In the 1800s, a group of prominent Amsterdammers bought a parcel of land to use as a park. It was originally meant for people who enjoyed riding horseback, and also for those who just preferred to stroll. Everyone who was not part of the park committee paid an admission fee. The park was enlarged in 1867 to its present size of more than 100 acres. A man by the name of Jan David Zocher was commissioned to design the park in the style of an English landscape. The park was called Het Nieuwe Park (the New Park) until 1867 when a statue of the Dutch playwright and writer, Joost van den Vondel, was erected.
The City of Amsterdam purchased the park in 1923 when maintenance became too costly for the Committee.
My first experience with the park was in 1998. I had gone to meet an old friend who had visited there a number of times. My husband found places he knew I would want to see and he would come and get me so we could walk straight there. We walked to an entrance and sat on a bench waiting for what, I did not know. My husband told me to "just watch," so I did. Very soon a person came along on a bicycle, followed by a dog on a leash. When they entered the park the leash was unhooked, and the dog was free to run. This scenario occurred again and again. Dogs are allowed to run free in the park which means that watching where you step is a very important thing! There is not much green space in Amsterdam, so having a place where your dog is allowed to run is very important. I thought for a long time that the park had been given to the city with the stipulation that dogs be allowed to be unfettered from their leashes. A pretty story, but as it turned out it is not true. Dogs are allowed to run free off their leash, but not if they are near the playgrounds.
Joost van den Vondel Vondelkerk
The Filmmuseum is located inside the park in a very beautiful Art Deco building (or is it Art Nouveau?) In the summer, films are screened four times a week, providing a very popular diversion for residents and tourists alike. Food and drink can be obtained from four restaurants in the park. One of the most popular places is the Blauwe Theehuis (translation, Blue Teahouse) Much of the seating is outside on a terrace where people can sit and watch other people or the birds. Many feeders have been placed in the trees and many kinds of birds are present, including parrots!
Filmmuseum Blauwe Theehuis
The park is surrounded on two sides by mansions.There are 3- and 4-story houses that are wonderfully beautiful. When I saw them for the first time I was awestruck. Once the homes of diamond merchants, many of them are now office buildings or apartments.
One of the mansions
The park has a total of six playgrounds for children. Predictably for the Netherlands, there is water flowing through the park so there are many ponds and fountains. Consequently, a lot of ducks and geese call the park their home. There is a formal rose garden, which I have not seen at the right time of the year. We have always been there in the fall or winter.
Amsterdam is a wonderful place and the people are very friendly. One day when I was buying some flowers from a vendor on the street, he asked if it was my first visit to Amsterdam. When I told him it was my third, he informed me that I was now a regular visitor. The way he said "you are a regular visitor!" was strangely pleasing to me, as I am so very fond of the city now. If you have the chance to visit Amsterdam, I hope you will take the time to stroll through Vondel Park as I have!
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