Walking Tour: Vondelpark
- Start Vondelpark main entrance
- End ‘t Blauwe Theehuis
- Length 4.5km; 2½ hours
While an unstructured stroll through Vondelpark is wonderful, this tour ensures you'll hit the key highlights in and around the park, from a fragrant rose garden to a Moorish manor to art-nouveau treasures.
Enter the park through the main entrance and walk straight ahead; climb the stairs on the northern side of the bridge and exit the park along pretty Roemer Visscherstraat, where you'll come upon a row of houses built in 1894 in varying styles: English cottage, Dutch Renaissance, onion-domed Russian cathedral, Italian palazzo, Moorish-style Spanish, French Loire Valley chateau and German Romantic.
Head back into the park, picking up the northwest walking loop path and passing the Vondelparkpaviljoen, and exit the park again on Vondelstraat to check out the lovely Vondelkerk. Continue west along Vondelstraat to the magnificent riding school, the Hollandsche Manege. Return to the park and amble west to the Joost van den Vondel statue, which inspired the park's name. Continue round past the statue until you reach the beautiful rose garden; it's seldom crowded even in high season.
Cross the footbridge and follow the path to the next footbridge; cross it, too, and follow the path as it loops around the pond and then heads east. Take the second exit to detour down Van Eeghenstraat to see some of the city's most exquisite art-nouveau architecture; the highlight is definitely the ornate Hotel Atlas (at number 64). Re-enter the park just west of the hotel and follow the western path. Where the path diverges, take the left-hand fork; Picasso's towering sculpture The Fish is on your right. Return to the fork, walk north and take the right-hand path leading east over a footbridge past the Openluchttheater until you reach the space-agey-looking cafe ‘t Blauwe Theehuis.
Walking Tour: Amsterdamse Bos
- Start Visitors Centre
- End De Bosbaan Cafe
- Length 3.5km; two hours
An easy-to-reach escape from the city, Amsterdamse Bos is a huge swathe of countryside, combining thick trees, meadows and waterways.
A good place to start is the visitors centre by the main entrance. It has some information on the park, and more importantly, you can buy a map (€2.50) to get your bearings. The best way to explore the park is by bike. If you don't have your wheels already, you can hire from the bicycle rental kiosk by the main entrance, which also has an incredibly child-friendly cafe, with hammocks and toys galore, plus sandwiches. Likewise by the entrance is Fun Forest, a tree-top climbing park for kids or adults, which uses ropes, ladders and bridges.
From here head west for 2.5km and you'll come to the open-air theatre. It stages classic plays (in Dutch) throughout summer. Nearby at Grote Vijver you can rent canoes and kayaks (€6 per hour) and pedal boats (€10 per hour) to explore what the owner calls the 'Amsterdam Amazon'. It may be an exaggeration but the waterway is surrounded by greenery on all sides and you'd never imagine that you're in the city.
About 0.75km south is the park's most delightful attraction, De Ridammerhoeve, an organic working goat farm where kids can feed bottles of milk to, well, kids (€8 for two bottles) in season. The cafeteria sells goat's-milk ice cream and other dairy products, and there are also cheese-making workshops as well as goat yoga.
There are a couple of options for a meal after your park activities. A short distance from the theatre, on the northwest side of the Bosbaan (the long lake used for sculling), is Boerderij Meerzicht, an old farmhouse that kids will adore, with its deer and peacock enclosure, plus diggers and climbing frames in the playground. Back by the park entrance, De Bosbaan Cafe is a lodge-like refuge with a great terrace overlooking the lake.