Jan Kees Steenman
September 08, 2015

It’s one of the most popular destinations in the world, and with good reason. The Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam has the planet’s largest collection of works by the universally popular artist Vincent van Gogh. More than 200 paintings, 500 drawings, and 700 letters are inside, including beloved masterpieces such as Sunflowers and Irises.

With the opening of its beautiful new glass entrance hall, which adds much-needed breathing space to the perpetually busy location, the museum becomes an even more attractive destination for visitors. The new $22 million entrance coincides with the 125th anniversary of the artist’s death, and several special events this month will mark the occasion.

Sunflower Labyrinth

To celebrate the opening of the new entrance, the museum installed a stunning labyrinth of 125,000 sunflowers outside the building.

Van Gogh and Munch

Opening September 25, a special exhibition, Munch: Van Gogh, explores the parallels between the two artists, who had much in common but never met. Munch’s The Scream will join the Van Gogh masterpieces on display until January 17, 2016.

Museum Highlights

Whenever you visit, there are iconic paintings here that you won’t want to miss. Starting on the ground floor, there’s a wonderful collection of van Gogh’s self-portraits. On the first floor, you’ll find the much-admired Sunflowers and The Bedroom, together with the works from his realist and Japanese periods. The third floor features paintings from the culmination of his brilliant but short-lived career, including Almond Blossom, Wheatfield with Crows, and Irises.

Portrait of the Artist

Unless you are on the tightest of schedules, do visit the second floor, which offers a close-up view of van Gogh, including voice recordings of some of his beautifully written letters and interactive sketchbooks, full of surprises, that you can flick through. Don’t miss the touching sight of the artist’s own small writing desk, or the wonderful painting of van Gogh working on Sunflowers that was painted by his friend Paul Gauguin.

Admire the Architecture

Remember to pull away from the paintings now and again to take in the museum’s modernist architecture. The main building was designed by the great Dutch architect Gerrit Rietveld (1973), while the austere circular entrance wing is the work of Japanese architect Kisho Kurakawa (1999). Hans van Heeswijk, who has worked on several important Dutch museums, conceived the transparent new entrance hall, with its sweeping glass staircase.

Retail Therapy

In the new entrance hall, a shop houses no less than 500 van Gogh-themed items, including a collection designed by modern Dutch designers, including delicate jewellery by Tord Boontje.

It’s a souvenir-hunter’s heaven, from Potato Eater chips to an Almond Blossom dog coat. On the top floor, the bookshop offers an impressive range of publications, including the therapeutic Colour Your Own Van Gogh book for $17.

Tickets

The Van Gogh Museum tops most lists of what to see in Amsterdam, and it shows. To beat the queues you have two options: get there when it opens at 9 a.m., or book tickets online by specifying your visit date and time.

The ticket price is $19. If you are visiting several museums, consider buying a Museum Card ($66 for an adult, $36 for kids, but valid for a year, available at museums), or the Iamsterdam card, which costs $77 for three days, and includes museum and travel discounts. It’s available at Schiphol and tourist offices, and online.

Jane Szita is on the Netherlands beat for Travel + Leisure. She lives in Amsterdam.

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