Discover the Top 10 Fascinating Rijksmuseum Facts! 

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The Rijksmuseum is one of the most famous museums in Amsterdam, and it shines a bright light on Dutch art history. 

Attracting over 2 million visitors and art lovers yearly, the Musuem has over a hundred years of history, with many undiscovered secrets hidden behind its grand exterior!

Art and history lovers planning to explore the Rijksmuseum must know all about some exciting facts that make the structure, art, and layout of the Museum so unique.

In this article, we’ll discover the top 10 less-known facts about the Rijksmuseum so you can show off your knowledge to your friends and family on your next trip! 

1. The Rijksmuseum has a foundation structure made of 8,000 wooden piles.

Before Amsterdam became the bustling City it is today, it was previously a cluster of small islands with swampy riverside soil, divided by three main rivers.

Most of the buildings were built on top of wooden piles to prevent them from sinking!

At least 8,000 wooden poles were dug into the ground to support the structure of the massive Rijksmuseum and ensure its long life.

If you’re wondering how the wood remains strong today, it’s because it was soaked in water.

They will only begin to rot once they become dry!

2. The Museum is the largest Art Museum in the Netherlands.

Even though the Rijksmuseum has only 8,000 art pieces and artifacts on display, the Musuem has a collection of 1 million artworks!

From the Threatened Swan, the first piece of art the Museum purchased, the collection has expanded to uncountable numbers over the years. 

The Museum is 1.5 km long and has over 80 Galleries you must cover to say you saw the complete Musuem.

It can take around a week to complete this challenge!  

3. The Original Night Watch Painting was much Larger.

The Night Watch Painting by Rembrandt is one of the most famous artworks in the Rijksmuseum, displayed in its own Night Watch Gallery!

The painting you see in the Musuem today is smaller than the original one, as its left side was cut off!

This was done to fit it into the slot, which was too small, compared to the space reserved for the painting in Amsterdam City Hall, where it was supposed to be displayed.

The depiction of two men on the left side was lost due to this size reduction. 

However, it is still one of the biggest paintings in the Rijksmuseum, measuring 380 cm x 354 cm! 

4. A road runs through the Museum!

Something special about the Rijksmuseum building itself
Photo by Luca Lago on Unsplash

The Rijksmuseum has unique architecture, mainly because it is the only Musuem in the world with a road running through its center!

Before 1997, the road was a four-lane street, and cars and vehicles of all kinds could zip right through the museum’s center. 

Even though this made accessing the Museum easier, it was also dangerous to pedestrians, as the 50-mile-per-hour speed was not followed by all vehicles.

Since 1997, only cyclists have been allowed to use this road, which connects the residential areas of the south to the old town area.

Previously, it was also famously called the shortest Motorway in the Netherlands!

Sometimes, the Rijksmuseum also organizes musical concerts in the Passage. 

5. The Museum is home to the largest Cuyper’s Art Library in the Netherlands.

Book lovers looking to find the library of their dreams must visit the Cuyper’s Library of the Rijksmuseum, which is straight out of a magical world!

It is the biggest library in the Netherlands, housing over 450,000 objects, with a reading room of over 3,500 books. 

Even though most of the collection is stored in the basement today, the architecture, with its bright glass skylight roof, is a must-see!

The pillars holding up the ceiling grow narrower at the top, giving it a more spacious and taller appearance.

If you’re on the second floor of the Rijksmuseum, you can admire the Library from the balcony above!

Don’t forget to admire the railings as you get down the stairs of the Library, handmade in the old-fashioned style of the 19th century. 

6. Between the 1920s and 1960s, the wall artwork of the Rijksmuseum was whitewashed!

When the Rijksmuseum opened in 1885, the walls were decorated with stunning images of artists, royal family members, and other Dutch elements.

However, the director of the Museum was against these paintings, as he believed they took the attention away from the artworks displayed on the walls. 

To cover them up and show the humble spirit of the Dutch culture, he decided to add a layer of white paint over the walls. 

The painting fortunately remained intact under the white layer of paint and was restored in the Rijksmuseum’s 10-year restoration project from 2003 to 2013!

Most of these beautiful paintings are in the Great Hall of the Museum. 

7. An unexpected Flood closed the Rijksmuseum for Ten years.

Do you wonder why the Renovation of 2003 took ten whole years to complete?

This is because of flooding in Amsterdam in 2003, which also led to the flooding of the entire Rijksmuseum!

The water entered the Museum from the tunnel dug at the base to create the bicycle Passage in the Rijksmuseum. 

Because of this massive flood, the restorations were delayed by nine years.

The damage the flood caused cost ten times the amount to repair than the price of the simple one-year renovation. 

8. King William III was unhappy with the Cuyper’s design of the Rijksmuseum. 

Pierre Cuypers designed the Rijksmuseum; however, his was not the first selected choice.

The original design of the Museum did not have much wall space and was also too expensive to carry out, so his design won the competition.

This choice offended King William III of the Netherlands, who preferred the original design of the Musuem over Cuyper’s idea. 

He believed the design made the Musuem look more like a Cathedral, as Cuyper removed Renaissance elements and added more Gothic designs. 

Architects will observe that the Gallery of Honours resembles the central nave of a Cathedral, with the Night Watch painting where the Altar would be!

Room number 1.3 was also a Chapel until the renovations of 2003 changed it into a simple display room.

However, they could not hide the Chapel design entirely, as the room’s ceiling resembles that of a Chapel!

Check out our article on the Rijksmuseum map to locate this room easily. 

9. The most unique art piece in the Museum is an Armor with one leg!

The Armor of Admiral Jacob van Heemskirch is the most unique piece of art in the Rijksmuseum, as it is Armor with a single leg!

The Admiral lost his leg in the Battle of Gibraltar in 1607, where he was the group’s commander that defeated the Spanish fleet.

He was the first General to receive a State funeral to honor his contributions to the war.

The Armor is displayed in the Rijksmuseum to honor his efforts and teach visitors more about Dutch history! 

This piece was previously hung over his Tomb but is now in the Rijksmuseum. 

10. 70 Million Visitors interact with the Rijksmuseum’s Online Website every year! 

The Rijksmuseum’s official website is one of the most visited Museum websites in the world, attracting a shocking number of 70 million viewers yearly!

The website is as good as the Musuem, offering a detailed look at each artwork from the million artworks the Museum owns.

You can also find the location of each artwork and more about its artist, description, accurate measurements, and much more.

Visitors who cannot visit the Musuem will have as much a good time seeing the website’s Rijksstudio section!

FAQs on Rijksmuseum Facts

1. What is special about the Rijksmuseum?

2. How many artworks are in the Musuem?

3. Why was the size of the Night Watch painting reduced?

4. Why is the Rijksmuseum’s official website so popular?

5. Which was the first artwork to be purchased by the Rijksmuseum?

6. What is an interesting fact about the Rijksmuseum architecture?

7. What is the most unique art piece in the Rijksmuseum? 

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