Note to self: 1. Watch out for bicycles 2. Purchase museum ticket online.
I’ve spent a bit of time in Amsterdam over the last seven years, either on a river cruise or at an Air B&B. Each time I’m here I pledge that I’ll get myself to the world-famous Rijksmuseum. With its showcase of Rembrandt, Van Gogh, and Vermeer, it’s a shame to miss it. And every visit, I procrastinate and find other things to do instead of learning my way to the museum.
Today was different; I figured out how to get there from he river cruise dock!
How to get to Rijksmuseum from river cruise dock
After you exit from the dock, turn right. That’s a no-brainer. Don’t cross the street but continue along the light-colored sidewalk in front of the river ships. Look straight ahead and you’ll see Amsterdam Centraal Station.
Continue on the same exact sidewalk but don’t step onto the red-colored bike path. You only make that mistake once. Over the bridge – keep on the left side of the bridge if you have a cane or walking stick or even luggage. The right (water) side of the bridge is see-through grating and it’s easy to twist your ankle. Just ask me.
READ ABOUT my Northern Holland river cruise with Avalon Waterways
Once over the bridge, continue walking (simply follow the other walkers) until you reach the train station, about 7-8 minutes. You will eventually have to cross the bike lane and do it at a proper zebra (white striped) crosswalk. Look out for bikes!
After you’ve crossed the bike path, you’ll find several open-air entrances into the station. Just go into the first one (between the Saigon Café and Saltzer Fishbar). The easiest path then is to turn right after the Fishbar and follow the wide corridor until you get to the main perpendicular corridor, marked Centrum.
So you’ve gone left into the station, right at the Fishbar, left at the main corridor where you can see straight through to daylight and the other side exit doors.
Walk through the main corridor and exit onto the sprawling plaza outside the station.
You will now take either the #2 or #5 tram to the Rijksmuseum.
How to get your tram ticket for Number 2 or 5 tram
You have three choices. In the main terminal that you just walked through were yellow and blue self-serve ticket machines. Outside you’ll find these silver and blue machines. The other option is to purchase the ticket on the tram.
It’s easy to purchase your tram ticket when on the tram if you know how. Enter the tram from the door closest to the end (it’s too crowded to enter at the front and squeeze your way to the back of the multi-car tram.
At the very back of the tram there’s a staffed ticket booth. Simply ask for the 24-hour pass and pay. The cost for one hour is Euro 2.90. An all-day pass that’s good on all transportation including the Big Red Ho-Ho Bus (hop on/hop off) is only 6.90 Euro.
You’ll get a ticket which will be “beeped” on a sensor and then handed to you. As you leave the tram, be sure to touch your ticket to the sensor. Watch what the locals do – it’s called a “check out”.
There are about 5-6 stops before yours. The stop for the museum will be announced and nearly everyone on the tram will exit. Carefully cross the bike path, follow the sidewalk next to the iron gate and soon on your left will be the gorgeous façade of the Rijksmuseum.
Since you’ve purchased your museum ticket online, follow the sign for “Already Ticketed”. If you have a coat, you can check it for free in the coatroom or rent a locker for .50 euro which will be returned upon retrieval. Backpacks are NOT allowed, even if they’re a small purse-like backpack.
You can sign up for guided tours or go it yourself. There are museum guides in a zillion languages at the circular marble kiosk that you’ll see when you enter.
Where to find the Rembrandt Gallery and “Night Watch”
If you want to head straight to the Rembrandt and Vermeer gallery, called Gallery of Honor, head to the second floor via elevator or stairs. Follow the stream of people. At the very far end of the massive exhibition gallery hall you’ll see Rembrandt’s masterpiece, “Night Watch”. If there’s no crowd at first, head over there immediately. You can take your time and retrace your path to view the rest of the gallery later, as crowds gather in front of “Night Watch”.
When it’s time to leave the museum, retrace your original path because you’ll want to exit from the same doorway that you entered. This time, your #2 or #5 tram will be on the museum side, not the museum shop side, so no major bike path to cross. But always check anyway.
If it’s more convenient, take the tram back to Centraal Station and get your bearings. If you’re comfortable, exit at the Dam stop. Walk back to the ship after passing all the souvenir shops, French Fry stands and designer boutiques. If you get lost, just keep heading towards the harbor or Centraal Station. No matter your route, you’ll have to cross a big bridge to get to the harborside.
There you have it. A wonderful day in Amsterdam on your own!