeers and other Golden Age paintings in the Eregalerij (Gallery of Honor). Only after seeing these top works start any planned tours or itinerary even if it requires a complete backtrack to the entrance. Of course, late afternoon see the Eregalerij last.
De Nachtwacht usually has its own two security guards but they are there to protect the painting not to move the visitors along. While crowds jostle for position in front of the Rembrandt, the huge similarly themed paintings on the sidewalls by Frans Hals and Bartholomeus van der Helst can be enjoyed as if on a private tour.
After seeing these top works, the rest of the museum can be relatively peaceful. It is probably best to see the rest of the second floor (works from 1600 – 1700) first but after that many galleries may be much quieter. The art nouveau on the third floor and the Asian pavilion (well worth the detour) can be deserted even when other galleries are unpleasantly full.
Buying Tickets for the Rijksmuseum
The Rijksmuseum is entered via the arcaded gallery that allows pedestrians and cyclist to move through the building, which was conceived as a historicist palatial town gate. On arrival at the museum, note that the queues here are waiting to actually enter the museum building, whether bearing a ticket or not. (Only a booked guided tour get priority admission.)
While waiting, note the slit cut into the roof of the vaults of the arcade on the Museumplein side of the building – this was done to allow The Night Watch to be hoisted back into the building without having to roll up the large painting.
- Tickets for the Rijksmuseum are €17.50 for adults and free for children under 18. The Museumkaart is accepted with holders allowed to proceed directly to the entrance.
Tickets can be bought at the Rijksmuseum, online (e.g. Tiqets), or from many Amsterdam hotels and travel-related businesses – the price should be same. Online tickets and advance purchase tickets are valid for admission within the year and do not give priority admission on any specific day. Children enter free but still require a printout e-ticket with barcode.
Once inside the building, visitors with an e-ticket or Dutch Museum Card (Museumkaart) may proceed directly to the actual gallery collections entrance without needing a separate ticket from the ticket desks. Expect another queue if needing the free cloakroom (no coin lockers).
Guided Tours Skipping the Lines at the Rijksmuseum
The lines outside the Rijksmuseum are to enter the building. At busy times, everyone, with or without a ticket, needs to line up here and wait until the museum is less crowded before being admitted into the building. Some skip-the-lines passes give priority access but at busy times even tour groups have to wait.
The only way to ensure immediate admission to the museum building is by booking an official Rijksmuseum guided tour – not the multimedia tour sold on the standard ticket page. This will add usually €5 to the ticket price but also a wealth of knowledge and priority access to the building at busy times. Of course the inside of the museum is not going to be any less crowded but at least tour members don’t have to wait in wind and weather and Rijksmuseum guides do tend to have the ability to bully their groups to right in front of the main paintings
Online tickets can be bought from the Rijksmuseum website. Oddly, the guided tours, which give visitors priority access to the museum building, are not offered here. To book a guided tour online – and various are available in English – start the ticket buying process through the What’s On section.
Many hop-on-hop-off bus and canal boat tours also offer small discounts on Rijksmuseum admissions.
Free Rijksmuseum Apps and Multimedia Tours
The Rijksmuseum has a wonderful website with 130,000 pieces currently on display online. Around 8,000 of the museum’s collection of nearly a million items are on show in the Rijksmuseum. Browsers are actively encouraged to download pictures and digitally play around with the art works.
From the What’s On section, visitors can download for free the multimedia tours for iPhone or Android. (€5 for visitors turning up at the museum without an own smart phone.) Various tours are available including 45 or 90 minutes highlights or put together a personal tour. Free wifi is available throughout the museum.
Popular sights near the Rijksmuseum include the Stedelijk Museum(modern art), Van Gogh Museum, Vondelpark of for something completely different high-class shopping in P C Hoofstraat, swimming in the historic Zuiderbad swimming pool, or visit the Heineken Experience.