Will Ferrell recently visited Amsterdam in character as Ron Burgundy. In a series of sketches filmed for the MTV Europe Music Awards, the egotistical reporter from the Anchorman movies toured the city’s seedier side. Burgundy biked around De Wallen with Daft Punk, found himself in a window in the Red Light District and made the mistake of ordering a brownie in one of Amsterdam’s most famous coffee shops.
He might have had a better, or at least classier, time had he pointed himself in the direction of the Museumplein. This enormous public square links three of Amsterdam’s most beloved landmarks: the Van Gogh Museum, the Stedelijk and the Rijksmuseum.
That last one is the Netherlands’ most renowned museum. The Rijksmuseum draws over a million visitors annually and displays over 8,000 historical artifacts and works of art. There you’ll find some of Rembrandt’s best known paintings along with masterpieces by other Dutch Golden Age artists like Johannes Vermeer and Jan Steen. Among them: The Night Watch, the enormous Rembrandt painting that caused a stir upon its debut in 1642 and Vermeer’s iconic The Milkmaid.
The museum’s current home dates back to 1885. Designed by renowned Dutch architect Pierre Cuypers, the exterior combines Gothic and Renaissance elements and is littered with references to national historical figures. The Rijksmuseum also recently underwent an extensive, decade-long renovation that cost upwards of 375 million Euros.
Many of its galleries received some much needed modernizing and sprucing up. The museum’s elaborate pillars, fixtures and other decor, which were tragically painted over after World War 2, have been blessedly returned to their former glory. Newer features include enhancements created by British artist Richard Wright. The former Turner Prize winner decorated the ceilings in the halls flanking the museum’s Grand Gallery with nearly 50,000 stars, all hand-painted, that together form a gigantic constellation. The museum was the subject of a gala reopening celebration on April 13th, 2013.
A row of stained glass windows featuring Dutch luminaries is now squeaky clean and its figures once again look down over the crowds that gather outside the museum every day. Yes, every day. It’s possible to visit the Rijksmuseum 365 days a year and it’s a popular destination even on Christmas. Just be sure to leave your bottle of Blackbeard’s Delight at home.