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This is a botanical garden and a zoo, which has a planetarium, a geology museum and a giant aquarium. If that is not enough, it is also the oldest zoo in the Netherlands. This should be enough to make you dash to get to know Artis Zoo, which was established in the middle of the city in 1838.
The full name of the site is Natura Artis Magistra, the meaning of which is “Nature is the master of the arts”. With such a title it is logical to think that the Artis, as everyone knows it, was not a fair-like set up that simply brought together a few animals. Far from it.
In the beginning, the site, which was the initiative of Doctor G.F. Westerman, was established to encourage theoretical and practical knowledge of natural history. To do so, a considerable number of animals and plants were brought together, and exhibitions on the animal kingdom were held. Indeed, from the beginning to the middle of the nineteenth century, a centre like this with laboratories, scientific collections and a museum was exceptional. A large number of important biologists worked here. These included Max Weber, the first professor of biology at the University of Amsterdam.
Although Amsterdam is certainly not a chaotic and noisy city, you can nonetheless find an oasis of genuine peace in the centre of the city, far from the murmur of the cafés and the to and fro of the bicycles. If that is what you are looking for, the Artis will give you it in an area of nearly fourteen hectares.
When you enter the site, moreover, it might seem as if you are going back to the atmosphere of the nineteenth century. Two striking sculptures of golden eagles preside the entrance to the gardens, which are full of winding paths and are scattered with many other sculptures and monumental buildings.
Insofar as the zoo is concerned, there are around 700 species, which range from amphibians and birds to mammals and insects. It features both native Dutch and European fauna and also exotic species.
Of particular interest is the African savannah zone, recreated to provide shelter to zebras, gnus, ostriches and antelopes. A wooden footbridge provides for easy crossing of this zone of the park.
If you have ever visited a zoo with the little ones, you will be aware of how much they like to interact with the animals. Well, the Artis has come up with the farm zone where little children can touch the goats, hens, ducks or pigs that move around the pens.
Although the animals are one of this old zoo’s main attractions, do not forget that you are in a very important botanical garden, a genuine breathing space in Amsterdam.
Most of the flora in the Artis is native Dutch. Thousands of bulbs flower from January to May and make the garden’s flowerbeds and paths exceptionally colourful. Strange species such as the yellow star of Bethlehem, or age-old oaks, complete the scene. You can also visit four huge greenhouses where cactuses, carnivorous plants and African and Asian species grow.
The aquarium, which was opened in 1882 and last renovated in 1997, is home to nearly two thousand species of fresh and saltwater fish. It has over 1,500 small tanks and a large million-litre seawater tank. The main feature, which is very interesting both for locals and for visitors, is the recreation the fauna of the inside of Amsterdam canal.
If you still have not had enough, you can visit the geology museum, another of the attractions at the Artis, where there is an educational multimedia exhibition on the processes that have formed and are still forming the earth.
Lastly, there is the Planetarium, which is frequently visited by schools, families and tourists.
An educational and entertaining garden, zoo, planetarium, museum and aquarium. If that is what you are looking for, then you have found it at the Artis.
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