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Amsterdam Tourist Information -

Amsterdam is safe for female travelers

[caption id="attachment_9802" width="1444"] Amsterdam is safe for female travelers, traveling solo or together[/caption]

Amsterdam is a safe city for women of all ages traveling alone or together.

Female travelers experience very little to no harassment in the streets or elsewhere. Incidents do occur, though. As everywhere, it is best to observe normal safety precautions: avoid walking alone in poorly lit or unpopulated areas.

Hostelle -- Female-Only Hostel

Amsterdam has a highly-acclaimed female-only hostel: Hostelle.

Public transport is busy at all times of the day and night.

In buses you may prefer to sit toward the front, largely because (sometimes) rowdy kids prefer sitting in the back. The same is true for trams. Some trams also have on-board conductors in a booth toward the rear of the tram.

Many women ride their bikes even at night.

Take reasonable precautions with handbags.

'Scooter thugs' sometimes drive past women who stand or walk too close to the bike (and scooter) lane, with the passenger grabbing a handbag. You can get seriously injured that way, especially if you do not let go. At times scooter thugs even drive onto the sidewalk.

Handbags are also prime targets for pickpockets, particularly in trams. At times when there is standing-room only, and there are people all around you, it is quite easy for a pickpocket to open your bag and steal your phone or purse.

Best solution:

a) carry only a small handbag, and keep it out of harm's way, and

b) use a money belt or bra stash pocket (or women's underwear with a secret stash pocket) to carry your cash and passport.

Red Light District

Women can and do safely visit the Red Light District, but most prefer to do so with one or more friends. Note that the Red Light District in recent years has become more compact and a lot more crowded.

Women walking by themselves, particularly at night time, may be mistaken as 'working girls', even though working the streets is illegal.

That said, the Red Light District actually is a residential area that is home to -- and is visited by -- women of all ages.

Still, it is best to avoid eye-contact with obvious boors and bores, as well as with junks.

Hotels and Hostels catering (or not) to Female Travelers

Do not find accommodation via the so-called 'hotel runners' at Central Station. Hotel running (people trying to talk you into 'cheap' accommodation for the night) is illegal.

You never know where you end up staying, what you end up paying, and who you will be sharing your room or bed with.

Most youth hostels have coed dorms and shared showers -- and some hostels, such as the Flying Pig even have double beds (yes, two people to a bed).

Some hostels offer female-only dorms during the summer months. Christian Youth Hostel The Shelter has female-only dorms year round. Others have private rooms available.

There even is a female-only hostel: Hostelle, which receives high ratings from female travelers.

In all hostels and hotels observe normal safety precautions. You'd be surprised how many travelers staying in shared rooms or dorms have lost valuables even though -- as they will later say -- they left these items on their own beds.

Clothes and Nudity

In Amsterdam you wear what you like. There is no dress code, though of course certain hotels, restaurants and shops do expect you to uphold a certain level of decorum.

But overall it's OK to wear shorts, short skirts, revealing tops, et cetera.

[caption id="attachment_3651" width="606"] Young women relaxing at Vondelpark, Amsterdam[/caption]

In the parks, at swimming pools, and in semi-public areas such as gardens, balconies and rooftop decks, women do sometimes go topless -- though nowadays this occurs less often than it used to.

At places like Vondelpark it is not unusual to see young women sunbathe in just their bra and panties during their lunch break.

Harassment of female travelers is rare, and there are enough people around to deal with anyone who causes a nuisance.

Recommende books for female travelers


  • The Solo Female Travel Book. This fun-to-read book is half guide, half memoir, all heart and a must-read for aspiring female adventurers.
  • Gutsy Women: More Travel Tips and Wisdom for the Road. This travel guide for women travelers covers important issues of health, safety, and comfort while traveling on a budget.
  • Girl about the Globe: Making Solo Travel Easier. Author Lisa Imogen Eldridge -- who keeps this Kindle book up-to-date -- has been traveling, living and working abroad for the past 22 years. During that time she has traveled to 120 countries -- 87 of these solo. Whether it is your first time or you have travelled solo before, this Female Guide To Solo Travel will inspire, empower and prepare you for your solo trip.
  • Travel Junkie: A Badass Guide to Solo Female Travel. Julia Dimon has traveled to 80 countries on all seven continents. You may have seen her 40-episode television series for National Geographic Adventure and Travel Channel International. Her hilarious, wildly entertaining book contains (awe-)inspiring personal stories, along with a suitcase full of practical advice, such as

    - How to stretch your money and not skimp on your travel experience
    - How to get the best fares online
    - How to maximize your miles
    - How to pack and navigate an airport like a pro
    - How to leverage social media and the shared economy
    - How to get off the beaten track and connect with locals
    - How to volunteer abroad
    - How to stay safe on the road
    - How to get malaria (not)
    - How to tame fear and live your travel dreams

  • GO: Solo Travel for Women. Not so much practical, but inspirational: Learn how you too can journey into wild places, be nurtured by nature, taught its secret laws and language, and became brave enough to experience the hope and healing available when we venture out beyond our back doors

Female travelers: Are women safe in Amsterdam? is © Copyright Amsterdam Tourist Information All Rights Reserved

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Amsterdam Tourist Information -

Tour the canals of Amsterdam

Whether you are here on a layover, a few days in between other places, or for an extended vacation, no visit to Amsterdam is complete without a canal cruise. Providing a unique view of the city, a boat tour of the canals is one tourist attraction that is popular with both locals and tourists, old and young folks alike.

[caption id="attachment_3351" width="1100"] Amsterdam canal cruise: The best way to see the city[/caption]

In fact, 5.5 million people a year take a 'Rondvaart'[ref]Currently that represents 28% of all visitors. The popularity of these cruises keeps growing. Between 2011 -- 2016 the number of people who took a canal boat tour increased by 64%. Source: Amsterdam Marketing, as cited in Nota Varen, Deel 1, Inspraakversie (Public participation version). Subtitled: Aanpak drukte en overlast op en aan het water en vergunningenbeleid passagiersvaart (Approach to pressure and nuisance on and along the water and passenger shipping licensing policy) November 2018, Municipality of Amsterdam[/ref] (which literally translates to 'circular cruise').

By comparison, Amsterdam's top three museums -- Rijksmuseum, Van Gogh Museum, and the Anne Frank House -- in 2018 drew a combined total of 5.7 million visitors.

Amsterdam Canal Cruise Tickets

Many people book more than one boat tour.

A daytime cruise provides an excellent introduction to the city.

Also on offer: special experiences -- such as candlelight dinner-, wine and cheese-, or pizza cruises.

Combination tickets are popular as well: for instance, a cruise plus a museum visit.

Note: The traditional, glass-topped tour boats are very popular indeed. But nowadays you have other options as well, such as private- or small group cruises on smaller vessels. Check the verified customer reviews to help you choose the right tour.

