Amsterdam Natural History

Long before people used words like ecology or nature conservation, Amsterdam was known as a centre of expertise on natural history. Sailors brought back exotic plants and animals to Amsterdam, which were then catalogued by scientists. Amsterdam’s Zoological Museum dates back to 1838 and has over 15 million items in its collections of insects, birds, amphibians and reptiles. Until recently the museum was housed in the aquarium building at Artis Zoo. However, it was moved to Naturalis in Leiden in June 2011. The areas surrounding Amsterdam offer a variety of landscapes, all filled with birds, small animals and aquatic life.

Green City Park – Amsterdamse Bos

Voted one of the greenest cities in Europe, Amsterdam takes an active approach to sustainability and conservation. The Amsterdamse Bos (Amsterdam forest) is one of the largest city parks in Europe, containing 150 indigenous species of trees and over 200 species of birds. Started as a reforestation project in 1934, the Amsterdamse Bos covers more than 1,000 hectares. The park offers a natural habitat for rabbits, squirrels, frogs, woodpeckers and birds. Wild orchids and other rare plants grow amongst the reeds. The most important species of plants in the Bos can be found in the botanical garden.

Natural Waterscapes

The varied landscapes offered by Amsterdam and its surrounding areas are perfect for exploring on foot or by bike. Watery Ilperveld near the village of Landsmeer makes a great day trip from Amsterdam and has dozens of islands which attract rare birds and plants. You can hike, picnic alongside the water or hire kayaks, canoes and rowing boats. Take a scenic 7-kilometre bike trip from Amsterdam along the watery landscape, before ending at Ilperveld visitor’s centre. The Waterland area is another gorgeous waterscape brimming with birds, small mammals – including mice and bats - and fish.

Dune landscape near Amsterdam

The extensive, wide dunes, like those found in the Zuid Kennemerland National Park are breathtaking. They are great for outdoor activities such as hiking, cycling, horse riding and swimming. And there are rare species of flora and fauna that live in the relatively untouched dunes, like extraordinary toadstools. Visitors can spot foxes, rabbits and squirrels as well as the odd Highland cow. In the Netherlands there are more than a thousand of these rather large beasts – more than in Scotland itself!

Lange Bretten – Amsterdam’s wilderness

Lange Bretten is known as the last city wilderness of Amsterdam. De Lange Bretten is half a kilometre wide and ten kilometres long – making it three times larger than the Vondelpark. Many different types of animals live in Lange Bretten. Buzzards and falcons hunt in the area, and the water is home to thousands of frogs, toads and fish. The "muddy boot trail” (wear your wellies!) is a highlight, and the nature track meanders through an area full of character.

With a rich variety of fauna and flora, a visit to Amsterdam can provide plenty of excitement for the nature-lover.