Not many visitors to Amsterdam are aware that behind the many admittedly narrow canal houses there is usually a luscious green space. Sometimes the private gardens are so big that there is actually another house in the back! As most houses are physically connected to one another, the private gardens usually combine to form a large green space behind each row of canal houses that is not visible from the street.
To those of you who have walked the streets of Amsterdam for yourself and have never had a chance to visit a local canal house this may come as quite a revelation. Amsterdam is in general such a cramped space, packed full of gorgeous 17th century architecture and canal-abundent infrastructure that one tends to assume that the entirety of the living spaces are likewise as narrow. In truth, the houses themselves often are; however, the tradition of having a large green space in the back of your house (once upon a time likely used to keep livestock, grow food, and do other household tasks) is so well ingrained in the structure of Amsterdam architecture, that many of the trees found in these gardens are several hundred years old and as such protected by law from being cut down. Sometimes you'll even find a pond or a small garden house converted from an old carriage house. All of this is quite rightly usually completely inaccessible to the many visitors Amsterdam welcomes every year. However, one weekend a year for the past twenty-odd years about thirty Amsterdam private gardens are opened to the public as part of the "Open Garden Days Amsterdam" (or "Open Tuinen Dagen") festival. As an additional bonus, visitors often get a chance to pass through the actual canal house, an experience that gives an amazing insight into every day Amsterdam life (as well as the lovely interior architecture of many canal houses). Each year there is also a different theme for the festival: for example, this year's theme is "400 Years of Canals" to celebrate, you guessed it, the 400th anniversary of the completion of Amsterdam's canal ring.
If you are in Amsterdam, on June 14th, 15th, and 16th, make sure to check out the festival. The houses are open to the public from 9am-5pm each day, and the pass for the route is 15 euro.
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