Local Knowledge: Vondelpark Squats
The Vondelpark and its surrounds have strong links to the cultural revolution, when Amsterdam became the magisch centrum (magic centre) of Europe. Hippies flocked to Amsterdam during the 1960s and '70s, a housing shortage saw speculators leaving buildings empty and squatting became widespread. The Dutch authorities turned the park into a temporary open-air dormitory. Although the sleeping bags are long gone today, an indie spirit persists.
Buried beneath the park's 1e Constantijn Huygensstraat bridge (you could take the tram straight over it or walk right past it and never know it was there) is the Vondelbunker. A fallout shelter dating from 1947, it became Amsterdam's first youth centre in 1968 and a hotbed of counterculture creativity and activism. If the unmarked black metal doors are open, you might catch an underground gig, film or 'activist salon'.
Fringing the Vondelpark are several squats that have gone legit and been turned into alternative cultural centres:
OT301 In the former Netherlands Film Academy, graffiti-covered ex-squat OT301 hosts an eclectic lineup of bands and DJs. There are two bars as well as the friendly vegan restaurant De Peper, serving cheap, organic meals in a lovable dive-bar atmosphere. Sit at the communal table to connect with like-minded folk. Same-day reservations are required; call between 3 and 6.30pm.
OCCII This former squat maintains a thriving alternative scene, and books underground bands, many from Amsterdam. It has a collectively run, no-frills restaurant Eetcafé MKZ serving vegan food. Call between 2.30pm and 6pm to reserve your spot.