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July 26th, 2007



Just a few blocks down the street from Museumpleins, where the Rijksmuseum and Van Gogh Museum attract thousands of tourists each day, lies Amsterdam’s largest and best-known park. Vondelpark has a city-park feel with its well-traveled lanes of crushed white stone bleeding into the grasses, and sometimes-gritty look around the band shell after a concert. This is to be expected from a recreation park that handles a lot of visitors, stages numerous events at summer high season, and is a central point for an otherwise concrete and asphalt city. (Okay, the canals give AmDam a maritime look, but they are transportation arteries, not lazy-day ponds inviting lovers to picnic in a canoe.)

vondelpark_3Yet that very city-park atmosphere is Vondelpark’s best asset. Wide ponds and narrow streamlets intersect the busy lanes where bicyclists and runners perform their morning rituals. If you want exercise, you’ll have plenty of company. Otherwise, find a spot in the sun or under a leafy tree for some traditional people watching. You dictate the sightlines in Vondelpark by position. A stroll down a dusty lane draws the eye into the park’s quiet depths; walking the banks of its largest pond settles you into its nature amid migratory waterfowl (a handy camera will get you some frame-worthy shots).

Vondelpark is rectangular, long and narrow. Its narrow entrance, starts at the banks of the Singlegracht canal, where the water taxis pass (between an east and west stop). When you walk down the long entranceway from the canal end into the park, you immediately feel that change from noise and busy auto/people activity to a slower-paced, arboreal sense of relaxation. The long stone avenue cuts through a residential neighborhood, where numerous small hotels and hostels are steps away from the park. The buildings on either side are mostly hidden by trees that pull your eye into the expanding park horizon. Visitors with disabilities will find a flat, step-free park so they can get into and around the park with ease.

At nearly one kilometer in length and 200 meters wide, Vondelpark has space enough for long, barefoot walks in cool grass, ball-tossing with the kids, quiet benches near a stream, slow walks under a winding forest canopy, or active sports play in open fields. If you walk its full length, find a path to cut through its thick, forested southern end, you feel as though you’ve left the city. That’s about the best anyone can ask of an urban park.

You won’t find huge flower arrangements or dramatic landscaping in Vondelpark. This is a park to be used, on the grass or along the paths. The beauty is in its nature: the trees, the ponds, the streams, wide fields and quiet forests.

(read more about Vondelpark’s highlights here)

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