AMSTERDAM’S BEST PARKS – my top five

Cycling in the Amsterdamse Bos. There are over 50km of paths to choose from.

Cycling in the Amsterdamse Bos. There are over 50km of paths to choose from.

Most visitors to Amsterdam discover the beautiful Vondelpark. It’s already several metres below sea level and sinking all the time, possibly under the weight of the 20 million feet that tramp through it each year.

It’s not the only park in town, and those who have time shouldn’t overlook some of the city’s other leafy and lively open spaces.

1. AMSTERDAMSE BOS (Amsterdam Forest)

Beside the rowing course in the Amsterdamse Bos.

There’s a measured 2km path beside the rowing course in the Amsterdamse Bos. That’s perfect for those who want to check the time of their ride/walk/run. Those who don’t care about such things can just enjoy the view.

The Great Depression was good for something. A job-creating project of the 1930s employed 20,000 Amsterdammers to lay an area three times the size of Central Park, New York, with forests and lakes, as well as many kilometres of walking, cycling and horse-riding trails.

Now it has a championship rowing course, hockey and cricket fields, indoor and outdoor cafes, children’s playgrounds and swimming pools, stables, a petting zoo and pancake parlour and any number of picnic spots.

See http://www.amsterdamsebos.nl

2. REMBRANDTPARK

Nobody's hurrying in the Rembrandtpark.

Nobody’s hurrying in the Rembrandtpark.

This 45-hectare park opened in the 1970s and it’s one of my favourites, not only because it’s just a few minutes’ walk/jog from our front door. Much less busy than its neighbour, the Vondelpark, it’s a convenient thoroughfare on bike and foot to Amsterdam West.

With its lawns and lakes and children’s farm, it’s a family-friendly park. And I can jog on the bitumen without having to dodge bikes all the time.

For traveller’s opinions of the Rembrandtpark on Tripadvisor, click here.

3. VONDELPARK

Vondelpark, lovely in the autumn, or any other time of year.

Vondelpark, lovely in the autumn or any other time of year.

Of course the Vondelpark has to go on anybody’s list. It’s Amsterdam’s most famous park, an icon in the city. Visitors come for the cafes and the open air theatre. They cycle, they jog, they walk the dogs, they push the kids in strollers, they skate, they play music, they sunbathe, barbecue and hang out…

Mevrouw T and I met in the Vondelpark, and now count ourselves lucky to live in an apartment looking out on it.

Joost van der Vondel was a 19th century poet. His statue sits on a pedestal surrounded by tulips in the spring. At other times of the year it just sits there.

As you travel through the park away from the gates by the Leidseplein, the numbers of people thin out. The park is less manicured at its western end. Look out for the nesting storks.

A Dutch friend who knows about these things also pointed out to me that the Vondelpark divides the well-to-do Amsterdam South district from the less salubrious Amsterdam West. There are entrances on both sides, those on the ‘South’ side being noticeably grander, but the planners (or designer Mr Zocher) arranged matters so that there are no direct routes between the two. Never the twain…

More info here.

4. SARPHATIPARK

The Sarphatipark, in the  Pijp district.

The Sarphatipark, in the Pijp district.

A small, leafy, grassy, lakey English-landscape style park in the Pijp.

The name honours Samuel Sarphati, the 19th century doctor, chemist and philanthropist who worked to improve public health and education in Amsterdam, at a time when it had slipped from its 17th century Golden Age pedestal to become little more than slums built around canals that had become open sewers.

The once run-down Pijp area that surrounds it is turning into a lively, hip, multicultural district, popular with students, artists and other bohemians. It has cafes and the ever-popular Albert Cuyp Markets.

More info here.

5. WESTERPARK

The Sunday markets in the Westergasfabriek, adjoining the Westerpark.

The Sunday markets in the Westergasfabriek, adjoining the Westerpark.

The park west of Centraal Station has been livened up considerably by the recent development of the adjoining Westergasfabriek (Western Gasworks) into a cultural centre. The North Sea Jazz Club, a cinema, television studio, several cafes and regular weekend markets, concerts and festivals make it one of Amsterdam’s most popular parks.

See: westergasfabriek.nl/en/

There are other parks that could have made my list; the Amstelpark, Erasmuspark and Oosterpark for starters. I planned to get out on the bike to photograph them all today, and I will…just as soon as the sun comes out. It’s not park weather in Amsterdam right now; it’s better for sitting inside in a comfortable chair, blogging about parks.

Vondelpark crowds

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