It's Amsterdam's most popular park, but if you don't like crowds or dogs avoid it like the plague - too full of inline skaters, and students playing football. And in the summer you cannot move for picnics.
The park has been developed in "English langscape style" and has 127 different types of trees, a Picasso statue of a fish, and a large colony of very noisy ringed paraqueets. The Round Tea House has a nice terrace and good rolls.
Het Groot Melkhuis was originally built as a farm with 25 cows and milk was sold to the park goers for 5 cents a glass. After the farm built down the current cafe was built, retaining the original name. In the summer the playground is packed with children while their parents take advantage of the sun on the terraces.
The historical bit:
In 1864 a group of prominent Amsterdammers, under the guidance of C. P. van Eegen, formed a committee with the aim of founding a public park. They managed to raise enough money to buy eight hectares of land (land which had originally been set aside for Central Station) and committioned the landscape architects J.D and L.P Zocher, father and son, to design it. The Zochers had family connections with English gardeners and designed the park in what is known as the "engelse landschapstijl" (English landscape-style), using perspectives and vistas as well as winding paths and ponds to create the idea of a bigger and more natural area.
On June 15, 1865 the first part of "t'Nieuwe park" opened to the public from 7am to 10pm with a bell ringing out to warn visitors 15 minutes before closing. The park did not get its present name Vondel(s)park until 1867 when Vondel's statue was erected there.
After opening the first part of the park, the committee began to raise money for an extension and in June 7 1877 the park, now measuring 45 hectares, was completed.
Being built on soft peaty ground, the park is continually sinking and therefore expensive to maintain. In 1951 the park committee, unable to raise the money necessary to repair it, gave it as a gift to the city of Amsterdam, on the condition that dogs would still be allowed to roam loose and that the horses from the nearby Manege could continue to use it.
The park is now under the control of the Zuid borough council. In 1994 the borough council announced it wanted to sell the Picasso statue to raise enough money to restore the park levels. However, as the statue had been given to the city in 1966 to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the park, the city council refused to sanction the sale.
The Vondelpark has about eight million visitors a year, making it the most popular in The Netherlands, although about half of these are by people using the park to get to or from work. The "real" visitors use it for walking the dog, jogging, making music (drums and amplifiers are banned) or just enjoying the peace and quiet.
In the 1960s it was used as a meeting point for the provos, who symbolically buried their movement in the park in 1967. It was also used as a dormitory by hippies when sleeping on the Dam was banned, but in 1974 sleeping in the park was banned as well.
However, there are still free concerts at the Openluchttheater (open air theatre) every summer -- four days a week throughout the summer months.