Your GetYourGuide Ticket Advantage:
Authorized Ticket Seller
Verified legal tour operators
Printed or Mobile Voucher Accepted [ref]Where applicable. See full details.[/ref]
Instant Confirmation
Easy Cancellation [ref]Where applicable. See full details.[/ref]

Amsterdam and Water go Hand in Hand

When you visit Amsterdam for the first time, you'll soon realize the important role water plays in this city.

The city's very name refers to the fact that the town expanded around a dam in the river Amstel.

Currently, Amsterdam -- sometimes referred to as 'Venice of the North' -- has two rivers (the Amstel and the IJ) and 160 canals, creating 90 artificial islands which are connected by 1281+ bridges.

In Amsterdam's early history, the centuries-old canals -- in what is now the historic city center -- served a dual purpose:

  1. As moats that were useful in defending the expanding town from attacks.
  2. As transportation venues for the goods that flowed in an out of Amsterdam.

[caption id="attachment_3353" width="700"] Many people book more than one boat tour[/caption]

Sailing through Amsterdam's history

Nowadays, the 17th- and 18th century warehouses you see along some of the old canals have been turned into luxury apartment buildings.

Damrak -- now the main street leading from Central Station to Dam Square -- was once Amsterdam's harbor (then known as Buitenrak), which in turn was directly connected to what was then the open sea (via an inlet now known as the river IJ).

The docks were lined with ships carrying -- among other things -- coffee, tea, wood, spices. And yes, slaves.

Water from the river Amstel flowed into the harbor via a sluice at Dam Square.

The square long sported a weigh house, where goods were weighed, taxed, and from there further transported to warehouses or markets. At the time the Kalvertraat -- the world-renowned shopping street that runs from Dam square to Munt -- was a cattle market (kalf = young cow).

Fact: Though we, the Amsterdam locals behind DutchAmsterdam, live and work here we often take canal boat tours. They're not expensive, and they're both fun and relaxing.

Pro-tip: We usually bring a few snacks and a bottle of water with us. Snacks and drinks sold on board are priced with a 'captive audience' in mind.

And we (almost) always tip the captain.

Amsterdam Canal Touring Boats

A small section of the early harbor has survived at Damrak near Central Station. (Note that the houses of Warmoesstraat arise directly out of the water.)

The tour boats you see here, at docks in front of Central Station, and at several other locations throughout Amsterdam, provide a hugely popular tourist attraction.

There are several options to sail the canals, including a Water Taxi, The Canal Bus, and various cruise + museum entry combinations.

There are a number of canal cruise tour operators. They are all fairly similar, in that each will give you a good ride through the canals and part of the harbor. The boats do take slightly different routes, and sailing times may vary as well.

[caption id="attachment_3354" width="680"] Canal cruise companies located further away from Central Station often provide a longer -- or less expensive -- tour[/caption]

What does a canal tour cost?

In general, expect a 1-hour basic tour at rates of €12 -- €22.

Many tourists take at least one basic tour, plus one or more combination tours (e.g. cruise + on-board dinner, or cruise + museum entry ticket). These are available at a wide range of prices. There are many canals cruises to choose from.

Our recommendation? When we, the DutchAmsterdam team members, have guests we treat them to a daytime City Canal Cruise, and if possible also an Evening Canal Cruise (the latter is one we'd have to use the term 'enchanting' for, right?).

Should you tip the captain?

On most rides tips are solicited: when you exit, look for a saucer or captain's cap primed with some coins. But don't feel obligated to contribute.

In the past, most boats had on-board tour guides -- often students -- describing and explaining the sights. Never mind that historical facts and figures were sometimes made up on the spot and were subject to change from one ride to the next. Purists prefer the old way over the current approach in which a multi-lingual presentation is played over the sound system. [ref]Even the taped versions often include information that is not true. Listen for references to how many cars a year fall into the canals. Then check the real figures here.[/ref]

That said, in our experience on some rides the captain will at times turn off the sound track and instead provide on-the-spot commentary himself (which, in our estimation, is indeed worthy of a tip).

[caption id="attachment_9715" width="722"] On the River IJ, an Amsterdam canal cruise boat is dwarfed by seafaring cruise ship Eurodam, of the Holland-America Line[/caption]

More Boats and More Rules

For decades, the status quo was that the entire Amsterdam canal cruise industry was run by just a handful of companies.

The municipality is in the process of breaking up those monopolies. It is trying to get a better grip on how the waterways are used by an ever-growing number of vessels.

In short, Amsterdam strives for sustainable, balanced use of the waterways in and around the city, by all Amsterdammers and visitors.

Currently -- we're talking 2019 -- the canals are traveled by over 471 vessels licensed to carry passengers for a fee. That includes anything from sloops to saloon boats, and from water taxis to the classic glass-topped tour boats.

There are at least 300 unlicensed boats that illegally ferry paying passengers around the canals. 80 of these boats are consistently rented out to large groups.

Safe number of navigation movements often exceeded

These numbers only cover commercial passenger traffic, both legal and illegal.

Also part of the mix: there are 7.000 private pleasure craft with a year-to-year license to moor in the city. Owners of these boats, as well as captains of boats merely visiting the city, pay an additional license fee for each day they sail the canals.

Then there are commercial cargo vessels.

Oh, and we're not even talking about water bikes, SUP boards, and whatever else that floats.

The ever growing number of boats has resulted in a proportionate increase in the number of navigation movements on the canals.

On summer weekend days there are approximately 60 to 115 sailing movements per hour at busy locations, and even 130-165 per hour on the Prinsengracht. [ref]Source: Onderzoek gebruik Amsterdams binnenwater (Study on the use of Amsterdam's inland waterways), Mobycon, June / July and August / September 2018, as cited in Nota Varen, Deel 1.[/ref]

[caption id="attachment_9711" width="722"] Cover of a report inviting public discussion on a proposed policy to address the increased use of Amsterdam's canals by commercial and pleasure craft.[/caption]

The city wants to reduce the illegal passenger traffic by strict enforcement of existing rules. This will create more 'free space' on the water. At the same time it expects to increase the number of licenses by 80 to, rounded up, 550 vessels cleared for commercial passenger tours.

Anyway, none of this will affect you as a visitor. One word of advice, though: Stick with verified tour operators. Often so-called 'proppers' try and entice tourists to an on-the-spot purchase of a 'private' (but illegal) canal boat tour. You have no recourse whatsoever if the tour turns out to be much shorter and far less impressive than promised.

[caption id="attachment_3356" width="680"] Their outboard motor out of gas, two girls try to get out of the way of a canal tour boat.[/caption]

Amsterdam canal cruise booking and boarding tips

You can purchase tickets for common canal tours on the spot. Most tour boats leave at 15-30 minute intervals.

However, most visitors prefer to book a canal tour ahead of time -- particular where it concerns special boat tours: for instance, an evening cruise, a dinner cruise, a pizza cruise, or a cheese and wine tour.

