View of the gardens of the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam

Gardens of the Rijksmuseum

The gardens of the Rijks­museum (Rijks­museum­tuinen) surround the museum building. Architect Pierre Cuypers (who also designed Amsterdam’s Central Station) wanted to create a kind of outdoor museum, with statues and fragments of old Dutch buildings. The gardens are a national monument. Closed off by a 1 km (0.62 mi) wrought iron fence, they are freely accessible during the daytime.

SW corner of the Rijksmuseum gardens in Amsterdam with the Bergpoort and Herepoort

Rijks­museum Gardens in the SW, with the Bergpoort (a former Deventer city gate from 1619) and the Herepoort (a former Groningen city gate from 1621). Cuypers moved the gates to Amsterdam and placed them back to back, united as one gate. (August 2020)

Garden Styles

The construction of the gardens was started in april 1885 and finished in 1916. Each of the four parts of the garden has its own character, defined by a certain style period. The Western and Eastern part were done in Renaissance style, the Southern part in French-Classicist style, the South-Eastern part in a country style. The two front gardens on the side of the Stadhouderskade were given a simple geometric design.

Map of the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam with Museumstraat and gardens

Map of the Rijksmuseum with the Museumstraat and the gardens surrounding it (OpenStreetMap).

A restoration plan in the 1960s saved the gardens from earlier neglect. A garden comittee was formed in 1976 to monitor quality and maintenance. In 1995 the garden near the Philips wing (Southern part) was renovated and a pond was created near the Asian pavillion. After an extensive museum restoration finished in 2013, landscaping firm Copijn renovated the gardens.

Plants, Bulbs & Statues

The Rijksmuseum gardens hold around 7,000 plants and more than 16,000 historic bulbs, since 2015 supplied and adapted by the Keukenhof to fit current expositions. Fragments of historic buildings are everywhere in the garden, most notably parts of the former Regulierspoort (Regular’s Gate) which stood on the Rembrandtplein, the Groninger and Deventer gates and the entrance gate from the demolished country home Over-Amstel from the 18th century. Classic statues and garden vases are scattered throughout the gardens.

Other Features

Near the former director’s villa from 1883 you can see a majestic Caucasian Wingnut, planted by architect Cuypers himself. Until 1945 the villa was home to the director of the Rijksmuseum, later it was used for meetings of the museum’s board of directors. The Teekenschool (Drawing School) building from 1891 was also designed by Cuypers.

There’s also a 19th century greenhouse and a berceau (pergola). A berceau allowed the elite ladies in those times to walk around in the shade without risking a tan (tans were considered something strictly for poorer working people). The garden on the SE side has a large terrace with lunch and dining facilities. An outdoor chessboard and automated fountain (favorite of children), make for a lively background. Every summer the gardens feature an exposition with works from a 20th century sculptor.

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