Things to do in De Plantage
Nature and culture are intertwined in this green district just east of the city centre. Within walking distance you’ll find beautiful gardens, opera houses and concert halls as well as museums dedicated to art or Jewish history, one of Europe’s finest zoos and the city’s oldest flea market. With so much on offer just a stone’s throw away, there’s always something inspirational to unearth in De Plantage.
Rummage for a bargain
Waterlooplein flea market is the oldest street market in the Netherlands, open six days a week and with over 300 stalls. Expect to find all manner of treasures, vinyl and vintage goods, clothes, food and jewellery. You might also want to brush up on your bargaining skills: most stalls sell things cheaply, but a few might expect you to haggle. And if you find a first-edition Hemingway or an unsigned Rembrandt, keep it quiet. Avid bargain hunters should read this roundup of other markets to explore in the city.
Explore Amsterdam’s Jewish history
De Plantage is Amsterdam’s Jewish Cultural Quarter with many buildings and institutions dedicated to Jewish culture and history. The Jewish Museum is a must-see, and its extensive collection of artefacts, films and multimedia presentations will give you a full image of Dutch Jewish life, both current and historical. While you’re in the area, stop by the Portuguese Synagogue - a gem of a building with 17th-century interiors lit by hundreds of candles. Also check out the Hollandsche Schouwburg (a former theatre where WWII Jews were held captive) and the National Holocaust Museum: these won’t take as much time to explore, but are historically significant and well worth the visit.
See springboks, sharks and stars at Artis
You’re never too old to go to the zoo – but if you have kids you can always convince them to come along. Artis is a well-tended zoo known for its healthy, happy animals in ample spaces and staff that clearly love what they’re doing. If you’ve never been humbled by the size of an elephant, the experience is highly recommended. You can also visit the magnificent Aquarium with tropical fish, endangered coral species and even sharks then gawp at galaxies in the Planetarium (admission for both is included with your zoo ticket).
Peek at weird and wonderful microbes under the lens
If the large mammals at Artis have left you feeling small, then head into Micropia and peer at some incredible microorganisms through a microscope. This unique museum is a truly outstanding experience, filled with interactive exhibits that are fun and informative for kids and will incite a new curiosity for adults. Learn about how mould grows, goggle at tiny alien-like lifeforms and find out more about the bacterias that live all over our bodies. You’ll leave with a new perspective, both on the diversity of life and its scale.
Marvel at rare plants and butterflies
From delicate little cacti to towering palms, those with even a mild interest in botany will be truly taken by one of the oldest botanical gardens in the world. Housing over 4000 different plant varieties, the beautiful greenery of Hortus Botanicus provides an oasis of calm in the middle of the city. The garden is also home to several fascinating greenhouses, including one that simulates three different climates, the aptly named Palm Greenhouse (an official monument) and the dazzling butterfly house with hundreds of fluttering tropical species.
Have lunch in the Hoftuin garden
For a change of pace, head into the beautiful grounds of the Hoftuin Garden where you’ll find the breakfast and lunch cafe Dignita. On the garden terrace you can enjoy excellent seasonal fare including many vegan and organic dishes. If you just fancy a light refreshment, pop in for a coffee or tea and tuck into one of their delicious cakes (the carrot cake might be one of the best in the city). All ingredients are sourced locally and the cafe is part of the Not For Sale enterprise which helps vulnerable people get back into the workplace. To round off your afternoon, why not head over to the Hermitage Amsterdam which is just nextdoor?
Read heartwarming stories of resistance
The Resistance Museum unpacks what life was really like in Amsterdam during 1940 to 1945 when the Netherlands was occupied by Germany. The collection of first-hand accounts, documents and artefacts has been thoughtfully put together to give you a fascinating new understanding of the people who lived through WWII. Learn about the brave activities of resistance fighters as well as the quiet acts of opposition displayed by regular citizens in their everyday life. Whilst you’ll need to be in the mood to do some reading, there is a wealth of powerful stories to uncover that will really pull on your heartstrings.
Picnic by the sphinxes
Built in 1812, this beautifully landscaped garden is the oldest in Amsterdam and the only public park within the canal belt. Wertheim Park is named after a Jewish banker and philanthropist whose virtues are commemorated on the central fountain. Flanked by a pair of lantern-bearing sphinxes, the grand entrance gate opens out onto lush green lawns surrounded by formal flower beds perfect to picnic amongst on a sunny afternoon.
Get your recommended dose of culture
Culture reigns supreme in De Plantage and there are at least 18 centres of cultural excellence within a stone’s throw of each other. From the Royal Theatre Carré and the Dutch National Opera & Ballet to great art museums like Rembrandt House and the Hermitage, there’s always something inspirational to unearth whatever mood you’re in. Have a read of this guide to the top cultural hotspots in the area for some further ideas.