The Best Time To Visit Rijksmuseum

Last Updated: April 11, 2024

Gerrit Vandenberg

Gerrit shares his love for the Netherlands from his home near Amsterdam, helping thousands plan unforgettable trips to the lowlands. Discover his inspiring journey "From a critical health scare to celebrating Holland's charms". If you want to send Gerrit a quick message, you can contact him here.

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Hi, I'm Gerrit

I enjoy sharing useful tips about the beauty of this county.

Are you curious about the best time to visit Rijksmuseum?

Then you’re in the right place. As a friend of the Rijksmuseum, I visit the museum more than once a month.

Sometimes to stroll. Sometimes, for a specific time or era, or to see a special exhibition or to learn something new at a special event.

I also take people on a guided tour of the museum. I love making every visit unique for people. Museums can be boring, but I always try to make it personal@

From all of these visits, I have a solid understanding of when and where it is busy, and I have developed tactics to avoid the crowds.

Today, I am going to share those with you in the article.

After reading them, you’ll know precisely the best time to book, the best time of the day to visit, and how not to follow the crowd but find your own way (and relative peace) in the Museum.

You don't just security staff in the Gallery of Honour very often.
You don’t just security staff in the Gallery of Honour very often – © Hidden Holland

The Best Hour To Visit The Rijksmuseum

No matter when you visit, the absolute best time to visit the Rijksmuseum (the main museum in the country) to see Dutch art and learn about Dutch history is right when the museum opens at 9:00 a.m.

Your magic window is within the next 30 minutes. Don’t think 10:00 is also early. The crowds arrive fast.

Once tour buses and river cruise crowds start to arrive, you’ll be fighting for a spot to see a painting.

The crowds from the River Cruises are especially overwhelming. Hundreds of people are on one ship, and dozens of ships dock daily, meaning thousands of people.

But that first hour, especially the first 30 minutes, is magical.

If the main reason for your visit to Amsterdam is to see the Rijksmuseum, you should get up early, be at breakfast when it opens, and head straight to the Rijksmuseum so you can get there a few minutes before 9 a.m.

The Rijksmuseum works with timeslots, so to buy tickets well in advance is equally important. Grab that 9 a.m. slot like you’ve won a precious prize.

I see elsewhere advice to visit at the end of the day for a quieter experience, such as at 3 p.m. or late afternoon.

That is not my experience. It is less crowded at 4 p.m. than at 2 p.m., but that doesn’t mean it feels quiet, on the contrary. Plus, you’ll feel hurried.

The museum closes at 5 pm sharp, and they start making announcements to return at 4:30 pm and many more afterward. Art should be enjoyed in peace, not while a voice tells you it’s time to get out.

The Best Day Of The Week To Visit The Rijksmuseum

The William Rex room at the Rijksmuseum all to yourself.
The William Rex room at the Rijksmuseum all to yourself – © Hidden Holland

Again, I go against the standard advice. Google the best time to visit the Rijksmuseum, and you’ll see 10 out of 10 this advice: weekdays are better than weekends.

But it’s not that simple.

I wonder if these people who wrote that have tested it and visited the museum every day of the week or if they’re using common sense and hope their advice holds.

I have visited this museum every single day of the week. And my advice is different.

Sunday mornings are fantastic. People like to sleep in on a Sunday. Everything starts just a little bit later. So Sunday might be the best day if you arrive at 9:00 a.m. That is a weekend day, not a weekday.

Then Tuesday and Wednesday mornings are also great. On Thursday crowds have already picked up, and Mondays and Fridays are still part of the weekend for me.

Many Dutch people (and Northern European people generally) work only four days a week. Friday or Monday are still part of their weekend.

Also, many tourists take Friday and Monday off for a 4-day trip for half the time off. Thus, I don’t count those days as weekdays.

But remember that the tours and cruises arrive every day, seven days a week.

There is no quiet day or moment at the Rijks during the middle of the day between 11 am and 3 pm —no matter the day of the week.

These are the peak hours of the day. But on Fridays and Saturdays, when also weekend visitors arrive, it can feel unbearable.

The issue with peak times during weekdays is school classes. Those kids hate being there. And what do kids do when they’re bored? Being noisy. 

In other words, the day of the week is less critical to a quiet experience. The time of your visit is.

Main holidays are also great days to go. People usually have different plans, crowds are thin on those days, and no schools, especially at Christmas, or New Years Day.

