As far as parks go, Amsterdam’s Vondelpark should be one of the most famous ones in the city as well as the country. The Netherlands is home to a lot of beautiful parks where people go to escape the hustle and bustle of city life and well as enjoy the healthy summer fresh air. Amsterdam’s Vondelpark isn’t just a piece of land covered in green vegetation, it is much than that. The Vondelpark is an elongated city park that has evolved into a place/venue that hosts activities which bring people from all works of life together and this dates back all the way to 1865. The park is located in the Amsterdam South district, on the border with Amsterdam West district. It stretches from the Stadhouderskade to the Amstelveenseweg.
Music and theatre have been the foundation of the park since the beginning. Since the 1950s, the park has played host to various music and dance performances and also was a popular venue for activities and performances that characterised and defined the hippy times of the 70s. To give music a real stage, the City of Amsterdam set up the Vondelpark Open Air Theater in 1974 with a free cultural program for the city and her inhabitants.
History of the VondelPark
In 1864, a group of individuals led by Christiaan Peter van Eeghen came up with the initiative for the construction of a riding and strolling park. They were called the Association for the Construction of a Park for Riding and Strolling. For this purpose, they purchased several hectares of grassland and marshes, which were partly intended for the construction of a railway station. The architect Jan David Zocher was chosen to come up with a design for the park and in the start of the summer of 1865, Het Nieuwe Park (the New Park) was opened to the public. In 1867 the statue of Joost van den Vondel, a Dutch poet, writer and playwright was placed in the park, and from that time the park was called Vondelspark, which was later and officially changed to Vondelpark.
The first part of the riding and strolling park was completed in 1865 and the last part in 1877. The park was by no means a popular park, as majority of the citizens of Amsterdam were too poor to go for afternoon walks. Another reason was that the park was owned by a private board: the same Association established by Christiaan Peter van Eeghen and friends on April 14, 1864, to build the “Riding and Hiking Park”, which meant that membership was only by invitation.
Although the Association had benefited financially from the park, they soon started encountering difficulties with the financing and maintenance of the park. Contributions from members drastically decreased, and the rent from the surrounding buildings yielded too little to make any tangible difference. In 1953 the ‘Vereeniging tot Aanleg van een Rij- en Wandelpark’ (the same Association of friends) transferred the ownership of the park to the municipality of Amsterdam.
In 1875 the son of Zocher, Louis Paul took over and he designed the last part of the park. In 1877 the park in its current size (47 hectares) was completed. To this day, Zocher’s design has largely been maintained.
The Vondelpark is designed in the English landscape style. With the help of characteristics from this style, the park was designed in a way that gave the 19th-century Amsterdam resident the illusion of the perfect natural landscape. Visitors who seek peace and tranquillity away from the chaos of the city usually sit in the park and imagine themselves in an oasis of calm and nature, and they have the design of the park to thank for that.
What’s there to see around the Vondelpark?
Attracting 10 million visitors per year, the Vondelpark is a public park of 47 hectares in Amsterdam, Netherlands. It is also Amsterdam’s largest urban park and includes a famous open-air theatre, numerous children’s playgrounds and several cafés and restaurants like Café Vertigo, Vondelpark3, De Vondeltuin etc. The Vondelpark is centrally located in Amsterdam, bordered by the vibrant nightlife hotspot Leidseplein to the north and the cultural hub of Museumplein to the south. It’s also quite close to Museum Square where you can find some canal cruise companies, Moco Museum, Van Gogh Museum, Rijksmuseum, etc. Vondelpark still remains one of the Netherlands’ busiest parks, especially in the summer months.
Vondelpark Rose Garden
The Vondelpark Rose Garden is located in the northwest of the park and is freely accessible daily. The rose garden has 63 hexagonal rose beds with almost as many types of roses. In the rose garden visitors will find various types of roses. The beds are approximately 23 m2 in size, with an average of 150 roses of the same species. Since spring 2014, the rose garden has been fully maintained by volunteers on behalf of the Stichting Hart voor het Vondelpark (Hart voor het Vondelpark Foundation) in collaboration with the Municipality of Amsterdam, so don’t forget to visit their website and donate if you can.
The Vondeltuin is a large terrace located in the southernmost part of the Vondelpark. The restaurant is open all day for a sandwich and in the evening visitors can enjoy a nice meal until 9 pm. If the weather is really nice, they’re open until midnight! Vondeltuin is always busy and crowded in the summer months and is the perfect place to be with friends and family looking for a nice day out.
