Sofias Country Gardens
Amsterdam Garden Open Days
Each year Amsterdam hosts a wonderful festival for garden lovers, when during the third weekend of June the city opens up some 30 city center gardens for visitors. Last year I had the opportunity to visit, and it was beautiful! Some of these gardens belong to museums, but many of them are private and therefore unavailable to the public during the rest of the year. This year the event will take place on 14-16.06.2019, and I warmly recommend it to any garden lover!
Tickets to the event can be bought through the Museum Van Loon webshop for 18 € or for 20 € at the door of one of Museum Van Loon on Keizersgracht 672, or one of the three other starting points: Amnesty International on Keizersgracht 177, Cromhouthuis on Herengracht 368 or Museum Willet-Holthuysen on Herengracht 605.
There you will get a catalogue with a map of the city center and all the open gardens, and as they are all within walking distance it is just a question of following the numbers. Actually, as the catalogues are yellow and bright all you need to do is follow the trail of other gardening enthusiasts and venture in through the nondescript doorways of private houses to find a magical world hidden from the hustle and bustle of the city.
Amsterdam has a surprisingly large amount of green space in the city centre, but as it is concealed behind the austere brick facades of the blocks of houses between the canals few people know this. Even for me it was quite an unexpected feature of the city, as although I had been visiting Amsterdam for many years I had never known about the gardens. It was indeed only when I happened to visit it on Open Tuinen Dagen one year that I discovered it!
Many of todays smaller gardens were once one large garden belonging to the most prominent large houses along the canals. As the years passed and more houses were built, the gardens were divided and now many are the little city gardens you see today. Because of their small size, it is not possible to visit the Amsterdam Open Gardens event with large groups. Children under 12, on the other hand, are welcome to enter the gardens for free as long as they are accompanied by an adult.
Except for this weekend once a year, when the gardens are open from 9 am until 5 pm, it is not possible to visit the private gardens at all. In fact, the gardens are so private that the addresses will not be published before the event or anywhere else but the booklet that works as your three-day pass. With each numbered garden there is a brief description of it and each one can only be visited once.
What I enjoyed most about this event is the diversity of gardens, and I really recommend taking at least two out of all three days to indulge in the atmosphere and details. Some gardens are very formal and grandiose, while some have a more individual or contemporary style, but all of them were beautiful in their own right.
Many of the gardens have gorgeous details such as little ponds, hedges, statues and sundials and a meticulously thought out plan. It is a great pride and joy for the private garden owners to be part of this event, and for the visitor this translates into a wonderful experience. As gardeners know, visiting other peoples gardens is perhaps one of the best ways to learn about garden design and gardening, and inspire the gardener to try new things at home.
In the truly relaxed Dutch atmosphere of Amsterdam, some of the gardens also have pop-up cafes or wine bars where you can just sit down for a while and enjoy the special atmosphere of this hidden jewel in the crown of the city. I hope you will be inspired to visit it! This year the Amsterdam Garden Open Days are over the weekend 14-16.6.2019.
(All of these pictures are my own and taken in various gardens at Amsterdam Garden Open Day 2018.)