When you mention package holidays to Amsterdam, most people instantly think of the incredible network of canals. The capital of the Netherlands has more than one hundred kilometres of waterways, after all. But Amsterdam hides a secret. Some of the most magical gardens in Europe exist here, sandwiched like gems between watery veins. Here are some of the most sumptuous gardens you really must see. If, that is, you can drag yourself away from the delicious pancake houses!
De Hortus Botanicus Amsterdam
The best time to visit this garden, and see it in its full glory, is in the spring or summer months; it is as unique as it is beautiful. Established in 1638, this botanical garden is brimming with the most glorious of specimens. There are thousands of varieties of plant you would be hard pressed to find anywhere else in the world and if you enjoy container plants, this is the place for you.
The spectacular Palm Greenhouse was built in 1912 and was designed by Johan Melchior van der Mey, but it is the famous, 350-year-old Eastern Cape Giant Cycad that dominates the space.
It also contains some of the oldest pot plants in the world, whilst The Butterfly Greenhouse is a pure delight to visitors of all ages. One of the most popular outdoor gardens in the Hortus is the Semicircle. A systematic garden, it groups plants into species, with those that have least in common planted furthest apart. This is the only garden using this method in the whole of the Netherlands. After all that walking, what could be better than resting in the Orangery? Built in 1875, it is a feast for the senses. Here you can sit as well as enjoy pastries, salads and other delights, sourced from purely organic ingredients. The Hortus is exceptional and garden geeks will be left in no doubt that they’ve found their utopia.
No trip to the Netherlands would be complete without the mention of tulips and Keukenhof is the country’s showcase for one of their most famous exports. If you’re a keen gardener planning to make a visit to Amsterdam, make sure you do so between the end of March and mid-May as this is the only time that the park is open.
Keukenhof is located between Amsterdam and The Hague, but if you don’t have access to a car, fear not, as there are regular tourist coaches and hotels in Amsterdam that will be happy to help you organise your visit.
The garden is home to more than 7 million bulbs. Once you have seen the sea of gently undulating colour, it’s hard to forget. With 800 varieties of spring bulbs, finding a favourite isn’t easy! Tip-toeing through the tulips, you’ll also stumble across sculptures and works of art. Every effort to accommodate the less able-bodied, or the more mature traveller has been made, and wheelchairs are available to hire (approximately €20 cash deposit is required, along with around €10 a day as the hire fee). There is excellent access to the park, as well as disabled toilet facilities and various places to sit, eat and enjoy the view.
The Open Gardens of Amsterdam
Once a year, on the third weekend of June, something magical happens in Amsterdam. 30 or so private gardens open their gates to the public. This event has been taking place for over 20 years across a whole host of venues, each year bringing a different theme to the gardens.
An Open Gardens pass costs around €15 and is valid for the entire weekend. Details and the pass can be obtained from several of the city’s museums, including The Theatre Museum and Museum Van Loon. The iconic canal houses look as if you couldn’t fit a matchstick between them from the front, but the areas behind the façades tell a different story. The gardens join together to form an open space behind the houses, providing an experience akin to walking through the wardrobe to Narnia.
The canal houses also hide coach houses, gazebos and incredible follies. It’s hard not to feel a touch of jealousy as you relish the gardens! A word of advice: take comfortable walking shoes, an umbrella and a flask. The reason? Simple. Once you have discovered the beautiful gardens of Amsterdam, you will find them extremely hard to leave.