The most common knowledge about the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam is the scarily massive queue outside; then is that the entrance tickets and the souvenirs are ridiculously expensive and, third, follows the fact that there are also some paintings by that dude who chopped his ear off. This seems to perfectly reflect the priorities of the museum curators. To at least avoid the queue we’ve been talking about booking the tickets in advance, since we bought our flight to Amsterdam, but we obviously waited until 5 minutes to midnight to frantically forcing our way on the online booking system via our unreliable phones.
We eventually went to the museum the next day, without tickets but confident that, queueing for at most one hour we could have got it. What we found was quite depressing: a long line of people standing all around the building and sneaking in the surrounding park which, at least, have been finally completed and looks rather pleasant. Not pleasant enough to set us in the mood for queuing for, as they said, not less than 2 hours. I’ve seen worse only at Wimbledon where the queue itself became part of the event. The good news is that, at the souvenir shop where they sell sunflowers stuffed with gold, there is a booth where you can book tickets for as early as the next day.
Friday Night Fever?
We go back then the next day, a Friday, at 7pm. At that time, we thought, all of the families will be off to dinner, while the rest will be hitting the coffee shops… flawless logic? Wrong: the rooms were so full that you had to slowly shuffle from one painting to the other following the almost imperceptible movement of the crowd. To reach the first room we had to go through an area which looked like a club: sofas, people holding drinks, a DJ setting up the mixer and music. I carefully stepped between the reveller being all apologetic to reach a room, squeezed between a flight of stairs and the restaurant. Apparently this is something they’re proud of: they have a dedicate page on their website and they publish videos… this is pretty much what I’m talking about:
The Van Gogh Exhibition
After the first ground floor room, which looked more like a spare room casually filled with paintings waiting for a better use, it took us a while to find our way to the rest of the exhibition, via what looks like fire escape stairs. Each room is focused on a period, with an explanation of the historical background. Which is great, but for some reason we couldn’t see a chronological order in the room, the map being of little or no help on this. We soon realised that probably, the only way to do that was to get an audioguide for €5, as if being parted with hard earned €15 at the entrance was not enough.
To go or not to?
Despite all this I cannot plainly tell you “don’t go”. After all some of the most beautiful paintings of one of my favourite artists are hosted (or kidnapped) there, even though you can as well see some of them in other exhibitions in other cities. It’s very expensive compared to other museums and the amount of works on display, and it’s also overcrowded, which is an aspect that can be controlled, and Now, I don’t know Van Gogh because I’m not 150 years old, but I’d like to think that he will be pretty pissed off to see the environment in which his works are set.
If you want to go make sure you book your tickets in advance and follow Ashley’s tips on Amsterdam Blog.