Amsterdam Forest is my go-to place to unwind. The park has beautiful hiking trails, spots to meet animals and great places to eat apple pie with whipped cream. Just 15 minutes by bike, the park makes a great day trip from Amsterdam. Nature lovers, happy families and Dutch landscape fanatics, embrace this complete guide and get lost in Amsterdam Forest!
The name Amsterdam Forest might indicate it’s an actual forest but honestly, it’s more like a huge park with different types of vegetation and open fields. Amsterdam Forest is a man-made park, not a naturally grown forest. With a park that is triple the size of NY’s Central Park, I can proudly say Amsterdam does very well with offering nature and relaxation options to its inhabitants and visitors.
Throughout the past 8 years I lived in Amsterdam I visited Amsterdam Forest very often. I have put all my personal experiences into this one post, I hope this article inspires you to leave the Red Light district and Dam Square and explore Amsterdam’s most beautiful park! Scroll down to the full article or jump to one of these sections:
- Who should visit the park?
- What to do?
- Food and Drinks
- Where to stay
- How to get to the park
- Getting around
- Amsterdam Forest Map
Just a little bit of background about Amsterdam Forest will make you realise the park has a tragic history.
Amsterdam in the 30’s was poor and had a high unemployment rate. The Dutch capital had to provide the poor population with jobs. The creation of Amsterdam Forest became employment for 20.000 people from 1934 to 1940. The Park was designed to become a destination for Amsterdam’s inhabitants with natural parkland and opportunities for recreation and relaxation.
When WWII started, the work could not continue in the same form. The occupant took over Amsterdam Forest. In the Ringvaart area, a camp for political non-Jewish prisoners was set up and north of the Bosbaan a working camp for Jews was built. Stories tell that they were picked up by a van one day and nobody heard from them again.
I don’t want to make this a sad post, but with knowing the history of the park, my appreciation for Amsterdam Forest grew. I’m proud that the Amsterdam government has given the park its own identity and that the vision that one had in the 30s is pursued.
First of all, Amsterdam Forest is a great day trip from Amsterdam for everyone! The park has literally something for all of us, for example:
- If you travel with a family to Amsterdam, I can recommend the park as it has so many fun things for kids, like mini swimming pools and a goat farm.
- If you travel as a couple, the park is perfect for romantic walks, especially in spring in the cherry blossom park.
- Solo travellers can rent a bike to explore the park on their own or join an excursion.
The most exciting part of this article, because there are MANY things to do. Here we go:
I kick off this paragraph with the main reason why I visit the park: animals. The ones below are easy to spot. If you are a wannabe-bushman, you might also spot ring-snakes,
As an animal lover, I have a few places to recommend:
- Scottish Highland Cows – There are two areas in Amsterdam Forest where you can spot these huge red furry friends: south-west (Schinkelbos) and south-east. These natural mowers maintain the grassland and are just very impressive animals to watch!
- Goat Farm – Goat farm Ridammerhoeve is a biological farm where goat milk, cheese, butter and ice cream are produced. Goats, pigs, bulls, chickens and horses all live on this farm. Most of the animals can be cuddled and you can feed the (baby) goats milk. This is popular for families and my favourite place to visit too 🙂
- Birds – Although there is a bird park in Amsterdam Forest, I prefer to hike and keep my eyes open. The park is home to many birds like predatory birds, herons, grebes and jays.
Nature and Dutch Landscapes
Amsterdam Forest is an ecological park with different types of vegetation. You will notice the diversity in landscape and plantation. If you take the time to explore various areas of the park.
- Cherry Blossom Park – Who doesn’t love the pink cherry blossom flowers in spring? Due to the overwhelming number of visitors, Amsterdam Forest has decided to not proactively communicate when blossom season starts. The cherry trees are a gift given by the Japanese Women’s Association in the Netherlands. The Park has 400 trees, each tree has it own women’s name: 200 have a Japanese name, 200 a Dutch name. It’s a Japanese tradition to picnic underneath the blooming trees with family and friends. It makes the Blossom Park a beloved place for Japanese inhabitants of Amsterdam and the region.
- Birds island – Initially designed to be a birds island, this part of Amsterdam Forest currently is a garden area with sand dunes, a marshland, a hilly landscape and an agriculture acre.
- Peat – There are two peat areas. Oeverlanden Amstelveense Poel and Zuidelijke Oeverlanden Nieuwe Meer. The Nieuwe Meer Oeverlanden is one of my favourite areas because of the beauty of nature’s reflections in the water. The area is a remnant of the original peat landscape and one of the natural centres of the Park. It’s a great place to spot water birds or – if you have the eyes of my boyfriend, huge fish. Below my photos of the area:
Families with Kids
As you maybe know, I don’t have kids so I can’t share any insider tips on where (not) to go with families, but there are few places specifically for families: Fun Forest for a climb and swing experience, Swimming if you are lucky with the weather or renting an electric mini boat at Miniport. And the goat farm with kids playgrounds and a maze! There a specific ‘Gnome Trail’ called Boskabouterpad, a hike for 3-6 year olds that starts at the visitor centre. Check the map below for location details.
