You could easily be forgiven if, at first, you just walk by the Museum Het Rembrandthuis. You might notice that it’s pretty, but so are so many houses in Amsterdam.
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On a less-charming street than the other small museums I’ve visited lately in Amsterdam, Rembrandt lived here and taught a handful of pupils until bankruptcy forced him out. The exterior still shouts “Golden Age” in all its glory. However, inside it was completely changed over the centuries, so, when it became a museum, it was restored to its mid-1600’s appearance. In other words, the inside is all a reconstruction.
This is a good thing and a bad thing. On the positive side, it gives a realistic idea of what a 17th century Amsterdam house looked like when it was new. The furnishings are based on what is visible in many of the paintings and sketches by Rembrandt himself as well as by the students who passed through his studio.
You can see his reception room, where he sold his paintings; the kitchen, including the bedstee where the maid slept; his bedroom; his studio; and his students’ studio. There’s a large storeroom, where he kept specimens of various sorts, as well as a working press for printing etchings.
What Het Rembrandthuis is missing
On the other hand, it’s missing something: atmosphere. When I go to see a historic house, like the Van Loon Museum, for example, I expect to see furnishings that are old. The staircase should be worn, the lighting should be poor, the tiling in the kitchen should be chipped.
Such things are signs of wear, to be sure, but I like them. They help me imagine more vividly what it might have been like to live in the house in that time. I had that feeling climbing the dark stairway to Ons’ Lieve Heer op Solder, for example.
The Rembrandthuis is just too clean, too new, and too well-lit. It was interesting nevertheless, especially the sight of his studio upstairs, reconstructed to match how it looked when he lived there.
You might also be interested in these other sights in Amsterdam:
- Amsterdam Central Train station sights
- Huis Marseille Museum for Photography
- The Dutch Resistance Museum
Het Rembrandthuis Museum includes a modern building next door, which allows for more exhibition space. The exhibit when I visited was called “Rembrandt’s Late Pupils: Studying under a Genius.” It’s fascinating to see his students’ work and recognize what an influence he had on them when they studied with him in his home. Some of them went on to make names for themselves: Nicolaes Maes, for example.
If you are trying to get a feel for what life in the Golden Age in Amsterdam was like, this isn’t the museum for you.
However, if you are interested in Rembrandt’s work or Golden Age painting in general, visiting Het Rembrandthuis Museum will give you some insight into his life, and would be especially worth it if you are also planning to visit the Rijksmuseum and/or the Mauritshuis in the Hague. Plan an hour or two: if you tend to skim, as I do, an hour is enough. If you tend to want to read every explanatory sign in the exhibition, or try out the press and make an etching of your own, you’ll be there longer.
Het Rembrandthuis Museum: Jodenbreestraat 4, Amsterdam. Walk in 12 minutes from the central train station or take the metro 51, 53 or 54 in 6 minutes, getting off at Waterlooplein. Open daily 10:00-18:00. Admission: €14/$16.
To buy tickets ahead of time to the Rembrandthuis, click here.
Or you can take this walking tour, which includes skip-the-line tickets to the Rembrandt house, as well as other sites that were part of his life and work.
If you are going to visit several museums and attractions on your trip to Amsterdam, it might be worth your while to buy the I AMsterdam City Card. It includes admission to a whole list of museums, sights and entertainment in and outside of Amsterdam, plus a canal boat trip and unlimited public transportation.