The three main museums are a few minutes from each other in the Museum Quarter. It's tempting to try to fit them all in on the same day, but you really need a couple of days to do them justice. The Van Gogh Museum gets especially busy, so arrive well before opening time to beat the crowds.
The national art museum of The Netherlands has a core collection of about a million items, and with roughly 8,000 of those on display at any one time, you're not going to get through it quickly. Don't miss the extensive Rembrandt collection and other Dutch artists including Vermeer, van Gogh, Jan Steen and Frans Hals. There are also large displays of Delftware. This year sees a Late Rembrandt exhibition (Feb. 12–May 17), bringing together over 100 of his works from all over the world.
The Van Gogh Museum
This bright, modern museum houses the world's largest Van Gogh collection. It offers a fascinating insight into the artist's development, and a chance to see many of his lesser-known works. The museum also shows how he was influenced by Asian art and has a collection of work by the artist's contemporaries including Rodin, Gauguin, Manet, Monet, Seurat and Toulouse-Lautrec. It gets very crowded so try to get there early, and allow time to browse the gift shop.
The Stedelijk Museum
The city's modern art museum shows that Amsterdam's art is not just about the Old Masters and Van Gogh. Its exciting pop art collection includes work by Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein and Jasper Johns. Other artists featured in the core collection include Chagall, Mondrian and Kandinsky, and there are also collections of furniture, photographs, videos, posters and textiles.
FIVE MUST-SEE PAINTINGS
1. "The Night Watch" by Rembrandt (Rijksmuseum)
This colossal canvas, a Rembrandt masterpiece, has its own room in the Rijksmuseum. "The Night Watch" is considered one of the finest paintings in the world.
2. "The Milkmaid" by Johannes Vermeer (Rijksmuseum)
Vermeer is, like Rembrandt, a master of both capturing light on canvas and seeming to capture a subject's innermost thoughts.
3. "Sunflowers" by Vincent van Gogh (Van Gogh Museum)
Painted in Arles in 1899, "Sunflowers" has become one of the most familiar of Van Gogh's paintings.
4. "Wheatfield with Crows" by Vincent van Gogh (Van Gogh Museum)
This dramatic work was one of the tortured artist's final paintings, and though it seems to suggest an inner turmoil, he himself felt it captured the turmoil in the countryside around him.
5. "As I Opened Fire" by Roy Lichtenstein (Stedelijk Museum)
This blazingly colorful triptych in comic-book style is one of the most famous pop art paintings ever made.