Into the Woods
Amsterdam Bos was made to be used by all the people of Amsterdam. Whether for a Sunday stroll, sport and recreation, or just sitting on the lawns, the vast area of grass and woodland was designed with everybody in mind.
More than just a beautiful place to visit, the forest also stands as a monument to Dutch political ingenuity. Constructed during the record unemployment of the Great Depression, it provided jobs for over 20,000 workers over the next thirty years, working primarily with shovels and wheelbarrows. Its reputation as a people’s park continues today.
As you explore you will see some of the many activities going on there. People row, canoe, ride horses, climb trees, play any number of sports, or simply laze back under the shade of the trees. With over 14km of bike paths, it makes the perfect cycling day trip for families or friends to escape the buzzing city for a few hours of respite among nature.
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What better place to whet your appetite for expansive green spaces than passing through Amsterdam’s biggest inner-city park? There’s so much to do, it’s easy to get side-tracked from your ultimate destination.
It’s a great place to get used to the bikes for anyone less confident on two wheels, and there’s the Picasso Statue and the Rose Garden to check out. For more information on the park and its secret spots, have a look at our Vondelpark blog.
As you move further into Amsterdam Zuid, the streets become wider and the green spaces larger. Suddenly you’ll notice a vast stadium, an architectural treasure of the Amsterdamse School and the original home of the Olympic flame.
Built for the 1928 Summer Olympic Games, the stadium hosted Ajax Football Club until 1996, and is now home to over thirty businesses. It’s still used for track and field events, as well as large scale art exhibitions and music festivals.
Tours around the stadium and its history can be booked on request. They cost €12.50 per person (in cash), with a minimum group of 5.
Brave? You might not feel particularly so when you’re at the top of this 15m high ropes course. But if you’ve managed to cycle this far, you’re more than capable of taking on a bit of monkey business. For budding Tarzans and Janes, you can swing, zip, climb, and jump through the trees and have a real flirt with vertigo.
This place is safe and professionally run, and is popular around the rest of the Netherlands. There are courses suitable for all ages from 130cm upwards, ranging from €20-25 depending on the length and difficulty of the route. You’ll be provided with all equipment and instruction, but will have to supply the adrenaline yourself: you’ll certainly need it!
Bosbaan is the oldest artificial rowing lake in the world. It still plays host to national and international rowing competitions. You’ll often see athletes working up a sweat, apparently trying to out-speed planes on their parallel approach to Schipol on this stunning lake in the woods.
At Bos Open Air Theatre, shows run nearly every day in July and August. There are often several events in one day, ranging from music, to drama, to performance art. For the best ambiance, choose one in the evening.
The atmosphere of a performance in the middle of a wood is little short of spectacular. There is something lost by confining drama to indoors, and something gained when it takes place surrounded by trees under the night sky.
The Bos Theatre radiates a sense of mystery. Light bathes the stage, the audience sit in darkness, the wood presses in around. There is a sense of a festival where ancient meets modern. You can have dinner on the stage itself, or picnic around it during the performance. Bear in mind, shows are weather dependent, so be sure to check to see if it’s on.
Meerzicht Pancake Farm
If there was ever a time for pancakes, it’s after an hour’s bike ride. Boerderij Meerzicht boasts a selection of 55 sweet and savoury crepe creations. That’s enough to keep even the most eclectic palate occupied for months.
The building wouldn’t look out of place in Hansel and Gretel, but we’re fairly certain it’s currently free from witches. Their beautiful terrace looks out over a meadow, home to deer, peacocks, and chickens. And there’s also an orchard and playground if young visitors (or mature and adventurous ones) fancy a cheeky clamber.
Boerderij Meerzicht is open Friday to Sunday 10:00-18:00 (November-February), and Wednesday to Sunday 10:00-19:00 (March-October). I’d strongly advise planning your Bos exploration around these times. If nothing else, it will keep you pedaling like a carrot dangling in front of a donkey.
Enough of the road! This is a great point in your bike trip to take to the waters. Bos Canoe Rental has a range of pedal boats, canoes, and row boats to suit your group. A single canoe costs €7 per hour and it’s €12 for a double.
Paddle out into the middle of Grote Vijver and choose one of the narrow inlets to explore. The trees get closer and you find yourself moving under dappled light and deeper into the wood. It’s a peaceful way to enjoy the forest from a different perspective.
Cast your mind back to 2013. Taylor Swift? Screaming Goats? Ring any bells? Well here, you can capture your very own rendition. Ridammerhoeve is a working organic farm, devoted to sustainable techniques and outstanding produce. Visitors are welcome to talk to the farmers as they work and watch the goats play. In addition, they have cows, chickens, pigs, and horses in case you get bored of the goats (you won’t). There’s also an organic vegetable garden, but I can’t say it has quite the same longevity of viewing pleasure.
They have a café with a playground attached for mum and dad to enjoy a cappuccino as the kids play. The fresh goat’s milk ice cream is a particular highlight. You can buy Ridammerhoeve produce in their attached farm shop. It’s the perfect place to refuel while learning something about sustainability.
Cherry Blossom Grove
Japan too far away? Not to worry, you can find Amsterdam’s very own grove of Cherry Trees right in the Bos. The 400 trees were donated by the Japan Woman’s Club in 2000. Each tree has its own (female) name – half are Japanese, half Dutch. It is a symbol of friendship and loyalty between the two countries and their communities in each other’s homes.
It is a special place, particularly for Japanese residents of and visitors to Amsterdam, not least for its memorial to the victims of the 2011 Tsunami in Japan. The trees blossom around the end of March for a few weeks, depending on the wind. The Sakura (blossom) symbolises new beginnings, and is timed with the start of spring. The Hanami Natsuri festival traditionally takes place at this time. People from Japan and around the world gather to picnic among the blossom and celebrate the birth of the new season.
Even out of season, Bloesempark, carries a serene atmosphere, and is worth the trip year round.
Restaurant Aan de Poel
With two Michelin stars, Aan de Poel’s reputation precedes it. It’s not cheap, but the attention to detail is legendary, and it boasts a wonderful view over De Poel lake. You can enjoy a three-course lunch menu for €57 or the chef’s six-course tasting menu for €125.
Reservations are recommended for this spectacular dining experience.