Amsterdam’s parks are much more than prime places to experience the Netherlands’ famous gardening skills – they embody the freedom, tolerance and laissez-faire attitude that this particular European city is all about. The city’s green lungs are highly egalitarian, spread out in size and packed with activities that bring people delight – whether it be sun-bathing, picnic-partying or encountering wildlife, there is always more than enough room for everyone to mix, mingle and harmoniously coexist. These are the best city parks in Amsterdam.
Vondelpark is Amsterdam’s fun-loving festival spirit epitomized. On a sunny day, you’ll see cyclists and in-line skaters weaving past parents pushing strollers, action on the tennis courts, and picnic crews passing around wine, cheese and probably the odd spliff or two.
This easygoing, eclectic vibe spans across a whopping 116 acres (47 hectares) of landscaped lawns, ponds, quaint footbridges and shady paths. During summer, don’t miss sitting out at one of the several cafes plunked amidst the greenery or checking out a free theater or dance show courtesy of the Vondelpark Open Air Theater.
Oosterpark is a beautiful scenic park – think wild parakeets in treetops and herons pecking around the ponds – but it also holds much important history. It was established in 1891 as a pleasure park for diamond traders who struck big in South African mines. An entire centuries-old cemetery was relocated to make it happen.
In the early 2000s, immense memorials commemorating the abolition of slavery and honoring free speech (and specifically, the case of a columnist murdered by a Muslim extremist) were erected. These days, that legacy is kept alive with a Sunday “speaker’s corner” at the Spreeksteen monument. At the rock podium, people are encouraged to come and openly voice their opinions or debate under the midday sun.
Family-friendly outdoor spaces don’t get much better than Amstelpark. It’s the perfect green space for little ones (and those who are still young at heart) with a petting zoo featuring free-roaming chickens and rabbits, mini golf, a labyrinth maze and a miniature train chugging around vibrant gardens of roses and rhododendrons.
The park was first established in 1972 for the prized Floriade flower show which only takes place across the Netherlands every decade. Art exhibitions are held in the Glazen Huis (Glass House), the Orangerie and the Papillon Gallery.
Tucked into the cool, creativity-loving de Pijp area, Sarphatipark is the perfect greenery for people-watching. It’s a rather compact open-air space – rolling meadows and woody outskirts – so it gets quite packed with crowds of multicultural locals and tourists chilling on blankets by the fountain.
You can certainly pack a good picnic from nearby neighborhood shops like ‘t Kaasboertje and Bier Baum. It’s also a lovely stop before or after checking out Albert Cuypmarkt or one of all the surrounding trendy boutiques and restaurants.
Amsterdamse Bos is lush forestland masquerading as the city’s largest park. A charming, nearly 2471-acre (1000-hectare) expanse of tranquil ponds, woodland and meadows make this area feel miles outside the city, despite it only being a 20-minute cycle south of Vondelpark (nearby Schiphol Airport).
You can go hiking, swimming, canoeing and horseback riding here followed by a sit-down in one of many lovely spots like De Bosbaan Cafe and the farmhouse restaurant Boerderij Meerzicht. The forest’s springtime cherry blossoms are also a real treat.
Rembrandtpark might be formally dedicated to Amsterdam’s favorite Golden Age painter, but there are some funky modern art statues scattered here. With lots of walking and cycling paths spread across 45 hectares, it’s a great place to stroll about and stumble upon surprises like Rembo by Bastienne Kramer (a sculpture of a gruff green man) or graffiti art.
Don’t let the residential buildings surrounding the expanse fool you; there is abundant wildlife and an overall air of calm here. On afternoon weekends, the vibe gets more buzzy with family-friendly draws like a water-play area, adventure playground and the Kinderboerderij de Uylenburg petting zoo.
This little park out in Amsterdam West is an ideal for sun-worshippers who are keen on bucolic countryside blooms with a little arts and culture thrown in. It’s also one of the few parks in Amsterdam where barbecuing is allowed from April to September (of course, with certain regulations).
Erasmuspark is home to the Miracle Garden, a magnificent flower extravaganza dreamed up by the Dutch artist Elspeth Diederix as an "outdoor atelier" for painting, drawing and floral photography. Numerous design elements of the Amsterdam School pepper the connecting bridges which create the park’s island-like setup.
Beatrixpark is a melting pot of fabulous flora planted back when the famous Floriade was also hosted here in 1972 along with Amstelpark. Most of the trees and flowers are labelled to make species-spotting nice and easy, and there’s also an interesting medicinal herb garden on the park’s eastern patch. It’s a great place for families with a gigantic modern art piece that’s been converted into a children’s playground, plus small pavilions providing shady refuge.
Westerpark is urban revival at its finest. The area was once part of a former gasworks – but since the industrial site closed in 1967, the pollution has been cleared away and now luscious lawns, cycling paths and dreamy wading pools are what it’s all about. The park adjoins the post-industrial Westergasfabriek cultural center, attracting all kinds of city-dwellers attending festivals, cinema and the on-site craft brewery.
Sloterpark, near an artificial lake, offers a seaside vibe mixed with classic Amsterdam scenery. It’s off the beaten track in the residential area of Amsterdam West, but that only contributes to the feeling of a beach vacation afternoon – no wonder the side of the lake, Sloterplas, gets quite busy with locals during the summer. Sandy patches draw sun-revelers of all stripes, and electronic music festivals are often held here. From April to May, you’ll even catch the tulips in bloom.
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