The Vondelpark in Amsterdam is the city's largest and most famous park. It's the favorite urban retreat for young and hip Amsterdammers, as well as foreign visitors. The 47 hectares of grass-covered meadows, winding paths, ponds and broad open spaces is an attraction in itself.
But the Vondelpark has much more on offer for the approximately 10 million visitors that enter its gates each year: some of Amsterdam's nicest cafes and terraces, a museum and cinema, an open-air theater, and much more.
What most people love about Vondelpark is the feeling of freedom and that - weather permitting - you can do a multitude of activities, regardless if you're by yourself, with friends, children or your dogs.
Eating and Drinking
On warm days Vondelpark is a favorite spot for picnics, barbecues and private parties. Vondelpark is also the place where it's tolerated to smoke a joint and drink a beer in open spaces unless you disturb others. As the gates of the park stay open during the night, the fun can continue till late at candlelight.
The Vondelpark has several bars and terraces where you can eat and drink. The Groot Melkhuis has its own playground. In the Vondeltuin you can rent skates and enjoy some delicious homemade pancakes. In the middle of the park we find 't Blauwe Theehuis, a pavilion built in 1937 which, especially in the summer, attracts the young and hip. With a capacity of 700 this is one of the largest terraces in the country.
Watching a Movie
The Vondelpark in Amsterdam is also the location of the national Filmmuseum. Next to a good indoor cafe, it has a great and large terrace overlooking the Vondelpark which is popular on sunny days.
In the Filmmuseum's movie theater, movies from its own archive are shown. Therefore, if you're into classic and cult movies the Filmmuseum is the cinema you'll want to go to.
Seeing a Concert
If visiting in summer, the Openluchttheater, the Vondelpark's open-air theater offers concerts ranging from classical music to world music and cabaret. The performances are free of charge and are best enjoyed while lying down on the grass around the small lake in front of the venue, as the acoustics are great.
Sports: Running, Skating and Biking
Many Amsterdammers come to Vondelpark to enjoy a multitude of physical activities in open air. You will be surprised by the large number of runners you encounter in any type of weather. No wonder Vondelpark is included in the official route of the Amsterdam Marathon, one of the 10 most prominent marathons world-wide.
Also, the broad asphalted alleys are perfect for skaters who on Fridays gather for the popular Friday Night Skate. Should you like to join, it is possible to rent a pair of skates at the rental centre hosted by Vondeltuin (Vondelpark 7, near the Amstelveenseweg entrance). If with friends, there are plenty of open spaces in Vondelpark that can be used as sports fields for ball games.
Biking in Vondelpark can be both fun and relaxing. If you have rented a bike, why not leave traffic behind and head for Vondelpark where you can enjoy the scenery while pedaling away from cars?
There are several playgrounds in Vondelpark where your children can enjoy an afternoon in the sun, out of which the largest even has a small swimming pool.
On Queen's Day however, Vondelpark is all about children as here is the place where the young ones sell their old toys, do games and have music performances.
The Vondelpark in Amsterdam is located close to the city centre, in the Oud-Zuid neighborhood and this makes it easily accessible by public transport, bike and even walking.
Its main entrance is close to the popular Museum Quarter where the Rijksmuseum, Stedelijk and the Van Gogh Museum are. Also, Vondelpark is within walking distance from Leidseplein and the P.C.Hooftstraat, the shopping street of the rich and famous.
Therefore, Vondelpark is a great choice if you want to escape the hustle and bustle of the shopping streets or just want to lie down in the grass and daydream after a visit to the Van Gogh Museum.
The area around the Vondelpark is an upper-class area with beautiful old buildings. There's plenty of accommodation available. Many three or four stars hotels such as the Alexander, Groengof, Vondel and Hotel de Filosoof are within walking distance on one of the adjacent streets to the park, namely Vondelstraat.
Popular hostels are to be found on Vossiusstraat - The Flying Pig (Uptown Backpacker) hostel which is famous with the young party crowd - and on Zandpad, the Stayokay Vondelpark hostel.
The Vondelpark in Amsterdam was opened in 1865 and is the work of architect Jan David Zocher and his son Louis Paul, who designed parts of it successively. Despite being originally named "Nieuw park", the park came to be known among the locals as Vondelpark, due to the statue of 17th-century Dutch writer and playwright Joost van den Vondel in the middle of the park. By the end of the century, the official name was changed to Vondelpark.
Since then, the Vondelpark has continuously been adapted to modern needs and wants, such as the necessity to bike through it. The Vondelpark was a key place during the hippie era of the 1960s and 1970s, when hippies made the Vondelpark their prime meeting place and even slept there at night under the stars.
Vondelpark has made headlines in the fall of 2008 when a municipal memo proposed to allow adults to have sex in the park in public (provided it happened at night and away from children's playgrounds). In practice, gay men had been using the Vondelpark for many years as a cruising place at night, left alone by the police, so the question was whether the de facto policy of toleration should be made official.
After a few weeks of national discussion, it was decided not to do this, while the practice of course still continues. But don't worry, we have biked through the Vondelpark at night without us seeing or hearing anything unusual. Really.
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Amsterdam-Advisor.com is written by local residents who once arrived in Amsterdam for the first time, just like you...