The oldest and largest of Amsterdam’s municipal parks is a year-round refuge for strollers, joggers, cyclists, dog walkers, music-makers, sunbathers, picnickers, Frisbee-throwers and skaters. Plus you can buy cannabis-spiked “space cakes” here, if you prefer to see the park from above the trees.
Amsterdammers lover their green spaces, and make a great deal of effort to enjoy them at every opportunity afforded by time constraints and climate. The Vondelpark is the most popular of the lot, accessible form entrances all around the 45-hectare green oasis, the main one being on Stadhouderskade close to the Leidseplein and the Museumplein, with its Rijksmuseum, Stedelijk Museum and Van Gogh Museum.
The Vondelpark welcomes about 10 million visitors every year. Free concerts are given at the open-air theatre or in the summer at the park’s bandstand. Theatre and music are performed during June, July and August. The open-air theatre takes place five days a week, near the entrance of the Eeghenstraat, and the entry is free.
Vondelpark has six play areas and one large playground near the Groot Melkhuis (The Great Milk house). It is also possible to rent skates at the Snoephuisje near the Amstelveenseweg entrance. Between May 15th and September 15th the open air-theatre stages free children’s shows on Wednesday afternoons. The Filmmuseum offers performances for children on Wednesday and Sunday afternoons.
The Vondelpark sprang onto the scene during what came to be known as the “Second Golden Age”, in the late 19th century. The park, whose gates first opened in 1865, was named after the 17th-century German-born poet and playwright Joost van den Vondel, who chose Amsterdam as his home. Vondel is often dubiously referred to as the Shakespeare of the Netherlands. A statue of Vondel was unveiled in the park two years after the grand opening, and another sculpture, The Maid of Amsterdam, stands at the main entrance.
Vondelpark’s architects, J.D. and L.P. Zocher, made a deliberate move away from the symmetrical Dutch garden style when they drew up their plans back in the late 1850s. They aimed instead for a romantic English-style garden. On completion, it served as a private park, paid for by wealthy families who lived in the surrounding environs of Amsterdam South. In the 1960s and 1970s, the Vondelpark was the happening place for great hordes of hippies.
For such a relatively small city as Amsterdam, the Vondelpark is a sizable stretch of ponds, lawns, woods and tennis courts – roughly equivalent in length to the distance between Central Station and Leidesplein. In typical Dutch fashion, the park is run through with water in the shape of long sinuous pools.
One of Vondelpark’s primary focal points is the striking round form of Het Blauwe Theehuis (The Blue Tea House), a café at the centre of the park. At the northeast corner is the Nederlands Filmmuseum (Netherlands Film Museum), whose stated aim is to promote film culture by the collection, restoration and screening of film treasures. The museum is housed in a pavilion built in 1881, and the main hall is clad in the old interiors of the Cinéma Parisien (1910), which was gutted in 1987.
Also inside the museum is a popular bar and restaurant, Café Vertigo, which features a wonderful open-air terrace on which there are free screenings on Saturdays throughout the summer months.