A Blog by International Students at Leiden University
Within a week, the Netherlands has jumped drastically from a pretty-cold autumn into fully-fledged winter. Now that term is ending as well, reward yourself for finishing all those term papers by taking a trip to Amsterdam and seeking refuge from the cold weather in a host of famous museums.
Of course, the most well-known museum in Amsterdam is the Rijksmuseum, which is situated in prime position on Museumplein. After getting a Museumkaart at the start of the semester, I’d been waiting to finally use it to get into the Rijksmuseum, where a standard adult ticket costs close to €20. As a side note, the Museumkaart costs €60, and gives you an entire year of free entry to museums all around Holland, making it ideal for students who want to escape their workload every now and then. By heading to the Rijksmuseum just three times in the year you’ve already made back the cost, and with eight museums to visit in Leiden alone, it’s certainly good value for money. Though I did scoff at the standard price of a ticket to the Rijksmuseum (most museums in the UK are completely free), it contains a whole host of famous works – I’m pretty sure I repeated the phrase “That one’s famous too!” at least a dozen times wandering around – that it probably is value for money even without a Museumkaart.
The foyer provides a grand entrance to the Rijksmuseum, accessible from a tunnel through the middle of the late-nineteenth century building. From here you can relax first at the café, or leave your winter coats at the free cloakroom and head straight in (lockers are also provided, though they cost 50c). The exhibitions themselves are laid out over four floors, giving you a lot to peruse. If you want to catch a glimpse of the Rijksmuseum’s most famous pieces first, head to the ‘Gallery of Honour’ on the second floor, where you’ll find Johannes Vermeer’s ‘The Milkmaid’ as well as Rembrandt’s ‘Night Watch’, taking pride-of-place at the head of the gallery. Aside from the famous seventeenth-century pieces, it’s also worth checking out the 1800-1900 gallery on the first floor where aside from a famous Van Gogh self-portrait – you can also see paintings and dioramas relating to the Dutch East Indies.
Aside from the Rijksmuseum, two other major museums are located on Museumplein: the Van Gogh Museum and the Stedelijk Museum. As a break from the pre-twentieth century work on show at the Rijksmuseum, I decided to spend the rest of the afternoon checking out the Stedelijk, a contemporary art museum (entrance to which is also free with the Museumkaart). This one was much less busy, probably because there are far fewer classically ‘famous’ works inside, but don’t let that put you off. Enjoyment in a modern-art museum is, inevitably, entirely dependent on whether or not you’re truly a fan of modern art – but if you are this is the place to go. Currently, the Stedelijk has a Keith Haring canvas on display, which hung in the museum in a 1986 exhibition of his work. As well as this, there’s also an exhibition exploring works relating to the theme of‘migration’. The Stedelijk also provides a free audio tour, which was very useful for gleaning personal information about the works themselves, especially when it came to migrant stories in this specific exhibition.
It’s entirely possible to spend an entire day just at Museumplein, and it’s worthwhile if you do to see the Rijksmuseum lit up. At this time of year, it’s also possible to go ice-skating in front of the museum, a fitting way to end a cultural day in Amsterdam.