The Hollandsche Manege
Right in the center of Amsterdam, a stone throw from the Leidseplein and adjacent to the Vondelpark is one of Amsterdam’s well-kept secrets. An inconspicuous entrance gate in the Vondelstraat gives access to one of the oldest horse riding centres in the Netherlands; The Hollandsche Manege. The Hollandsche Manege is the oldest horse riding school in the Netherlands. It is a 135-year old horse riding school with a rich history that goes back to no less than 1744. There is also a Horse Museum where you are taken back in time. The historic ambiance is the backdrop for a story about the history of the riding school as this world of horses comes alive. During fairs and demonstrations, classic horse riding and clothing come to life as visitors are left astonished by what riders as well as horses are capable of.
The Hollandsche Manege is the perfect place for horse enthusiasts and all lovers of the sports of horse riding.
The Orgelpark is housed in the beautifully restored monumental Vondelkerk on the Gerard Brandtstraat. The Orgelpark creates an international space for organists, composers and other artists. Think of classical music, jazz and improvised music, Orgelpark is where you come to enjoy them all. There are also concerts in combination with other art forms, such as dance and film. Furthermore, they organise classes and symposiums and from time to time the Orgelpark is transformed into a workshop for young talents from the Netherlands and other foreign countries. The Orgelpark is Amsterdam’s classical music heaven and welcomes lots of visitors every year.
Vondelpark Open air Theatre
From May to September, the Vondelpark ‘Openluchttheater’ translated Open-air theatre in English, is the cultural hotspot of Amsterdam. May is festival month and from June onwards there is a diverse program every Friday, Saturday and Sunday with both young talents and established names gracing the stage and entertaining all visitors with their talents. Performances range from different types of dance and live music, to cabaret, classical music, etc.
Groot Melkhuis has for decades been the place where you can sit on the water and enjoy a snack and a drink. The food and drinks at the Groot Melkhuis are delicious. You can visit for freshly baked bread rolls, biscuits and croissants. They also have a large assortment of cakes. Both children & adults are treated to some of the best pancakes, poffertjes, sandwiches, fries and ice creams in Amsterdam. The cafe has a wonderful kid’s menu, as well as a fantastic children’s park, the Klein Melkhuis, to entertain the little ones. The Klein Melkhuis is definitely worth a visit, especially if you’re visiting with children. There are lots of toys on the playground for kids to play with and some of them are also worth a try for the adults.
Hidden in the Vondelpark in Amsterdam, under the bridge that tram 3 runs through is an old nuclear bomb shelter built in 1947. The Vondelbunker is a free and creative space for musicians and artists of different kinds. The bunker where Pink Floyd once performed in the late ’60s, was converted into a collection of practice rooms and a recording studio in the 1980s. In addition, Schijnheilig, the group of volunteers who run the underground bunker see it as the epicentre of contrarian culture and a place where everyone should be able to enter – free of charge! The underground hotspot plays host to a lot of do-it-yourself initiatives, tourists, bands, fundraising events, art exhibitions, plays, etc. Pay a visit to this underground bunker and you definitely won’t regret it.
Vondelpark is home to activities for people of all ages and it wouldn’t be that much fun if the kids didn’t have something to entertain them while visiting the park. In the Kinderkookkafé on the edge of the Vondelpark – with its own (vegetable) garden, terrace and playground – children of all ages can cook (and serve, barkiepen and clearing). Kids prepare meals (3-course dinner) like real cooks with 6-10 other children. Kids are expected at 15.30 pm, they get a chef’s hat, apron, some lemonade and English licorice. The chefs are divided into two groups and then they get started with the food on the menu. At 5.30 pm, the food should almost be finished and the kids are also expected to work as a team in serving the food to the guests (usually their parents). Kinderkookkafé is a very lovely place for children to hone their skills in the kitchen while having fun and a few laughs.
And furthermore …
Vondelpark is centrally located in Amsterdam and is only a stone throw from a handful of cafes and terraces. Just across the bridge from the main entrance is the Hard Rock cafe and a lot of cool restaurants. There are also some boating companies offering canal cruises on the canals close to the park and the Museumplein (Museum square) is only just a mere 5-minute walk. You can visit the Moco Museum, Van Gogh Museum, Rijksmuseum amongst others.
