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  • Writer's pictureBen West

A Brief History of Flevopark in Amsterdam

What is Flevopark?

Flevopark is a Wild, unspoiled landscape park to the east of the Amsterdam that was opened in 1931.

lake at Flevopark

Flevopark History

Amsterdam is blessed with numerous parks and other green spaces near its bustling city centre. Spacious Flevopark, east of the Canal Ring and beside the University of Amsterdam's Science Park, is less manicured than most. Within it are tennis courts, an outdoor swimming pool, and running trails. It has wide expanses of grass with barbecue areas and, on the banks of the Nieuwe Diep (or New Deep) lake, a distillery.

The idea of creating a park here was first suggested in 1908, when naturalist J. P. Thijsse suggested using the open area between Jewish Cemetery Zeeburg and the Nieuwe Diep lake, which connects to the River IJ. Construction of the park began in 1928, with the formal opening three years later.

Creating a park in an already water-filled landscape was not straightforward. At the time, the area was part of a large polder, or diked marshland. The nearby water had to be dredged, with new earth added on top of the swamp and allowed to dry. The park used to contain many more trees. However, during the Second World War these were cut down for fuel so people could warm their homes.

In the 1950s, the building of a nearby road meant that some of the Jewish cemetery was relocated to Diemen, and another section was allowed to run wild and merged with Flevopark.

The cemetery was then the largest in western Europe and it’s thought around 200,000 people were buried there from 1714 onwards. It was used by the poor, mainly Ashkenazi Jews. Portuguese and other Sephardic Jews, who tended to be wealthier, would bury their dead elsewhere, such as the cemetery at Ouderkerk aan de Amstel, which has many beautiful memorials. By contrast, many of those buried at Zeeburg do not have gravestones and the cemetery is now largely greened over.

Being located on the edge of the city next to an expanse of water, the park has a variety of plant and animal species that you won’t find in the more central Amsterdam parks. Many birds migrate via this area, and it’s not unusual to spot herons, kingfishers, jays, parakeets and numerous other species.

One special feature of the park is its gin distillery, the Distilleerderij ’t Nieuwe Diep. Housed in an old pumping station and situated in a delightful setting on a lake, it makes jenevers (or Dutch gins), herbal bitters and liqueurs from traditional recipes. It has an outdoor terrace overlooking the water that makes it a great spot to relax with a drink.

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