Empty library at the Rijksmuseum.
Empty library at the Rijksmuseum – © Hidden Holland

Best Months to Visit The Rijksmuseum

The month of the year you visit also makes an enormous difference.

Amsterdam is most popular from April to September.

But March (People arriving too early for flower season) and October (usually people waiting for prices to come down a little bit) are pretty busy, too. 

The quietest months are November and December (except for the week of Christmas and New Year), January and February.

With the sidenote that quiet is relative in Amsterdam. Tourists outnumber locals by 8 to 1. Still, winter is the best season to enjoy the museum.

When I say arriving at the museum at 9:00 a.m. is magical. That means sharing the Gallery of Honour with a few dozen people in August, while you can have it for yourself in January. 

I had that experience visiting on a Christmas Eve morning at 9 a.m. It was the most unreal feeling.

I was alone with four Vermeer paintings—completely alone! except for security. It felt like an out-of-world experience.

Empty Vermeer section inside the Gallery of Honour.
Empty Vermeer section inside the Gallery of Honour – © Hidden Holland

Best Way To Tour the Rijksmuseum

Now we have the best time to visit the Rijksmuseum out of the way. There is also the best way to tour the museum.

First, download the Rijksmuseum App for free; it’s fantastic (search Rijksmuseum in your favorite App Store).

Then, bring your headphones to the museum. When you arrive without them, renting an audio tour costs €6.50, and it’s precisely the same as the free app you can download, but you must use it with headphones!

Second, most people have no idea what they’re doing once they arrive. And I don’t blame them. There are over 80 rooms at the museum.

More than 7000 items are on display spanning four floors, and the museum is divided by a road that goes right through it—no wonder it can feel like people run around entirely at a loss.

People Don’t Know Where To Go

So what do most people do? They dive into the first rooms they see. And that is right next to the lockers and toilets.

The early medieval art is on one side, and the special collections are on the other. Both are great, but it is best to save for later. Or skip entirely if you have different interests.

When you follow my advice and get to the museum early, head straight for the Gallery of Honor, where you’ll find the best masterpieces. It’s up the stairs on the second floor. Ask for directions if needed.

Finding the Night Watch

The most famous painting at the museum is the Night Watch, which Rembrandt van Rijn painted during the Dutch Golden Age. This is the painting everybody comes to see. It’s worth beating the crowds for. You’ll find it in the back of the Gallery of Honor. Your eyes get pulled towards it.

You can get super close to the Nightwatch when it's early.
Get super close to the Nightwatch when it’s early – © Hidden Holland

After seeing the Nachtwacht (Night Watch), go back to the Gallery of Honor and explore the great of the great. Vermeer, Frans Hals, Jan Steen, Rembrandt and others. Every painting here has been chosen in this gallery for a particular reason. 

Regarding crowds here, see Vermeer and Rembrandt’s paintings first. They attract the most people. There is a different business level, even within the Gallery of Honour.

Now It’s Time to Make Choices

Once you’ve seen this, it’s time to make choices.

If you want to see the famous doll house, the large wooden ship, or the Harry Potter-like library, make a right at the Nightwatch.

Go down one level to see Van Gogh and his contemporaries (1800s-1900s). This is one of my favorite rooms with Breitner, Gabriël, Mauve, and Van Looy.

If you’re into religious art, there is no better place than the medieval rooms from the 1100s to the 1600s. Yes, there is art here that is 800 years old! Amazing right?

What is most important to remember make a choice. Crowds continue to swell, and it’s hard to see everything and enjoy it during one visit. Don’t. You can get more out of your visit if you choose deliberately where you want to go and equally important where not.

Follow Some of the Self-Guides Tours Offered In the App

When you download the app, it comes with various tours, all self-guided tours and free of charge.

The museum does a great job putting them together; the stories are entertaining.

These different tours of the Rijksmuseum are a great way to segment what you want to see.

No line at the Petronella Oortman doll house.
No line at the Petronella Oortman doll house – © Hidden Holland

Guided Tours At The Rijksmuseum

Guided tours of the Rijksmuseum are available throughout the day, lasting for about an hour. These cost just €7.50 a person. They don’t go very deep but show you the highlights of the Rijksmuseum.

Every museum’s tour guide is highly knowledgeable. Ask at the information desk about availability.