Also popular: combination tours, providing the boat ride with a visit to a museum.

Good to know: if a window seat is important to you don't feel obligated to board a boat in which none are available. Simply wait for the next one. [ref]This works unless you have a timed-entry ticket (for a specific day and time). In that case, show up as early as possible to get the best seats.[/ref]

Note that the configuration of tour boats differs somewhat from operator to operator, and even within the same company.

Photography / Filming Tip:

Many of the glass-topped boats are completely covered, while some sport an open roof and/or open deck -- something to keep in mind if you are planning to film or take pictures.

What to Avoid

In between stretches of overcast grey, Amsterdam weather is feast or famine -- often all within the same day.

The boat trips are at their best when the sun is shining. Avoid canal trips during rainy days.

That said, during the winter a tour of the tree-lined canals provides a unique experience. With the trees bare, you'll be able to see much more of the gabled houses.

A word of caution: If your boat has an open roof, or if you sit on an open deck, keep an eye on anybody leaning over the bridge. Not because -- as one correspondent suggested -- you might get to peek up a short skirt, but because an occasional lout might spit at you.

Private- or group canal tours

Personally we are partial to the traditional glass-topped tour boats. But nowadays there are many others options for taking an Amsterdam canal cruise. Open sloops, salon boats, even smal dinghies. With or without wine, beer, cheese or an on-board BBQ.

Check out these private or group boat tour options.

Seen Amsterdam from the water? Now see it from a bike!

Amsterdam is not just known as 'Venice of the North', but also as the 'City of Bikes'.

Once you've seen the city from a boat, add another dimension to your Amsterdam experience by seeing it from a bike.

Enjoyed your boat ride? Next join a bike tour -- or rent a bicycle

Amsterdam’s most popular tourist attraction: Canal cruise is © Copyright Amsterdam Tourist Information All Rights Reserved

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Amsterdam Tourist Information -

'All The Rembrandts' at Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam

At A Glance
  • What: 'All the Rembrandts' Temporary Exhibition
    22 paintings, 60 drawings, 300 prints
  • Where: Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam
  • When: February 15, 2019 -- June 10, 2019
  • Rijksmuseum Tickets

The Rijksmuseum currently presents -- for the first and only time -- a unique, temporary exhibition of all 22 paintings, 60 drawings and more than 300 best examples of Rembrandt’s prints in its collection.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MdQis9BY1VE&rel=0
Video: The Year of Rembrandt, at the Rijksmuseum

This special event opens a year-long commemoration of the 350th anniversary of Rembrandt's death. The painter died October 4, 1669. He was 63 years old.

The Rijksmuseum holds the world's largest collection of Rembrandt's paintings, offering the "world’s most comprehensive and representative overview of Rembrandt’s painting oeuvre."

The museum actually holds 1300 of Rembrandt's prints. Given their delicate nature, the 17th century prints are exceedingly fragile. That is the reason why they are rarely displayed in public.

Museum director Taco Dibbits says the event is unlikely to be repeated. “This will never happen again because the works on paper are incredibly fragile,” he explains.

Nevertheless, the museum has selected 300 of the finest and most beautiful examples for inclusion in this once-in-a-lifetime exhibition.

The Night Watch

Rembrandt's world famous The Night Watch (not the painting's official name) is the centerpiece of the exhibition.

Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn. Officially titled, Militia Company of District II under the Command of Captain Frans Banninck Cocq, but known as the ‘Night Watch’, 1642. Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam. On loan from the City of Amsterdam. Download this image from the Rijksmuseum's Rijksstudio.

Ironically, it is the only painting that is not located in the special exhibition wing. Rather, it remains in its usual pride-of-place spot in the museum's Honor Gallery.

You may not realize this, but when it was first revealed The Night Watch was a controversial painting due to the way Rembrandt depicted the group’s members.

Rather than giving each of them equal prominence, he created the Golden Age painter’s equivalent of an Instagram-worthy snapshot: a group of militiamen who have just moved into action and are about to march off.

Dibbits: "I often say Rembrandt was the first Instagrammer. He recorded everything he saw. His friends, his wife - even on her sick bed, his son Titus and nature around seventeenth century Amsterdam. And of course himself as well, pulling crazy faces in the mirror. He made a lot of selfies."

People are "attracted to Rembrandt because he was a rebel—he did not stick to the rules of art," Dibbits says.

Rembrandt: the first Instagrammer

The special exhibition allows both serious and casual art lovers to get to know Rembrandt better.

Isaac and Rebecca, Known as ‘The Jewish Bride’, Rembrandt van Rijn,
c. 1665 - c. 1669. Download this image from the Rijksmuseum's Rijksstudio.

When looking at Rembrandt's oeuvre, it quickly becomes apparent that while he drew and painted many topics -- such as landscapes, historical scenes, and Bible stories -- he was fascinated by people.

And as we saw in his 'Night Watch,' he did not idealize or glorify (the Golden Age equivalent of photoshopping) his subjects.

Instead of giving us a collection of stately, posed -- and face it, boring -- portraits, Rembrandt panted people as he saw them, warts and all.

"Rembrandt is the artist of human beings, and he never idealizes so he really portrays people how they are -- in their strengths and weaknesses," says Pieter Roelofs, the Rijksmuseum's head of painting and sculpture.

"Rembrandt was decisive in the way that we look at today because he was the first artist who depicted the world around him," Dibbits adds. "Otherwise we would still be making images of gods and goddesses. Rembrandt is the first to paint us as human beings as we are."

"I think the exhibition wonderfully explains who Rembrandt was as a person,” Roelofs notes. "So we really are brought into his private world and on the other hand it gives a wonderful overview of Rembrandt as one of the most experimental and innovative artists in Western art history."

Another Banner Year

The Rijksmuseum, already the most visited museum in Amsterdam (and the entire country of the Netherlands, expects the numbers of visitors in 2019 to exceed those of last year.

The 'All the Rembrandts' exhibition, as well as other Rembrandt-related events at the museum will certainly attract many art lovers -- ourselves included.

The museum hopes to welcome some 2.5 million guests -- up from 2.3 million in 2018.

Don't stand in line: Buy your entry tickets ahead of time.

Rijksmuseum: ‘All The Rembrandts’ Exhibition is © Copyright Amsterdam Tourist Information All Rights Reserved

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Amsterdam Tourist Information -

The top 5 museums in the Netherlands, as measured by the number of visitors during the year 2018, are all located in Amsterdam.

Top 5:

  • Rijksmuseum
  • Van Gogh Museum
  • Anne Frank House
  • Stedelijke Museum
  • NEMO Science Museum

Nieuwsuur, a Dutch current affairs television program, asked the most-visited museums in the Netherlands in 2017 for their 2018 visitor statistics, and compiled a top five.

Rijksmuseum tops the list with 2.300.000 visitors -- 200.000 more than last year.

Entrance of the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam. Photo by Kirk Fisher.

