It’s a fact: when the weather is good, Amsterdam is the best city in the world. It seems all locals have taken a day off to take their tiny barbecues to the park and drink beer and wine in the sunshine (yes it’s still legal here, friends from North America!). All the terraces are full, boys and girls alike wear their lightest clothes and everybody is happy. Boy, I love the energy on a sunny day in Amsterdam. Too bad it doesn’t happen often enough!

Don’t get caught up in the crowds or the bicycle traffic jams to the main parks next time the sun comes out -  here are five off-the-beaten-track spots us locals escape to when temperatures soar.

De Vergulden Eenhoorn

De Vergulden Eenhoorn by Bart van Poll

Easy to access by metro, but without any noteworthy places around, De Vergulden Eenhoorn is perfect for a city madness escape plan. It’s a former farm next to a cute canal. A farm with great food, beach chairs and chirping birds. At night they even light up an outdoor fireplace! When you’re here, you feel like you’re in a farm in the middle of nowhere. But in fact, it’s quite central and very easy to access. Just take a metro or train (Amstel station) and take a short walk. Ringdijk 58 // De Vergulden Eenhoorn

Buurtboerderij Ons Genoegen

Buurtboerderij Ons Genoegen Amsterdam by Buurtboerderij Ons Genoegen

Buurtboerderij Ons Genoegen (“Neighborhood Farm Our Pleasure”) is a city farm in the Westerpark, surrounded by farmland but surprisingly close to the centre. If you’re lucky, you can catch an outdoor movie screening or a small festival. At night they have campfires.

The farm is home to all kinds of cute animals, and the place is run entirely by very friendly volunteers and clients of the Regenboog Groep - people with mental illnesses & addiction issues, often homeless. Prices are low (a three-course menu for €8, so make sure you reserve in the evenings!) and service is extremely inefficient and slow, which makes you have to slow down too. That’s a good thing - remember that when you’re waiting in line at the bar! When you’re there, take a look at the little ‘give-away shop’ where you can browse around for things or leave something you don’t need anymore. Money has no value here; everything’s free.

Taking the hike (don’t take the bus that stops around the corner!) through the Westerpark is already an adventure. You might even run into a fox or other city wildlife according to my fellow Spotted by Locals Amsterdam Spotter Sentia, but I’ve never seen any myself... Spaarndammerdijk 319 // Buurtboerderij Ons Genoegen

Gaasperplas

Gaasperplas by Hiveminer

The Gaasperplas might just be one of Amsterdam’s best-kept secrets. This lake in Zuidoost is not very well-known or popular with locals from the city centre — and undeservingly so in my opinion. The neighbourhood of Zuidoost is home to an amazing variety of different cultures, and the many inhabitants with a Surinamese, Caribbean and African background know how to do a good barbecue! If you want to try to blend in, buy a few litre bottles (“djogos”) of Parbo beer from a Surinamese shop and take it to the park. Gaasperplas is much easier to reach by public transport than many of the parks in Amsterdam – just take the metro to Gaasperplas station. Valburgdreef 1001 // Gaasperplas

Green Living Lab

Green Living Lab Amsterdam

Green Living Lab is a volunteer-run “pocket-sized nature paradise”. The garden is small but wonderful and they organise a lot of nice activities (check the Facebook page) like yoga classes and lectures around green living. Bonus: they have a compost toilet - try it out! Green Living Lab is located next to the epicentre of Dutch big business (the Zuidas), where bankers and lawyers toil 18-hour shifts behind glass. Think of them while you’re enjoying the outdoor life! Gustav Mahlerlaan 3005 // Green Living Lab

Hortus Botanicus

Amsterdam Hortus Botanicus Barbara van Amelsfort

In the Eastern part of Amsterdam, but within walking distance of the main tourist traps, you can find Amsterdam’s well-hidden botanical garden. The Hortus Botanicus (“De Hortus”) was founded in 1638 for pharmacists and doctors to grew their herbs. It’s one of the oldest botanical gardens in the world and today it’s an oasis of calm (especially during the week), colours and amazing architecture. You can relax and sit in the gardens of course, but they also have a very good (and tranquil) restaurant and bar - De Oranjerie. Entrance to the botanical gardens costs €9.50 – a bit steep, but it’s worth it to keep this place from being overrun by people and full of unique plants and flowers. Plantage Middenlaan 2A // Hortus Botanicus