Flowers of Amsterdam
Aalsmeer is world-famous for its flower auction, though its name literally translates to “eels’ lake” – a clue about the local appreciation for water and aquaculture. The city has Randstad’s largest freshwater body, the Westeinderplassen, and on its edge stands the iconic Aalsmeer water tower. Open on the second and fourth Sunday of every month, the 50-metre tower is an ideal bird-watching look out across the landscape where Peregrine falcons nest every year.
Flanked by the North Sea and Haarlem, National Park Zuid-Kennemerland is a popular wildlife-spotting destination because of its protected dune landscape. The area is home to Highland cattle, Konik horses, fallow deer and European bison, and is said to be the only place in the country where bison can be seen roaming free. Guided tours are available or, for those moving on two wheels, you can simply follow the cycle paths.
Just a short bike ride northwest of Amsterdam is Het Twiske-Waterland, a polder region that was converted into a recreational area in the 20th century. The marshy land is coveted real estate among winged creatures, including water birds (bittern, shoveller, bearded reeling, wigeons) birds of prey (hawks, buzzards and kestrels), great spotted woodpeckers and nightingales. Amongst the reedy marshes and meadows, you might also spot some resident Highland cattle, foxes or short-tailed weasels.
Castles and Gardens
For a real just-around-the-river bend experience, head south along the Amstel from anywhere in Amsterdam. Whether you travel by bike or boat, you might see ducks, coots, geese and the occasional swan. As you reach the city’s southern border, pause at Amstelpark where, depending on the season, you might cross paths with pheasants, hares, moles or rabbits. Even if you don’t go enter the park you can, get a roadside glimpse of the resident Scottish Highlanders. Nearby, overlooking the Riekermolen windmill, you’ll also see the perennially occupied stork nest.
The Amsterdamse Waterleidingduinen is a dune area beloved by Amsterdammers for its sandy splendour and its service: the water catchment supplies two-thirds of the Dutch capital’s drinking water. Between the cities of Zandvoort and Noordwijk, this protected nature reserve has the largest population of fallow deer in the Netherlands. You might also spot bittern flapping amidst reed beds, little mammals such as foxes and pine martens or, in warmer weather, a kaleidoscope of dragonflies and butterflies.
National Park New Land is one of the many magnificent results of the massive land reclamation programme that created the province of Flevoland. This area serves as the last stop or a layover for birds migrating along the East Atlantic Flyway. Getting around on foot or by car, you might see geese, ducks, buzzards, kestrels and, if you’re lucky, a sea eagle – the park’s mascot. Heck cattle, foxes, hares and Konik horses are also at home here.
For smaller-scale animal viewing and potential opportunities for cuddling and feeding, visit one of the petting zoos or farms in and around Amsterdam. You can also read our guide to the in the Amsterdam Area.