Last week I found myself in Amsterdam aching to go to the Rijksmuseum. Aching? Really??
On our previous trips to the city I had managed to avoid some of the city highlights, and if there’s one thing I love, it’s highlights. I’ve known that the Rijksmuseum was undergoing renovations, but that wasn’t the real reason I didn’t go.
I didn’t go because I’m just worried about my kids in an art museum.
It turns out, I had nothing to fear.
It turns out, the Rijksmuseum doesn’t mind kids.
It turns out, they even have special things for kids.
It turns out, I liked it so much, we went twice!
Rijksmuseum with kids, Part 1
(AKA: Does it count as a visit with kids if the kids were asleep the whole time?)
I’m not sure if I really intended actually going the first time we went. My kids were asleep in the stroller. The rest of our party was on a canal cruise and I needed to pass the time. I was sick, it was cold, and decided to just walk past the museums.
The day before we discovered just how long a long line could be. Even with a museum card or previously purchased tickets people had a serious wait in front of them. I thought if the line’s short, maybe I’ll go in. I approached the line and distracted myself by looking down into the lobby – the warm, inviting lobby.
Then someone said, “do you want to go in?”
So he opened the obvious, not so obvious elevator and pushed “0” and we were on our way. (And for a while, I wasn’t even sure if he worked at the museum or was just someone walking by. I’ve since confirmed he DID work at the museum. I’ve also confirmed I’ll trust anyone that offers me warmth when I’m sick.)
Fortunately, I have a museum card for the Netherlands so I didn’t have to wait in line to buy tickets… because yes, the people that are waiting outside to get in then have to wait to buy tickets inside.
I walked past some renaissance art and headed for an area marked “Asian art” before finding a room called the Picknick room. There were placemats and blank postcards set up with colored pencils, art work, pencils, and pens inviting me to have a seat and draw. Which is exactly how I spent most of my time visiting the Rijksmuseum with kids the first time.
Rijksmuseum with kids, Part 2
(AKA: This time they’re awake!)
One reason we knew the museum was going to be child friendly was their map specifying a route that is interesting for kids. This included stops to see the Dutch Old Masters, doll houses, airplanes and more.
The highlight for my son was Rembrandt’s Night Watch. Not because he’s an art aficionado, but because of the excitement surrounding the piece and because the image is also used on the museum’s ticket. Plus, it’s massive.
Around that time we discovered removable information sheets located next to some of the photos. We played a game of locating the art work listed on the information sheets, and pointing out a detail or two before moving on. Some of the staff even helped us locate the pieces.
While it was fun exploring the museum, kids are still kids. Ok, to be fair, I need a lot of breaks when I’m visiting an art museum.
The Rijksmuseum cafe and Picknick room were both good places for adults and children for those breaks. The cafe has a children’s menu that includes the very popular hageslag (chocolate sprinkles) on bread, or cheese and bread. The presentation was just nice enough to make it feel like a special occasion.
After 4-5 hours at the museum, we headed back to our hotel. What was a big surprise to me is that the kids didn’t even nap while we were in the museum. I guess they were too caught up in the art, but it definitely exhausted them since they napped the whole walk back.
Thoughts and tips on visiting the Rijksmuseum with young kids
- If you have a stroller you can avoid the long lines and enter via the outdoor elevator. It may take a little looking for, but it’s at the other end of the lobby from where the line forms.
- It’s best to purchase tickets, or a museum pass, in advance.
- It’s free for children under 18, but they will still need a ticket. When you enter the museum, the person checking your ticket will be able to give you one for your child.
- You aren’t allowed to bring backpacks in the museum, so use a different bag to bring anything you will need for the children.
- Keep your tickets or cards easily accessible because you have to show it at various entry points past the main entrance.
- There are many elevators within the museum itself. The very first elevator you find will likely have a long wait, skip it and go to another one.
- Go online and print pictures of some of the artwork you might encounter at the Rijksmuseum. Share those with your kids to start building excitement in the trip.
This post is part of the Instagram Travel Thursday linky hosted by Skimbaco Lifestyle, Destination Unknown, Child Mode, Hines Sight Blog, Live.Do.Grow., House of Anaïs, Luxury Travel Mom. Click on any of those links to access all Instagram travel posts.
Great tips! We still haven’t been, so I really need to get on it. I love that you were let in by a mystery man- and gotta admit- I’d follow anyone in that case too 🙂
I kind of felt like a rebel, and this rule follower needs those moments!
Wow, I loved this post. I’ll have to make it a point to visit next time we’re in Amsterdam! Reminds me of when I took my oldest to the Uffizi in Florence (but this one is more kid-friendly – yay!).
