Last Updated on January 5, 2023 by Jeremy
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When we visited Amsterdam, we knew we had to allocate a lot of time to check out two of the city's most famous museums- the Van Gogh Museum and the Rijksmuseum.
These two museums are not only some of the most popular in the city, but also two of the largest. As such, we needed to think about how much time we wanted to spend at each of the museums, whether we wanted to visit on the same day or not (the museums are quite literally right next to each other outside of the city center), and, as we planned our trip somewhat last minute, if the timed ticketing system had availability at our ideal times outright!
This ended up being more complicated than it should have been as we simply did not know the best course of action. Ultimately, we booked both museums for the very first timeslot on two separate days and quite enjoyed our visit. But in this one, we wanted to look broadly at how much time you need at each museum and whether it is doable in a single day.
The short answer is yes, you could hit both on the same day if you were strategic about it. But should you? That is where things get tricky.
So first let's talk about how much time you need at each museum and then touch base on whether you should visit them on the same day.
How Much Time Do You Need at the Van Gogh Museum?
The Van Gogh Museum is a four-floor space dedicated to the acclaimed artist featuring more original works than you'll find anywhere else. Beyond these, you'll find tastefully arranged art pieces by those who influenced Van Gogh and later artists influenced by the master.
The museum is organized mostly chronologically so you start exploring Van Gogh's early life and finish with his later years and untimely death at the age of 37.
While the museum is displayed over four floors, each level here is not large such that most guests can likely explore the entire museum in about an hour to 90 minutes pending crowds. From there, those who visit any special exhibits may want to allocate another 30 to 60 minutes as well- our visit to “Exhibition Golden Boy Gustav Klimt” helped push our overall visit time to just under two hours thanks to the special exhibit's surprisingly robust size.
As such, pending special exhibit, most visitors will likely spend 90 minutes to 2 1/2 hours visiting the Van Gogh Museum by our estimation.
If we can give one final tip for visiting the Van Gogh Museum, it would be to try to snag the first timeslot of the day. The museum sells out regularly and you certainly can feel the capacity once it fills up (the Klimt special exhibition was so busy by the end of our visit that it was almost a detriment- it was packed). As the Van Gogh exhibits are best explored in chronological order, those who get in the door first can enjoy the art with a bit more room to breathe.
How Much Time Do You Need at the Rijksmuseum?
The Rijksmuseum is a massive, four-floor museum in the heart of Amsterdam that features thousands upon thousands of art pieces and historical artifacts in chronologically organized wings from the 1100s to the modern day.
As such, if you plan to cover 900 years of history in its entirety, you're going to be spending a great deal of time at the Rijksmuseum.
Although some floors are smaller than others, a good rule of thumb for the Rijksmuseum would be that you should allocate a minimum of one hour per floor. So if you want to see every room in the museum, you'll need a minimum of four hours. If you go a bit faster in the modern wings and special collections, as we did, you may get by with just under three. If you want to take your time, you may be in the museum for five hours. We would go as far as saying you could spend an entire day here if you were inclined!
But, unlike the Van Gogh Museum, we felt the Rijksmuseum is equipped to handle the crowds well. While you could enjoy this one chronologically, it is not entirely necessary. As such, you'll find guests are wandering around the wings at a leisurely random pace, so it never felt quite as busy- but your mileage may vary here.
Can You Do the Van Gogh and Rijksmuseum on the Same Day?
There are two ways we can look at whether you can do the Van Gogh Museum and the Rijksmuseum on the same day.
First, we can look at it purely from a time perspective. As mentioned above, you're likely going to spend 90 minutes to 2 1/2 hours at the Van Gogh Museum and generally speaking three to five hours at the Rijksmuseum if you wanted to feel like you see everything at a reasonable pace.
This is roughly 4 1/2 to 7 1/2 hours at the two neighboring museums.
So purely from a time element, it is possible to visit both museums in a single day, but only if you can handle walking through museums for upwards of six hours (or more) in one shot. To us, this is too much and we split our visit up over two days for convenience despite the fact that it was a 30 minute walk to the museums from our hotel near the train station (or a ~15 minute tram ride).
The second is a bit more practical- as of our visit in late 2022, both museums require timed entry with narrow entry windows (15 to 30 minutes). So while the museums are right next to each other and you could walk between them in just a few minutes, planning your time around these advanced timeslots can be tricky.
Book the second museum too early, and you may have to miss things at the first museum to get out in time. Book too late, and you are left with an awkward amount of time in between when the museums are, quite literally, next door to each other.
Are there other things to do nearby to occupy the time if you finish early? Absolutely, although our favorite attractions and restaurants in Amsterdam are further away. Could you get lucky and be able to walk up to the Rijksmuseum without a ticket? Yes, it is possible. Could you do the same at the Van Gogh Museum? Most likely not- this one almost always sells out in advance. Would we risk this when the alternative is striking out and not getting to the museums at all? No. Buy the tickets in advance, even for the Rijksmuseum, and save yourself the risk.
Ultimately, if you do want to visit both on the same day the easiest solution would be to pick one museum for the morning (go for the Van Gogh at opening time, seriously), plan for a long enough break to grab lunch and relax, and then return to hit the second museum sufficiently later in the day. Anything less is far too risky when it comes to visiting these world-class museums.
As such, if you are able we would highly recommend visiting the museums on separate days if only because taking in both in a single day is a lot. But if you want to see them on the same day, book your entry timeslots sufficiently far apart to give yourself as much time as possible to enjoy each of these wonderful museums.
How did you tackle visiting the Vang Gogh Museum and Rijksmuseum? Comment below to share!
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About the Author: Jeremy is a full-time travel writer based in Pittsburgh and primary author of this site. He has been to 70+ countries on five continents and seeks out new food, adventure activities, and off-the-beaten-path experiences wherever he travels.