Private Tours At The Rijksmuseum

For a more personal experience, it’s best to book a private tour. I work with partners offering highly engaging 2-hour tours. And I do myself, when I am available, a longer 4 hour tour where we really explore the building at our leisure, and I personalize the tour as much as I can to your personal interests.

With Locals Rijksmuseum Private Tour.

Discover the Rijksmuseum in a unique way. Choose which guide speaks to you most, from art historians to artists.

  • Meet at the museum
  • Duration: 2 hours
  • Choose between guides
  • Museum ticket not included

€205

Per PARTY

MORE DETAILS
A guided tour by the Van The Gogh Museum during the Auvers His Final Months Exhibition.

Get to know the Van Gogh Museum with the insights of a local expert. See the museum from a different perspective.

  • Meet at the museum
  • Duration: 2 hours
  • Choose between guides
  • Museum ticket not included

€205

Per PARTY

MORE DETAILS
Gerrit Amsterdam Backdrop 280x280.

The Rijks With Me

Empty Gallery of Honour in the Rijksmuseum.

The Rijksmuseum is my favorite museum. Avoid overwhelm, and let me tailor your visit. I know every nook and cranny.

  • Meet at your accommodation
  • Pre-tour call included
  • Duration: 4 hours incl. break
  • Museum ticket not included

€399

Per PARTY

MORE DETAILS

Rijksmuseum Hours

Enjoying amazing cake at the Rijksmuseum cafe.
Enjoying amazing cake at the Rijksmuseum cafe – © Hidden Holland

The Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam is open daily. Its opening hours are between 9 am to 5 pm.

Daily means 365 days a year. It never closes. So yes, the museum is also open over Christmas and during New Year, including December 25th and January 1. 

When you want to avoid crowds, visit early in the day. The best time slot is when the Rijksmuseum opens at 9.

You can book your Rijksmuseum tickets here.

Visiting during actual holidays is like a golden ticket for beating the crowds. Especially Christmas, most people have different plans, and you can benefit from that.

Once the Museum closes at 5, the shop and the cafe remain open for another hour.

If you plan an afternoon visit, wait for the cafe until 5 pm. At 3 pm, the cafe can be busy, but not at 5. You can easily score yourself a comfy (but low) chair on the balcony overlooking the museum entrance—the best seats in the house.

Enjoy a glass of wine, Dutch beer, a typical Dutch snack platter, or the famous Bitterballen, which is good here. The cafe is excellent in general!

Then do your shopping in the final 20 minutes when most people have left. The cafe is quiet at 5, but the shop will be at its busiest. So what you do first matters here. Just like seeing the art itself.

Do you know you can enter for free after 5 pm just for the shop and the cafe? You don’t need museum tickets between 5 and 6 to get original gifts and enjoy a Dutch snack platter (bittergarnituur).

Easiest Way to Get to The Rijksmuseum

Tram in Amsterdam.
Tram in Amsterdam – © Hidden Holland

Most people arrive by tram lines 2 or 12 from Central Station. It stops at the Van Gogh Museum and is a short stroll back to the Rijksmuseum.

This route is okay, but the trams are incredibly crowded. This route connects the most important tourist centers in the city. 

My secret Hidden Holland tip is to take Metro line 52 instead. It’s just two stops from Central Station to the Vijzelsgracht station, you get there within 5 minutes.

Super fast!

The tram takes about 20 minutes. From the metro stop, it’s just a 5-minute walk to the Rijksmuseum main entrance. Much better if you ask me.

From the Airport you can travel to the museum directly by bus. The 397 bus is a fast service between Amsterdam Airport and the Marnixstraat regional bus station. There is a Rijksmuseum bus stop at Museum Square. Ask the driver when in doubt. 

You can buy tickets for this bus service here. It’s important to note these are NOT GVB buses. Thus, regular day tickets and the I Amsterdam City Card are not valid on this bus service.

Frequently Asked Questions About the Best Time to Visit

How long to spend at Rijksmuseum?

I like to set aside three hours to explore Amsterdam’s Rijksmuseum at leisure. Sure, you can see the highlights in one hour if you rush through, but your camera lens will see more than you.

I suggest taking the first hour to see the Gallery of Honor and two more things you enjoy elsewhere in the Museum. Maybe Oortman’s Doll House and the Library.

Then it can be nice to take 30 minutes to see the following significant period like the 1800-1900s rooms with Van Gogh and his contemporaries.

