Vondelpark in Amsterdam

May 13, 2011

One of my favorite places in Amsterdam was Vondelpark, a huge park right near the center of the city.

It had everything you want in a good city park. Big green spaces. Bike and walking paths. Ponds. Cafés. And 2 of the coolest playground structures I have ever seen.

The first was like a treehouse/fort sort of structure that was really big. It kept reminding me of the Swiss Family Robinson house. It was built from huge logs and was half hidden in the trees. So neat!

The second one was super cool and super modern — I’ve never seen a play structure like it. It was next to a good lunch spot and a giant sandy play area, so my kids were in heaven.

Vondelpark is big, and we would never have known either play area existed without Lotte. Lotte is Dutch and lives in Amsterdam. She read that we were headed her way and offered to be our tour guide for a day. Local tour guides are the best!

Lotte is a mother, so she knew exactly where all the best kid spots in the park were. And she helped us decipher the menu when we stopped for lunch. (Lotte also helped us find some of the best shopping spots in the city, but I’ll report on that another day.)

We loved Vondelpark so much that we rented bikes and went back the next day!

Out here in the country, we don’t have access to nearby playgrounds, so I think we especially enjoyed our park time.

How about you? Do you live near a park? Are play structures all over the world getting cooler, or is it just in Amsterdam?

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{ 27 comments… read them below or add one }

1 gayletrini May 13, 2011 at 8:46 am

LOL Just in Amsterdam (just kidding)
WOW everything was so high up! I would have been freaking out
but your kiddies sure look like they enjoyed it thoroughly.
Awesome pictures by the way.


2 Jen May 13, 2011 at 8:57 am

my kids would have been in heaven too- looks like a lovely time was had by all!


3 currystrumpet May 13, 2011 at 9:04 am

I’m part of a running group that jogs around the Vondelpark once a week. We first saw the ‘fort’ at the beginning of spring and all of us adults wanted to play in it! Ah, to be kids again :)


4 Allison May 13, 2011 at 10:34 am

Thank you so much for posting this! We are going to Amsterdam next month and I am trying to get a plan together for our time there. I can’t wait to go to this park and I’m so so excited for your shopping post! Thanks!


5 amy May 17, 2011 at 5:53 am

I am also going to Amsterdam next month with my 8 year old daughter. Love this post!


6 CMN May 13, 2011 at 10:49 am

I’m going to go with ‘currystrumpet’ and admit that I want to play there too! Lotte deserves five gold stars for Outstanding Tour Guide. In my experience, the Dutch people are super friendly and outgoing that way. We met our volunteer Tour Guide at Church and ended up having the best day in the Arnhem area. Cheers for a great day and play discovery.
Thanks for sharing, G!

- C


7 Lotte May 14, 2011 at 3:26 am

You have me blushing here! I just had a great time with the Blairs :)


8 Traveling Mama May 13, 2011 at 11:04 am

We have a lot of big parks here in Denmark, though we don’t have such large playgrounds. We absolutely love packing a picnic and spending the day at the park near our apartment! Did your kids love the cargo bikes? We use ours everyday and we LOVE it!


9 tracy May 13, 2011 at 12:03 pm

I have always loved the Netherlands, but never went there as a mother. Now I look at that and I think, wouldn’t it be fun to take another trip to Amsterdam so my son could play in the park? I have never seen anything so beautiful…maybe they should try that more often in the states! I agree that the Dutch are super friendly as well. I love all your European posts. I can’t wait until my husband and I decide to teach overseas again so we can explore once more!


10 Elizabeth May 13, 2011 at 12:18 pm

I love those bike buckets and wish I could find something similar here in the US. I have a sixteen year old daughter with severe disabilities and have always wanted to cart her around while riding my bike. The ones I see online specifically for the disabled are outrageously expensive. I wonder if those buckets are available for shipment from Europe?


11 Ashlea Walter May 13, 2011 at 2:12 pm

There are lots of Dutch cargo bikes for sale now in the US. Simply do a Google search for “Dutch cargo bike” and you will find some very cool ones!


12 Sandy May 13, 2011 at 5:32 pm

I just realized how much Betty looks like Ben Blair. All your other kids look so much like you, it’s a little startling!