The nearby Van Gogh Museum takes second place with 2.170.000 visitors. The 'Rijks' and the 'Van Gogh' often trade first and second place from year to year.

By the way, Efteling -- a fantasy-themed amusement park about 2 hours by public transport from Amsterdam -- is the top attraction in the Netherlands.

Amsterdam Museums Top 5

Amsterdam Museum Top 5 2017 2018
Rijksmuseum 2.100.000 2.300.000
Van Gogh Museum 2.260.000 2.170.000
Anne Frank House 1.200.000 1.200.000
Stedelijk Museum 690.000 695.000
Nemo Science Museum 665.000 676.000

The list is rounded out by the Anne Frank House, the Stedelijk Museum, and the NEMO Science Museum.

#1 -- Rijksmuseum 2019: Another banner year?

2019 may well become another banner year for the Rijksmuseum. This year the museum marks the 350th anniversary of Rembrandt’s death with ‘Year of Rembrandt’. The Rijksmuseum presents a number of Rembrandt exhibitions and a year full of events dedicated to the great artist.

The museum will also present a fascinating project: a live Restoration of The Nigh Watch, Rembrandt's most famous painting. You can follow the entire project online or in-person.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f5Z0xSuCyGA
Video: Rijksmuseum Director Taco Dibbits explains the largest restoration project in the museum's history -- that of Rembrandt's Night Watch.

Fortunately the huge museum can easily accommodate more visitors. Says director Taco Dibbits, "The great thing is that there is almost never a queue at the Rijksmuseum."

Clearly that is not due to a lack of interest. First opened in 1885, the Rijksmuseum underwent an extensive, ten-year renovation before it re-opened in 2013. Among the many improvements was a new entrance much better suited to effectively handle a high number of visitors.

The online sale of skip-the-line entry tickets -- a move more and more museums and attractions embrace -- also greatly helps.

Incidentally, tourists make up 65% (1.5 million) of the Rijksmuseum's 2.3 million visitors.

#2 -- Van Gogh: Online, timed entry tickets only

In fact, the slightly lower visitor numbers for the Van Gogh Museum is thought to be due to that museum's switch -- in the Spring of 2018 -- to online, timed entry tickets only. According to director Axel Rüger, the Van Gogh receives a higher visitor rating since then. No wonder. Before the switch visitors waited as much as two hours in front of the museum's ticket windows.

The Stedelijk Museum (left) and the Van Gogh Museum (right) at Museumplein in Amsterdam -- © Copyright: DutchAmsterdam.com

#3 -- Anne Frank House: Near Capacity

The Anne Frank House was renovated in the summer and fall of 2018, but is has no room to expand. In recent years the museum has welcomed 1.2 to 1.3 million visitors a year -- full capacity, according to Ronald Leopold, general manager Anne Frank Stichting.

The lengthy, 2+ hour queues the museum was notorious for -- see the first photo here -- in 2016 became a thing of the past when the Anne Frank House switched to online, timed entry tickets only.

#4 -- Stedelijk Museum

The Stedelijk Museum is one of the world's leading modern art museums. It

At the Stedelijk Museum shows works from such artists as Piet Mondrian, Kazimir Malevich, and Karel Appel, as well as from Picasso, Chagall, Cézanne, and Monet.

The museum says it had the "best summer ever" owing to the fact that 263.000 people came to an exhibition with works by Amsterdam-based artist collective Studio Drift.

This was a hastily scheduled exhibition, after one featuring the works of Italian designer Ettore Sottass was canceled due to a conflict with his heirs.

The Stedelijk's permanent collection was, at the end of 2017, moved to the museum's huge basement hall where it is displayed under the name, Stedelijk Base.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BFefwHLhNE8
Video: Stedelijk Base at the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam

Amsterdam has 40+ official museums

The Netherlands (about equal in size to the US State of Maryland) sports more than 400 official museums -- and many more unofficial ones. More than 40 of them are in Amsterdam (which itself has many more unofficial museums as well). Matter of fact, no city in the world has more museums per square kilometer than Amsterdam.

Half of all museum visits take place in Amsterdam, NEMO director Michiel Buchel tells Dutch broadcast foundation NOS. "Many of the approximately 20 million visitors to the city come to the forty registered museums in the capital," he says. "We benefit from being able to go along for the 'Amsterdam ride'."

#5 -- NEMO Science Museum

The NEMO Science Museum headed by Buchel is a museum dedicated to, well, science. It is a special place for kids of all ages (up to 99 and beyond). There is lots to see and do -- and unlike in other museums, you can touch and play with just about everything.

There are five floors where you can experience how science works, unravel the technology around you, study the building blocks of the cosmos, discover who you are, and play with energy. And yes, you can great giant soap bubbles big enough to stand in!

TIP: NEMO sports the largest roof terrace in Amsterdam, offering spectacular views of the city. You can access it whether or not you visit the museum.

More about Museums in Amsterdam

Netherlands: Top 5 Museums in Amsterdam is © Copyright Amsterdam Tourist Information All Rights Reserved

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Amsterdam Tourist Information -

Most visited museum in Amsterdam in 2018

The Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam is the Netherland's premier art museum. It is devoted to several national collections -- and consists of Dutch art from the earliest moments to the 19th century.

The Rijksmuseum is the most visited museum in Amsterdam -- and the entire country of the Netherlands -- in 2018. According to the museum 2.3 million spectators passed the entrance gates -- over 180.000 more than last year.

[caption id="attachment_5308" width="722"] The Rijksmuseum, one of the most majestic buildings in Amsterdam [/caption]

Rijksmuseum Tickets

The Museum, which first opened in 1885, recently underwent an extensive, 10-year renovation project in which the building was restored to its original splendor. The majestic building itself is worth the price of admission, we think. The grand re-opening took place in April, 2013.

Whereas countless earlier restorations and 'improvements' had turned the museum into a confusing, often overly dark labyrinth, the Rijksmuseum now is an inviting, welcoming place.

The best-known paintings -- including Rembrandt's Night Watch -- are easily accessible, so even a quick visit to the museum will leave you suitably impressed.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZxkxupBcWGQ

Art Presented in Context

The museum also introduced a complete thematic change. Normally, museums organize their art collections by material: paintings, furniture, glass, silver, and so on. You'd view these collections in chronological order, starting anew with each type of art.

The Rijksmuseum instead has combined it collections, so that you as you walk from room to room you travel through one timeline in which the art objects are shown in context. You may see a painting of a family dining around a table, and matching dinnerware and silverware displayed right next to it. This gives the viewer an unmatched sense of time, place and beauty.

The collection focuses primarily on Dutch art from 1100 to modern times, with special attention paid to the Dutch Golden Age, which roughly spanned the 17th century.

The museum owns over 1 million art objects, but instead of overwhelming visitors with a sheer endless series of exhibits, at any given time only about 8.000 pieces are on show. Other works are rotated in special exhibitions, such as the upcoming show on the late works of Rembrandt.