After that, you’ve seen a lot. It’s time for a break at the cafe. I like to take a longer break, maybe 30 minutes. Chat about what you’ve seen. Take in the people. Don’t rush it.

I promise you’ll feel recharged again, and then you can spend another hour in the rest of the museum, in a less popular but equally exciting area.

Your three hours are up before you know it!

If you would like to have an early lunch too, the cafe has some excellent dishes, but from 12:30 pm onwards, a (long) line starts to form.

But at around noon, you should still be ok! They try to add dishes that are inspired by the art inside. Sometimes, that can lead to some very special items on the menu. 

With lunch included, you can easily spend 4 to 5 hours at the museum. Five hours sounds like a lot. But this museum is enormous, and you can’t remember what you’ve seen if you rush it.

When and where to buy rijksmuseum tickets?

You can best buy tickets for the Rijksmuseum online. Make sure to buy your tickets online as early as possible since you need to make a time slot reservation.

And remember you want that 9 a.m. slot for the best experience.

I would not buy your ticket from the official website. It’s a little cheaper, but if you use a ticket company like Get Your Guide or Tiqets (which I prefer), you’ll have a much more lenient cancellation policy. 

If you get online tickets directly via the official website, you can change a date and time subject to availability if you email the museum. But you have to wait for a human to respond, which is not instant. And they will never cancel for a full refund.

If you book with a ticket website, you can cancel up to 24 hours before your visit for a full refund, which can be done automatically. 

I read advice to get tickets online to avoid a 20-30-minute wait at the ticket desk. That is bullocks.

For years, there has been no ticket desk any longer. Every ticket has to be bought online, no matter what, even on the day itself.

Booking tickets in advance is better because the museum sells out, and you want a timeslot that suits you. 

Do I have to enter the museum at the time of my time slot?

You have 15 minutes to enter before or after your timeslot. Once you’re inside, you can stay as long as you want.

You can not enter multiple times a day. So you can’t visit in the morning and then come again later in the day.

Your ticket allows you one entrance.

Is there a line to get into the Rijksmuseum?

All tickets for the Rijksmuseum are called skip-the-line tickets. Don’t let this term fool you. All tickets are “skip-the-line.”

At busy times, there can still be a waiting time. Don’t think you can skip ahead. Everybody else also has a “skip-the-line” ticket.

Usually, the wait should be no more than a few minutes. However, during busy peak moments, the waiting times can increase.

Another reason why to book a time slot early in the day.

what time does Rijksmuseum open?

The Rijksmusuem opens at 9 am. Every day of the week, 365 days a year. It’s also the best time to visit. To beat most of the crowds.

Willem III room at the Rijksmuseum.
Willem III room at the Rijksmuseum – © Hidden Holland

Final Thoughts For The Best Times To Visit The Rijks

As you can see, there are many ways to influence what kind of experience you’ll have at the Rijksmuseum.

The most important thing is to plan your visit to the Rijksmuseum well.

My main advice is to choose the right time and where to go once inside. And not try to do it all.

I hope you’ll enjoy exploring the museum and learning more about the art and history of the Netherlands.

Popular things to do near the Rijksmuseum include the 2nd most famous museum in Amsterdam: The Van Gogh Museum. Or go to the Stedelijk Museum if you enjoy modern art.

MOCO displays genuine Banksy paintings, and then there is the Bols Experience (Dutch Jenever distillery)

The Rijksmuseum, the van Gogh, and the other attractions mentioned are all around Museum Square (Museumplein).

You can also visit the Vondelpark, go high-class shopping in PC Hoofstraat with expensive stores, or visit the popular Heineken Experience if you enjoy Heineken Beer.

I would advise you NOT to visit two large museums on the same day, even though they’re nearby. It’s too much for your brain to process and becomes less enjoyable.

Stroll along the beautiful Spiegelgracht and Spiegelstraat, or go to the Heineken Experience if that’s your thing. Or explore the cozy “De Pijp” neighborhood behind it instead. It will make your overall day better.

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Are you visiting the Rijksmuseum?

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Gerrit shares his love for the Netherlands from his home near Amsterdam, helping thousands plan unforgettable trips to the lowlands. Discover his inspiring journey "From a critical health scare to celebrating Holland's charms". If you want to send Gerrit a quick message, you can contact him here.

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