One of my favorite things when visiting any city is feeling that I’ve discovered some of its secrets. Often there are particular festivals or open days which let you into buildings and gardens that are normally inaccessible to the public. During the third weekend every June in Amsterdam around 30 of the large, private canal houses open their doors and gardens. Walking past these grand facades it’s difficult to guess at the greenery hidden behind them.
Amsterdam is laid out in fairly uniform blocks with green spaces in the middle, so actually it is a much greener city than it would appear to the outsider. These internal gardens are so locked in by the apartment buildings that I was told by a local that the mice dwelling within them become quite inbred. Urban myth or…? The old merchants houses along the canals of course have the most splendid gardens of all. Some of them were designed by famous architects, and many of them have huge trees over 100 years old, which are protected under the city’s monument laws. Many of the gardens interconnect giving a feeling of an oases of green in the middle of this very urban city.
This year the dates are the 17th, 18th and 19th of June. Tickets can be bought at a number of museums including the Museum Van Loon on the inner canal, Keizersgracht, which opens its own garden every year. The ticket includes entry to all the gardens plus travel on the canal boat connecting them. As a bonus, you get a glimpse inside the splendid houses on the way through.