The Plantage, the ‘cultural garden of Amsterdam’, is an easy-to-access, quiet residential area located in the heart of the city; however, it also offers a peaceful and relaxing place surrounded by nature and greenery.
It’s just a 15 minute walk from Central Station but a whole world away from the hustle and bustle of the vibrant city centre. No wonder the Plantage (or East Canal) district is considered by locals and visitors alike to be one of the best neighbourhoods in Amsterdam right now. Hop on a bike or head out for a casual stroll and you’ll find museums, parks, bars and restaurants along the many canals that crisscross the area.
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Things to see and do
For the perfect place to chill-out, hop over the canal to Hortus Bontanicus – one of the oldest botanical gardens in the world. Wander through the desert and jungle environments that stretch throughout the magnificent glasshouses. Flutter with butterflies or stroll around superb gardens – which once provided the locals with medicinal herbs – before finishing off with your own choice of pick-me-up at the café’s sunny terrace.
If fauna is more your thing (although there’s no reason you can’t do both) then head over to the Artis Royal Zoo. This impressive zoological garden dates back to 1838 and gives you the opportunity to say “hallo” to a wide variety of animals from all around the world. Attached to the zoo you’ll find Micropia, which offers a totally fascinating insight into microbes and their impact on our daily lives. Sure, a museum about microbes is a hard thing to sell – but take our word for it, it really is worth a visit!
To enjoy an afternoon of iconic culture, walk (or cycle, or take a boat) down the Nieuwe Keiszersgracht canal to the world famous Hermitage Gallery’s Dutch outpost. With a combination of permanent and temporary exhibitions from the main St Petersburg collection, its a varied and interesting museum that is completely manageable in size – not too big or daunting but still with a large enough treasure trove of art pieces to inspire you.
Meanwhile, the Tropenmuseum is an entirely different experience – a mixture of anthropological exhibits from every corner of the world, with something of interest for everyone. The Tropenmuseum is located next to the beautiful Oosterpark, Amsterdam’s first large scale public park dating back to the 1890s, which was recently renovated. Check out the sculpture park, which holds many world-renowned pieces – or just hang out in this peaceful green space among the enchanting wildlife.
More traditional culture is on your doorstep at the Dutch National Opera and Ballet. Home to the Dutch National Opera and Dutch National Ballet, this Cees Dam and Wilhelm Holzbauer-designed building also houses Amsterdam’s city hall. Behind it you’ll find the world famous Waterlooplein Flea Market, a colourful collection of stalls selling everything under the sun, the perfect place to go if you want to find classic Dutch souvenirs.
Places to eat and drink
Feeling hungry or thirsty? You won’t be disappointed. Ten minutes away you’ll find De Groene Olifant which is a tiny bar with bags of character. Cosy and old fashioned on the inside, it also has a great terrace for relaxing on a summer’s day. If you’re feeling adventurous you can always jump on a number 10 tram and head up to Brouwerij ’t IJ for a real Dutch treat: a local brewery with its very own windmill. Or head west over the famous Skinny Bridge (Magere Brug) to Onder de Ooievaar, a traditional Dutch bar right on the Prinsengracht canal.
Food-wise, try the intimate atmosphere and amazing tastes at Elkaar near the Tropenmuseum, or wander over to Noara’s for an Arabic food journey with hints of French cuisine thrown in. Other great dining options are right by the zoo: De Plantage is an elegant affair in spectacular surroundings while Tempura is a great Japanese restaurant with similarly affordable prices. Burgermeester is also in the district if you fancy a juicy organic burger, and Pizzabakkers has the best pizzas this side of Italy.
You can easily walk to and from Amsterdam Central Station, but there are many other transportation options if you prefer.
Cycling is probably the best way to get around and fit in with the locals – although not for the faint-hearted – and it’s very easy to rent bikes in Amsterdam (one of the cheapest options is to get an OV bike).
The closest tram stops are at Artis, Plantage Lepellaan and Weesperplein, for tram lines numbers 9, 10 and 14.
The nearest metro stations are Waterlooplein and Weesperplein, where you can catch metro lines 51, 53 or 54.
This article was originally published at The Wittenberg.