Sports and Leisure
Honestly, I have never done any of these activities because I just like to cycle, hike or cuddle goats. If you are looking for actual sports, these are your options: Swimming in Grote Vijver (Large Pond), Canoeing, (semi – professional) Rowing on Bosbaan, Sailing, supping, windsurfing or renting a boat on Nieuwe Meer. Nieuwe Meer is even connected to the Amsterdam Canals!
Amsterdam Forest has nice spots for everyone: a quick coffee at a dog-friendly cafe or a luxurious lunch or dinner. I have been to most of them, my favourite options are apple pie at Goat Farm Ridammerhoeve, pancakes at Meerzicht or lunch at De Veranda. These are all your options:
- Chez Favié is a cafe that is particularly great for dog lovers. I have been with my family and 3 dogs: all were warmly welcomed 🙂 In this cafe you can get a coffee, a tosti (grilled sandwich ham/cheese) or ice cream.
- Pancake Farm Meerzicht: Are you a pancake freak? Go here! This restaurant has a rotating pancake machine you wish you had at home. It’s a popular place and often crowded but it’s worth a visit to choose your favourite pancake from the large menu.
- Grandcafé Bosbaan is close to the visitor centre and offers great views over Bosbaan, the rowing tracks. The cafe offers a different menu than Chez Favié, expect salads, sandwiches, soups. Honestly, the food quality is average so this is where you go just for the views.
- Goat Farm Riddammerhoeve where you can buy eco goat cheese and other products. I ALWAYS take the apple pie with whipped cream 🙂 Never change a winning formula.
- Restaurant De Veranda has a sophisticated menu with nice wines and beers. Last week I discovered the grilled halloumi salad and the boyfriend had his recurring option: the hamburger.
- Restaurant Het Bosch is your most romantic option! This very well rated restaurant is a proper night out with tables overlooking De Nieuwe Meer. The tasting, 4-5 or 6-course menus are delicious and will push your pockets. Het Bosch is closed on Sundays, reserving a table is recommended.
Since I live in Amsterdam, I have no personal experience with accommodation in or near the park. My family loves camping and were happy with their stay at Camping Amsterdamse Bos. You can bring your own campervan and tent or book one of their chalets or cabins. Other options are the Spa Sport Zuiver Hotel (near Bosbaan) for wellness lovers or Amsterdam Forest Hotel (17 min walk to the visitor centre) which seems to have the best ratings of the two.
Amsterdam Forest Logistics
From Amsterdam City Centre, there are 3 busses you can take: bus 170 and 172 from Central Station (type in CS Prins Hendrikplantsoen in Google Maps) and Museum Square (or anywhere in between). Get off at the Visitor Centre and get yourself a map.
If you plan to go visit Amsterdam Forest on a Sunday, consider the tram from Haarlemmermeer Station. Check my map at the bottom of the post for more details. The tram is called Museum Tram and runs every 30 mins from 11:00 to 17:00 (in 2017). The tram has a long history that goes back to 1912 when the tracks were used to connect Amsterdam with cities like Leiden. During WWI in 1915, parts of the tracks were used for mobilisation purposes.
Cycle. You are in Amsterdam, the city that has more bikes than people. Get yourself a rental bike in the city and make your way over to the park. It’s about 15 minutes from Vondelpark.
Walk and remember where you are. Amsterdam Forest is huge and you can hike for hours if you like. The visitor centre has maps and information about hiking trails.
Again Bike! You can bike for hours in Amsterdam Forest. Please be careful and keep an eye on dogs and kids. Take into account that in some parts of the park, horseback riding is allowed so don’t freak out if a huge animal is crossing your path. You can rent a bike close to the visitor centre, check out the map below. Bike rental from € 5 / hr, seats for kids are available as well as mini bikes for kids.
Take Bosbus, a special bus that runs on Sundays from half April until the end of October. The bus has a fixed route in the Park and stops at the major highlights. The bus leaves every hour from the Visitor Centre, starting at 12:30 and ending at 16:30. Day tickets cost € 5.
Last but not least, I created an English language map of Amsterdam Forest with all highlights mentioned in this article. If you are visiting the park with your kids, you may want to skip Zonneweide: a nudist area. It’s Amsterdam after all guys.
Have you been to Amsterdam or are you planning a visit? Let us know if Amsterdam Forest was/is on your itinerary and what your experience was! Happy Travels ♡