This art-in-context and less-is-more approach is hugely satisfying because it leaves you in awe rather than bored and overwhelmed.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vtMZqfS2Fbw

Rijksmuseum Collection

The museum has over 1.1 million objects in its collection. At any time some 8.000 are exhibited across 80 galleries.

Its gallery of prints (Dutch: prentencabinet) contains a further 850.000 works on paper.

The suggested walking route is 1500 meter (4921.25984 feet -- close to a mile) long.

If you don't want to walk that much, you can take a look online: about a quarter of the entire collection has been digitized.

The Rijksmuseum's website makes it easy to search and browse.

Moreover, the Rijksstudio allows people to collect and share images, or even to use them to create posters, Ipad covers, and so on.

The collection was started when William V started acquiring pieces just for the hell of it, and has been growing ever since: it now includes Dutch paintings from the 15th century until around 1900, as well as decorative and Asian art.

But if you have only a limited amount of time, head for the Dutch Masters section on the top floor. Here's where you'll find Rembrandt's Night watch, the jewel of the museum's collection, and Johannes Vermeer's The Kitchen Maid and Woman Reading a Letter, each capturing a moment in the life of a woman from a different background.

There are also excellent selections of works by the likes of Frans Hals, Jan Steen, Jacob van Ruysdael and Ferdinand Bol.
- Source: Time Out Amsterdam (Quoted from an earlier edition)

The Rijksmuseum also has fascinating collections of silverware, porcelain, 17th- and early 18th- century dolls' houses, and furniture that shows what canal-house interiors looked like.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6tktzLt5cg8

The Building

If you think the building looks familiar, that is because it bears a striking resemblance to the Central Station. Pierre Cuypers designed both. The Rijksmuseum opened in 1885, and Central Station opened just four years later.

The Rijksmuseum has recently undergone a ten-year long renovation during which much of the layout was re-designed. If you have ever visited the museum before - and got lost in its labyrinthine innards -- you understand why this was necessary:

The New Rijksmuseum's mission is to give visitors from all over the world a representative overview of Dutch art and history from the Middle Ages through the 20th century, and to present important aspects of European and Asiatic art. In order to meet this aim, a resolution to effect a comprehensive renovation of the Rijksmuseum was adopted by overwhelming majority in the Dutch parliament in 1999.

Since the opening in 1885, architect Pierre Cuypers' monumental building has been adapted and extended many times, making this renovation a necessity. All these changes to the original structure -- a richly decorated, open, inviting and easily navigable building -- turned the Rijksmuseum into a labyrinth of galleries, which visitors found difficult to navigate and where the collection could not be exhibited under optimal conditions.
- Source: Rijksmuseum, Final Design

The result is a building -- magnificent in its own rights -- that is a pleasure to visit.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ixOD_U9WGPU

Most visited museum in 2018

The Rijksmuseum in 2018 attracted 2.3 million visitors. That is an increase of 9.5 percent compared to last year (2.1 million).

This marks the sixth year in a row that the museum has delighted over two million people.

After its re-opening, in 2013, the museum expected to see 1.7 million visitors a year.

Last year the museum ranked in second place while the nearby Van Gogh Museum had a banner year with 2.26 million visitors.

Controversy: Changing Racially-Charged Titles

In December 2015, news media reported that the Rijksmuseum is in the process of changing 'racially-charged titles' of works of art in its collection.

The New York Times said:

The Rijksmuseum is in the process of removing language that could be considered offensive from digitized titles and descriptions of some 220,000 artworks in its collection. Words that Europeans once routinely used to describe other cultures or peoples, like “negro,” “Indian” or “dwarf” will be replaced with less racially charged terminology.

“The point is not to use names given by whites to others,” Martine Gosselink, head of the history department at the Rijksmuseum, who initiated the project, said Thursday. For example, she said, “We Dutch are called kaas kops, or cheeseheads, sometimes, and we wouldn’t like it if we went to a museum in another country and saw descriptions of images of us as ‘kaas kop woman with kaas kop child,’ and that’s exactly the same as what’s happening here.” [...]

“Some people are angry with us,” she said. “They say ‘Why this change, the Rijksmuseum is trying to be so politically correct.’ But in the Netherlands alone, there are a million people deriving from colonial roots, from Suriname, from the Antilles, from Indonesia, and so on that basis alone it’s important to change this.”
- Source: Nina Siegal, Rijksmuseum Removing Racially Charged Terms From Artworks’ Titles and Descriptions, The New York Times, December 10, 2015

Rijksmuseum Address & Contact Information

Jan Luijkenstraat 1 (Philips Wing) [Google Map]
1071 ZD Amsterdam

Tel: 020 674 7000 [Amsterdam phone info]

Opening Times

The Rijksmuseum is open every day from 9:00 to 17:00 (9 am to 5 pm) -- Christmas and New Year's Day included.

Busiest months and days at the Rijksmuseum

Busiest months: April, May and August -- with a 20-30 minute line at the ticket office.

Busiest days: Friday, Saturday, Sunday -- as well as on Dutch national vacation- and holidays.

Busiest times: 10 am until about 2.30 pm.

Tickets

Purchase your Rijksmuseum tickets ahead of time.

You can also combine museum entrance with a canal cruise

Rijksmuseum — Not just Rembrandt’s Night Watch is © Copyright Amsterdam Tourist Information All Rights Reserved

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You may need a power converter in the Netherlands

It's a fact of life when you travel: you will encounter different 'types' of electricity, plugs, and electrical outlets.

Electrical power in Amsterdam, the rest of the Netherlands, and in most of Western Europe runs on a cycle of 50hz, and a voltage of 230 Volt, alternating current. In North America, power runs at 60hz/110 Volt.

The voltage in England is 230 Volt and the standard frequency is 50 Hz.

Therefore you may need to bring a travel converter and/or power plug adapters for such electronics as your curling set, battery chargers, electric shaver, powered lens cleaning kit, and cell phone.

You may need to bring several voltage converters and/or adapter plugs if you anticipate needing to operate these items concurrently.

Power-, Voltage-, or Travel Converters?

Basically, they all refer to the same product. You can use power converter and voltage converter interchangeably. Amazon.com sells them under the title of power converters. Some people search for transformers instead.

What most travelers actually want is a so-called travel converter.

If you're only planning to visit Amsterdam, the Netherlands ('Holland'), or any country in Western Europe on your next trip, you will only need a European travel power converter

Here's the one we use:

Plug Adapters

Even if the product you bring can operate on dual voltage, you will still need plug adapters, because European plugs have different shapes depending on which country you visit.

Converters usually include a range of plug adapters. But plug adapters themselves do not convert power.

