Spring is in the air…

Spring Cherry Blossom in Amsterdam

Spring is in the air in Amsterdam

On the very day that the cold goes out of the wind to be replaced by a breeze that you could almost call warm, and the blackbird flies to the highest point in the street to delight us with his song — out come the Amsterdammers: walking, talking, cycling, boating, gardening, eating, drinking, and above all, enjoying their city.

Spring: Out come the AmsterdammersThe table and chairs are all ready for a few drinks after work

Rather than scurry home after work, many Amsterdammers tend to plonk themselves somewhere in the sun with the newspaper, a book,  some friends, and maybe their dinner.

The canals, the abundance of trees and the pavement gardens join forces to give you a lovely leafy walking environment.


Spring walks in Amsterdam


What you can see in spring in Amsterdam

Spring Colour

magnificent Cherry and Magnolia treesAmsterdam is home to magnificent Cherry and Magnolia trees, really massive big, blossoming trees, stunning on a clear spring day.

Then there's the Wisteria which thrives in Amsterdam. You'll see them climbing to the 3rd, 4th or 5th floor, curling and draping themselves around balconies and drainpipes.

Amsterdam isn't the only place on earth where the Wisteria thrives but their wow-factor here is the way they ‘reach for the sky’. You'll see how they appear to ‘rush’ up the high walls of houses.

However, the owners are up with the play and see to it that their Wisteria never gets above itself. With all the little attic windows and balconies, the inhabitants are able to reach out to snip and stop them so they never seem to cause a problem to roofs. The Dutch are kind of handy too, which helps;
Wisterias often grow out of tiny spaces too but when you see the size, weight and contortions of their trunks and branches you'll be astounded. The specimen on Amstel 169-171 is certainly worth a visit and you'll see how the owners have had to re-route the pipes around the sinewy trunk and branches.

Wisteria reaching for the skyWisteria, trunks and branches...

Better still, go on a ‘Wisteria Walk’ and see lots of them, and laburnum too. The way wisterias grow here in Amsterdam has to be experienced. No photo can do them justice, you have to stand under them and feel the awe! You have to look up at their height and smell their scent and you'll fly as high as if you’d got yourself stoned down the red-light district! It's much cheaper too and you can save your euros for a few glasses at one of our nice pavement cafés.

The Canals

Spring: A canal in AmsterdamTake a look at any map of Amsterdam and you can see straight away that there's water everywhere. The canals span out from Central Station in a semi-circular pattern and are dissected in the centre by the Amstel River flowing from South East to the North West. There are numerous other smaller canals, and walking along canals is delightful in itself.

Most canals are relatively quiet for walking and because they form a network, you can veer away easily if there's a din somewhere. Furthermore all canals are lined with trees, mostly elm but there are lime trees, plane trees, poplars, cypresses all thriving beside the water. Leafy leafy lusciously leafy!

Pavement Gardens

Pretty much unique to Amsterdam, these miniscule flower & plant borders at the foot of the house-fronts enhance Amsterdam for us all. So tiny, these gardens are usually smaller than your desk but can be home to 10 metre high wisterias, cascading roses, forsythia, hollyhocks, clematis etc. Some are as small as a shoe-box but still hold their own. The precise translation would read ‘façade gardens’, but I feel that ‘pavement gardens’ describes them more aptly because they are there on the pavement for our enjoyment.

As I said before, in other countries the bins would be stowed here. But in Amsterdam people have so little space, they ‘maximize’ every nook. Being aware of these little gems is crucial to your enjoyment of any Leafy Walk in Amsterdam.

Spring: A pavement garden smaller than your desk in AmsterdamAmsterdam pavement garden

Pavement Gardens in spring

At the first whiff of spring out come the pavement gardeners pruning, digging, mulching and tossing out all the empty beer cans and litter caught in their plants.