How to get to the Vondelpark by public transport
The Vondelpark is located in the centre of the city. Public transport is the best way to get to the Vondelpark. Or just simply walk, since it lays very central.
1071 AA Amsterdam
From Amsterdam Central Station
Trams 2, 5, 12, 13 and 17: Exit at the stop “Leidseplein”. and from there it’s a two-minute walk into the park.
For real-time travel information from wherever you are to the Vondelpark, please check out this link;
Parking Around The Vondelpark
Public transport still remains the best way to visit the Vondelpark because parking can be very expensive in Amsterdam.
For a visit to the Vondelpark, you can park in the following parking lots:
Overtoom – Overtoom is a very long street in the Vondelpark vicinity and parking there can be quite cheap. Parking costs € 2 for an hour and€ 20 for 24 hours. Bear in mind that you can only pay via the parking app.
Vondelpark Parking – Vondelpark is adjacent to the ‘Zuid district’ on the South side of Amsterdam and the ‘West district’ on the North side of the city.
Paid parking is available on the South side of the Vondelpark on the following days:
Monday – Saturday – 09.00-24.00. The tariff on the South side is € 4.00 per hour.
There’s paid parking in the West side on the following days:
Monday – Saturday – 09.00-24.00. The tariff on the West side is € 3.00 per hour.
Q-Park Museumplein – This parking lot is located under the museum square at the Albert Heijn. The parking lot is spacious with no less than 600 spots. Parking fees can be quite high and can go for more than € 6.00 per hour.
Q-Park Byzantium – This parking lot is right around the corner from the Vondelpark (around the corner of the PC Hooftstraat). Parking fees can be quite high and can go for more than € 6.00 per hour.
The Vondelpark was created after a group of individuals led by Christiaan Pieter van Eeghen, founded a ‘Vereeniging tot Aanleg van een Rij- en Wandelpark in Amsterdam’ on 8 April 1864. This Association was approved by Royal Decree on April 14, 1864. They set about building a ‘Riding and Hiking Park in the vicinity of the Leidsche Bosch in Amsterdam and purchased a large piece of land for this purpose. The famous garden architect Jan David Zocher and his son Louis Paul Zocher were assigned with designing the park which was designed in English landscape style.
On 15 June 1865, the first part of the park was opened to the general public and was initially called Het Nieuwe Park (the New Park). On 18 October 1867 the statue of poet and playwright Joost van den Vondel (1587-1679) was unveiled and the park slowly but surely got its current name in 1880: Het Vondelpark.
Finally in 1953, the association decided to gift the park to the city of Amsterdam and has been a popular place for tourists and residents who can enjoy a variety of outdoor activities such as biking, hiking, jogging and picnicking etc.
Interesting Facts About the Vondelpark
With over 10 million annual visitors, the Vondelpark is the biggest and most visited park in Amsterdam, and also in the Netherlands. The huge expanse of land with its lovely atmosphere has made the Vondelpark the preferred destination for many tourists and natives for the purpose of relaxation. Below are some interesting and informative facts about the Vondelpark.
- In 1996, the Vondelpark became one of the first city parks to be bestowed with the title ‘national monument’. This status fits the cultural-historical value that the park represents and makes it one of the crown jewels of Amsterdam.
- The Vondelpark is named after the Amsterdam’s best-known poet, Joost van den Vondel (1587-1679) and a statue of him stands in the park.
- Jan David Zocher and his son Louis Paul Zocher, who designed the Vondelpark are also the same architects who were assigned with redesigning the Keukenhof castle gardens in 1857. Their Keukenhof design is still there for all to see till this very day. Jan David and his son Louis Paul are two of the Netherlands most famous architects and are very famous around Europe.
- Annually, an average of 10 million people visit the park. That is about 21 visitors per square meter. By comparison, Central Park in New York receives approximately 5 visitors per square meter every year!
- There are more than 4700 trees in the park, divided into about 150 different species. Several of these trees are on the list of monumental trees in Oud-Zuid. Two trees are on the list of monumental trees in the Netherlands.
- The waters in the Vondelpark are home to about 12 fish species: eel, bream, crucian carp, carp, roach, tench, brown pygmy Cory, pike, perch, etc.
- There are about 30 species of birds among which the Eastern kingbird, song thrush, coal and blue tit, hedge sparrow, black-headed gull, blackbird, gray flycatcher, robin, tree creeper, spotted woodpecker, and exotic ring-necked parakeets.
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