Amsterdam museums Parks and Monuments personal reflections photography

Amsterdam cyclists fought Rijksmuseum and won

On the KLM flight home from Amsterdam to San Francisco, I watched a documentary film The New Rijksmuseum about the ten year remodeling from 2003 to 2013 for the Rijksmuseum Amsterdam. I thought the museum building was far older than it actually is today.

Rijksmuseum tourists
Locals and tourists on Museumplein walking to Rijksmuseum.

There are large Roman numeral tiles on the west side of the building with MDCXXXIX and MDCXXXXV. Funny how my mental connection between the big letter dates on the side of the building and the dates of building construction were off some 240 years from fact.

Central large arch is Rijksmuseum cycling passsage with smaller arches over pedestrian paths. MDCXXXIX (1639) tiles over left arch and MDCXXXXV (1645) tiles over right arch.


Amsterdam’s Rijksmuseum opened 1885.

Rijksmuseum IAM
Atop ‘I Amsterdam’ letters at Rijksmuseum Amsterdam

A street level opening through the center of the Rijksmuseum building is a popular cyclist and pedestrian passage.

Rijksmuseum busker
Busker playing violin inside Rijksmuseum public passage.

One of our most intense travel experiences happened in the Rijksmuseum passage more than a decade ago. Kelley and I were walking from central Amsterdam through the passage one night on our way back to the Hilton Amsterdam hotel. A group of Tibetan buddhist monks were performing throat singing. Firstly, the sound of throat singers is mind-blowingly different from your average busker, and secondly, the vocal reverberations off the brick walls of the Rijksmuseum filled our ears with worldly tonal music unaccompanied by instruments. We experienced a Buddhist reincarnation in this Amsterdam life.

Amsterdam cyclists on path about to enter Rijksmuseum central passage.

This documentary film I saw on the plane, The New Rijksmuseum spent a significant part of the movie portraying the political fight between Rijksmuseum staff and project architects with Amsterdam cyclists. The Rijksmuseum redesign voted upon when choosing the project architects eliminated the cycling road through the center of the Rijksmuseum to create a new museum entrance. One of the statements in the film made by a top museum official is ‘Amsterdam is too democratic’. Protests by Amsterdam cyclists to maintain the central passage resulted in the museum remodel being extended a few years as new designs were drawn up for the Rijksmuseum entrance with the preservation of the cycling route.

Rijksmuseum cyclists
Rijksmuseum passage entrance with open metal gates.

The Rijksmuseum acts as an entrance from the city center to the Museumplein.  Grass fields extend a few hundred meters in length from the Rijksmuseum creating one of the largest open spaces in the city.

Museumplein field
Museumplein grass fields with circular roof of Van Gogh Museum visible on right.

The Van Gogh Museum is building a new entrance and there are a set of construction trailer cubicles beside the Museumplein cycling path. The temporary fence with Van Gogh images for hundreds of meters is kind of cool to see for a cheap tour of the artist’s work.

Van Gogh Museum
Temporary fencing on Museumplein while Van Gogh Museum entrance is redesigned is lined with large Van Gogh prints.

Stedlijk Museum with modern art is also part of Museumplein.

Stedelijk Muesum
Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam at Museumplein.

The Rijksmuseum raised its admission price to 17.50 EUR a few months ago. Perhaps a small price to pay to see the grand works of the Dutch masters. One of my most intense art experiences was studying a Rembrandt from inches away, just me and a painting by Rembrandt in the old Rijksmuseum.

Rijksmuseum interior
Interior of the New Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam.

Cyclists and pedestrians can still pass through the center of the Rijksmuseum for free in democratic Amsterdam.

Rijksmuseum opening
Silent passage at night through Rijksmuseum Amsterdam.

Related Amsterdam articles:

The Guardian – Amsterdam’s Rijksmuseum reopens after a decade – in pictures (April 5, 2013) great photos of some of museum art collection.

The Guardian – A new Amsterdam – and a new Rijksmuseum describes efforts to remove brothels and coffeeshops in Red Light District in past few years.

Rijksmuseum official website

IMDb – The New Rijksmuseum – The Film (2014)