This wonderful museum traces Van Gogh's life and artistic development via the world's largest collection of his work. More than 200 canvases are on display, stretching from his early, bleak portraits of peasants in the Netherlands through to his later years in sunny France, where he produced his best-known work with its characteristic giddy colour. Also on show here are 500 of his drawings and 700 hand-written letters.
The museum is spread over four levels, moving chronologically from Floor 0 (ground floor) to Floor 3. Allow at least a couple of hours to browse all of the galleries.
Paintings and artworks
Van Gogh's works are scattered in museums around the world, but the Van Gogh Museum holds the largest collection, comprising a staggering 200 paintings and 500 drawings by Vincent and his contemporaries, including Gauguin, Toulouse-Lautrec and Monet. Van Gogh’s earliest works – showing raw, if unrefined, talent – are from his time in the Dutch countryside and Antwerp between 1883 and 1885.
He painted peasant life, exalting their existence in works such as the masterpiece, The Potato Eaters (1885). Skull of a Skeleton with Burning Cigarette (1886) is another highlight, painted when Van Gogh was a student at Antwerp’s Royal Academy of Fine Arts.
He then moved to Paris in 1886 and began to paint self-portraits as a way of improving his portraiture without paying for models, which he couldn’t afford. Self-Portrait with Grey Felt Hat was painted in the winter of 1887–1888 and is one of his boldest color experiments.
One of his most beloved works, Sunflowers (1889), is a result of him leaving Provence for Arles, intent on painting the vibrant landscapes and achieving his dream of creating an artist's colony.
Another of his iconic paintings, The Yellow House – a rendering of the abode he rented in Arles – is also from this period. In 1890, Van Gogh painted one of his last paintings Wheatfield with Crows – a particularly menacing and ominous piece finished shortly before his suicide.
Aside from admiring the massive collection of masterpiece paintings, don’t pass up the opportunity to hear recordings of Van Gogh’s letters at the multiple listening stations in the museum. The letters are mainly to and from his younger brother, Theo, who championed his work, and offer a poignant insight into their relationship.
History of the Van Gogh Museum
After his death in 1890, Vincent left his complete collection of works to his brother, Theo. When Theo died shortly after in 1891, the collection was handed over to Theo’s widow, Jo van Gogh-Bonger, and after her death in 1925, it was then passed on to her son Vincent Willem van Gogh. He loaned the collection of artworks to Amsterdam’s Stedelijk Museum, before a dedicated museum was called for to house the late artist’s impressive oeuvre.
Opened in 1973, the Van Gogh Museum’s main building was designed by the influential Dutch architect Gerrit Rietveld, who was an important member of De Stijl – a group of progressive artists and architects active in the 1920s. Behind the main building, reaching towards Museumplein, is a separate wing, which was opened in 1999 and designed by Kisho Kurokawa. The transparent building with its state-of-the-art glass structure hosts temporary exhibitions by big-name artists.
In 2015, a swish new extension and entrance hall added 800 sq meters (8600 sq ft) of space to the museum.
The museum usually offers 50-minute guided tours (in Dutch) which take groups of four around Vincent van Gogh's masterpieces. However, due to Covid-19 these are currently unavailable.
Opening hours and best time to visit
Opening hours for the museum vary throughout the year. During the peak summer months (July-September), the museum tends to open daily from 9am-6pm, while at other times of year the hours are 10am-5pm (until 6pm on weekends). Winter opening hours are even more limited, with the museum sometimes closing completely on Mondays. Check the official website for up-to-date opening hours.
As you’d expect to be the case for the world’s largest collection of works from one of the world’s most famous artists of all time, the museum gets packed. The best times to visit to try to avoid the crowds are before 11am and after 3pm.
Tickets and location
The museum is located at Museumplein. Tickets must be purchased online where you choose a starting time slot. It allows you entry to the permanent exhibition, as well any temporary exhibitions showing at the time.
Adult: €19 ($22). Admission is free for those under 18.
There is free admission for Museumkaart and I Amsterdam cardholders, but you still need to book a timeslot on the museum’s website. I Amsterdam cardholders must reserve online at the I Amsterdam website.
Set in a beautiful space with huge windows and high ceilings, Rijks was awarded a Michelin star in 2016. Chef Joris Bijdendijk uses locally sourced produce, adheres to slow-food philosophy and draws on historic Dutch influences in his creative, highly imaginative cuisine. The restaurant is part of the Rijksmuseum.
With old family photos adorning the walls, cozy Hap Hmm almost feels like dining in a relative’s home. The menu offers an array of classic Dutch comfort foods, from rich beef stews to chicken casseroles, and a good selection of vegetarian options. Just like any home-cooked meal, dishes are served with a selection of boiled vegetables. Note: credit cards are not accepted.
Renzo's deli resembles an Italian tavola calda (hot table), where you can select hot and cold ready-made dishes, such as meatballs, pasta and salads, plus stuffed sandwiches and delicious cannoli (Sicilian 'little tubes', filled with ricotta cream). There are a few tables crammed into the space, or it's perfect to take away to nearby Museumplein.
Hotels near the Van Gogh Museum
There are a number of excellent accommodation options within walking distance of the Van Gogh Museum, including the Hilton Amsterdam, famous as the place that John and Yoko staged their "bed-in for peace" in 1969, and the Conscious Hotel Museum Square, which boasts a lush garden terrace and furniture made from recycled materials.
However, for proximity to the museum, it's hard to beat the palatial, Conservatorium Hotel, an eight-story, five-star hotel with a huge covered courtyard and contemporary rooms with designer furnishings. The hotel is a one-minute walk from the Van Gogh Museum.
Should I visit the Rijksmuseum or the Van Gogh Museum?
The Rijksmuseum is a magnificent art gallery located in Museumplein close to the Van Gogh Museum. If you start early and have plenty of energy you could tackle both in one day, but it’s probably too much – considering The Rijksmuseum itself is over half a mile (1.5km) of gallery space! Spread the visits over a couple of days for a more enjoyable experience.
If you must choose only one and you are a Van Gogh fan, the Van Gogh Museum will be more to your liking as the Rijksmuseum has only a few Van Gogh works on display. But if you want to get an overview of Dutch art and see more of the Dutch masters (Rembrandt, Vermeer, Steen), then spend the day at the Rijksmuseum.