Walk the Vondelparkbuurt and Helmerbuurt
This week we are discovering the vondel- and Helmerbuurt. Both designed and built in the late 19th century around the vondelpark to create more housing for the constantly growing city. This walk includes some interesting architecture like the seven country houses, which are each based on different european countries and styles, the neo-renaissance style of the vondelpark paviljoen, neo-gothicism in the vondelkerk and more. Learn about the development of the Overtoom, the most expensive (hidden) villa in the city and the old hospital, opened by princess Wilhelmina the former queen of the Netherlands.
Enjoy your walk!
Distance: 3 km
⏱️ Total Walking Time: 35 min
🧭 Directions: Link or click the top right corner of the map to open full screen in Google Maps
FYI: the technology behind Google Maps is sometimes a bit shaky, so sometimes you need to click the link more than once, or zoom in to get the route view. Apologies for the inconvenience.
Vondelparkbuurt and Helmerbuurt Route Highlights
☕ Best Roast en Route: Koffie Academie
The coffee at Koffie Academie is second to none and very affordable. The staff is always pretty mellow (I wonder what they drink themselves), and always friendly. During the week you’ll find a lot of people working on their laptops. We don’t blame them: inside it feels like you’re in someone’s living room.
Highlight A: Leidsebosje
Het Leidsebosje has been a ‘park’ since the early 18th century. This little patch of land was located just outside the city gate. People started naming this little green patch the ‘Leidsebosje’ almost from day one. There are many other sights called after Leiden in this area, such as: Leidsestraat, Leidseplein, Leidsegracht, and Leidsebrug. It wasn’t until 2017 that this tiny little park was officially named.
Highlight B: Zevenlandenhuizen
Seven houses next to each other, all representing different European countries. These houses were built at the end of the 19th century by the architect Tjeerd Kuijpers. He used different types of neostyles in his buildings. The designs are all inspired by the countries they represent:
#20 Germany: Romanticism
#22 France: Style of the Loire-castle
#24 Spain: Moorish culture in Granada
#26 Italy: Italian palace
#28 Russia: Russian cathedrals
#30 the Netherlands: A renaissance style residential house
#30A England: A typical English cottage
Highlight C: Vondelparkpaviljoen
This iconic structure was built in the late 19th century in Italian renaissance style. Originally, it was built as a museum and has held numerous expositions. Sadly, the museum struggled to survive after the economic crisis during the interbellum. During the war it was occupied by the invaders, while regular people from Amsterdam couldn’t enter the park. Since the 50s it has been in full cultural bloom again: it has been used for theater festivals, as a filmmuseum, and now the broadcaster ‘AVRO/TROS’ uses the building. The terrace is really enjoyable in the summer!
Highlight D: Vondelkerk
This Catholic church was designed by the famous architect P.J.H. Cuijpers, famous for the Amsterdam Central Station and the Rijksmuseum. The construction was finished in 1880. Between 1977 and 1999 the church closed due to dilapidation. Thanks to the Amsterdam monuments fund, it has been restored and today is used for events, such as dinner parties, and concerts. You can actually go to their website and rent it out, e.g. for your next birthday bash.
Highlight E: History of Overtoom 1
This road, formally known as the Heiligeweg, dates back to the 14th century. The street was named Overtoom after a nearby dam. A little village was built around the dam, which Dutch people know from a nursery rhyme: “Schuitje varen, theetje drinken, varen we naar de Overtoom” (‘Sailing in a boat, drinking tea, sailing to the Overtoom’). Most houses you see here were built during the 19th and 20th centuries.
Highlight F: Villa Betty
A big villa in the middle of the city. From the street-side only the coach house is visible. To the left of this building a little road leads to the villa in the back. This property is the most expensive property of the city. The building is very well hidden; most people don’t even know it is here. The property holds a tennis court and a big pond, and of course the massive 20-room house. The house is named after Clara Betty von Hunteln, the wife of Eduard Lehman. Eduard was related to Henry Lehman, the founder of Lehman Brothers bank.
Highlight G: Wilhelmina Gasthuis
The Wilhelmina Gasthuis was originally built as a hospital. It was named after princess Wilhelmina who laid the first stone and subsequently opened the building in 1891. FYI: Wilhelmina was the former queen, and great grandmother of our current king.
The hospital used to be part of the University van Amsterdam medical center, which today is located at AMC in the Bijlmer in 1983. Nowadays, the Wilhelmina Gasthuis is a social housing complex.
Highlight H: History of Overtoom 2
In the 18th century, the Overtoom was famous for its pleasure gardens, country houses, beer breweries and theaters. Sadly, most of them disappeared with the city’s expansion. The new neighborhoods replaced the former with residential buildings, shops and businesses. Currently, the Overtoom still is a street, containing lots of nice shops and restaurants.
Highlight I: Bosboom Toussaintstraat
This part of the neighborhood is often overlooked. You’ll find a few very cosy restaurants – some with a terrace, perfect for the summer days. This street, the Bosboom Toussaintstraat, is also known as the ‘kinderstraat’ or ‘children street’, due to the three toy shops located here. In this part of the neighborhood you can also find a petanque (bocce) lane where you’ll see neighbors and friends play in summer.