When you feel like the streets of Amsterdam are full of crazy wild animals, escape to the zoo!
NATURA ARTIS MAGISTRA ••• THE ROYAL ZOO OF AMSTERDAM
Originally founded in 1838, Amsterdam’s zoo is one of the oldest in the world. The name of the zoo, Artis, is short for Natura Artis Magistra, a Latin phrase meaning “Nature is the teacher of art”.
Housing more than 900 species of animals, the zoo also has beautiful 19th century buildings and lush gardens. It is a terrific escape from the bustle of the city, a refuge from the red light district and coffeeshops.
In addition to the outdoor enclosures housing giraffes, lions, meerkats, gorillas and wallabies, there are also indoor structures devoted to groupings of animals. Check out the Butterfly Pavilion, insect, reptile and bird houses, the Aquarium, and the Planetarium.
The handy map and even handier app (for iPhone or Android) can also provide special routes through the zoo for rainy days or to see endangered species, and tell you when activities and events occur. For example, the lion feeding time is a popular spectacle. About 20 minutes before feeding time the lions get excited, becoming more playful and pacing their enclosure as the crowds gather to watch. Then the lions are fed hunks of meat, while a zoo employee explains some facts about the lions.
Aside from the exciting animal action, the lovely zoo gardens and grounds are a peaceful place to stroll, if you can manage to avoid the throngs of kids. Speaking of those tots, are you looking for something to do with the kids, whether yours or someone else’s? Artis Royal Zoo is the perfect place to take the children. They are delighted by the animals and the zoo has plenty of space for them to run and play. Teach them about the wonders of nature, science, and even geography.
The zoo has plenty of cafes and restaurants to fill your tummy, or just stop for a quick coffee at one of the bicycle stands around the park. If you are hungry or thirsty before or after your visit to Artis, we highly recommend the Plantage, a gorgeous restaurant located in the square next to the museum. It is housed in a refurbished monument building and the food as well as ambiance is terrific. If you’d like to explore the area around Artis, we’d recommend:
- A tasty coffee, sweet or sandwich at Coffee Bru
- Relax with a beer and rotisserie chicken at De Biertuin
- Go for a gourmet burger at Burgermeester
- Have lunch, dinner or just drinks at Cafe Restaurant Plantage
- Have a local beer next to a windmill at Brouwerij ‘t IJ
- Relax by the Amstel at Cafe Restaurant De Ysbreeker
- Go for brunch, lunch, coffee, juice or sweet at the Kadijksplein location of one of our favorite spots in town, Bakers & Roasters.
- Dine in a beautiful garden at the Hoftuin
Artis is located in the center of Amsterdam in the Plantage district. You can reach the zoo by bicycle, tram or Metro. The zoo is normally open daily from April through October from 9:00 to 18:00, and 9:00 to 17:00 in winter, but check the website for special holiday hours, and extended hours in the summer. And be sure not to miss ZOOmeravonden, summer concerts in the zoo.
Secret tip: We’ve heard it is even sometimes possible to sleep in Artis! Every once in a while the zoo has contests where you can win a night at the zoo and sleep with the chimps or in the aquarium! How exciting! Keep your eyes on their social media to learn more.
Other fantastic and fascinating places to visit in the Plantage area include:
Natura Artis Magistra Royal Zoo
Plantage Kerklaan 38-40, Amsterdam