Locals will tell of an unmissable feature for any Netherlands-bound traveler - the Rijksmuseum - the principal national museum in Holland and a great spectacle that illustrates the magnificent history and art of the country right from the Middle Ages to the present day. It's in this marvelous building of grandeur where visitors can enjoy an exclusive journey of discovery - a revered site where 8,000 objects and artifacts spread out across 80 rooms recount the illustrious story of 800 years of Dutch art and history.
A show of Amsterdam’s Golden Age beginnings through to the most modern innovations to grace the arts, one of the Netherland's grandest museums will probably take more than a few days to savor in full. Thus, for those with a lack of time on their hands when visiting this bustling European city, these are the Rijksmuseum's most esteemed treasures in its collection that visitors absolutely must see in order to believe.
10 The Milkmaid, Johannes Vermeer, 1654–58
As one of Johannes Vermeer’s signature works, no visit to the Rijksmuseum would be satiated without witnessing the marvel of this piece. It's a beautiful painting of a domestic servant, whose features are a beauty to behold. The colors, in particular, are worthy of note, with their highly saturated blues and yellow tones along with Vermeer's elegant portrayal of natural light - both being skillful artistic points that create realistic imagery, which consequently (and deservedly) went on to impress and even inspire further generations of art historians and artists.
9 The Night Watch, Rembrandt van Rijn, 1642
Painted by Rembrandt in 1642, The Night Watch is one of his most celebrated masterpieces. Taking center stage in its very own opulent gallery dedicated to his talent and vision, this classic work of art was responsible for a dramatic turning point in the historic artist's career. A large, imposing painting set in its own regal section in the museum complete with a frieze that displays important moments throughout Rembrandt's lifetime, the timeless piece depicts guardsmen shifting into formation, whilst a young girl looms in the foreground - the latter whose appearance is thought to be based on Rembrandt's deceased wife.
8 Marten and Oopjen, Rembrandt
Another set of world-class works from Rembrandt, these posing pairs are so sought-after that they were indeed bought by both the Netherlands and France in 2016. And because sharing is caring, the paintings alternate between their two globally renowned homes - the Rijksmuseum, and none other than the Louvre in Paris.
7 The Marriage Portrait of Isaac Massa and Beatrix van der Laen Frans, Frans Hals, c. 1622
This impressive portrait of a couple by Frans Hals in 1622 is believed to be Isaac Massa and Beatrix van der Laen. Just another wedding painting, right? Not at all; it's the portrait's unconventional portrayal of the newlyweds that caused quite a scandalous stir at the time. When Hals painted it during the 17th century, marriage portraits were usually stiff and serious, with seemingly no fun allowed (God forbid anyone were to show any happiness). But when the smiling, happy couple and their comfortable posing and positioning were released in their martial painting, the public was rather unamused apparently - even shocked.
6 The Dolls’ House of Petronella Oortman, c. 1676
It's not just centuries-old paintings and magical architecture on display at the Rijksmuseum; the complex also houses a few kitsch and quirky items too. In fact, visitors can admire the three highly detailed antique dolls’ houses, one of which actually inspired Jessie Burton’s 2014 novel, The Miniaturist. Now, before anyone assumes these are mere kids' toys, people should know that these delicate dolly abodes from the 17th century were the expensive hobbies of rich (and likely bored) housewives of that time. Such houses were often decorated with high-quality materials, such as silver, china, and glass, and also contained intricate, tiny textile furnishings made perfectly to scale.
5 The Threatened Swan, Jan Asselijn, c. 1650
Painted by Jan Asselijn, this important painting with political undertones was the very first bought by the Nationale Kunstgalerij - the predecessor of the Rijksmuseum. However, what makes this special work of art all the more fascinating is this: the swan in the picture seen vehemently defending its nest from an approaching dog is said to represent Johan de Witt - a significant political figure who fought against enemies of the state. And the image's impact doesn't quite end there; the swan even became a symbol of Dutch national resistance thanks to Asselijin's memorable artistic take on such conflicts that evidently struck a chord with the country.
4 The Cuypers Library
Bookworms rejoice, for this is one of Europe's greatest libraries (and undeniably, one of its most beautiful). As the exalted home of the oldest and most extensive collection of art history books in the Netherlands, it's not at all surprising that book lovers and art aficionados flock to this majestic center of history, art, and information to discover its wealth of wonders in written form. Anyone and everyone are welcome to visit, to search the shelves for books, to study in peace in striking surroundings, or for a more modern take - employ the museum's iPads to browse its endless online collection of books, texts, and titles.
3 The Rijksmuseum Gardens
To be waltzed through either before or after exploring the museum's interiors, the stately gardens are just as enchanting as the arts and artifacts on show within. The whimsical and artistic lawns full of sculptures designed by Pierre Cuypers in 1901 are sensational and are adorned with their very own showpieces to appreciate and take photos of. Think ornate topiaries, sculptures and statues, pretty water features, vibrant flowerbeds, and nature's very own outdoor pièce de résistance: the huge wingnut tree that overlooks the grounds' play areas. And, visitors who come in the summer may also observe the pop-up installations and temporary exhibitions that appear throughout the warmer months.
All that exploration encompassing 8,000 sensations across 80 rooms of the Rijksmuseum is sure to bolster an appetite - and the establishment's Michelin-starred restaurant, RIJKS, is a must for any hungry visitor. A mouth-watering representation of Dutch creativity in full foodie fashion, executive chef Joris Bijdendijk has created a unique menu inspired by the very flavors that influenced Dutch cuisine throughout the amassed centuries. Most of the meals are far too beautiful to eat, so make sure to snap pics of each before tucking in. To make matters even more incredible, the restaurant team often hosts highly reputed guest chefs to create and serve their own amazing dishes.
1 The Passage
Amsterdam loves cycling. In fact, it's so cyclist-friendly that its most sublime museum allows folks to pedal right through its grounds - or its passageway to be more specific. The Rijksmuseum passageway is an intriguing area that connects the two sections of its atriums together, fearing large glass panels that allow pedestrians and bikers a sneak peek into the majestic museum indoors. What's more, people passing through this particular passageway have their own entrance music; it's a popular spot amongst Amsterdam's street musicians who like to put on a show in public.