Amsterdam's Green Spaces

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Kees Lynch
May 8, 2024

                  Amsterdam is a dense, bustling city, with maze-like alleys and hordes of people marveling at its historic streets. Amsterdam’s unique city features, namely its tall, narrow, and crooked houses, are largely what attract tourists to the city, teleporting them back nearly four centuries into Amsterdam’s “Golden Age” when their colonial rule stretched the whole world and the city prospered as a result. As a student living here, the incredible history that these exceptional buildings exude has become more and more captivating every day that I bike past them on my way to class. However, now that spring is finally in bloom, I have been noticing more and more just how green Amsterdam is. While one may not expect it, given Amsterdam’s reputation as a real city, Amsterdam is full of wonderful parks that give every other European city a run for their money. There are even places that, in this historical vein, teleport you back to a time of windmills, clogs, canals, and cheese making, even when you’re in the heart of the city.

                  There are several well-known parks in Amsterdam, and the beauty of them is that no matter where you are in the city, you are always close to one of them. Westerpark, in Amsterdam West, is the smallest of these well-known parks, and is accessible for students living at Student Experience Minervahaven and the ID Aparthotel. There is a playground, pond, multiple walking trails, and plenty of grassy areas, both shaded by trees and exposed to the feeble Dutch sunlight. Towards the western end of the park is a small complex of brick buildings, which include several nice restaurants and an awesome museum called Fabrique des Lumières, which is essentially an abandoned warehouse with hundreds of projectors everywhere; every inch of the walls and floor is covered with moving images and videos ranging from exhibitions of Dutch art to footage taken by a Mars rover. Further into the park is a volkstuinpark, or “folk’s garden park”, which is a huge community garden. Patrons purchase one of the 375 gardens, most of which have small, adorable houses with running water and optional electricity via solar panels. The result is a green haven, surrounded by a small canal, and full of plant and animal life. You could easily get lost in there for hours, as I did my first time when I stumbled upon it halfway through my morning run. It is a truly charming place and worth a day of strolling when the weather’s nice.

                  Oosterpark, in Amsterdam East, is roughly the same size as Westerpark, though more urban; it is not far from The Social Hub City. Here you can expect to find larger groups of people hanging out, and ultimately Oosterpark is livelier than Westerpark, perhaps because it is a bit more centrally located. I used to come here as a child when I visited my mom’s friends in the Netherlands. I remember distinctly that there are several delicious ice cream shops dotting the park’s perimeter. There is also a pond and a playground. If I remember correctly, there are public ping pong tables, so if you can get your hands on a ball and some paddles, you’re bound to have a great time.

                  For students living in Social Hub West, the nearest park is Rembrandtpark, named after the famous Dutch painter. I have never been here, but perusing Google Maps reveals that it is quite large and has a significant body of water running through it. Given my experiences with Amsterdam’s other parks, I bet Rembrandtpark is a home run. The same goes for parks near Hotel Jansen Bajeskwartier. I have not been there, but Amstelpark is nearby and well known, and there is a volkstuinpark similar to that in Westerpark which seems equally cute. 

                  Students living in Hotel Jansen Schinken are unlucky that they live so far south in Amsterdam, though this is made up for by their close proximity to the Amsterdamse Bos, or the Amsterdam Forest. This sprawling woodland in South Amsterdam is gorgeous. There are several eateries located throughout, though nothing beats a picnic. There is a rowing racecourse in addition to other swimmable bodies of water. You can lounge in the grass or walk through the trails; with so much of both the choice is yours. The Amsterdamse Bos is Amsterdam’s best option for spending a full day in nature. 

                  I’ve saved the best park for last. Vondelpark, named after the great Dutch writer, is centrally located near the Rijksmuseum and Leidseplein, two of Amsterdam’s more popular attractions. Excluding the Amsterdamse Bos, Vondelpark is the largest of Amsterdam’s urban parks. I spent an afternoon here with a friend visiting from Copenhagen, and this has easily become one of my favorite memories of this semester. There is plenty of water and shade to relax by, yet more than enough space to walk and cycle. Because it is so centrally located, the attractions surrounding the park, like food and shopping, make the area a great place to spend a full day. What’s particularly cool about Vondelpark is an underground music venue called Vondelbunker. Located in an abandoned room under a tram bridge in the middle of Vondelpark, Vondelbunker is a kraakpand, or a building that’s being squatted. Squatting has been a part of Amsterdam’s history and culture for a long time, and many people still squat today. There are many squatted buildings all over the city, a majority of them serving as communal spaces that generally host performances of some sort, ranging from concerts to live art exhibitions to political films. Vondelbunker hosts all and everything between, though I tend to visit for the live music, and the range of genres never fails to surprise me; shows range from death metal to rap to punk to reggae. It’s a really cool place to see a show as you are literally in a bunker, with short ceilings and graffitied concrete everywhere. Of course, Vondelbunker doesn’t have anything to do with Vondelpark as a green space, but it’s a nice attraction regardless. 

                  Amsterdam is perfect when the weather is nice, though this is rare in the Netherlands; when it does come, it feels even more exciting than usual, and Amsterdam’s many wonderful parks provide the perfect setting to soak in that precious sun and warmth. Aside from these parks, Amsterdam is still immensely green. The Dutch use their space very efficiently, so every patch of unused land houses some sort of grass, tree, shrubbery, or other blooming plant to make what is already a lively city that much livelier. Amsterdam is truly beautiful when spring blooms. 

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Kees Lynch

Despite being a history major and studying history at the UvA this year, I am a passionate musician. I have been playing piano for over a decade, focusing largely on jazz, but I love to play guitar, banjo, and mandolin in my free time!

2023 Fall
Home University:
Skidmore College
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