I've been to the Rijksmuseum (pronounced 'rikes museum', like the German 'reichs') twice before, but the main building was undergoing refurbishment for a whole decade, until this year, and so I'd only seen the 'highlights' gallery which had been moved to a side building. The refurbishment was completed since I was last in Amsterdam, so I made my day trip primarily to visit it - and some other favourite places in the city. The highlights gallery was fantastic before, as you could see everything thoroughly in 90 minutes, but it wasn't really the same in a modern gallery without the grand Rijksmuseum architecture. One of the 'highlights of the highlights' was always Rembrandt's 'The Night Watch', evidenced by the large crowd gathering around it above, and it's pride of place at the end of the 'Gallery of Honour' in the refurbished museum.
The Night's Watch was originally called 'The Company of captain Frans Banning Cocq and lieutenant Willem van Ruytenburch preparing to march out' and actually depicts a day scene as the militia company are about to leave their guild hall in Amsterdam, but over the years the top layer of varnish darkened a lot, making it appear a night scene, hence the common name. The darkest varnish was removed in the 1950's and it appears a lot brighter now than it did some years ago, but the Night's Watch name still suits it.
Another very famous Rembrandt painting in the Gallery of Honour is 'The Jewish Bride', a small piece of which is shown above. This one always really impressed me by the huge texture and detail in the oil paints, particularly in the man's sleeve, which must stand almost 5mm off the canvas in places.
Johannes Vermeer is another extremely famous Dutch painter, and another massive favourite of mine and I guess everyone else's at the museum as well, and 'The Milkmaid' is probably #2 on his list after 'The Girl with the Pearl Earring' (At the Mauritshuis museum in Den Haag, and even more impressive in person than I expected). Vermeer only has 35-36 paintings attributed to him, and it's sort of a goal of mine to see every one. I think I'm up to about 24 of them now, but the remaining ones are getting increasingly further away from anywhere i'm likely to travel unfortunately, and a couple are in private collections!
The refurbished Rijksmuseum was very impressive, and well worth the visit. I think it's listed as the #1 tourist attraction in the Netherlands anyway, so you hardly need my further recommendation. The refurbished building was very well done, with an impressive foyer, the grand hall, and especially the old library shown below was very cool! Perhaps I was taking too many photos, or else I just look a bit dodgy, as a security guard came up to me and started a conversation along the lines of "I see you're taking photos of our foyer. Are you perhaps also photographing our security systems and cameras? Could I have a look possibly?". He was very polite about it all, so I was happy to show him the back of my camera, which did not contain any security system photos of course :) The Night's Watch is far too big to get in my suitcase anyway.
And a couple of extra pictures for good measure. The only trouble with the Rijksmuseum now is that instead of being all done in 90 minutes, I spent almost 4 hours there and was dead tired before getting on with the rest of Amsterdam!