Destinations Magazine

A Perfect Afternoon in Artis, Amsterdam’s Zoo

By Amsterdam City Tours
VN:F [1.9.20_1166]please wait...Rating: 10.0/10 (1 vote cast)Entrance to Artis zoo on Plantage Kerklaan in ...

Entrance to Artis zoo on Plantage Kerklaan in Amsterdam (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Recently I had the opportunity to visit Amsterdam's zoological gardens with a friend and her children. Three hours later, we left. Despite a brief downpour (this is, after all, Amsterdam) and one of the kids falling off a (fake) giraffe and hitting his head – it didn't slow him down for a moment – it made for a perfect afternoon. I couldn't (and still) can’t believe that I hadn't been there before.

Founded in 1838, Artis was originally conceived as a private park, and featured very few animals. Over time, the menagerie grew, but admission was still limited to the few Amsterdammers who could afford membership. By 1851, an exception was made in September: when commoners would be allowed to visit for the cut-rate price of 25 cents. It was only in 1920, however, that the zoo would be opened to the public without restriction.

It immediately caught on: today, the Artis Zoo is the third-most popular attraction in Amsterdam (after the Anne Frank house and the van Gogh museum). What is most impressive is how Artis manages to combine the features of a modern zoo with the charm of a promenade in a 19th century park. You can enjoy most of the animals without the unsightly cage barring your view (of course, when it comes to the tiger, leopard and jaguar, big heavy bars are appreciated). Some enclosures are even more inviting: cross a bridge to Lemur Island where the furry primates run around you freely or head into the aviary where birds fly up and around you.

Zebras at Artis

Zebras and canal-side houses - Typically Amsterdam! (photo credit

But perhaps the most dazzling of the inclusive environments is the Butterfly pavilion, a thousand square meter space that literally glistens with the beating wings of thousands of butterflies, including the radiant Blue Morpho, one of the largest species in the world, and the zippy Swallowtail Butterfly, one of the fastest-flying. Watch even the most surly of adults’ faces brighten with child-like wonder as they enter this beautiful space.

Many people bring their children here, but it is equally welcoming to anyone who simply wants somewhere relaxing to sit on a bench and read a book. Unlike other zoos I have visited, Artis seems to have retained its history as a private garden – it is intimate and private and seemingly made for meandering. We almost didn’t even make it to the famous and stunning aquarium due to my easily distracted nature and the eagerness of a five-year-old to indulge me by dragging me into the reptile house.

As night falls and the zoo begins to close, the animals seem to relax. We happened to be on a bridge crossing the wolf enclosure when the pack decided to begin their evening with a round of howling. It was haunting but also arrestingly beautiful. It seemed, as the sky began to darken and the animals began their night routines, that we had the whole park to ourselves.

It is hard to capture the entirety of the zoo in a few paragraphs, just as it is nearly impossible to fully explore it in a few hours. But, as my mother always says, that just gives us a reason to go back!

© 2012, Amsterdam City Tours Blog. All rights reserved. On republishing any part of this post, you must provide a link back to this original post

VN:F [1.9.20_1166]please wait...Rating: 10.0/10 (1 vote cast)VN:F [1.9.20_1166]Rating: +1 (from 1 vote)

Back to Featured Articles on Logo Paperblog