A Brief History of Westerpark in Amsterdam
What is Westerpark?
Westerpark is a 19th-century former industrial site turned green space and cultural centre in Amsterdam.
Visiting this lively park just west of the quaint Jordaan neighbourhood, it can be hard to believe that until recently it was a heavily polluted industrial wasteland. The original park was created in 1891 and bears the same name as the surrounding neighbourhood, Westerpark; it was a small patch of green nestled next to an enormous factory complex built in 1885. The largest in Amsterdam, the plant produced gas made from coal, shipped in by rail and barge, that was used to light the city.
After multiple breakthroughs in the transportation of natural gas, coal-gas production declined in the 1960s and the plant eventually closed in 1967, leaving the site contaminated with dangerous toxins. For decades the factory buildings were used for storage or else stood vacant, and many were torn down until the city recognised their historical value. In 1989, those still standing were classified as industrial monuments, and seven years later a development plan was formulated to adapt the buildings for cultural use, while also cleaning up the polluted soil and creating a new park.
In 2003, Westerpark officially opened. It was remodelled to include open lawns, a vast rectangular wading pool, circular aquatic pools in former gas holders, cycling and walking trails, and a large community garden. But the biggest draw by far is the gasworks buildings, collectively known as Westergas, which (much like those of other major European cities) have been repurposed into restaurants, bars, cafés, clubs, and cultural and entertainment venues.
These include Het Ketelhuis, a former boiler house that’s now a three-screen cinema and café; the industrially styled nightclub WesterUnie; TonTon Club, where you can play vintage arcade games while munching on a ramen burger; and Tony’s Chocolonely, a chocolate store featuring a wall-sized vending machine filled with chocolate bars. Towards the centre of the park, you’ll find a 1902 former gas-storage tank, Gashouder, that regularly hosts techno concerts inside its massive circular interior.
Summer sees plenty of free open-air concerts and festivals in the park, while the year-round Sunday Market Westergas takes place once a month and features food trucks, live music, and stalls selling locally made clothing, jewellery and crafts.
Listen, learn, and explore with our Amsterdam audio guide app - your personal storyteller!