VISITING THE RIJKSMUSEUM WITH TEENS

The Rijksmuseum is top of the list for Culture Vultures visiting Amsterdam.  It is stuffed to the gunnels with Dutch Golden Age paintings and much, much more.  Visiting the Rijksmuseum with teens can be overwhelming as the museum is vast and the queues can be long.  My top tips for a stress free visit are to pre-book your tickets, thus avoiding the queues and download the audioguide onto everybody’s phone before you arrive.

Visiting Rijksmuseum with Teens

ARRIVING AT THE RIJKSMUSEUM

From the outside the Rijksmuseum looks like a railway station.  Maybe that shouldn’t be surprising as the architect, Pierre Cuypers, was also responsible for Amsterdam Centraal Station.  When I first visited in the 80’s you queued in a dark undercroft, in fact the whole place is dark in my memory.  Now light floods into the building following the construction of a light and airy central atrium.  This is where you buy your tickets, leave your coats in the coat check, go to the loo, browse the shop and eat in the cafe.  We had pre-booked our tickets online and so just breezed past the queues and straight into the galleries.  Before you dive into the collections make sure you have collected a map, that fancy new atrium adds light but makes navigating the building a little confusing.

Rijksmuseum atrium

RIJKSMUSEUM AUDIOGUIDE

We find that museum audioguides make for more harmonious visits to museums and art galleries with teens and the Rijksmuseum is no exception to this rule. We downloaded the audioguide app for free before we arrived, but you can hire them for €5 as well.  If you download the app make sure you bring your own headphones to listen to the commentary.  You can follow one of seven pre-set routes or choose to wander at will, keying in the numbers of the objects that interest you. Before we went into the galleries we looked at the map and worked out a rough route of our own.

HIGHLIGHTS OF THE RIJKSMUSEUM

Our exploration started in the basement, our first choice model ships or medieval artefacts.  Artefacts win every time in the CW household.  Down in the basement it feels a bit like a church, the perfect atmosphere to show off the mainly religious relics.  My favourites from this here?  The Ten Weepers.  These wooden figures are all that remain of twenty four figures made for the tomb of Isabella of Bourbon, wife of Charles the Bold, Duke of Burgundy.  Somehow they seemed still and beautiful to me.

Ten Weepers rijksmuseum

This carving of the Repentance of St Peter caught my eye to begin with because I thought that it must be a modern reaction to the objects in the gallery.  Its sharp angles looking very modern. In fact it dates from 1425, those angles are rocks focusing our attention on St Peter’s wretched face shortly after he had denied knowing Jesus.

Repentance of St Peter Rijksmuseum

Napoleon and his exploits fascinates the teens.  We have paid homage to his nemesis the Duke of Wellington in London and visited his apartments in the Louvre, so it only seemed fair that we should visit the Rijksmuseum Gallery devoted to Waterloo.  Just a little bit further around we found a tiny self portrait by Vincent Van Gogh surrounded by adoring crowds.

Vincent Van Gogh self portrait rijksmuseum

Most famous of all the many paintings in the Rijksmuseum is The Nightwatch by Rembrandt.  Even if you didn’t know this before you arrived you could guess it by the crowds gathered in front of it.  Much selfie taking was took place in front of The Nightwatch but it is well worth taking time to look at the all faces in the paintings.

The Nightwatch Rembrandt

The Nightwatchman is housed in the Rijksmusesum’s main suite of galleries.  The alcoves leading to it are devoted to the ‘Gallery of Honour’ or in other words the masters of the Netherlands’ Golden Age; Rembrandt, Vermeer, Steen, de Hooch and Frans Hals.  Once this fest of minutely observed interiors, grave churches and gracious canals was completed the teens declared that for them the Rijksmuseum was finished.  It was a good place to run out of steam as we were in the Great Hall which has been left clear of paintings but has cosy nooks in which to sit and think.  I left the boys and Mr CW to contemplate their phones and headed off to find the Dolls Houses which inspired Jessie Burton to write The Miniaturist.

Miniaturist Dolls House Rijksmuseum

Whilst let loose on my own I also took time to peek in at the Library.  Books line the walls (well it is a library) of what is one of the world’s finest art libraries.  It would be nice to sit at one of the desks and work on a blog post!

