Amsterdam Travel: The Best Parks in Amsterdam
The Best Parks in Amsterdam
This is another post I've wanted to write for a long old time and I'm honestly not sure why it's taken so long to write it, especially when the last few years I have spent so much time in many of these great Amsterdam parks and outdoor spaces, but it's perhaps not something that most tourists or travellers want to know.
However, it's very likely that many people living in Amsterdam, especially those just newly arrived, do want to know which are the best parks in Amsterdam and what you can do in them. Never has this perhaps been more true than right now as we learn to appreciate what we have on our doorstep rather than travel further afield. Although that being the said, the whole country is full of beautiful national parks; check out this list of the best national parks in the Netherlands.
While I am really missing travel, virtual travel around the world, as well as some armchair travel in Amsterdam are both helping to scratch that itch, and I can't deny how special it is to see Amsterdam's streets and canals so empty at this time.
So while I'm grounded in Amsterdam - and perhaps you are too - I finally have a chance AND a good reason to share with you Amsterdam's best parks and public outdoor spaces. Exploring Amsterdam OUTSIDE is also my number one tip for staying safe and keeping others safe if you are visiting Amsterdam in 2020. So sit back, open up Google Maps and start planning a fun tour of Amsterdam parks today.
FURTHER READING: READ MORE ABOUT AMSTERDAM HERE, including the best hotels in Amsterdam for any budget, the best free things to do in Amsterdam, my honest review of the Iamsterdam City Card, and things you need to know when travelling to Amsterdam in 2020.
Amsterdam's Best Parks - Reviewed by a Local
This list has been written in no particular order so don't read anything into it what order the parks of Amsterdam have been listed for you. It's very fair to say that each park will have separate areas for dog walkers so be sure to do a bit more research about where they are (and you can find out more information about having a dog in Amsterdam here), and there is probably much more to offer in each of these Amsterdam parks than I have written up here, including festivals and events, so be sure to check in advance what may or may not be happening or available in each park.
You should also know that in springtime in Amsterdam you will almost certainly find tulips in each of these parks (AND EVERYWHERE ELSE!) so that's another to enjoy these open spaces. Find out more about the best places to find tulips in Amsterdam here.
DISCLOSURE: This post may include affiliate links. Read more about how I use affiliates to support this blog here.
If you don't have much time to read in-depth what you can do in each of these Amsterdam parks, I've added a little top tip at the bottom of each section saying for what and who each park is best.
I couldn't not start a list of Amsterdam's best parks with any other park but Vondelpark. Considered by many to be the city's premier or main park, like Hyde Park to London, or Central Park to New York, the park is arguably the largest and most central in the immediate centre of Amsterdam.
Shaped like a long rectangle it begins just opposite Max Euweplein, a small busy square close to the main ring canals, and extends south providing a border between the upmarket and much desired Oud Zuid and Oud West neighbourhoods. As it's easily accessible from Museumplein too, it's often one of the most popular with tourists as much as it is residents running on their lunch hour or congregating after work for a boozy picnic.
For a busy city park, it still has much open space to offer and indeed, in the centre there is a conservation area that is off-limits to all. There's a flower garden, two large kids playing areas, and a handful of cafes either located within the park's limits or close on the edge. There's also an open air theatre for events, and a number of water features and many sculptures to admire too, including a Picasso!
I used to recommend hiring a bike on Max Euweplein and then walking it over to Vondelpark to cycle around an open space with limited traffic rules rather than heading into the centre of town on a mission that would feel kamikaze-esque if you did so at rush hour, but actually, Vondelpark often gets quite busy so even cycling around its outer loop - which is almost an exact 3km run, FYI runners - can often feel like a challenge.
Vondelpark is best for seeing a cross-section of Amsterdam residents, spotting cool modern art, hanging out (for all ages!), picnics and lively atmosphere.
Did you know that Amsterdam has its own forest? Well, that's what Amsterdamse Bos is and means, Amsterdam Forest, or Amsterdam Woods (I'm never very clear on what makes a forest a forest or woods, woods - anyone?). It was maybe after a year or so of living in Amsterdam that I first heard about Amsterdamse Bos, but it immediately piqued my interest and we made quick work of cycling to the south of the city to find it.
There are so many things to do in Amsterdamse Bos it's impossible to list them all here and leave space for all the other fine parks and open spaces you should think about visiting, but it's fair to say that if you really want to escape Amsterdam's urban sprawl, do more adventurous exploring and really feel like you're miles from a city, Amsterdamse Bos needs to be where you go.
If you have kids, it's a great place to explore thank to a goat-petting zoo, numerous playgrounds, a pancake house that also has animals wandering around, and lots of treeline adventures to be enjoyed at the Fun Forest Climbing Centre. There's also a number of lakes and waterways so you can rent a boat, kayaks or watch rowing races.
Amsterdamse Bos is also home to Kersenbloesemtuin, the Cherry Blossom Park, where 200 Japanese Sakura cherry blossom trees. If you're visiting Amsterdam in spring, you must try to get there to experience the most beautiful cherry blossom in Amsterdam. More tips for where to find cherry blossom in Amsterdam here.
