A Brief History of Vondelpark in Amterdam
What is Vondelpark?
The Vondelpark is the largest public park in Amsterdam, with 47 hectares of walking and biking routes, gardens, water features and grassy areas.
In 1864, a group of citizens established the Association for the Construction of a Park for Riding and Walking and bought eight hectares of land just outside Amsterdam’s canal belt on which to create a new green space. They commissioned the landscape architect Jan David Zocher to design it, and in 1865 opened the Nieuwe (or New) Park, popularly known as the Wandelpark (or Walking Park). Two years later, in 1867, a statue by Louis Royer of the famous 17th-century Dutch writer, poet and playwright Joost van den Vondel was placed in the park and visitors started calling it Vondelspark. (Royer also designed the statue of Rembrandt that gave Rembrandtplein its name.)
The park was expanded in the 1870s with an addition designed by Louis Paul Zocher, son of the original designer. With this addition, the park reached its current size of 47 hectares. Both father and son designed in the English landscape style. By 1880, it had officially become known as Vondelpark.
During the 20th century, two of the park’s most popular attractions were added: the Rose Garden and the Blauwe Theehuis (or Blue Tea House). The latter is a Modernist pavilion designed by the Baanders brothers in the Nieuwe Bouwen style – the Dutch version of Bauhaus. It’s now a café and beer-tasting room for the local Brouwerij ’t IJ.
In 1953, when running costs were becoming onerous, the park’s founding body donated it to the city of Amsterdam. Landscape architect Egbert Mos was tasked with reviewing and streamlining the layout. Later in the century, during the flower-power era of the ‘60s and ‘70s, the park became a popular gathering place, and in 1974 the city established the Vondelpark Open-air Theatre to present a free cultural program. By the 1990s, Vondelpark was designated a rijksmonument (or state monument).
The park was redesigned once more in recent years, to accommodate the ever-growing numbers of visitors. The ten-year renovation scheme focused on making the area safer for wildlife and easier to maintain. Besides the Blauwe Theehuis there are several restaurants and bars, including one in the Open-air Theatre, which presents free musical performances throughout the summer. All year round, the park is a lively gathering place for citizens of and visitors to Amsterdam, where they can sit in the sun, feed the birds on one of the ponds, enjoy a beer-tasting, watch a musical performance, or take a leisurely bike ride.
Dive into rich history with Urbs Amsterdam audio tours, your ears will thank you!