10 iconic artworks to see in and around Amsterdam

Amsterdam is not just a city for lovers of history, architecture, culture and cuisine – it’s a city for the artists. With its dozens of museums and galleries, you get a front row seat to fine art from around the world. Best yet, the I amsterdam City Card gives you free access to many museums outside of Amsterdam, so you can make a day to meet the masterpieces of the Netherlands.

Sunflowers, Vincent van Gogh

Sunflowers Van Gogh Museum Amsterdam

Vincent van Gogh is arguably the most famous of Dutch artists, and his series of sunflowers are among his most celebrated. In the Van Gogh Museum, you get the chance to see one of the five in the series – the rest of these golden masterpieces are scattered across the globe. If seeing all five is on your bucket list, you’re in luck: with the help of Willem van Gogh, the great-grandnephew of Vincent van Gogh, you can get a virtual 360-degree tour of all five on Facebook

Where can I see it? Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam

Girl With a Pearl Earring, Johannes Vermeer

Girl with a pearl earring, Johannes Vermeer

Not many works of art are so captivating that they get a book and a movie made about them – but Girl With a Pearl Earring is one of them. Created in the mid-17th century by Johannes Vermeer, this work of art – called a tronie, an old Dutch word for “face” – features the alluring gaze of a young girl in a headscarf and Eastern dress. The Mauritshuis Museum has had the painting for over 100 years, and it’s unlikely to part with it – so don’t miss out on seeing this masterpiece in person!

Where can I see it? Mauritshuis Museum, The Hague

The Night Watch, Rembrandt van Rijn

The Nightwatch, Rembrandt. Rijksmuseum Amsterdam

There is more than one reason that The Night Watch get its own room in the Rijksmuseum: not only is the painting gigantic (3.63 by 4.37 metres, or nearly 12 by 14 feet), it’s gigantically famous. At any given moment is the Night Watch Gallery, which was designed solely to showcase the painting, packed with dozens of eager viewers. Join the throng to admire all the details the iconic painting – and the room itself.

Where can I see it? Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam – included in the I amsterdam City Card

The Potato Eaters, Vincent van Gogh

The Potato Eaters, Vincent Van Gogh

Another of Van Gogh’s most famous works, The Potato Eaters is considered a masterpiece by many. Depicting a group of hardworking peasants gathered around a table eating potatoes, the painting is dark, coarse and rough – exactly what van Gogh envisioned. The unexpected subject of this solemn painting, and the realistic portrayal of the figures’ weathered hands and faces was instrumental in Van Gogh’s development as an artist.   

Where can I see it? Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam

The Milkmaid, Johannes Vermeer

The Milkmaid, Vermeer

The 17th century was a grand time for artists – it was the Dutch Golden Age, and dozens of painters produced some of the world’s best works of art. The Milkmaid is one of the most recognisable works from Vermeer, and it’s considered a prize of the Rijksmuseum, with its exquisite natural lighting and realistic depiction of country life.

Where can I see it? Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam – included in the I amsterdam City Card

Café Terrace at Night, Vincent van Gogh

Cafe Terrace at Night, Vincent Van Gogh

Get a glimpse of a life in a quaint French city with one of Van Gogh’s personal favourites: Café Terrace at Night, which was painted while he was in Arles, France. The painting is now at the Kröller-Müller Museum in Otterlo, about an hour and a half from Amsterdam in the centre of the Hoge Veluwe National Park. The museum boasts the second largest collection of Van Gogh, along with works from numerous well-known artists; part of the museum is outside, its large garden filled with sculptures.

Where can I see it? Kröller-Müller Museum, Otterlo

Self Portrait, Rembrandt van Rijn

Self Portrait, Rembrandt

Rembrandt honed his craft by painting self-portraits – a fascinating opportunity for viewers to see artists through their own eyes. Some of Rembrandt’s most famous self-portraits feature cartoonish expressions or, in this case, a deep fascination with chiaroscuro, in which the artist plays with light and shadows.

Where can I see it? Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam – included in the I amsterdam City Card

Composition No. IV With Red, Blue and Yellow, Piet Mondrian

Composition No IV with red blue and yellow, Piet Mondrian

The red, blue and yellow squares separated by thick black lines has become an iconic, easily recognisable work of art – it’s all Mondrian. There are dozens of iterations on the theme, but this classic representation is one of the best. Visit this icon at the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam, which proudly displays modern and contemporary art. Alternatively, take a short trip to The Hague to see Mondrian’s iconic Victory Boogie Woogie.  

Where can I see it? Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam – included in the I amsterdam City Card

Jacqueline Kennedy II, Andy Warhol

Jacqueline Kennedy II, Andy Warhol

In the ‘60s, Andy Warhol revolutionised art with his pop culture icons and factory line production. His work celebrated subjects that were familiar to everyday people – think the tomato soup cans – as well as high profile celebrities, such as his famous Marilyn Monroe series. Jacqueline Kennedy II depicts the former First Lady after the tragic assassination of her husband.   

Where can I see it? Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam – included in the I amsterdam City Card

As I Opened Fire, Roy Lichtenstein

As I Opened Fire, Roy Lichtenstein, CC BY 2.0 Pixel Addict via Flickr

Like Warhol, American artist Roy Lichtenstein brought pop art into fine art prominence. His piece As I Opened Fire is a great example of his unique style: derived from a comic book, this work features three panels, called a triptych, alongside exaggerated lettering, the use of primary colours and the narrative from the comic itself, albeit slightly altered.

Where can I see it? Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam - included in the I amsterdam City Card

Be inspired by more art museums, galleries and exhibitions in Amsterdam.