Rijksmuseum library

The clean lines and bright colours of the de Stijl movement are among my favourites, so I took a little more time and headed up to the very top of the Rijksmuseum for a glimpse of the famous Gerrit Reitveld chair.  I was in for a shock, all the pictures that I have ever seen depict the chair in black, red and yellow.  The version in the Rijksmuseum is snowy white.

Gerrit Reitveld Chair De Stijl

EATING AND DRINKING AT THE RIJKSMUSEUM

We ate lunch in the cafe in the atrium, it gets quite busy at lunchtimes so if you want to avoid a long wait you can book online, we didn’t and only had a short wait.  If you after a fancy lunch or dinner then head to RIKJS in the Phillips wing.  For us a snack in the cafe was perfect.

TOP TIPS FOR VISITING THE RIJKSMUSEUM WITH TEENS

  • Book your tickets in advance
  • Do not join the queue if you have booked in advance just head straight for the gallery entrance
  • Download the audioguide before you arrive
  • Make sure that you have headphones to listen to the audioguide
  • Pick up a free Gallery Guide when you arrive
  • Don’t worry if you don’t download the audioguide you can hire one for €5
  • When your teens have had enough let them sit down whilst you wander off

RIJKSMUSEUM NEED TO KNOW

  • Open daily 9am – 5pm
  • Admission €17.50 adults, under 18 free
  • Museumstraat 1, Amsterdam

Whilst we were in Amsterdam we also swung on Europe’s Highest Swing and went on a Food Tour.

PIN FOR LATER

Visiting the Rijksmuseum with Teens

CulturedKids

Wander Mum

35 Comments

  1. January 4, 2018 / 8:53 pm

    Fab post! It makes me want to go and visit now, even without a teen. I’ve never thought of taking a selfie with a painting. Does that make me old?

    • January 4, 2018 / 9:02 pm

      Hmmmm! Not something that I would consider but have just spent a couple of days battling selfie sticks in Rome

  2. January 5, 2018 / 9:16 am

    This is so very useful. Do you think a visit would be suitable with young kids too? #culturedkids

    • January 8, 2018 / 5:09 pm

      Yes! The Rijksmuseum has special family guided tours and audio guides.

  3. January 5, 2018 / 9:57 am

    What great tips – I wouldn’t have even thought to download the audio guide beforehand. It looks like a beautiful museum. That library!! #culturedkids

    • January 8, 2018 / 5:10 pm

      Wouldn’t it be wonderful to spend time in library quietly with all those books!

  4. pigeonpairandme
    January 5, 2018 / 12:19 pm

    Great tip about booking online to avoid the queues. Do you know, I visited the Rijksmuseum about fifteen years ago, and have no memory of the doll’s house. I wonder if I saw it? How a popular book can change things! #CulturedKids

    • January 8, 2018 / 5:12 pm

      I suspect that the Dolls Houses were there but before the Miniaturist they probably edged into the haze of amazing stuff on show

  5. January 5, 2018 / 12:56 pm

    I never went in due to the queues so I will book I advance next time

    • January 8, 2018 / 5:14 pm

      We find that either City cards or pre-booking is the best way to avoid queues

  6. January 5, 2018 / 1:53 pm

    It seems strange having to pay for a normal museum where in London you only tend to pay for the exhibitions. Looks like there’s plenty to see and good tips on the audio guides. I’m not a fan of apps as they kill my phone on a day out, but it’s handy to use #culturedkids

    • January 8, 2018 / 5:15 pm

      Very true about the battery life, you can always hire the museum ones and run their batteries down!

  7. January 5, 2018 / 2:03 pm

    I find that my teens will tolerate a huge museum like the Rijksmuseum if they know there are cultural icons to see, like the Mona Lisa at the Louvre. Something about street cred in class maybe? Love the audio guide download idea as my teens will definitely have their phones nearby and available! Cheers from Copenhagen, Erin #CulturedKids

    • January 8, 2018 / 5:16 pm

      Big museums generally have one teen friendly icon!

