Explore Amsterdam The Old Centre The Grachtengordel The Jordaan The Old Jewish Quarter and the Eastern Docklands The Museum Quarter and the Vondelpark Share The lush Hortus Botanicus, the city’s botanical gardens, were founded in 1682 for medicinal purposes after an especially bad outbreak of the plague. Thereafter, many of Amsterdam’s merchants made a point of bringing back exotic plants from the East, the result being the 6000-odd species exhibited here today – both outside and in a series of hothouses. The gardens are divided into several distinct sections, each clearly labelled, its location pinpointed on a map available at the entrance kiosk. The outdoor sections are mainly devoted to temperate and Arctic plants, trees and shrubs, while the largest of the hothouses, the Three-Climate Glasshouse, is partitioned into separate climate zones: subtropical, tropical and desert. The gardens also hold a butterfly house and a capacious palm house with a substantial collection of cycad palms. It’s all very low-key – and none the worse for that – and the gardens make a relaxing break on any tour of central Amsterdam, especially as the café, in the old orangery, serves tasty lunches and snacks.