I want to go there, too. We missed it on our trip to Florence because I don’t LOVE museums, but for some reason as I get older I want to see more of those famous works.
I LOVE doing the Rijksmuseum with my son – I’m glad your kids enjoyed it, too! If you can get it, reading “Monkey and Mole at the Rijksmuseum” before the visit and then looking for the pieces from the book is another great activity. It was so much fun!
I saw that book at the museum gift shop and picked it up and put it down many times before finally just putting it down. I ended up getting the museum’s guide for kids – which is only in Dutch. So I don’t understand the language, it’s a really cool interactive book.
Yay you tackling an art museum with kids and then being rewarded with a great experience!! I love art museums but it is always touch and go with the kids. I love it when it goes well or when a museum anticipates children! 🙂
So true, it’s touch and go. Having an exit plan or a break plan helps. Also, knowing I didn’t pay specifically to get in since it was part of a museum card and I can go back again. But, it was especially nice that the staff interacted with the kids.
You are brave to go with kids, not so easy always. I love those places that have activities for kids such as spotting the pictures – and your trip of basically doing the same is a great one if you know in advance that they have nothing for children otherwise!
This trip has given me a little confidence to tackle or local, not-as-child-friendly art museum to see what happens.
Love when art museums are friendly for kids! The big art museum here has Toddler Thursdays and they have a big play room just for kids.
I love the idea of a day for toddlers!
This is a great post, and really interesting. I totally believe in exposing children to museum’s early, but when I took the kids to Williamsburg museum, my youngest scared me in the art section because I was so afraid she was going to touch a painting. They definitely had kid areas, too. These are great photos.
Thanks! We’ve taken my oldest to other art museums and it has always been ok. I don’t know why it made me so nervous. But, yeah, with the youngest I just had to keep her in the stroller while we were walking around. She is a more touchy-feely type and would not have been satisfied with just looking.
That’s pretty cool that even your kids enjoyed the Rijksmuseum! 🙂
The Rijks was under renovation the entire 3 and 1/2 years we were living in the Netherlands! I’d love to see it now that it has re-opened. The good thing about visiting while it was under renovation was that only the very best stuff was displayed in the small wing still open.
The Night Watch is a such a grand painting to take in. I was also surprised by the sense of humour of some of those old Dutch painters! 🙂
The lady in the Picknick room explained that the renovations took so long because there was a long discussion on the tunnel through the museum for bikes. The museum didn’t want it anymore, the people did. It still there.
Aching to go to a museum with kids?! That place MUST be something special!! 😉
You know, it was probably more of an ache to prove that it can be done? We were with friends from the US who don’t have kids and I just didn’t want to feel like an art museum visit with them was something we couldn’t do. Don’t get me wrong, it was worth it and super-special, but the ache was more about accomplishing something I wouldn’t have done months ago.
So glad you did this post! We will be visiting Amsterdam this summer, so we will take your tips to heart.
LOVE this! Oh yes, our daughter would be in there in a heartbeat. I love that the museum staff are so helpful – that makes a huge difference!
One thing I didn’t stress was that they were really helpful. It wasn’t just a random, here let me help you. They completely engaged our kids in the museum. It was really an unexpected relief.
Glad you guys had a great visit! What a place! 😉
Yes, it does count if the child is asleep in the museum… After all, you never know when they might wake up!
Thanks for these great tips! It makes such a difference when a museum pays attention to the littlest visitors (and their parents). And it’s a great gift you’ve given your children.
Great post, Ann. And so true, Dutch painting is so accessible to children. Everyone can relate to the scenes of everyday life, skating, etc. Not so easy to relate to–or enjoy–hall after hall of crucifixions or allegories lost in the mists of time and history. From the food to all the open-air exercise, Holland is a great family-friendly destination on so many counts!
How good is it that <18's are free. That's a great way to encourage more families to get out and about without having to stress about the cost.
Looks like a fabulous trip- and what a great experience for everyone. We are actually heading on a museum trip to New York City this weekend with my daughter, so I love to hear about other family experiences in museums as they can be a fabulous adventure for children and adults.
Its so great to find museums that are also kid friendly! I have never been here, but I look forward to going!
I’m glad you had a wonderful visit with the kids the second time around. I love kid-friendly art museums like this who really engage kids. The map route for kids is a great idea. It’s always a challenge to take kids to an art museum no matter what age they are. Great tips here. We went to Amsterdam without the kids so it’s nice to know the Rijksmuseum is worth a stop with kids.