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.
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.