Animals are the most fun thing in the world. That’s why people have pets. Unfortunately, pets aren’t particularly practical on exchange (although I have a friend who has adopted a stray cat named Mushroom). Luckily, in the Netherlands, you don’t have to confine yourself to staring at other people’s dogs and riding past the occasional farm animal. Here are a few places you can visit to get up close and personal with a wide array of furry creatures.
Natura Artis Magistra, Amsterdam
Doesn’t that just sound… majestic? Artis is the oldest zoo in the Netherlands and indeed all of Europe. Also boasting an aquarium and planetarium, Artis is better stocked than Noah’s Ark, with all the usual suspects: monkeys, jungle cats, bears- you get the picture. Even better, from June to August (that’s now!) Artis is open until sunset on Saturday evenings and, well, I can’t really tell it better than they tell it themselves:
“Stroll under the centuries-old trees and amidst the historical buildings and enjoy the animals all around you in the evening sun. Have a picnic in the grass, surrounded by plants and flowers that are both beautiful and edible.
Throw in live music in the Bandstand, pizza, and local beer, and this sounds like a whimsical animal-filled afternoon.
Kasteel De Haar, Utrecht
I discovered this one completely by accident. By the time my friends and I arrived, it was too late to go into the castle, and, though the gardens were beautiful, we were all feeling just a little bit flat until we stumbled upon the deer park. Tucked into the top left corner of the castle grounds is a sprawling park with dozens of ‘bambi’ deer (I’m not sure what their actual name is but you know what I mean). You can feed them grass through the wide fence, and even pet the more flirtatious deer.
Julianapark, located off the Amsterdamsestraatweg in Utrecht’s north, is one of the many many parks available for lazy afternoon picnics now that summer has rolled into our fine corner of the world. However, did you know that Julianapark also has free range chickens and an animal park open Wednesday evenings and weekends?