13 This girl loves to Talk May 13, 2011 at 6:39 pm

that playground looks awesome. Need more of that type of thing for older kids to play on. Cool parks are often not available due to fear of litigation


14 juliagblair May 13, 2011 at 10:00 pm

Positively enchanting! Especially the beautiful, happy children!
What a great tree house!!! What an amazing family! I want to hug each of you!


15 Lotte May 14, 2011 at 3:29 am

Great to hear you guys had such a good time at the park you actually went back and rented those cargo bikes! (they are quite easy to ride once you get the hang of it don’t you think?)
I was happy to be your guide for the day and of course have tons of other cool ideas for visiting amsterdam :) Thanks for having me around!
xxx lotte


16 amy May 17, 2011 at 5:57 am


Can you give specific directions for where those playgrounds are? I am going to Amsterdam in 3 weeks. We will be staying with my Aunt on Zeeburgerstrat right across the street from the windmill.

I know my 8 year old would love to play there!



17 Dee May 14, 2011 at 2:03 pm

Those play structures are so cool! I had to call my kids over to see. We don’t have any that exciting here at the beach. However, we do have lots of beautiful parks overlooking bays, rivers, creeks and even the ocean. So jealous that you rented bakfiets. I would love to do that.


18 Lily-Margaret May 15, 2011 at 7:10 am

I used to play at a playground that had this big Eiffel Tour shaped rope climb! I always remember there being lots of crazy, cool climbing structures when I visited The Netherlands as a little kid.


19 Momma Finally May 17, 2011 at 7:33 pm

I used to live there but not as a mother. I think I would appreciate the parks more now that I am a mother myself. I think I will come back there one day to show my son his roots :)


20 Tan May 17, 2011 at 8:40 pm

My sister was tracting in Amsterdam just last week. It’s funny how I was looking for her in the background. We sure miss our missionary and she has only been out there for a few weeks! Thanks for the post! One thing she really likes about the mission is all the bike riding! Looks like you are enjoying it too! So fun!


21 Janneke van Dam May 18, 2011 at 10:54 am

So impressed Ben Blair biked on a “bakfiets”!! (cargo bike) That’s not easy to do if you’re not used to it.


22 Design Mom May 18, 2011 at 1:06 pm

I tried, but I could only do it with just June inside the bucket. With Oscar and Betty it was too heavy for me. Yikes!


23 Brenna May 18, 2011 at 1:28 pm

What great parks! I wouldn’t be able to resist climbing up there with my kids, as well. :)
p.s. I love your hair/glasses combo. You look great!


24 r8chel May 19, 2011 at 9:39 am

We live so close to a park that by the time we’re at the end of our driveway, we’re more than halfway there! :) We go to the park ALL the time, but our equipment isn’t as cool as that big climbing structure. That looks like so much fun!


25 Karine May 21, 2011 at 5:29 am

Wow, I was planning to visit a friend in Amsterdam, so now I know I can do it with the whole family, thanks!
I live in Madrid, Spain and they have just restored the banks of Manzanares river with huge slides, whole climbing-tree area, etc. You can also find in the park Casa de Campo Pirate’s boat, castle with slides, etc.


26 Cathi July 18, 2011 at 8:35 pm

My husband was just reading an article in the NY Times about how playgrounds are nothing like they were when we (well…me) were kids. Everything now days has to be super safe and boring because of liability. The article stated that the ultra safe play structures are creating children with fears of heights, speed and also without an ability to be daring. LOL I’m not sure I agree with that but … it reminded me of the excellent daring play structures in this post of yours!! Now my husband is wanting to take our grandchildren to Amsterdam as much as I did the first time I read this!! Can’t wait to read about your London/Harry Potter weekend!!


27 alex smtih March 7, 2012 at 1:53 am

Hi – just came across your blog and what a lot of wonderful stories. Not surprisingly, given your vocation, great design too. You and your readers may enjoy PlayGroundology a blog that features incredible playgrounds from around the world and some of the people – designers, architects, advocates – who support the world of play. Thanks for sharing the Vondelpark playground. It looks like a great place to have fun.

We have three small kids – 6, 4 and 2. It’s very busy. How do you do six?!



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