There are lots of fancy, 'pretty' plug adapters out there, but in our experience this lightweight set is all you need:

Knowing what to pack

Here's how to determine what you need to buy and bring:

  • Check how many of your electronics need a travel converter
  • Check how many of them you want to charge at the same time
  • Purchase one or more converters accordingly
  • Check how many of your electronics run on dual voltage (and therefore do not need converters)
  • Check how many of them you want to charge at the same time
  • Purchase one or more sets of plug adapters accordingly

Most travel converters come with international plugs and adapters, but you may need extra sets for those electronic items that already come with built-in converters (e.g. electronic shavers).

Dual Power Caution

If your laptop, shaver, electronic toothbrush or other electronic item comes with dual-power compatibility, make sure you know how to use the equipment in another country. Some electronics -- including most mobile phone chargers -- switch automatically. Others need you to manually change a switch.

Consult the manual that came with your equipment. If you no longer have it, look for a voltage switch or dial on the back of the item.

This article is part of our Amsterdam Visitors Guide

Power converter: Electricity in Amsterdam, Holland is © Copyright Amsterdam Tourist Information All Rights Reserved

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You may need a power converter in the Netherlands

It's a fact of life when you travel: you will encounter different 'types' of electricity, plugs, and electrical outlets.

Electrical power in Amsterdam, the rest of the Netherlands, and in most of Western Europe runs on a cycle of 50hz, and a voltage of 230 Volt, alternating current. In North America, power runs at 60hz/110 Volt.

The voltage in England is 230 Volt and the standard frequency is 50 Hz.

Therefore you may need to bring a travel converter and/or power plug adapters for such electronics as your curling set, battery chargers, electric shaver, powered lens cleaning kit, and cell phone.

You may need to bring several voltage converters and/or adapter plugs if you anticipate needing to operate these items concurrently.

Power-, Voltage-, or Travel Converters?

Basically, they all refer to the same product. You can use power converter and voltage converter interchangeably. Amazon.com sells them under the title of power coverters. Some people search for transformers instead.

What most travelers actually want is a so-called travel converter.

If you're only planning to visit Amsterdam, the Netherlands ('Holland'), or any country in Western Europe on your next trip, you will only need a European travel power converter

Here's the one we use:

Plug Adapters

Even if the product you bring can operate on dual voltage, you will still need plug adapters, because European plugs have different shapes depending on which country you visit.

Converters usually include a range of plug adapters. But plug adapters themselves do not convert power.

There are lots of fancy, 'pretty' plug adapters out there, but in our experience this lightweight set is all you need:

Knowing what to pack

Here's how to determine what you need to buy and bring:

  • Check how many of your electronics need a travel converter
  • Check how many of them you want to charge at the same time
  • Purchase one or more converters accordingly
  • Check how many of your electronics run on dual voltage (and therefore do not need converters)
  • Check how many of them you want to charge at the same time
  • Purchase one or more sets of plug adapters accordingly

Most travel converters come with international plugs and adapters, but you may need extra sets for those electronic items that already come with built-in converters (e.g. electronic shavers).

Dual Power Caution

If your laptop, shaver, electronic toothbrush or other electronic item comes with dual-power compatibility, make sure you know how to use the equipment in another country. Some electronics -- including most mobile phone chargers -- switch automatically. Others need you to manually change a switch.

Consult the manual that came with your equipment. If you no longer have it, look for a voltage switch or dial on the back of the item.

This article is part of our Amsterdam Visitors Guide

Electricity in Amsterdam, Holland is © Copyright Amsterdam Tourist Information All Rights Reserved

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Amsterdam's Coat of Arms: An Enigma

The Coat of Arms of the city of Amsterdam is somewhat of an enigma. Not much is known about its origins or its precise meaning.

The symbolism of the heraldic shield in particular has been the subject of much speculation.

[caption id="attachment_8432" width="722"] The Amsterdam Coat of Arms. This rendition is seen on a downtown university building. [/caption]

What do the 3 X's in Amsterdam's City Shield mean?

At the heart of Amsterdam's Coat of Arms are three white X's displayed on a black band that runs down the middle of a red shield. (Trivia alert: such a shield is called an escutcheon).

You can dismiss one frequently suggested explanation right off the bat. Forget the dated, louche image of Amsterdam as a city high on triple-X entertainment.

The X's are actually St. Andrew's Crosses. They are named after the apostle Andrew who was martyred on an X-shaped cross in the 1st century AD.

The shield is the official symbol of the City of Amsterdam.

In the full coat of arms the shield appears underneath the Imperial Crown of Austria (more about that in a moment).

[caption id="attachment_8433" width="722"] Amsterdam's Coat of Amsterdam carries the words Heldhaftig (Heroic), Vastberaden (Resolute), Barmhartig (Merciful). [/caption]

Two golden lions flank the shield. The official motto of Amsterdam is on a scroll below it: Heldhaftig (Heroic), Vastberaden (Resolute), Barmhartig (Merciful). Jokers have at times updated the phrase to, 'Defiant, Stubborn, and Extremely Tolerant.'

You'll the red shield with its black banner and white crosses in one form or another throughout Amsterdam. The full version of the Coat of Arms is far less common.

Amsterdam Coat of Arms: Meaning Unknown

Many people believe that the St. Andrew's crosses refer to the three dangers medieval Amsterdam faced: fire, floods and the Black Death. However, there is no historical evidence for that interpretation.

Another possible explanation comes from titillated folks with an active imagination, who assume the three X's refer to the city's liberal reputation. But, as mentioned, that is not the case either.

Finally, the three crosses also do not represent the words of the official motto, because that has only been in use since 1947. The motto was added in that year by then Queen Wilhelmina to commemorate the demeanor of Amsterdam's citizens during World War II.

[caption id="attachment_8442" width="722"] The shield of Amsterdam is seen in various depictions, with or without the crown, throughout the city.[/caption]

We do know the heraldic shield has been in use for a long time.

During recent construction work for the Noord/Zuidlijn (North/South metro line) workers found a pair of old pliers bearing the three crosses. Archaeologists have dated the tool to 1350 -- making it the oldest instance of the emblem.

The official web site of the City of Amsterdam explains:

Why is Maximilian's Imperial Crown of Austria part of Amsterdam's Coat of Arms?

The heraldic origins of the coat of arms of Amsterdam are unknown. The black banner in the centre could represent the water of the rivers Amstel and IJ at which the city is located.

[caption id="attachment_4107" width="145" ] Detail of the Westertoren, showing the emblem of Amsterdam, as well as the symbol of the imperial crown of Maximilian of Austria. (Click for larger version)[/caption]

The three St. Andrew's crosses may stem from the Persijn crusader family from Waterland, which owned a considerable amount of land in and around Amsterdam.

In 1489 the small merchant city obtained the right to add to its coat of arms the crown of the monarch, Maximilian I, archduke of Austria, German king and Holy Roman emperor.

For the merchants of Amsterdam the crown was a weighty recommendation in other elements of the Kingdom, right down to the 17th century.

