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The Netherlands' 'State Museum' is an unmissable attraction. It has grown remarkably since its inception in 1800 as the National Art Gallery, after which it moved to its neo-Renaissance building in 1885; the collection gradually outgrew this housing, and 2003 saw the beginning of an extensive €375 million renovation and expansion by Spanish architects Cruz y Ortiz, which took ten years to complete before opening to great acclaim in 2013.
In this improved setting the Rijksmuseum displays the most acclaimed artworks of the Golden Age: Vermeer, Rembrandt, Hals and van Dyck are all here in abundance, as well as a superlative collection of still life paintings. You'll also find some later artworks by van Gogh and Mondrian (the Van Gogh Museum is nearby).
These masterworks are set among a fascinating wider survey of Dutch material culture, from musical instruments to prints, ceramics, miniature ships and classical photography. The Dutch Golden Age saw the Netherlands at the forefront of science and trade as well as in art - having grown from a possession of the Holy Roman Empire in 1590, throughout most of the 17th century it was the world's foremost maritime and economic powerhouse.
There's never a dull moment in any of the museum's rooms: its six levels display around 8,000 fascinating objects of art and history from its collection of around a million pieces, as well as a smaller Asian collection in the newly constructed Asian Pavilion. Other highlights include the Hartog Plate, the oldest known artifact of Western exploration in Australia, and the stern of the HMS Royal Charles, captured from the English fleet in 1667.
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