  8. January 5, 2018 / 3:06 pm

    So much yes! My dad used to take us to art and history museums at least once a year while we were growing up and while I didn’t always appreciate it (they can get boring when you’re a kid) I do love them now. And I’m all for letting kids wander at their own pace and getting out of dodge when they start to show signs of boredom.
    My boyfriend’s parents were just at the Rijksmuseum in December and they loved it! #CulturedKids

    • January 8, 2018 / 5:17 pm

      Sometimes I wonder if the teens will continue to visit galleries and museums when they go off on jaunts of their own,

  9. January 6, 2018 / 3:14 pm

    I don’t think my tots could bear to simply look at that dolls house. Too tempting. Maybe wait till they’re a wee bit older! #culturedkids

    • January 8, 2018 / 5:19 pm

      Thankfully the tempting tiny objects are safely behind glass but probably best not to tempt tiny tot fingers

  10. January 7, 2018 / 4:53 pm

    We visited with Dutch friends who toured us around to many highlights, but I now that I’m reading this I realize I missed SO much. I loved Amsterdam and hope to find my way back there and will definitely be using your tips about online tickets and audio guides when I do. #culturedkids

    • January 8, 2018 / 5:21 pm

      I’m getting excited about the direct train service that is about to start between London and Amsterdam, so easy from city centre to city centre

      • January 8, 2018 / 5:48 pm

        Oh! That is exciting!

  11. January 8, 2018 / 5:50 am

    It’s amazing how much things have changed since we were kids, and the simple download of a guide can make or break a visit. I love it. I visited the Rijksmuseum for work years ago, but have a terrible memory these days, so it was fun reading your post to clue me in again. #culturedkids

    • January 8, 2018 / 5:22 pm

      Lucky you to visit for work!

  12. January 8, 2018 / 9:13 am

    Great tips here. We’re a fan of audio guides as they keep everyone engaged! #culturedkids

    • January 8, 2018 / 5:24 pm

      We love a good audio guide can make all the difference

  13. January 8, 2018 / 11:23 am

    We loved the Rijksmuseum, and the waffles available out front 😉 Glad to know that you can get a free audioguide on the phone now, as we had to pay for them a few years ago.

    • January 8, 2018 / 5:23 pm

      Waffles were a big hit on our Netherlands trip, that and chocolate sprinkles on toast for breakfast

  14. January 8, 2018 / 3:46 pm

    Oh Catherine this post had me come over all green with envy. I was in Amsterdam last September and didn’t have enough time to go to the Rijksmuseum. I only managed to stare at it longingly through the window, otherwise I would have missed my flight back home. Looks like I missed a real treat. Next time for sure. #CulturedKids

    • January 8, 2018 / 5:25 pm

      You have to go back …… direct London to Amsterdam train starts in Spring!

  15. January 14, 2018 / 9:51 am

    I’m looking forward to the day when I can wander through a museum like this with my children in a relaxed fashion! The Rijksmuseum sounds really interesting and well organised with the downloadable audio guides. #Culturedkids

  16. Trish @ Mum's Gone To
    January 30, 2018 / 5:18 pm

    When we were in Amsterdam we only had a short time to spend so we skipped the Rijksmuseum as I didn’t think we had enough time to do it justice.
    Your tips about booking ahead and downloading the audioguide are excellent.
    I’d love to see the dolls’ houses too, having read the Jessie Burton book. I never did catch the TV series – did you see it? Was it good?
    #citytripping

    • January 30, 2018 / 5:52 pm

      I have it recorded, must make time!

  17. January 31, 2018 / 4:45 pm

    The Rijksmuseum was closed when I was in town (many years ago). Sad. If I can’t get a live tour, I do enjoy the audio guides. That’s a recent development, but I have found that they help me get a lot of more out of my museum trips than I ever expected. Does that make me old? LOL #citytripping

    • January 31, 2018 / 5:48 pm

      Not at all, I am a late convert to the audioguide too!

  18. February 3, 2018 / 1:50 pm

    There’s so much variety of things to do there! Something for everyone. That’s great you can download the audio app. I’ve not been to the Rijksmuseum – so next time we go to Amsterdam we’ll definitely go! Thanks for linking #citytripping

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