By that time, Amsterdam had long been a powerful trading city in a by now Protestant country which, in 1648, was formally to leave the Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation under the Peace of Münster.

The crown adorning the emblem and the tower of the Westerkerk church is in fact the crown of emperor Rudolf II. The two lions were added as shield-bearers in the 16th century.

In recognition of the conduct of the people of Amsterdam during the German occupation of 1940-1945, Queen Wilhelmina granted the city the right on 27 March 1947 to add to the coat of arms the motto 'Valiant, Resolute, Compassionate'.
- Source: Amsterdam.nl

Amsterdam City Flag: "The most badass city flag in the world"

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pnv5iKB2hl4

TED Talk by Roman Mars. His comments regarding the flag of Amsterdam start at 10:05

Bear with us for a moment.

The study of flags is called vexillology. An expert on flags is therefore called a vexillologist. Yes, a vex-il-lol-o-gist.

Podcast host Roman Mars loves flags. In 2015 he gave a hugely popular TED Talk on city flag design: Why city flags may be the worst-designed thing you've never noticed.

He shows many examples of poorly (or even terribly) designed flags representing American cities.

Then, while displaying Amsterdam's coat of arms, he says:

The European equivalent of the city seal in the city coat of arms [Shows the Amsterdam Coat of Arms]. And this is where we can learn a lesson on how to do things right. So this is the city coat of arms of Amsterdam.

Now if this were a United States city, the flag would probably look like this [Shows the same coat of arms, but now on a blue background].

But instead, the flag of Amsterdam looks like this [Shows the flag of Amsterdam]

Rather than popping the whole code arms of Amsterdam on a solid background and writing 'Amsterdam' below it, it takes the key elements of the escutcheon -- the shield -- and they turn it into the most badass city flag in the world.

And because it's so badass, those flags and crosses are found throughout Amsterdam.

Amsterdam Emblem: Flags, umbrellas, hats, underwear, tattoos, and more

The emblem shows up on just about anything and everything: flags, buildings, hats, cups, underwear, napkins, and so on. You can have it tattooed on your body, buy it as jewelry, or eat it as chocolate.

Chances are you'll buy at least one souvenir with the emblem imprinted on it.

[caption id="attachment_4595" width="800"] A buyer beware: the umbrellas sold in tourist/souvenir shops often don't make it through more than a week's worth of rain.[/caption]

Coming to Amsterdam? Gezellig!
Why the Dutch wear orange

Amsterdam Coat of Arms and City Flag. What’s with the 3 X’s? is © Copyright Amsterdam Tourist Information All Rights Reserved

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The Night Watch -- Rembrandt's most famous painting -- is the most popular work of art in the Rijksmuseum, in which it has pride of place.

It is viewed by 2.2 million people a year.

Tip: Why wait? Buy Skip-The-Line Rijksmuseum Tickets Now

The painting is officially titled, "Militia Company of District II under the Command of Captain Frans Banninck Cocq" (Dutch: Schutters van wijk II onder leiding van kapitein Frans Banninck Cocq[ref]Actually the full title of the portrait, as recorded in the family album of Captain Banning Cocq, is: "Captain Heer van Purmerlandt (Banning Cocq) orders his lieutenant, the Heer van laerderdingen (Willem van Ruytenburch), to march the company out."[/ref]).

Though that's a mouthful, this unwieldy title is not the reason why the painting became known as The Night Watch (Dutch: De Nachtwacht). More about that in a moment.

Rijksmuseum Skip-The-Line Tickets

What is The Night Watch painting about?

Completed in 1642 the canvas depicts a group portrait of a division of Amsterdam's civic guard -- the Kloveniers militia.

The men are getting into formation, and their captain is telling his lieutenant to start the company marching out.

[caption id="attachment_5082" width="722"] Rembrandt's painting The Night Watch - at Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam[/caption]

The kloveniers took on their name in 1522 -- when they exchanged foot bows for primitive guns that were called kloveren (from the French, couleuvrine). This was a type of musket. Hence you can think of the Kloveniers as musketeers.[ref]Kloveniers were also known as Arquebusiers, again a reference to the musket guns they carried. These guns were sometimes referred to as 'bussen'.[/ref]

Why was Rembrandt's Night Watch painting so controversial?

The painting was controversial not because of its subject, but because of the way Rembrandt depicted the group's members.

Rather than giving each of them equal prominence, he created the painter's equivalent of a snapshot: a group of militiamen who have just moved into action and are about to march off.

The Rijksmuseum notes that Rembrandt was the first artist to paint figures in a group portrait actually doing something.

However, some of the members of the militia where not amused that they were represented in a less prominent position than others.

One can imagine the consternation when the painting was first revealed. They had commissioned a group portrait. But Rembrandt had defiantly broken all the conventional rules of portrait painting.

Instead of a stiff and formal collection of faces, Rembrandt painted a story: a living scene. Not only that: He also painted people as they are instead of the 'airbrushed' portraits people were used to.

Why is the painting called The Night Watch?

By the late 18th century the multiple layers of varnish Rembrandt applied to the painting had darkened to such an extent that people thought the canvas depicted a night scene.

Hence it's nickname was born: De Nachtwacht -- The Night Watch.

The varnish was removed during the 1940's, but the name remained popular. Luckily, since Militia Company of District II under the Command of Captain Frans Banninck Cocq isn't nearly as memorable.

Why was The Night Watch painting trimmed?

The Night Watch was completed in 1642. It was displayed in the large festivities hall of the Kloveniersdoelen -- the headquarters of the Kloveniers militia.

In the year 1715 the enormous painting was moved from Kloveniersdoelen, for which it was designed, to the Town Hall of Amsterdam (the building that is now the Palace at Dam Square).

In the process the painting was trimmed on three sides, in order to fit its new location between two marble columns . Originally 400 cm x 500 cm (13.12 ft x 16.40 ft) in size, the still enormous painting now measures 3.6 meter × 4.4 meter (11.91 feet × 14.34 feet).

[caption id="attachment_8394" width="722"] A 17th-century copy of Rembrandt's Night Watch, by Gerrit Lundens, at the National Gallery in London shows the original composition. The lines indicate where the painting was cut.[/caption]

Such an alteration would nowadays be unthinkable, but it was not unusual at the time.

The trimming resulted in the loss of two characters on the left side of the painting, the top of the arch, the balustrade, and the edge of the step. This balustrade and step were key visual tools used by Rembrandt to give the painting a forward motion.

Nobody knows what happened with the pieces that were trimmed.

In 1808 the Night Watch was moved to the Rijksmuseum, where it remains on display.[ref]On May 31, 1800 the National Art Gallery, precursor of the Rijksmuseum, opened in The Hague. The Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam opened in 1885. Its architect, Pierre Cuypers (1827-1921), included an honorary hall for The Night Watch.[/ref]

Night Watch Restoration Project: See it live online or in person

The Rijksmuseum will launch the largest research and restoration project in its history starting in July 2019: the restoration of The Night Watch.

