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Rijksmuseum Amsterdam National Museum - Museumplein Amsterdam

The Rijksmuseum (literally: National Museum) is The Netherlands' largest museum of art and history. It contains nigh on one million objects; most notably a large selection of paintings by Rembrandt, Johannes Vermeer, Jan Steen, Paulus Potter, Frans Hals and other well-known figures from the Dutch Golden Age (1584-1702). The vast archive is housed in a turreted neo-Renaissance building designed by Pierre Cuypers, the "grandfather of modern Dutch architecture". The red birck gothic facade of the building is a landmark of Amsterdam. It can be found at the north east end of Museumplein (Museum Square). Close by you will find the Van Gogh and Stedelijk museums, in the heart of Amsterdam.

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Picture of the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam from park in Museumplein
Although the Rijksmuseum's current incarnation dates from 1885, it began life in The Hague in 1800. It was known then as the National Gallery and was used primarily to house the collections of Dutch stadtholders. Eight years later is was moved to Amsterdam by order of Louis Napoleon, and, in its new home, inherited the capital's resident masterpieces, including Rembrandt's The Night Watch. The museum shifted locations again a few years later, this time to the Museumplein. Here, The Night Watch was granted a hall all to itself; partly due to its status as the Rijksmuseum's (and one of Rembrandt's) most famous paintings, and partly to its colossal size of 363 x 437 cm.
Picture of the museum
In addition, the current site's 150-plus rooms contain the world's largest collection of works by the Dutch masters, with over 400 pieces alone in the Philips Wing. Among them are a significant number of portraits by Hals, Vermeer's The Milkmaid and The Little Street, and Rembrandt's The Jewish Bride, which Van Gogh is said to have studied for hours. Due to renovations, The Night Watch has left its hall and joined the Philips Wing, meaning the entire "Best of" of the Golden Age can be seen in one single walkway. The wing also exhibits an extensive collection of drawings and prints dating from the 1400s, as well as additional paintings, sculptures and crafts from both Asia and the West. Among them is an assembly of over 500 statues of Buddha hailing from right across the Orient. Another popular set is the delightful array of 17th-century dollhouses, which were designed as elaborate built-to-order showpieces rather than toys. As a result, each one is a miniature reconstruction of a wealthy Golden Age mansion, right down to the Italian marble flooring and the silver cutlery laid out on the tables.

Somewhat enterprisingly, the museum's renovation has been turned into an attraction in itself. Visitors can see a 3D film on the project that's destined to make the Rijksmuseum even bigger and better, and sign up for one of the increasingly popular "Hard Hat Tours" to witness Seville architects Antonio Cruz and Antonio Ortiz's work in progress. Also worth investigating is the museum's triangular sculpture garden, whose beauty is often overlooked by those perusing the internal exhibits.

The Rijksmuseum is open every day (except January 1), from 9:00 to 18:00, and also from 18:00 to 22:00 on Fridays. Unlike most museums, non-flash photography is permitted.

For more information on the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam click here

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