Vincent arrived in Amsterdam in May 1877, intending to prepare for theology studies at the university.
He had several contacts in the city: his uncle Johannes Paulus Stricker was a minister there, his uncle Cor van Gogh dealt in books and art, and his uncle Jan van Gogh was the director of the city’s naval dockyard. Jan van Gogh had set up a study bedroom for Vincent, and Vincent spent his days amid the inspiring liveliness of the dockyard.
His schedule consisted of Greek and Latin lessons with the classicist Maurits Benjamin Mendes da Costa, geometry and algebra lessons with a Mr Texeira de Mattos, and plenty of self-study. Vincent worked from early morning until late at night, but he found his studies difficult. Although he was making progress, he did not feel as if he was mastering the material. On Sundays he often attended multiple church services and also taught Sunday school.
Although his attention was necessarily focused on his studies, he visited museums such as the Trippenhuis and Museum van der Hoop whenever he could, and he enjoyed walking in the city, whose beauty he admired. He often managed to capture its atmosphere in letters by comparing it to various paintings. In the end, Vincent failed to successfully complete his studies and left Amsterdam in summer 1878 for his parents' house in Etten. There, he began contemplating his future plans.
Vincent was to visit Amsterdam twice more in his life. In 1881, he went to the capital to see his cousin Kee Vos, with whom he had fallen powerfully in love; his feelings would remain painfully unrequited. In 1885, he returned to the city for the last time to visit the newly opened Rijksmuseum with his friend Anton Kerssemakers.