Amsterdamse Bos is best for exploring and adventure! A great place for kids, but is for runners, watersports enthusiasts, and for Pure Markt when it's held there.
Maybe five years ago I wouldn't have called Museumplein a park in Amsterdam, but I know now that it's very much used as a park and so it should be on this list. I would also like to think that now I am much more of knowledgeable about parks because I use them more, and as I became a parent, I use them for different reasons too.
So Museumplein while small and while often crowded with tourists, it should be included in a list of Amsterdam's best parks because it still has much to offer and you can pretty much do all the things you can do in bigger parks.
There's a play area for kids, a skate park for BMX- and scooter-riders, and skateboarders, and then there is lots of green spaces for picnics, ball games and dog-walking. And best of all you can do all these things surrounded by Amsterdam's most famous museums and buildings like Rijksmuseum, Stedelijk Museum, and Concert Gebouw. I also love the Rijksmuseum Garden which is free to visit.
Museumplein is best for a quick break or picnic after visiting museums if you or your kids need to run around or have a relaxing sit down on a warm day.
One park I wish I lived closer to because I'm always surprised how much I like visting it is Westerpark. It'll be no surprise that it's located to the western side of Amsterdam(and I live towards the east), but because it sort of stretches out like a long thin triangle, you can access it very easily from the centre of town too if you find yourself in Jordaan, on Haarlemmerstraat or in Spaarndammerbuurt.
There's a lot to do in Westerpark, especially if you're travelling to Amsterdam with kids. There's a playground in a English garden style park area, a long and easily accessible water feature that doubles up as a shallow splash pool for hot days, and a petting zoo too.
With the attractive old red brick Westergasfabriek buildings (an old gas factory) you can find a number of cafes, bars, restaurants, and even the Tony Chocolonely flagship store which is a must for anyone who likes chocolate. These buildings are also used for festivals and events so do check out any listings for when you're visiting if you'll be staying close to Westerpark.
Westerpark is best for a quick green escape if you're in Jordaan or the centre of town, for cherry blossom in spring, and also for lunch, drinks and the TonyChocolonely store!
From west to east, Oosterpark is East Amsterdam's main park and offers its residents a little green oasis in an area that is changing quite rapidly, and with it becoming more popular all the time with locals, and slowly with tourists too.
Recently re-designed and landscaped, Oosterpark is one of my sons' favourite places to play as it has a great splash pool and a cool "highline" style playground. It's also home to one of our favourite museums, Tropenmuseum, so it's a place we go to quite regularly. There's also an urban gym, areas for picnics and BBQs, and it's home to a few hotels including Generator Hostel where you can also grab a coffee or drink.
Once upon a time Oosterpark was a place that many white Amsterdammers would talk about in terms of danger and crime, and I wish to highlight this as something of a racist hangover of times when Black communities caused such incorrect, ignorant and ill-informed opinions to become "the norm".
Yes, there are a number of communities of colour living close to Oosterpark and they use their beautiful park, but it is not a place I have ever seen or had reason to describe as unsafe. It's one of my favourite parks in Amsterdam, not least because of the rich diversity you see there, and for events like Oosterpark's Keti Koti festival which celebrates the liberation of Suriname enslaved people. You can take a moment to acknowledge this history at the National Monument for Liberation of Slavery which can be found in Oosterpark, and you can read more about Black heritage and history in Amsterdam here.
Oosterpark is best for a quick play for kids of all ages, summer splashing and summer picnics, and escaping the busier tourist areas.
Another park that not many tourists will discover is Amstelpark, located to the south of the city along the banks of the River Amstel, hence the name. It's arguably the best park on this list for families visiting Amsterdam as it has more things to do than you could fit in a day. From the mini amusement park, the kids train you can tour the park on, a mini golf course to three huge playgrounds, and a petting farm, kids will not want to leave so be sure to plan a visit on a sunny day when you have plenty of time!
It's also a nice quiet park for adults to wander around, and is another favourite of mine for runs too. I especially like the rose garden when they come into bloom, and it's another one of the locations for our favourite Sunday market Pure Markt.
Amstelpark is easy to get to on foot if you're staying close to the RAI convention centre, but can also be easily accessed by bike from other parts of the city, and you'll want to get a Metro to RAI or Europaboulevard stations.
Amstelpark is best for kids for a day of family fun, and for escaping the centre of town and crowds.
Another park on the southern side of the city is Beatrixpark. While quite small in size, Beatrixpark has plenty to offer if you happen to be staying at a hotel in Amsterdam close by.
It has a great children's play area including a splashpool for summer months that I like because it's all in one concentrated area so you can get a base and use it for the whole visit whether your kids want to play in the sandpit, on the climbing frame or get their feet wet.
There's a nice big area for dogs to run around in and in between this and the kids' play area is a nice floral garden that's a relaxing spot to sit on a bench and enjoy some quiet. I also like Beatrixpark for finding a few random sculptures and art, and it's also home to one of our favourite restaurants, As.