These gardens do not flourish by magic and they take a lot of insults and beatings, being on the open street as they are.
Given a few days of warm sun and lots of TLC, dreary borders are transformed into budding beauty. You can walk and walk and you'll find them here, there, and everywhere.
Spring evening sounds are the blackbird and the clunk of trowel against brick and stone and hopefully the clink of glasses too.
The great advantage for us strolling around is that these gardens are totally at our disposal and not hidden behind walls or fences. We can enjoy as we go, marvel or even nitpick. There's no threshold to cross either, no need to ‘go in’ anywhere nor exchange pleasantries, if you don't feel inclined.
Neither do we have to pay anything, yes yes the best things in life really are free!

Trees in spring

Elm in springThe Amsterdam canals would not be so beautiful without the elm. There are thousands of elms of different types in Amsterdam: along the canals and streets, standing in parks, greens, and squares. The elm is like the sun – everything looks fresher and nicer in its green glow.

In spring, from about the second half of March, the elm seeds appear, although last year (2013) it was about a month later. The bare elm gets covered in pale green disc-shaped seeds which appear in little clusters or ‘posies’ on the branches. The effect resembles cherry blossom except that it is pale green instead of pink.

Elm trees in Amsterdam in springAlthough the elm (Ulmus) is dominant, there's a great variety of trees flourishing in this city; all combine to give us this glorious light green glow in spring. The limes (Tilia), the stands of majestic poplars (Populus) at strategic points. Weeping willow (Salix) on the waterfront near the Rijksmuseum for example, the plane trees (Platanus) and the way they lean, creating a lovely dappled overhang. You'll see swamp cypress (Taxodium), dawn redwood (Metasequoia), maidenhair (Ginkgo), Japanese pagoda tree (Sophora japonica) horse chestnut (Aesculus hippocastanum), birch (Betula), caucasian wingnut (Pterocarya fraxinifolia). It's a feast for the eyes (or ‘eye candy’ as they call it over the water).

I've put in the latin names for the sake of accuracy and not to be smart. Because I've had to ferret them out from their Dutch names I found that the scientific names are more exact, common names can vary from place to place.


Where to quench your thirst?


The sense of well-being will really peak when you're able to have a glass or cuppa outside in the sun especially if it's beside a canal. See our list of nice places along the walks. I always go kitted out with a jacket or something woolie/fleecie to allow me to stay outside for as long as possible. There can be a coldish wind at this time of year even on a nice day, but it's such a delight to be outside… sipping!

Hungry or thirsty? Or both?

Spring bench, a delightful picnic spot in AmsterdamOne thing I would suggest for daytime walks: if you don't like going to cafés for food or drinks all the time, or if your budget doesn't stretch, then bring your own!
There are plenty places where you can buy freshly-made sandwiches (broodjes) or the pre-packed variety.

If you go before lunchtime rush-hour, the deli will be fairly quiet and most are happy to make you a cheese roll or whatever. The term ‘to go’ is widely-used here and a bread roll with cheese, ham etc is called a ‘broodje’ (pronounced: brode-je as in ..ode plus dje)

If you come across benches in delightful spots you'll be thrilled to tear in to your ‘picnic’ there at your leisure.

For pre-packed sandwiches, look in supermarkets like:
For freshly-made sandwiches (broodjes) try:

Nice pavement cafés for Coffee / Tea / Lunch / Beer / Wine / Dinner (CTLBWD)

great all day outdoor cafe in AmsterdamMost of these are easy to find once you know about them and link in to lots of the walks. There are places where you'll sit down outside a café on a soft evening and think ‘this is bliss’.

… lots more to follow

dappled shade beside playgroundlovely spot, very central

Tired of Walking?

Having a public transport card (which may also get you into museums) is a good idea. If you're tired or cold or just want to explore a new area? Hop on a tram!
Trams are wonderful, they afford maximum visibility and if you go outside of rush hour, you'll even get a seat. If you make a mistake and go the wrong direction, just check out at next stop, cross to the other side and take the next tram going the other direction. Ez pz