A visit to the

Hortus Botanicus

By Quynh (Stephanie) Bui | October 5, 2019

Cover photo Quynh (Stephanie) Bui

Amsterdam is best known for its endless, bustling streams of bicycles and streets packed with travelers seeking to fathom its sophisticated buzz. It almost seems like the city never stops to catch its breath. So, if you’ve got a minute, stop by the Hortus Botanicus, a natural haven situated in the center of the city.

Stephanie Bui / The Amsterdammer

I stopped by the garden on a bright and quiet Friday afternoon. My attention was drawn by rays of sunlight reflecting off a greenhouse. As I was strolling down a nearby path, I decided to make my way into Hortus Botanicus. I was swiftly embraced by the greenery and an impeccably relaxing and surreal atmosphere; It felt like I was taken out of Amsterdam. 

This hidden gem was first opened over 380 years ago and was initially a herbal garden for medicinal purposes. Once affiliated with the University of Amsterdam, this now-independent institution holds a collection of plants and flowers from the Dutch East India Company. The garden survives the test of time, where its antique beauty and livelihood have not faltered. 

The garden itself is divided into separate sections based on the ecological and biological characteristics of the plants. When I stumbled across the shimmering greenhouse, unbeknownst of what was to come, I found it to be sectioned into three clear main areas: the desert with eccentric cacti, the humid rainforest and the temperate climate canopy with shrubberies. Walking through it felt like nature was slowly unfolding its magic right in front of my eyes. I could hear nothing but the whispered chatters of leaves brushing against each other. 

Water lily at the Hortus Botanicus. Stephanie Bui / The Amsterdammer



Within the Hortus Botanicus’s collection, the vast majority of travelers are most intrigued by the 154-year-old water lily, placed in the heart of the garden. One single white lily glistens under the sunlight as it is encircled by vibrant green hollow leaves, capturing a once-in-a-lifetime type of sight.

As I was tucked into this blanket of serene greenery, it struck me: Hortus Botanicus is the garden of love. I luckily stumbled upon a wedding photoshoot and ceremony, and it was  magical. No verbose declarations, no fancy settings – simplicity was the key, as it allowed the magic to shine through. The event even brought out the hopeless romantic in me. It presented the kind of relationship that I aspire to have: not too glamorous, not too flashy, just calm and reassuring. 

Even if you are not a tree person (trust me, I’m not the most nature-loving person out there), Hortus Botanicus offers a zen-like ambiance that is difficult to replicate in this scurry city and busy times. Whether you decide to bring along a book to read or simply stroll along the paths dotted in green, it will help you find and restore the balance in the restless Amsterdam. Before you leave Hortus Botanicus, make sure you pay a visit to their gift shop where they offer the loveliest plants and flower pots, and bring back a piece of serendipity as a reminder of your visit.

Stephanie Bui / The Amsterdammer

Author’s Note: If you happen to be a student enrolled in an educational institution in Amsterdam, Hortus Botanicus offers reduced ticket prices at the display of your student ID.

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