The Amsterdam Forest is one of the biggest urban parks in Europe, and yet very few people seem to know about its existence. Most stay within the central area of historic Amsterdam, and completely ignore this hidden gem on the city’s outer edge.
You can easily plan an entire day to explore this green oasis in-between Amsterdam and Amstelveen. From ponds, lakes, and woodland to landscaped gardens and freely-roaming highland cattle, the Amsterdamse Bos is the place to be for all types of nature lovers. The ‘forest’ is basically an enormous urban park, three times the size of New York’s central park. In short: there is more than plenty to discover! Here 6 wonderful things to do on your day trip to the Amsterdam Forest.
Day Trip to the Amsterdam Forest
1. Go on a Forest Walk (or Cycling Trip)
Clearly, the Amsterdam Forest is large enough to walk around the entire day. Just relax, breathe in the fresh air, and enjoy the natural landscape. The spring and summer are great seasons to go on a walk, but the fall season is also pretty spectacular. The entire forest will be changing colours, and there will be all kinds of mushrooms everywhere, popping up from the ground. If you’d like to see the whole forest, it’s also a nice option to bring your bicycle (or rent one) and comfortably ride around.
2. See the Scottish Highlanders
The Scottish Highlanders aren’t native to the Netherlands, but they’ve been introduced to the Amsterdam Forest to graze the meadows and keep the grass short. If the highlanders weren’t there, the meadows would slowly fill up with trees (and become forested). As long as you keep a distance of at least 25 metres, you can definitely go see the majestic Scottisch Highlanders in the Amsterdam Forest! Take your camera with you, and snap some rad ‘wildlife’ shots while you’re at it. Look for the purple signs that say “Schotse Hooglanders” to find them.
3. Go Kayaking in the Forest
The Amsterdamse Bos is filled with interconnected streams, ponds, and little lakes. Naturally, one of the coolest things to do in the Amsterdam Forest is to go kayaking. This way, you can explore the most beautiful parts of the forest by boat. You can go alone or with 1-2 friends, or you can rent a pedal boat for a bigger group. Look for the purple sign that says ‘Kanoverhuur’ to find the place to rent a kayak!
4. Swimming at the Amsterdam Forest: Take a Dip in the Big Pond
When the temperatures rise up and you really want to take a refreshing dip in the water, you should totally head to the Amsterdam Forest. The Big Pond (‘Grote Vijver’) is a gorgeous little lake with clean water that warms up in the summer months. The Grote Vijver is connected to a beautiful grassy meadow known as the ‘speelweide’. In reality, you’re only twenty minutes away from the city, but you’ll feel like you’re far removed from the urban jungle.
5. Have a Picnic in the Field
Is there anything better than a relaxing picnic in the grass? All you have to do is chat with your friends, eat delicious food and soak up the sun. The ‘speelweide’ is an enormous field near the Grote Vijver, and it’s one of the most perfect locations near Amsterdam to have a picnic. The field is super clean and lined with beautiful trees that provide shade.
You can buy your picnic supplies at supermarkets like Albert Heijn (most common in the Amsterdam area), Jumbo, or Lidl beforehand. Don’t forget to bring a blanket, and try to minimise the plastic!
6. Visit the Cherry Blossom Park (in Spring)
This activity only works in spring (Late March – April – Early May). Still, when the timing is right, you’ll be enchanted by this amazing sight! The Kersenbloesempark (Cherry Blossom Park) at the Amsterdam Forest is probably the best place to see cherry trees blossom in Holland. Most years, the best time to go and see the cherry blossoms is mid-April. Of course, every year is different, so keep an eye on how the temperatures have been doing. The trees always turn green before the end of spring, but it’s still a really nice location for a picnic in the summer months as well.
How to get to the Amsterdam Forest
The easiest way to get to the Amsterdam Forest (from Amsterdam or Amstelveen) is to rent a bicycle. It’s only a 20-40 min bike ride from Amsterdam, and even shorter from Amstelveen (5-10 minutes). Another option would be public transport: you can take the bus (347, 357, 358) to the stop ‘Van Nijenrodeweg/Amstelveenseweg’, which is right at the entrance of the forest.