The Rijksmuseum continuously monitors the condition of De Nachtwacht. It has been found that changes occur in the painting, such as the white-struck dog in the lower right corner of the painting. In order to gain a better understanding of these changes, the Rijksmuseum is starting an in-depth investigation into the overall state of the painting.

The extensive research is necessary to determine the best treatment plan and includes image techniques, high-resolution photography and highly advanced computer analysis. This allows the experts to visualize the painting in detail and not only examine the surface of the painting, but study all layers of the painting: from varnish to canvas.

Once the millimeter by millimeter computer scan is complete, a process that is expected to take about 70 days, the experts will analyze the results.

Only then will the team make a plan, determining precisely how to proceed with the restoration. Hundreds of experts from around the world will be involved.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f5Z0xSuCyGA

Rijksmuseum Director Taco Dibbits explains the restoration project.

As Taco Dibbits explains, during the entire project the painting will remain on display in the Night Watch Hall (Nachtwachtzaal) of the Rijksmuseum.

An ultra white (very clear glass) chamber, 7-metres square, designed by the French architect Jean-Michel Wilmotte, is being built to encase The Night Watch and its conservators.

Visitors will be able to view the painting and the entire restoration project in person.

The whole process, budgeted at 3 million euro ($3.4 million) will also be streamed live online.

It is more than 40 years ago that the last major restoration of The Night Watch took place, following an 1975 attack in which someone stabbed the painting was a knife.

How much did The Night Watch cost? And what is it worth?

According to the Rijksmuseum, Rembrandt was paid 1,600 guilders for his painting. At today's exchange rate that would be 726 euroa, or 828 US dollars.

Since the civic guard was a municipal institution, The Night Watch belongs to the city of Amsterdam.

It is on permanent loan to the Rijksmuseum.

After Rembrandt sold his painting, it has never again been on sale -- and will indeed never be sold. It is considered priceless.

Download the 'Night Watch'

Video: Documentary film about The Night Watch

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wcvtKTIat4k

Video: Watch this fascinating BBC documentary about De Nachtwacht

More about Rijksmuseum
Free entry with the I amsterdam City Card
Will the world famous I amsterdam letters still be outside the Rijksmuseum when you visit?

The Night Watch by Rembrandt is not actually called The Night Watch is © Copyright Amsterdam Tourist Information All Rights Reserved

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The I amsterdam letters

"I amsterdam" is Amsterdam's hugely successful marketing slogan.

[caption id="attachment_6556" width="722"] The main I amsterdam letters at the back of the Rijksmuseum. Photographed in the winter, when the reflection pool is used an an ice skating rink.[/caption]

Too Successful

Update: Wednesday, October 10, 2018 -- It looks like the letters will soon be gone -- and, Amsterdammers think, none too soon.

Like many other cities throughout Europe, Amsterdam has in recent years been suffering from over-tourism. This city of 850.000 people is currently visited by 8 million tourists a year. That is simply too much of a good thing.

A majority of Amsterdam City Council members now wants to get rid not just of the letters, but also of the marketing campaign they stood for.

Launched in September, 2004, the sign -- at the back of the Rijksmuseum -- has become one of the city's most photographed icons. You rarely see the letters without people in front, behind, or on top of the slogan -- taking photos and selfies which help market the city through social media.

Amsterdam Marketing happily estimates the letters are photographed some 6.000 times a day. 'Happily,' because the original intention -- marketing Amsterdam abroad in the wake of the financial crisis -- has worked far beyond expectation.

In fact, now that (according to a growing number of locals) Amsterdam is "overrun" with tourists, many Amsterdammers believe the sign has worked too well, and has overstayed its welcome.[ref]Amsterdam's 800.000+ residents in 2016 saw an estimated 12 million visitors -- from the Netherlands and from abroad -- visit their city[/ref]

The marketing folks, meanwhile, have changed their focus from attracting tourists to promoting the city as an ideal place to do business, organize international conferences and congresses, and locate or relocate company headquarters or satellite offices.

What is the meaning of the I Amsterdam sign?

The sentiment behind the slogan was, ostensibly, to make Amsterdammers feel good about themselves:

Amsterdam's strongest asset is its people.
The people who live here, who work here, who study or visit here.
The people of Amsterdam are Amsterdam.
We are Amsterdam.
I amsterdam
- Amsterdam Partners[ref]When the 'I amsterdam' phrase was introduced, Amsterdam Partners was the "platform for city marketing in the Amsterdam Metropolitan Area." It has since been renamed, Amsterdam Marketing[/ref]

The larger message (intended or not): Amsterdammers are happy. Tourists are happy. Expats are happy.

Indeed, Quality of Life surveys -- used by international companies to decided where to locate their offices -- generally rank Amsterdam highly.

Where is the I Amsterdam sign?

[caption id="attachment_6565" width="722"] The I amsterdam sign and its shadow, as seen on the 3D version of Google Maps[/caption]

The main set of letters is located at the back of the Rijksmuseum, the Netherlands' premier art museum -- just a stone throw from the Van Gogh Museum (which houses the largest collection of paintings by Vincent van Gogh (1853-1890) in the world).

Take trams 2, 3, 5 or 12 to get there (stops listed on the map).

A second set of the I Amsterdam letters is found at the plaza of Amsterdam Airport Schiphol.

Meanwhile a third, smaller version travels around the city. It pops up at events -- such as fashion shows, fairs, festivals and congresses -- but also at museums, along the river IJ, or just about anywhere else.[ref]See: Where are the travelling letters now?[/ref]

[caption id="attachment_6557" width="722"] No joke: On April 1, 2016 the move-about sign was decked out in rainbow colors to celebrate the fact that the Netherlands was, 15 years earlier, the first country in the world to legalize gay marriage. The first weddings were held in Amsterdam.[/caption]

Finally, a scaled-down version lives in the courtyard of the Amsterdam Museum (a must-see, by the way).

And of course you'll find the I amsterdam phrase printed on every imaginable souvenir.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U52el793pjw

I Amsterdam Letters Trivia
  • The main sign is 2 meters (6.5 feet) high and 24 meters (26 yards) long
  • On average each letter weighs about 250 kilo (551 pound)
  • Nevertheless, one night in February 2010, two of the letters 'went missing.'
  • Warning stickers on the side of the sign state that the letters are not meant to be climbed on
  • The I amsterdam motto was designed in 2004, by advertising agency KesselsKramer
  • Two years earlier designer Vanessa van Dam created and printed an 'IAmsterdammer' postcard with an accent on the first three letters. Though it was determined her design was not plagiarized, the City bought the right to her logo for € 20.000
  • Cities and countries around the world have copied Amsterdam's slogan in one form or another
  • The I amsterdam City Card is a really good deal

What is I amsterdam? (Soon to be history, it seems) is © Copyright Amsterdam Tourist Information All Rights Reserved

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