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  • Writer's pictureJennifer Ceaser

A Brief History of Het Amsterdamse Bos

What is Amsterdamse Bos?

Amsterdamse Bos is Amsterdam’s biggest park, a 1,000-hectare paradise of forests, lakes and meadows, providing a vast natural playground for city dwellers.

Amsterdamse Bos Horses

Amsterdamse Bos History

On the south-west fringe of the city, this 1,000-hectare green space – one of Europe’s largest urban parks – actually sprawls across two municipalities: Amsterdam and neighbouring Amstelveen. Bos, which means ‘forest’ in Dutch, is an apt name, as the park consists of many different woodland areas. These serve as a backdrop to the other naturalistic elements of this English landscape-style park, which include multiple lakes, meandering streams, rolling meadows and bird-filled marshland.

The Bos may appear wild, but in fact it’s entirely man-made, with a landscape carefully cultivated to look natural. Built in the 1930s during an economic crisis in Amsterdam, some 20,000 unemployed people worked to plant hundreds of thousands of trees, carve out artificial lakes, and build bridges to cross over the park’s many winding waterways. The Bos was created as a space for Amsterdam citizens to practise a variety of recreational activities, and that original mission still holds true today.

A vast network of walking, cycling and horse-riding trails winds through the park, and people swim, canoe, kayak and row on its lakes and rivers, making the Bos a top destination for exercise enthusiasts. But it’s also a wonderful place simply to wander in a pastoral setting, admiring the birdlife and stopping to picnic on the vast green expanses.

Over the decades, many features have been added to the Bos. Scattered throughout are dozens of play areas for kids, from climbing parks to swimming pools; there’s even a fully fledged beech maze created by the celebrated British landscape designer Adrian Fisher. On top of the wildlife that thrives here, there’s also a goat farm, a petting zoo with horses, ponies and pigs, and fields with freely roaming Scottish Highland cattle.

Cherry Blossom at Amsterdamse Bos

Other major attractions include a 400-strong cherry blossom tree orchard, which blooms each spring, and the Schinkelbos, an ecological connecting route added to the park in 1999 to prevent plant and animal habitats becoming fragmented, where aviation aficionados can watch planes soaring directly overhead as they touch down at nearby Schiphol Airport. There’s also a popular open-air theatre that hosts live concerts by major acts throughout the summer. The Bos really has something for everyone.

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