Beatrixpark is best for dog walkers, peaceful summer picnics, a lovely meal at As, and a quick playground visit if you're close by
Heading back to the eastern side of town, Park Frankendael, is like Oosterpark's smaller and quieter sister, and it's the third in the trio of locations for our fave Pure Markt Sunday markets.
There's a small but big enough play area for kids to play (and be sure to all look up on top of the chimney pipe there to see the famous stork family that are residents of Park Frankendael), and lots of green space for you to run around in. On one side you can take a stroll around allotments and vegetable plots managed by local school children too.
And it's also home to another one of Amsterdam's best restaurants, De Kas, where you can look in their onsite greenhouse where most of the produce they cook with is grown. You really must book in advance to enjoy lunch or dinner at De Kas as it's a very popular spot.
Park Frankendael is best for summer picnics, quiet strolls, Pure Markt and yummy homegrown food at De Kas.
Once upon a time, I used to take walks around Sarphatipark in the De Pijp neighbourhood every single day when my first son was born. We happened to live around the corner so it became part of my daily routine. Then we moved a bit further away but I would still head there with him and watched him learn to walk there, learn to climb in the play area there, and splash in the puddles there too.
We left De Pijp just over a year ago but I still like spending an hour or two in Sarphatipark when I can, with my now 5-year-old and his 1-year-old brother (!). It is very small, but it does offer a little green space and relief to the busy De Pijp area that is often flooded with tourists these days.
There's an impressively varied urban gym, a couple of small lakes and streams for wildfowl, a dog-walking area, and lots of green space spread out around a fountain with a monument to the park's namesake, Samuel Sarphati who was a famous Amsterdam urban planner. You'll also find a small nursery in the park's only building where you can pick up very affordable plants or seeds, when it's open (which isn't all the time!).
Sarphatipark is best for a mini stroll in a green space, summer drinks or a picnic and an urban gym visit.
Heading back over to the west of town, Rembrandtpark is another green space that I would really say is a local Amsterdammers' park as it's a bit too far out for many tourists to even know about. That means you can enjoy lots of open space, and easily find a spot for a BBQ or a picnic, especially on days (or summer evenings!) when Vondelpark is full too bursting (which in 2020 is NOT cool!).
It's one of our favourite parks to bike through, as it's a bit tricky to find a circular route in this long rectangle of a park, but it's a bit easier to run around with lots of paths going over the numerous ponds and streams there. However, it's worth a cycle through if just to spot the cool arty sculptures on the bridges you go under.
There is a playground, but I would say it's not the best park if you have kids that like a lot of playground style activities. In fact, it's probably more popular with young adult Amsterdammers who like to pitch up for evening BBQs on summer days or organise informal sports on other days.
Rembrandtpark is best for a quieter bike ride, adults-only games and BBQs, and gentle running routes.
Flevopark is for East Amsterdam what Amsterdamse Bos is for southern suburbs. This vast stretch of green space is rarely known by tourists (and even some Amsterdammers) and yet it's really worth knowing about especially if you like swimming, as Flevoparkbad swimming pool is Amsterdam's largest outdoor swimming complex with an Olympic length swimming pool and equally big area for family fun. The best news of all - the water is heated!
We also only recently discovered Jeugdland in Flevopark, a space for kids to play outdoors with outdoor materials. Called a "Nature Playground", Jeugdland is where kids can come to play on climbing frames and ziplines, AND they can also build them themselves. It's also a space where kids can learn about gardening and growing your own produce. Our son has so far only been for friends' birthday parties, but we're planning a return visit to find out more soon.
I guess there's a good reason not many people know much about Flevopark as it didn't exist as a park in its current form until the 1990s, and it is quite a journey out of the centre of town, but if you want to experience a wilder feel to a green space, and you like water, it's a must visit, which is easy enough from central Amsterdam thanks to the number 14 tram.
Flevopark is best for escaping the city on the eastern side of town, going for a swim and teaching kids about nature at Jeugdland.
And that's it for my list of best Amsterdam parks... for now!
You can read about more fun things to do outdoors in Amsterdam in this list of free things to do in Amsterdam, and you can read more about what all the seasons are like in these seasonal Amsterdam guides for spring, summer, autumn, and winter. And if you are visiting with kids, here are all my top tips for visiting Amsterdam with children and here's another post about visiting Amsterdam with teens. Finally, you can read all of my Amsterdam travel tips here, and be sure to sign up for my newsletter so you know when I publish new Amsterdam content next.
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Frances M. Thompson
Londoner turned wanderer, Frankie is an author, freelance writer and blogger. Currently based in Amsterdam, Frankie was nomadic for two years before starting a family with her Australian partner. Frankie is the author of three short story collections, and is a freelance writer for travel and creative brands. In 2017, she launched WriteNOW Cards, affirmation cards for writers that help build a productive and positive writing practice. When not writing contemporary fiction, Frankie shops for vintage clothes, dances to 70s disco music and chases her two young sons around Amsterdam.
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